I’ve been using the Nokia E6 for a couple of days now, and I love it so far. In fact, I love this device so much that I’m writing this post on the E6 itself using QuickOffice. In fact, it’s shaping up to be the second Symbian^3 Nokia device I can confidently recommend after the N8.
Here’s the customary DHL package shot from Day 0. Thanks WOMWorldNokia!
Let’s start with the fundamentals: the hardware. At the E6′s launch, I was rather dismissive of its looks – I felt that it was oddly proportioned with an overly large ‘chin’, and the camera ‘hump’ looked weird especially when the device was viewed from the side. But the E6 is a device that looks much, much better in real life than in the pictures. Upon retrieving it from its box, I realized I had to eat my words because the E6 is one beautiful Nokia. Its shape is reminiscent of its predecessor the E72, only slimmer and sleeker. I have the black E6, and I love its ‘stealth’ look – the entire device, even the battery cover is black, save for the chrome rim and the key legends. I also like the curved edges of the E6, especially towards the bottom of the device – it feels really comfortable in the hand, compared to say, an iPhone 4.
The front of the E6 is occupied by the 2.5-inch LCD display, full QWERTY keyboard, call/end keys, shortcut keys and a directional pad. The E6′s keyboard feels distinctly different to previous Eseries keyboards; it’s wonderfully clicky unlike the softer feel of the E5 and E72. And I do prefer the E6′s keyboard to that on my E5. It feels slightly wider, I love the press feedback and the slightly-curved key arrangement makes typing even faster and easier. But what makes the keyboard even better is the shape of the keys; Nokia has opted for a ‘chiclet’ style such that the keys are visibly separated and are less-aggressively domed. It looks fantastic.
The sides of the E6 hold the microSD card slot, microUSB port, 3.5mm audio jack, power key, volume and mute keys, lock slider, lanyard loop and Nokia’s proprietary charging jack. Yes, the E6 has dual charging options and expandable memory, both features the E7 lacks. All these work as expected, but there are a couple of nice touches – the volume key legends are backlit and the mute button lights up in red when activated. The lock slider is a bit on the small and thin side, but it remains usable for the most part. The rear of the E6 is occupied by the camera lens, single speaker, dual LED flash and back cover. The E6 has an 8-megapixel EDOF camera that really isn’t too bad when used within its constraints.
However, there are some aspects of the E6′s hardware where Nokia evidently fell asleep. For example, the back cover doesn’t feel as solid as I’d like; it has a very slight up-down-left-right movement that feels disconcerting. There is a charging indicator light but it’s obscured by the microUSB port cover, but light still leaks through. Moreover, the call/end and shortcut key cluster is poorly made; they’re made of single sheets of glossy plastic with visible light leakage in the dark. The d-pad feels flimsy and its rim is a bit too raised and thin to be comfortable. Also, the abundance of glossy surfaces on the front of the device means that the E6 always looks smudgy, dirty and covered in fingerprints.
The internals of the E6 are definitely no slouch for a Symbian device. As with other Symbian^3 devices, a 680MHz ARM11 processor and a graphics co-processor drives the device. There is 256MB of RAM, adequate disk space on C: and 8GB of ‘mass memory’ that can be used for apps, media and others. Powering all this is Nokia’s ‘hero’ battery, the 1500mah BP-4L, which has a reputation for longevity. We’ll look at what sort of battery life we can extract from the E6 in a later post.
The E6′s display is a first among Nokia Symbian^3 devices; it is a 2.46-inch 640×480 capacitive LCD display with a PPI value that is actually on par with the iPhone 4′s Retina Display. Despite its relatively small size, I’m really enjoying this screen. The superb resolution makes up for everything – you really are unable to see the individual pixels and text looks as if its printed. Although it isn’t an AMOLED display, viewing angles are good, colours look vivid, brightness and contrast are tops and sunlight visibility is excellent. It is also acceptably responsive – swipes, taps and gestures are virtually never missed, even for small links and buttons in the web browser. My E5′s display looks positively horrible next to the E6. The only downside of having so many pixels crammed into such a small diagonal is that the text on mobile websites and certain Qt apps looks stupidly small. But I’ll discuss that issue more in a future review part.
With the hardware rounded up, let’s turn our attention to Symbian Anna on the E6. Although the Symbian UI remains mostly the same with the Anna release, I’d say the softkey-and-menu based UI actually makes sense on the E6′s form factor and it’s still intuitive enough to use for most. Furthermore, Anna feels quite a bit more responsive compared to previous Symbian^3 releases. This may be purely psychological since a new feature in Anna is a spinning-circle indicator whenever something (say, an app) is loading, thus giving the impression that the device freezes less. Swiping between homescreens is now fluid, and boy what a difference that makes. Even though the swiping action isn’t as smooth as on iOS or Android, it’s better than nothing. The Symbian touch UI has actually translated quite well to the VGA landscape display, except that tabs in the Contacts app are extremely small. At least the d-pad is around when you need it, uncomfortable as it may be to use; I’ve found it useful for clicking tiny links in the web browser, moving the text cursor around and switching between tabs.
The Symbian Anna web browser is a perfectly usable web browser in my usage so far; I’ve decided to give it a fair chance to impress/disgust me by holding off on installing Opera Mobile right off the bat. I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of additional serif and sans-serif fonts for web browsing after years of viewing websites on Symbian devices completely rendered in the default Nokia Sans font (that is on its way out).
Although Symbian Anna feels more responsive, lag is still present in places (such as attempting to open Options menus) especially when multitasking several apps. Also, thus far QuickOffice is starting to have substantial problems keeping up with my keystrokes so it’s time to wrap up. My fingers that are cradling the device are also starting to ache after this marathon typing session
I’ll be reviewing this device in greater detail over the next 2 weeks. I won’t bore you by going through all the different software features of the E6; instead, I will focus on how the E6 is actually like in real-world use. I know I’m definitely enjoying the Nokia E6, and I think a more ‘unconventional’ review structure would make for a more interesting read! For now, I guess I’ll catch you soon