This is my review of the new Nokia E66. Sorry for the late post, it was drafted a couple of weeks back and I merely forgot to post it. It is a little rough, but I really can't be bothered to proof read it. Detailed review on the Nokia E66's multimedia and GPS performance are available as separate posts.
The built quality of the E66 is excellent. They were no flexing or creaking when I applied pressure on it from all sides. The construction material used is similar to the E51 with stainless steel used sparingly. They do attract fingerprints but is very easy to clean and does not scratch easily. An improvement over the E51 is Nokia's decision to get rid of all the rubber encased side buttons. You get normal buttons here, which makes operating them easier, though accidental presses are also now more likely. The power button is in bright red, which I did not find aesthetically pleasing to look at.
The large screen is rather nice, but at a rather archaic QVGA resolution things can get pixelated. Nokia ought to ditch QVGA and finally adopt VGA, but I have no problems reading e-books for long periods with the 2.4" screen, which produces a slightly cooler colour than the E51. An ambient light sensor sits next to the earpiece and detects the available light, adjusting the brightness accordingly. I had no problem with the readability of the screen when used in doors as well as out doors. Like most of Nokia's new device the E66 ships with a screen protector already placed. The screen protector has a matte like texture which does well in preventing fingerprint stains from spoiling the screen.
Below the screen are a bunch of keys arranged in a layout that made its début with the E51. The keys are large but are made of clear plastic. This unfortunately doesn't provide the same tactile navigational feedback that is possible on the E51, which also has the advantage of having raised keys. Pushing the screen up will reveal a numerical keypad that is similar to the E51 (albeit with a rougher texture). I had no problem composing e-mails and texts with the keypad. One very clever thing Nokia did was to get rid of the annoying notification LED and have an unobtrusive d-pad glow instead. It is very subtle, and very cool.
The heftiness of the E66 gives it a quality that seems missing from most large phone and you can tell that Nokia wasted very little into packing as much hardware into the darn thing. However after getting used to the E51's light weight I am finding the E66's extra 20g as unwanted baggage. It not that it is uncomfortable to hold for long though or the centre of balance is skewed, it is just I am not used to it. Given time I am sure I will adjust to the extra weight. The slider, like the one on the E65, is spring based which gives it a nice click when opened. Removing the stainless steel battery cover reveals a spring loaded microSDHC slot (a 2GB card is supplied in the sales package). The battery itself is rated at 1000mAh with a claimed talk time of around seven hours. This will of course depend highly on the network conditions in your area. A lanyard loop sits on the bottom next to the charger slot.
With Pop-Port now a distant memory, Nokia has decided to make the universally acceptable mini USB port obsolete by packing in a micro USB port, something I do not understand. While micro USB is an industry standard, I can't see how they could not fit the more ubiquitous mini USB port in it. The E51 uses it and it is thinner than the E66. Even worse is Nokia's still cave-like insistence on equipping the E66 with a 2.5mm headphone socket. The E66's multimedia capability is pretty good, so one does have to wonder why Nokia is adamant that people use inferior headphones with it... Perhaps a Nokia-led market research proved that the majority of business users are like sheeps and will only use the bundled headset.
As far as performance goes the E66 is snappy. As quick as my E51 and at times quicker, though I did notice that the E51 is a tad quicker at launching apps, despite running on the same Freescale single core ARM11 platform running at a clock speed of 369Mhz. With 73MB of accessible RAM, you won't have problem running 20 applications simultaneously. One thing I dislike about the E66 though is Nokia has coded some kind of fade-in whenever you switch to another window. In truth switching between windows is instantaneous, but the effect does give a false impression of sluggishness.
The E66 runs on Symbian OS 9.2 with their Series 60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 UI layer, not the latest version but a very capable one nonetheless. Nokia has provided a new Calendar and Contact application. The Contact apps now feature T9 search support and the Calendar app reminds me much of the Calendar app on Palm OS - it was very intuitive. Other value added softwares includes QuickOffice (limited functionality, which allows you to view files but not create them unless you upgrade), Dictionary, Barcode reader (works poorly on linear barcodes, but well on QR), Intranet access via VPN and a bizarre app called we:offset that claims to the first mobile CO2 emission offsetting tool. You can also set up the device to receive push e-mail through Exchange ActiveSync though I am sure a compatible BlackBerry Connect client will be made available. The Webkit browser works well, but I personally prefer to use Opera Mini. Either way Access should release a S60v3 compatible version of NetFront.
Unfortunately there is no integrated threaded SMS application installed, which is rather annoying. Even Palm, known for the lack of innovation, had it on their Treo 650 way back in 2004... Nokia does provide a threaded SMS application for download, but I found the interface to be clunky and not as streamlined as those found in Treo phones. One value added software that Nokia did right is a utility called Switch Mode that allows you to quickly preload customised Today screen (tied to profiles), for example one for work with a none-offensive wallpaper and tons of plug-ins with a silent ringer; and another for play with minimal plug-ins and easy access to all the multimedia applications. Very handy and I do wish they would back-port this and include it in future firmware updates for their older models.
RealPlayer is included as the E66's default video player. The performance is good and was capable of playing QVGA MP4 files I encoded for my PSP. 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 compressed music, something I will advice people to avoid until Nokia's Comes With Music is launched. The music player is a bog standard player similar to the one that is installed on their N-series phones. It can play back MP3, WMA (none protected), AAC and AAC+ files with cover art support. You can sync the music collection via MTP if you prefer. A FM Radio application is also available for those bored with their collection but requires a headset to be plugged in to work.
The camera is is 3.2Mp module with autofocus ability. It can also do close-up up to 1-2 inches. Images taken are better than expected, but seems over processed with plenty of bloom. Videos are recorded in MP4 and supports a maximum resolution of QVGA. 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. A front VGA camera sits next to the front speaker.
Incoming and outgoing call quality is very good. Similar with the speaker phone. You can also train the E66 to use voice activation to place call, which I personally won't bother. A log allows you to review every call you made or receive for up to 30 days. These includes any packet connections which is helpful if you have applications that like to connect without first informing you. The E66 is quad-band GSM equipped, making it a truly global phone though 3G is limited to dual-band with dependent on which region you purchased the phone. The reception of the E66 is rather limited. In our bedroom the E51 and Jennifer's 5310 can tend to pick up six bars of signal, where as on the E66 was only able to achieve four bars of signal and at times dropping down to three or even two!
You can use WiFi while making calls which is great. The built-in WiFi 802.11b/g chipset supports WEP/WPA/WPA2 encription. The E66 is a 3G device with HSDPA 3.6Mbps. I had no problem downloading and viewing heavy websites. The Bluetooth 2.0+EDR chipset has the A2DP profile crucial for wireless stereo music - it works with my Sony Bluetooth stereo headset. An Infrared port on the side allows you to use the E66 as a TV remote (dependant on third party software) or exchange files with very very old phones. Finally you can tether the phone to your PC via USB and use it as a modem.
The E66 is Nokia's first E-series slider to be endowed with a built-in GPS receiver and can be assisted via the downloading of ephemeris data in advance to help with speed. It took it about 70 seconds to get a fix from cold boot and it wouldn't work indoors unlike our Navman B10. You can read more about the Nokia E66's GPS performance from this dedicated article, but as far as GPS performance is concern the an external Bluetooth receiver is highly likely to provide better performance. The advantage of having it integrated is you do not have to worry about carrying multiple devices during none-crucial trips to towns or perhaps on hiking trips where performance evaluation isn't that important. It works with Nokia Maps 2.0 and Viewranger, as well as my friend's copy of Garmin XT (the application sucks though).
The N95's accelerometer is a nice touch, but I found the auto-orientation more of a hassle than gift, even despite it being fairly accurate and quick. Fortunately this can be disabled via in the Personalisation-Display menu. However with Nokia Activity Monitor, the E66 will be a gift to active people who loves to count their steps when doing serious walking. Combined with Nokia Sports Tracker which uses the GPS receiver to calculate your sports, the E66 is one serious sports utility. Unlike some of Sony Ericsson Walkman phones you can't change skip tracks by shaking the mobile. Instead you can use the accelerometer to reject calls or snooze the alarm by turning the phone face down.
The Nokia E66 is by no means perfect. It improves on the E51 in many areas (GPS, camera), while going backwards in others (micro USB). Personally I still prefer the E51 for its compactness and lightnesses, but the E66 is still worth considering. For around £100 extra you do gain some extra functionalities, some of which I personally think aren't worth it. If you require a QWERTY keypad, you may be interested in the new E71 which has similar functionalities to the E66 plus a much bigger battery - all for the same price.
- Abundant of connectivity: EDGE, HSDPA, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB
- Internal GPS receiver with A-GPS support
- Tough and sexy stainless steel slider design
- Robust software
- Large screen with good outdoor readability
- Great multimedia support
- GPS accuracy isn't as good as dedicated Bluetooth GPS receivers
- Micro-USB connector
- 2.5mm headphone port - you know at the very least bundle an adaptor
- Low dot pitch screen