Nokia E90 Review: The new business workhorse

One of the most awaited upgrades ever to a cell phone, the Nokia E90 launch was perhaps only overshadowed by the iPhone and therefore lost out on important publicity but that doesn’t take away from the greatly evolved product that Nokia has introduced albeit at a slightly higher price point. On the whole, I have to say that the E90 is one of the best cell phones I have ever seen and if I could afford one, it would be the phone I would buy right away!

Looks and Design Rating:

Few phones in this form factor have ever been released and the greatest utility the ‘communicator’ form of Nokia offers is the full keyboard. The E90 builds on its predecessors, the 9300 and 9300i (with Wi-Fi) and makes it mighty comfortable to use the keyboard.

One immediate reaction that I got from most people who saw the phone was that while it was definitely beautiful, it didn’t exactly have the “wow factor” that perhaps an iPhone does or even the RAZR did when it was initially launched. But it does help to remember that this is a business phone and its users aren’t exactly looking to wow with the phone’s looks alone.

The E90 has a front panel with a standard keypad and a slightly larger five-way key than earlier communicators. The action keys to the side of these are however a little small and can be missed if you aren’t sure where they exactly are. A minor blemish to an otherwise good design.

The front panel screen is just as good as the internal one and with well-placed buttons on either side, it is a good phone to use. The camera button is to the bottom right of the phone and one needs to turn the phone on the side to use the camera.

Opening the phone reveals a full keyboard with shortcuts to access basic programs like Contacts, Messaging, Web, Notes and so on. The E90 also offers two customisable menu keys that can be programmed to launch any program or function. Useful! One major change to this part of the phone is the reduction of keys from the right of the screen from four to two on either side. Of these, the two on the left are answer and end call while the two on the right are contextual and change with the program in use. Unfortunately, the increased size of the phone makes these keys slightly out of reach as compared to previous models and I had to stretch a bit extra to reach these when holding the phone on my palm.

UI and Functionality Rating:

A bit like showing light to the sun, calling the E90 UI impressive is an understatement! Ease of use is built in very well and a huge improvement over previous editions is the larger size of buttons. But the real improvement is the S60 interface.

With basic office functions well built, emailing is a breeze. One the front panel, there are configurable buttons and the optional Active Desktop as well. You could turn this off to make the down arrow navigation key take you to the contacts or any other feature of your choice. Otherwise, the down arrow key will navigate through the active desktop option.

One feature that you cannot remove is the W-LAN scan. This can be turned off to preserve battery but it is a little strange that this can’t be removed.

Email set-up is a breeze and like with all features, one needs to open the mailbox fully to read mails. In a split-screen mode, the phone only displays the headers. Not so user-friendly, but in a short while, you will get used to it!

The signal catching capability of the E90 is impressive to say the least. Where other phones were struggling to catch a signal, the E90 stayed afloat. Even during roaming usage, the battery consumption was not as bad as I thought. One of the things about the battery consumption that I did notice was that it died rather quickly on a couple of occasions after extended periods of browsing. And the fall in battery strength was rather sudden too. Perhaps this is more a visual bug than an actual functionality bug, but it can be alarming.

One interesting insight was provided to me by a gentleman at an airport. He walked up asking for a charger and was cursing the battery life no end! After an extended discussion, he conceded that the 9250i, his previous phone, performed far better. My guess is that he had not turned off the W-LAN scanner!

One of the biggest additions to the E90 is the camera. An absolute brilliant one at that too! Take a look at the sample gallery and you’ll know what I mean. I have seen some good cameras on enterprise-level phones (the BlackBerry Pearl for example), but this beats them all hollow. If only the button positioning was better.

Overall Overall Rating:

Do you have Rs 34,500? Do you need a business phone? Don’t think twice. Just go for it. Remember some of the negatives, though: heavy, slightly bulky and can take some getting used to especially if you haven’t used one before. I will wait for the price to fall further!

Image Gallery (more to come)

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