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Already available overseas, the Nokia E63 has finally come to the United States. The little brother of the Nokia E71, the E63 lacks a GPS receiver and preinstalled games, and it has a downgraded camera. On the other hand, it possesses the same excellent e-mail and messaging capabilities as other members of the Nokia E-series. And the biggest news here: The E63 sells for $250 unlocked--about half what the E71 cost when it debuted.
The lightweight E63 retains the E71's curved, slim design. Measuring 1.4 inches by 2.3 inches by 0.5 inch, it is only slightly thicker than the E71. Rather than having a metal finish, the E63 comes wrapped in a high-quality plastic chassis, which is comfortable to hold. The handset is available in two attractive colors--Ruby Red and Ultramarine Blue--options that give it a more youthful appearance than the sophisticated E71 (available in white or gray, with chrome accents).
The E63's 2.4-inch 320-by-240-pixel QVGA display occupies about half of the phone's landscape. A row of shortcut and navigation keys plus the full QWERTY keyboard lie below it. A 3.5mm headphone jack is situated at the top of the phone. Oddly, the phone lacks a volume rocker; instead you must use the directional pad (d-pad) to adjust the volume during calls and media playback. I was, however, pleased to see a microSD slot located on the right spine. One of my biggest peeves about RIM BlackBerrys is that their microSD slots are inconveniently placed under the back cover.
Unfortunately, Nokia skimped on accessories for the E63, omitting a data cable and a microSD Card. Other than some assorted manuals, you get only a stereo headset, which delivered mediocre sound when I used to listen to music or calls. Luckily, the standard 3.5mm jack lets you swap in your own higher-quality headphones.
The E63's full QWERTY keyboard has raised, tactile keys, which supported quick and easy typing. The keys are a bit smaller than those on a BlackBerry Curve, but a colleague who has larger hands than I do had no trouble using them. One difference between this model and the E71 is the smaller space key on the E63, a change that makes room for a parenthesis key and a Ctrl key. Though some users may find this annoying, I liked the convenience of having a standalone Ctrl key for cutting and pasting text within long messages.
In my hands-on tests, I found that call quality (over AT&T's 3G network) sounded good for the most part. On a handful of calls, I could hear a faint hiss in the background. A few voices sounded tinny, a problem I experienced with the E71 as well. Parties on the other end of the line reported clean audio quality and couldn't hear any hiss. The E63 has the same 1500-mAh BP-4L lithium ion battery as the E71.
Though Nokia quotes a talk time of 11 hours in the specs for both the E63 and the E71, the PC World Test Center clocked the E71's talk-time battery life at 4 hours, 48 minutes--a subpar duration for the phones (including 3G models) on our Top 10 Cell Phones chart. We'll update this review with a final tested talk time and with an overall PCW rating for the E63 once our test center completes its battery life tests of this model.
Like the E71, the E63 runs on Symbian OS 9.2. To make the sometimes-confusing Symbian S60-based platform more user-friendly, Nokia provides customizable shortcut keys and a standby screen. You can access your home page, calendar, address book, and e-mail from the keyboard's dedicated shortcut keys, which you can customize to launch another application of your choice. Holding down a shortcut key for a few seconds triggers a different action. For example, holding down the calendar key lets you enter a new appointment. You can add up to 15 shortcuts on the E63's standby screen. A new Switch mode permits you to create two separate standby screens to accommodate features for work and play. And finding a contact in your phone is as simple as typing the first few letters of the person's name.
Setting up personal e-mail is a snap, too: You just enter your e-mail address and password for on-the-go e-mail. The E63 supports e-mail accounts from over a thousand ISPs as well as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail. Business e-mail requires your IT department's assistance. The free Nokia Exchange client synchronizes your phone with push e-mail, contacts, and calendar appointments from Microsoft Exchange; but like the E71, the E63 won't let you access e-mail subfolders--a limitation that I find baffling in a business phone.
Web pages loaded quickly over both AT&T's 3G network and the phone's integrated Wi-Fi--and it looked sharp. The d-pad supports convenient mouse maneuvering, and Nokia's Mini Map feature, which zooms out to a full-screen view of the entire page, is helpful for speedy navigation. Just find the section you want, and zoom in.
The straightforward music player offers such advanced features as five equalizer presets, balance control, and a stereo-widening effect. The player supports a range of audio files including AAC (+), MP3, and WMA, as well as podcasts. As noted earlier, I found the audio quality mediocre with the bundled headphones, but it improved somewhat when I listened through a set of higher-quality headphones.
Video quality was surprisingly quite good, with smooth playback of my test clips and very little distortion or pixelation.
Since the E71's 3-megapixel camera had disappointed me, I wasn't expecting much from the E63's 2-megapixel camera. Sure enough, photos both inside and outside appeared dark and grainy and had a high noise level. Furthermore, the E63 has no dedicated camera key or lens cover.
Though the E63 may not be as sexy as the E71, it delivers excellent business and messaging features. Still, the E63 isn't suited for everyone. Consumers seeking strong multimedia features are better off with a (far pricier) Nokia N-Series phone, like the Nokia N96.
The E63 has excellent enterprise capabilities, but skimps on multimedia features.
- Inexpensive for an unlocked phone
- Excellent full QWERTY keyboard
- Disappointing music playback quality
- Mediocre camera
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