Sunday, July 17, 2011

[E6 REVIEW] Part 2 : Don't let your E71/72 smartphone read this !

Posted on 16:33 by SlipKoRnSaad

Yeah ! It will feel sad and useless (sort of) ! As i said in the first part of this review, it was about time for Nokia to bring something out of conventional concepts and user experience !

It doesn't have a lot of "It's the first to..." but the few that has already make the Nokia E6 a really interesting device and a great everyday companion, read on !

I won't follow my usual style of review (each part describing an area or a feature) but i'll try something a little bit different, i'll simply talk (write what i like, what you should know) !

- It’s the Nokia’s first smartphone running the new Symbian Anna OS out of the box :

It looks like the long awaited Symbian Anna brings a lot of optimizations and it fits perfectly on the E6

The home screens have two sections with three small, fixed widgets to the left : Clock for the date, Profile and Notifications (for missed received calls, messages and missed events calendar).

On the right side is the regular user configurable space, with a maximum of three widgets per home screen allowed here.

Four panes by default (five maximum)

Do you agree with me when i say that the new “squircle” iconography is an improvement over the graphics in previous Symbian versions, leaving the whole UI with a far more harmonious, consistent feel? It is actually !

As i noted, Main menu organisation can now be accessed by long pressing any application icon, instead of having to select Options and organise, but very outdated comparing to IOS or the N9 for example.

As you see, the notification area is more accessible and this is a huge welcome addition to the UX in the E6.

Contacts :

Within the Contacts app, two additional tabs provide contact grouping and integration with Microsoft Communicator mobile. The Communicator tab automatically sets up a contact's details once the connection has been made between the phone and the relevant Microsoft Office communications server, which can be located behind a corporate firewall.

Contacts can be accessed through the Contacts app or on the home screen by typing contact's name or company name, which will show an updating list of contacts with that number/letter combination in their details but what's more interesting is if you tape the green call key from any screen, you'll bring the live contact search screen ! (like on C7 and C6)

Ps : IM usernames entered in the Contacts app don't pull through to Ovi Chat, and vice versa, so we're still sticked to the software integration big issue. The Chat app also doesn't remember user details when setting up or changing services, requiring you to enter username and password details for all IM services separately. It seems disjointed that this information isn't added to the global Nokia/Ovi username system.

Web Browser :

With the introduction of Symbian Anna, the Nokia E6 (X7, and in the upcoming month other s^3 devices) has the fastest, and one of most powerful web browser (v7.3) provided yet on a Nokia handset in addition to the N900's one

Ps : also now available for a number of S60 5th Edition and S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 devices via firmware update !

New address/search bar sits at the top of every page available by tapping or swiping down from the top of the screen

two floating buttons, which give access to navigation ('back') and additional browser functions respectively.

We can now open many tabs, it was about time Nokia !

Search function on the page is available too

Web standard support is now much improved, with (much better) support HTML 5, extended support for CSS 3 and JavaScript 1.8, Support for International Domain Names (IDNs) is here in addition to support for non-ASCII characters such as Arabic :

  • HTML 5 support: support for preliminary HTML 5 features including the doctype, section-level markup tags, form input attributes, placeholder text attributes for input fields, the scrollintoview method, and the contenteditable attribute.

  • CSS 3 support: expanded support for CSS 3 including animation, backgrounds, borders, color, gradients, Media queries, multi-column layout, selectors, text effects, transitions, and 2–D transforms.
  • Hardware acceleration for the browser that enhances rendering and supports smooth CSS 3 animations.
    (The above item is not available for in-market devices running S60 Third Edition, Feature Pack 2 or S60 Fifth Edition.)

  • JavaScript 1.8 support listing the new features in JavaScript 1.8 and 1.8.1 and which of those features Browser 7.3 supports.

  • Viewport meta tag support and why you can usually skip using this tag for web pages viewed on Browser 7.3.
    The above topic also covers related screen density items such as the target-densityDpi parameter, CSS Media query filters for device-pixel-ratio, and the window.devicePixelRatio property.

  • Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) support for using non-ASCII scripts such as Arabic, Chinese, or Russian in web addresses.

  • Split-screen virtual keyboard support that allows the user to see the live input field as they enter text.
    (The above item is available for Symbian SmartPhones running Symbian Anna.)

  • Flash Lite 4.0.3 support

  • Fonts support for the default Nokia Sans font and common fonts Arial, Courier, Georgia, Times New Roman, and Verdana.
    (The above item is available for Symbian SmartPhones running Symbian Anna.) 

  • JavaScript compilation change for function declarations in conditional expressions, such that all functions in conditional expressions now get compiled, even those functions that cannot logically be executed.

The following benchmarks have been utilized (the N8 was ignored from some tests because it simply couldn't run them lol):

HTML5 Test : N8 Followed by E6 and by the N900

Acid 3 Test N8 Followed by E6 and by the N900

Sunspider JavaScript Benchmark

Sunspider results for E6
Sunspider results for N900

Another interesting feature is that the new browser automatically cleans up itself too – not requiring the user to manually select to clear privacy history, like on previous phones – which is another welcomed improvement and you can also configure what data should be cleaned automatically if you want. 

As a summary, faster page loading and rendering times (than Web 7.2) is what you could expect from this new updated browser (it showed a great performance when compared with the N900, they have about the same time rendering a page or a content).

Ps : A new introduction on the Nokia E6 (and other devices with the Anna update) is an Intranet app for protected access to corporate websites completely separate to the normal web browser, further aligning the Nokia E6 for business use.

All in all, all symbian^3/Anna software goodness make the E6 a very interesting product to use

- It's the Nokia's first touch phone with a QWERTY keyboard 

Like its cousin, the E5, The keys are individually domed and click slightly when pressed, both of which factors help with speed and accuracy.

Numbers are clustered as a secondary function in the middle – and has dedicated shift, function, symbol, comma, period, @ and question mark keys.

As i said earlier, the keys are slightly domed and have a matte finish rather than the slippery gloss of the black plastic below. They’re also progressively backlit, the LED illumination – like that of the touchscreen – being managed via the ambient light sensor above the display.

Though the software auto-correct did a pretty good job of ironing out mistakes from my chubby thumbs, i was wondering why there wasn't a double-space shortcut to insert a period at the end of a sentence, as has become popular on the iPhone, BlackBerry and other handsets for example

- It's the Nokia's first device with a VGA screen 

And has a similar pixel density as the iPhone’s 4 Retina display although the iPhone has a larger physical screen and more pixels.

People with bigger fingers might have some issues because of the combination of a small size and high resolution. It’s going to take a bit of getting used to for existing E-series owners, especially as the small display needs a fair degree of accuracy to select the right options in menus.

We should note that its direct competitor, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 has a 640 x 480 pixel 2.8-inch display, but the usability of such a large width is a questionable part...

While it's a TFT LCD 16.7m color panel, it's not a Clear Black screen as on the X7 but it’s quit good nonetheless, icons and images being smooth and colors bright and clear, but i still prefer the E7 one, it's amazing and i miss badly the permanent screensaver like on my N8 and other S^3 AMOLED device. 

Tthe tiny haptic feedback vibration Nokia enables by default is a plus to the UX but in its first level, the vibrator feels cheap, the N8, C7 and E7 did a great job with the same level of vibration !

At 2.46 inches across the diagonal it isn’t easy to see detailed content like web pages or Ovi Maps well. The 640x480 pixel screen resolution is good, and it does help with clarity, but it’s no substitute for a larger screen. 

Not a uni-body but :

The Nokia E6 is a really solid device and tank built as its predecessor, it might fool you easily as the frame around the phone, the battery cover and the camera plate are all made of metal, while matte plastic has been chosen for the upper and bottom parts of the rear panel.

At 115mm x 59mm x 10.5mm, it is slightly slimmer than the E5, while both are longer, but narrower and thinner than the BlackBerry Bold 9780 and narrower than the chunky BlackBerry Bold 9900.

The keys are reasonably sized with comfy shape and good tactile feedback. You shouldn’t have any problems typing with QWERTY unless you have really big fingers.

The volume rocker is on top, but it’s separated with a middle key for activating the voice commands (long press) and the voice recorder (short press). Just below that trio is the typical for Nokia lock/unlock slider but in my opinion, if it was placed on the left, user experience would have been with no doubt amazing !

Camera lens vulnerable to scratchers.

Underneath the display sit four shortcut keys and a D-Pad, with more room on account of the removal of the soft keys that now sit at the bottom of the touchscreen instead. However, like earlier models, the hardware keys aren’t individually defined and this can make it tricky to give any of them a confident press. They are well spaced though, so you shouldn’t find many situations where you accidentally hang up a call when you wanted to open the messaging app or phonebook.

Talking about four dedicated hard keys, three of which can be user modified, the fourth is the home screen/main menu button, which also opens the task manager on long press.

A true multimedia device !

It supports DivX, XviD and Matroska and plays all videos i putted to the test smoothly, with the Tv-Out support, you'll get another handy feature to display them (Or another content) on your Tv

With support of Bluetooth 3.0 and USB OTG you can do exactly things i showed here !

The lack of FM transmitter is a miss, being a businessman doesn't mean i won't listen to some podcasts on my way to the office, or using my device as a microphone for example etc. but we have to admit that the gap between the E and N series will be tight then...

A good camera performer !

 - It comes up with the most debated 8 megapixel fixed-focus sensor capable of HD video recording, you can expect results like i showed on C7 ! (don't worry, i'll bring a camera face off), so, macro shots aside, it provide a very good pictures with its 8-megapixel shooter dual-LED flash powered. As well as stills, the E6 can shoot 720p 25fps HD video in H.264 format, though there’s no HDMI output support.

And no worry, i'll make a head to head by the N8 as a benchmark device soon ;)

A true navigator !

Have i to discuss this really? Anyway i'll say, you have a true GPS receiver with A-GPS support and free lifetime voice-guided navigation, knowing Nokia GPS offers as the best of the best at the time i'm writing those lines.

A true phone :

Oh yeah, call quality is decent while not as excellent as the N8's one but the earpiece is crisp and loud as with Nokia devices, the speakerphone for calls is solid but not as loudest as the N8's one again, at higher volumes i can hear some crackling but not to a point to consider it as a bad quality speaker...

Among the best battery performers on the market

Under the metal cover is the 1500 mAh Li-Ion BL-4D battery, which powers the Nokia E6. The battery is quoted at to 672 hours of stand-by on 2G network or up to 14 hours and 40 minutes of talk-time. Nokia PR claims the E6 is among the best battery performers on the market.  

It is miles better than the other smartphones of the moment, which need a re-juicing every day, in a real world, i have to recharge my N8 twice while the E6 still holds its breath with more calls and SMS than on the N8 !

Summary :

I found the little ‘wait’ icon, a spinning circle, popping up a bit more often than i’d like, this is specific to the Anna update as i see this also on the Anna N8 and E7.

What i loved truly is that the length of the E6 being scaled to suit stretching a thumb up to tap at the display as well as down to the keyboard and the multitasking becomes more enjoyable in a way that's more accessible thanks to the hardware home key, just a tap away !

Nokia E6 is well built and pocket friendly QWERTY messenger bar. The keyboard and the ergonomics are top notch and the E6 offers quite a power inside. All this plus the long-lasting battery is pretty much everything you need from a business phone.

 I didn't talk about messaging/emailng features yet as a dedicated part is reserverd for this but you should know that it currently dissappoint... Also, for the messaging part, the conversation view is a welcome plus in combination with the true QWERTY keyboard, disappointment is the lack of a universal inbox as provided on the iPhone 4

I didn't talk about applications compatibility too i'll try to make a dedicated part for it, but you should know that the VGA resolution of the E6′s screen has some limitations because it is unusual among Nokia devices. Until developers flag their app as VGA-compatible – there’ll be some omissions, though you'll still find popular titles like Skype, Opera Mobile and Gravity.

Is your E71/E72 having already a heart attack while reading this? I can tell that every C3, E5 and E72 users were amazed when i showed them the E6, they find the touch and type idea very appealing and found the device intuitive and fast !

Stay tuned !

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