I’ve had my hands on the Nokia E6 for about 3 week now and I’d like to share with you my thoughts on the hardware. I have some positives and negatives to talk about, along with a few things I’m still unsure of. Some of the topics I’ll discuss include the screen, build quality, keyboard, and battery life of the Nokia E6.
I’m able to quickly reply to texts and tweets on the keyboard without having to use two hands or give my full attention to where my thumbs are landing on the phone. The buttons have a very good feel to them, not too soft and not too hard. The spacebar is big enough so you won’t miss, taking up the same amount of space as four letters. If you’ve used the Nokia E72 you know what I mean. It’s a similar design overall but the bottom row of the keyboard is laid out a bit differently. The spacebar on the E72 takes up the same size as two letter keys, making the E6 spacebar more ideal. The E6 shares the same keyboard layout as the E71, which many people will be happy to hear. You can also open the browser (0), activate bluetooth (*), and silence the phone (#) using various key-letter shortcuts. I’m sure there are a few others that I’ve missed. You also have a set of dedicated shortcut buttons.
The shortcut buttons on the E6 are meant for office tools. By default you have buttons for contacts, calendar, email, and home/menu. A long-press of each button will give you even more options. The contacts, calendar, and email buttons can be reconfigured with apps or functions of your choice. By functions I mean adding a new contact, calendar entry, or starting a message. Here is how I have my shortcuts setup.
Contacts: short-press = contacts list, long-press = SMS conversations view.
Calendar: short-press = calendar, long-press = new calendar entry.
Envelope: short-press = email app, long-press = new SMS.
Again… all of these can be configured to your liking. The menu/home key is not configurable. Long-press this key to see your open apps for multitasking. The buttons themselves aren’t actually buttons but instead a single block that recesses in each area where the icons are painted on. I prefer a design where each shortcut has its own real button but I’ll admit this is very sleek and hasn’t given me any problems so far. It seems responsive and accurate to each press.
The d-pad is a big negative for me and I hardly ever use it. The touchscreen takes the place of the d-pad but some may still find it useful. The outer rim of the d-pad sticks out too far and gets in the way. I wish it would’ve been more discreet and smaller, making more room for the shortcut buttons.
Nokia E6 screen
I have mixed emotions here. A huge positive is the E6 screen resolution, checking in at 640×480 pixels (325 PPI) VGA. Compare that to the iPhone 4 Retina display at 326 PPI. The pixel density is among the highest you’ll find on a smartphone. But all those pixels are crammed into a 2.46 inch screen! The same exact screen size you’ll find on older Nokia Eseries classics like the E71 and E72. Don’t expect AMOLED either. So while images and text look great on the E6 you sacrifice size, making for more scrolling, flicking, and frustration. Users coming from a screen like the Nokia E7 or the HTC EVO might have a hard time adjusting to the E6 if you’ve never used a phone with this screen size. I’m a special case because I used the E71 extensively so I knew what to expect with the E6. This is just something you have to live with if you want this mono-block form factor. Nokia could have put a bigger screen – 2.7 or 3 inch would’ve been nice but then we have to decide if it’s still pocketable. It’s a huge game of give and take when trying to decide which phone to get.
I think the high pixel density is the saving grace for the Nokia E6. If it wasn’t for the nice colors and resolution I wouldn’t be able to deal with the screen size. It all comes down to personal feelings on this subject.
Nokia E6 side buttons, lock switch, and camera module
The side volume buttons on the E6 are not the best I’ve seen. They are little pieces of plastic that stick out too much. They don’t really get in the way but when you run your fingers over them it doesn’t feel nice. Between the volume buttons is a single button to activate voice dialing. Since I don’t use voice dialing on my devices, this button is useless to me. I wish it was possible to make this a dedicated button to launch an application or the camera but I haven’t found a way. I’m sure there’s a 3rd party app out there that can do this but more than likely it’s not compatible with Symbian^3.
The lock switch/slider is right below the volume buttons. It has three lines that protrude just a bit higher than the switch to act as a grip and makes it easy to find. I honestly have no complaints with the lock switch and find it nicer to use than my N8.
On the top of the phone you’ll find the power button, audio port, and microSD slot. It’s an odd place to put a memory card slot but it doesn’t cause any issues. The microUSB port can be found on the left side of the phone towards the top, making it the only thing you’ll find on that side. Don’t forget the E6 has USB-OTG (on the go) which lets you connect another USB device to it and transfer files. I can connect a thumb drive and send files between both devices. It’s a really handy feature and should be standard in a smartphone.
The backside of the phone is mostly flat besides the camera module which sticks up a bit. The speaker is also found here, just above the dual-LED flash. With an 8MP EDoF camera and decent flash I’ve been mostly pleased with the photos I’ve taken with the E6. The quality is better than I expected.
The battery cover pops off from the bottom and blends nicely with the rest of the phone. I wish it was textured just a bit to get a better grip on the E6 but it’s not unbearably slippery.
Lastly, the charging port is at the bottom. It’s the pin-style charger which has been used on almost all Nokia models. I’m happy with this position sine it allows me to charge in the car while I have it the holder. You can also charge via the microUSB port that I mentioned earlier.
Nokia E6 performance – battery, sound, and speed
I was easily able to get through a full day on a single charge. The E6 sports a 1500mAh battery and the Symbian Anna firmware helps optimize life. I connect to 2 email accounts, check twitter throughout the day, respond to many text messages, browse the web for about an hour, and make about 30 minutes worth of calls. I know many of you have much heavier use but look at the announced specs. The E6 battery is rated at 14.6 hours talk and 31 days standby. That is enormous. I’m still not sure if it lasts as long as the Nokia E71 in real life – I need to do some more testing. Overall I’m happy with the results.
For having a single speaker the E6 is pretty loud. Loud enough for my needs when making a call or listening to music. Don’t expect the quality you’d get from a phone with two speakers but this is tolerable. Personally I’ve always thought a really good single speaker is all you need on a phone. The E6 sounds great when on a call through the standard earpiece. The only negative is it sounds a bit hollow, but I can still hear the caller crystal clear.
The speed of the device when navigating through menus and the browser is, how can I put it. Good enough. On some screens you have a slight delay but not longer than a second. When this happens you are presented with a small circle with a spinning gradient to let you know the phone is thinking. That might be a turn off for many but it’s really not that bad. The E6 has a 640MHz ARM processor and 256MB of RAM. Symbian is a highly efficient operating system and has no problem running fast on those specs.
Final thoughts and more E6 photos
Overall I’m impressed with the hardware of the E6. It’s built out of tough plastic with a bit of metal trim. Like most Nokia phones if dropped it will survive. The biggest negative I had was the d-pad sticking out too much but that’s something that I can live with. In terms of weight the E6 has a great feel in-hand and is heavy enough to feel in your pocket. Phones that are too light often have me paranoid that I’ve lost it and I constantly have to check to make sure it’s on me.
I haven’t been this productive with a device since the Nokia E71. The mono-block design and excellent physical keyboard play a huge part in that. When you couple that with a high-resolution capacitive touchscreen you have a device that is very efficient and useful.
To finish things off I’ll leave you with our full gallery of Nokia E6 photos:
Stay tuned for the next part of our Nokia E6 review where I’ll discuss the software and Symbian Anna.