Monday, July 28, 2008
Nokia E66 multimedia review
The Nokia E66 is a pretty standard Nokia Series 60 E-series phone in that its multimedia performance is well, pretty standard. While not as developed as their equivalent N-series phones, the E66 is equipped with an extensive set of multimedia functions at least for a device primarily aimed at providing enterprise solutions.
Out of the box the E66 supports both Mass Storage and MTP protocol when connected via USB. This allows you to easily drag and drop your audio and video files easily. As far as I know there are no folder limitations on where you can install your files to. Personally I recommend using MediaMonkey to manage your musical archive as it seems to handle album art transfer properly. An external speaker exists on the back which is sufficient enough to playback audio without too much hiss. I would suggest using a headphone instead. Unfortunately, Nokia has decided to equip the E66 with a 2.5mm headphone socket. Why does Nokia still insists on forcing 2.5mm ports on their enterprise devices is beyond me..., but let us see what it can do first.
RealPlayer is included as the E66's default video player. It has one of the worst UI systems ever designed by mankind. Up/down controls tracking and left/right controls volume - opposite of what people would expect! But at least it works well when it comes to playing videos, and is well integrated with the system. Clicking on a video stream on BBC News for example would launch the player. You will also be given a choice of saving the video stream onto the device to playback later. Videos can also be played full screen taking advantage of the 2.4" LCD screen. You can access your video files through the now rather outdated Gallery application or through RealPlayer itself. Supported codecs includes 3GP, MP4, H.264, RealVideo and Flash videos. DivX isn't supported but you can download the freeware DivX Player or commercial software CorePlayer for that.
Flash video playbacks plays surprisingly well with the built-in web browser. It is as simple as visiting YouTube (the proper site) and clicking on a video. Video files are streamed with a resolution of 176x144 and you can't save it, but these are mainly restrictions placed by YouTube. Other than that it had no problem playing the videos smoothly. While it isn't the best video player available on the E66, the fact that it plays MP4 files (320x240, 400kbps, 25fps) I encoded for my PSP well is sufficient. Anything higher and it would start stuttering. Personally I would rather watch higher-resolution videos on the PSP, but as it stands the E66 is a very capable portable video player. You won't want to watch three hours epics on it, but a Futurama episode or two won't hurt.
The music player is a bog standard player similar to the one that is installed on N-series phones. It can play back MP3, WMA (including DRM WMA), AAC and AAC+ files with cover art support. Tracks are sorted through ID tag and on-the-go playlists are supported. Music playback is pretty darn good for a phone without any dedicated audio chipset (that I know of). Listening through a Sennheiser CX300 via a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor, I found tracks (192kbps WMA) played do be detailed with good frequency range, though I did bass to be lacking. Overall I found the sound quality to be no where near as good as the A818 or the AIC33 enabled 5310 XpressMusic phone, but acceptable for none-critical listening. Jennifer also used the E66 for a couple of days when she had to send her 5310 for repairs and her opinion was that the sound quality was 'pretty awful' when compared to the 5310. A customisable five-band equaliser is available and you can save as many settings as you want.
A FM Radio application is also available for those bored with their collection but requires a headset (any, not necessarily the bundled one) to be plugged in to work as an antenna. Audio and video podcasts can be organised and downloaded via a separate dedicated application. Flash Player Lite 3.0 is also included for those seeking to play back SWF files. A link to Nokia's Music Store is included for those seeking to purchase DRM'ed compressed music, something I will advice people to avoid until Nokia's Comes With Music is launched. The E66 is not N-Gage compatible as it does not require the necessary hardware, but I wouldn't recommend playing games on mobiles anyway. Just buy a PSP and DS and be done with.
Nokia has also equipped the E66 with a 3.2 Megapixel camera with auto-focus. Images taken are better than expected, but seems over processed with plenty of bloom. Rather annoyingly the camera shutter is located too close to the middle of the E66 making it difficult to press. Bizarrely pressing down the camera shutter doesn't start the camera application either. The UI of the camera viewfinder isn't as intuitive as I hoped, being far too slow and cumbersome. Geo tagging is possible but requires you to download and install the beta version of Location Tagger first. Videos are recorded in MP4 and supports a maximum resolution of QVGA at a stuttering frame rate of 15fps (around 400kbps). Recorded video quality is ok'ish.
The following images are unedited pictures taken with the E66. I've resized them due to Blogger limitation but they remained untouched as far as contrast, saturation etc. goes. As you can see, macro performance is very impressive for a cheapo camera. Overall pictures taken outdoors are not horrible, but the colour reproductions are quite bad. The cheap optics and small sensor does play its part regardless of how high the megapixel count is. You do need to play a lot with the exposure setting and white balance to try to eke as much as possible out of the camera. Personally I won't bother to use it except during extreme situations. It isn't rubbish, but it is no where near the imaging capability of their modern N-series counterparts let alone dedicated digital cameras, even budget ones.
Overall the E66 is an above average, not amazing, multimedia device. The lack of DSP does hinders its performance some what, but unless you are truly concerned about audio quality it doesn't really affect its position as a backup player - something I would position the device as if I was a customer. By all means keep your PSP or Archos for video playback (both of which offer TV-out via optional accessories) and Walkman for audio, but the E66 works extremely well for those single-device days. Just make sure to invest in a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor first or stereo bluetooth headset.