impressions of the Nokia E51 are of its diminutive size. Although
slightly heavier than the 6120 Classic, it's quite a bit thinner, at
only 12mm and seems perfectly formed for its target market, businessmen
and women and the companies they work for. Putting it side by side with
the E90, the other extreme in Nokia's 'Enterprise' range shows the
E51's dimensions vividly:
yet within the case lies an almost identical device, at least in terms
of OS, memory and software. S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 (this is the
second Eseries device to feature it, after the E90) is now pretty
mature and most of the applications and interface will be well known to
come to any additions and differences later, but for now let's return
to the hardware, finished in black and silver and styled very much like
the E90. And like the E90, the E51's case is mainly made of metal,
with the front surround and battery cover chromed - a fingerprint
magnet it's true, but if you're going to have a fingerprint magnet then
it might as well be a quality metal one rather than a cheap plastic
version. The E51 feels like it could take a lot of knocks without
damage, important if it's to survive the life of a busy road warrior.
screen dimensions, contrast and reflectivity seem identical to that on
the outer screen of the E90, by the way, should you need a comparison,
and I want to publically congratulate Nokia's Eseries team for using
transflective screens which work well outside in bright natural light -
while your Nokia N81 and N76-using friends are squinting at their
displays trying to see what they're doing, your E51 (or E90 or E70 or
E61 etc) will remain extremely readable, even in the very brightest
side buttons (voice recording, voice tag, volume) are rubberised and
easy to find, although they're each quite hard to press - I'm hoping
that this firmness is unique to the prototype that we were sent for
review and that production hardware has buttons which are easier on the
fingers. Ditto for the power button on the E51's top, which was even
better news for the d-pad key cluster and main keypad, all of which is
a joy to use. The d-pad's clicky and positive to use, while the
presence of no less than three application shortcut ('one touch') keys
mean that PIM use (by default) is even easier to access than usual.
There are buttons for Contacts, Calendar and Messaging, with extra
launch options for a long press on each. The defaults are sensible
(e.g. 'Create new contact'), but you can configure any button or long
press to launch or kick off any app or common action.
brings me to the fourth button in the main cluster and one of the KEY
improvements made for the E51. Changing the old, confusing 'S60' key
with the 'swirly thing' logo to a simple 'Home' icon is a masterstroke
and instantly simplifies the interface and makes things obvious for new
users, especially in an iPhone world where the idea of a prominent home
button to bring up the main app menu is familiar. Well done, Nokia -
now make this the standard on all future devices!
The main 12-key
pad is superb in feel, again similar to that on the E90, with separate
physical keys and positive 'clicky' feel - despite the size, texting
should be pretty quick on the E51. Ten out of ten. Or should that be
twelve out of twelve?
The rear mounted camera's a standard Nokia
2 megapixel affair with QVGA video recording, nothing special to see
here. Good to have, but not a main focus of the device.
the E51 on for the first time reveals the first of several tweaks to
the standard Eseries package. Extending what they did for the E90,
Nokia has put direct shortcuts to 'Set up Voice mail', 'Set up Email'
and 'Set up Internet telephony' on the standby screen, leading users to
the appropriate dialog, wizards, or downloads respectively. After set
up is complete, the shortcuts (actually temporary standby plugins)
disappear. The standard set of Eseries plugins is available of course.
Once you get set up, it's easy to add missed call notifiers, voice
message notifiers, email notifiers, to-do items and half a dozen other
optional plugins, all configurable in 'Settings'. Flexible and powerful.
new, as far as I can tell, are 'audio themes', sets of sound effects
for common events (think of these as a superset of the standard
profile-based tone settings). So for example the default is an
authentic rimshot when you switch back to the standby screen and a
simple popping sample for the main app menu. As someone who
perpertually turns such audio feedback off on every device, I found
audio themes a bit pointless, but they may appeal to some. The fact
that the digital samples don't actually play until a second or so after
the event itself doesn't help the overall sense of pointlessness.
configurable, as on most other Eseries models, is a 'notification LED',
which can be set to flash on a variety of common occurences, from
missed calls to incoming emails.
There are few surprises in
the Eseries software suite. Newcomers like Active notes, Search
and Teams are all present and correct, though I was slightly surprised
to see that the version of Quickoffice in the firmware was the viewer
only - editing is a pay-for upgrade. Mind you, trying to edit documents
on such a small screen wouldn't be much fun, even if you did use a
Bluetooth keyboard for input. Those wanting to do serious Office work
will go for the much bigger E90, with its keyboard and 800 pixel wide
is well catered for, including an FM radio, again just as on the E90,
and with RealPlayer having access to H.264 codecs - as with the E90,
video playback isn't perfect - there can be the odd stutter - but at
least most MP4 content can be consumed without difficulty. Gallery is
the usual plain Eseries version, adequate but a pain for large image
collections. Note the WLAN wizard - as an Eseries device, the E51 has
got Wi-Fi, not always a given in a device so small, and a real boon if
you're planning to use one of the many VoIP solutions now on offer for
It's good too, to see Nokia Maps in the
firmware, this seems to be part of the S60 furniture now, with the
usual Bluetooth connectivity to a GPS to stop you getting lost.
E51, like the rest of the Eseries range, has fabulous battery life, in
this case a 1050mAh BP-6MT. With no auto-focus, power hungry camera to
supply and (presumably) with limited music and media use, this battery
is fine for keeping the E51 up and running for days on end - with light
use, it'll last a full week without recharge, which is impressive.
There's 48MB free RAM after booting, enough for browsing the largest
web pages over the fast Wi-Fi or 3.5G (HSDPA) connections, plus 137MB
free flash memory (disk C, in addition to whatever microSD card you
use) for installing extra applications and documents.
help returning to the E90 comparison when handling the E51, though. Not
only is the styling so similar, it's striking how much of the E90's
power is contained within the incredibly, astoundingly small
body of the E51. We all know that Nokia likes to refer to is
smartphones as 'computers' and as such we're used to a little thickness
and general bulk, excusing it because we know there's a lot of
computing grunt under the good. But Nokia's 6120 Classic and now this,
the E51, both prove how diminutive S60 smartphones can be, including a decent keypad and a decent battery. Very impressive.
E50 and E60 (last year) were competent devices without really excelling
in any way. The E51 rolls in kick-ass styling, a metal chassis, a
thinner form factor, S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1, latest media
codecs, 3.5G, a better and tweaked key layout and a decent (if not
great) camera. It's quite a list, and should be one of Nokia's
mainstays, certainly in the business world, going into the period when
all Nokia's phone divisions are being merged. I don't think the E51's
in any danger of being axed!
Steve Litchfield, AllAboutSymbian, 12th November 2007
A final shot of E90 versus E51 - talk about thinning down.... 8-)