Nokia E51 Mobile Phone - Review

Nokia E51 Mobile Phone - Review

Nokia E51 Mobile Phone - ReviewThe E51 is the latest member to join the Eseries portfolio in mid-September. It is likely a direct replacement of the E50, though it also looks like a slimmed-down version of the chunky E90 after losing the QWERTY keyboard. But this workhorse is no slouch even with a slim figure.

Design of the Nokia E51 Cellphone

The beauty of candy-bar handsets is you can almost never go wrong with the design. That's exactly how we felt with the Nokia E51. At 12mm thick, the E51 is one of the leaner enterprise devices from the Finnish phone-maker, second to the E61i which is 0.5mm thinner. The E51 feels very solid in hand, something which a picture cannot deliver. Cementing the durability are the stainless steel runs on the entire edge of the front faceplate and battery cover.

To sum it up quickly, the design approach to the E51 is a very reserved and safe one. Nokia didn't conjure any fancy tricks for this enterprise device. Although we adore the slim profile, the handset looks a tad too tall due to the two-tone fascia. That said, the phone is still relatively compact and should fit comfortably in the pocket. The styling of the E51 also bears vague resemblance to a stripped-down version of the E90 Communicator without the clamshell QWERTY keyboard. Click the picture on the right to see what we mean.

The bottom half is peppered with various shortcut keys and a generous-sized keypad. Above that is a modest 2-inch QVGA display with an ambient light sensor and LED light indicator customizable to light up in the event of missed calls, incoming text/multimedia messages or emails. The screen is readable even in bright outdoor conditions, which is great. However, it's probably not suitable for prolonged Web surfing or document reading, unless you want to end up straining your vision.

Like we mentioned in our preview, Nokia has replaced the S60 swirl icon with a "roofed house" that's instantly recognizable as the Home key. It's trivial, but one that's definitely appreciated. Pressing the key from anywhere in the phone's menu brings us to the standby screen. The same can also be done with the End call control.

The * and # keys are slightly smaller than the 7 and 9 buttons due to the tapered edges of the phone, though it doesn't hinder daily use. While we like the excellent tactility of the main keys, we can't say the same for those on the sides, such as the rubberized volume, power and record buttons. They are not disastrous, don't get us wrong, but pressing them requires a little more concerted effort.

At the back is where we find a 2-megapixel camera and the onboard speakers. The glossy surface of the Rose Steel unit attracts fingerprint smudges fairly easily and may irk some users, although a few swipes usually does the trick for the rear face. The Black Steel version isn't plagued with this problem, and we feel it's the more elegant of the two.

Features of the Nokia E51 Cellphone

One of the main highlights of the E51 is the multiple one-touch dedicated buttons for email, contacts and calendar applications. These keys are also customizable, recognizing short and long presses. A quick press on the Contacts button brings the user to the contacts menu and holding down the same key for a longer time doubles as a shortcut to create a new entry.

Besides the main keys, the * and 0 buttons also activate the phone's Bluetooth and Web browser, respectively. In addition, there's a dedicated key (available also on the earlier E65) for muting calls (and vice versa), which is useful when the user needs to be excused for a moment during a conference call.

The quadband E51 is no slouch when it comes to connectivity, with dualband 3G/HSDPA on 850/2100MHz frequencies, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth stereo, infrared, 2.5mm audio jack, mini-USB port and support for various email protocols including POP3, IMAP4 and SMTP. That's practically more than you'll ever need on a daily basis and a close match to what the earlier 6120 classic offers. Most of the slimmer devices end up being victims of a do-it-all connector which makes multitasking impossible. On the E51, the charging and mini-USB port are separate components, so you can juice up the device while synchronizing data with a PC.

The handset is based on the Series60 3rd Edition platform with Feature Pack 3.1, so the interface will be familiar to most Nokia users. Otherwise, it's a gentle learning curve for newbies. Standard applications like Active Notes, In-device Search, Team Suite and Quickoffice were preinstalled on our review set, so we didn't have to waste time downloading the programs. Our only gripe is that the installed Quickoffice version is a view-only copy. So that means you'll have to factor in additional cost to upgrade the app if you want editing features. According to Nokia, the reason for this is due to the smaller screen size of the E51 compared with, for example, the E90 with a larger widescreen display. Other programs that can be downloaded over-the-air include Windows Live services such as Live Messenger (it's free for now, but may be chargeable in future), Gizmo for VoIP calls and Yahoo! Go.

For mobile email, the E51 supports various solutions including Mail for Exchange, Visto mobile and Seven Always-on. We didn't try the latter two since we are happy users of Mail for Exchange for its straightforward setup and ease of use. Mail for Exchange is sometimes referred to as Nokia's implementation of Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync--both programs are capable of pushing email from the server to the mobile device.

There's a sizeable 130MB of onboard user memory and that is expandable up to 4GB with a microSD card. The card slot is found under the battery cover, which can be a hassle for switching cards on-the-fly, but we're just nitpicking.

As for entertainment features, the 2-megapixel camera is a barebones set without the bells and whistles of its Nseries counterparts. It is sufficient for basic snapshots, but don't expect high-quality prints from it. The colors were washed-out and the default white balance was a bit too cool for our liking. Using the Night mode boosted the sensitivity of the sensor, but in turn the pictures seemed as if they were heavily coated with a layer of sand. The E51 doesn't have a front-facing camera for video calls and the main shooter doubles as a camera module for that purpose. That way, only you get to see the calling party, or vice versa, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of holding a video conversation.

Other multimedia offerings include Visual Radio, a music player (MP3, AAC, WMA, AMR-NB and AMR-WB formats), video streaming and playback in H.264 (MPEG-4), 3gpp and Real codecs.

Performance of the Nokia E51 Cellphone

The E51 was surprisingly responsive during our review. Menus and applications were activated at a snap, slowing down only when multiple programs were turned on simultaneously. Nokia ships the device with a BP-6MT 1,050mAh cell which is rated for 13 days on standby and approximately 4.4 hours of talktime. With conservative use, we got up to four days of using the set without having to recharge the battery.

Call quality was decent, although sounds came out a bit hollow via the onboard speakers. The fact that these are located at the back of the phone contributes to slight muffling of audio as well.


There's nothing not to like about the E51. In fact, we loved it for its ease of use and truckload of features, which bags the question: How does it compare with the 6120 classic at about the same price point? The two handsets are nearly identical and both are a match in terms of features, save for the additional Wi-Fi connectivity on the E51.

Maybe it's the slim profile. Maybe it's the excellent tactility and dedicated buttons. Or maybe it's the additional wireless LAN connection. Whatever the reason, the E51 embodies what a good handset should be like and it looks like it's going to be a mainstay for the Finnish giant. We're impressed and we'd highly recommend this S$588 handset (without contract) not just to the enterprise user, but also the mainstream consumer.