As per usual with the majority of my Nokia reviews, this was a device sent to me from my good friends over at WOM World Nokia to give a device admittedly outside of my budget a decent spin just for kicks and giggles. Admittedly there's not a lot to laugh about when it comes to the E7, as it's a lean and sleek device aimed at the business sector of users. Since the E90 of many years ago, there hasn't been a single Nokia device with a display as larger than it's LCD in Nokia's E-Series lineup, let alone a Nokia handset of any subcategory ever to have a display larger than that found in the E7. With premium materials found all over the device it's really no surprise, then, to read the E7's rather lofty price tag. The real question is whether or not Nokia has made a device good enough to be worthy of such an asking price or if this, like many wannabe business-class heroes, is just fluff.
There's really no getting around this, so I'll start this section upfront by saying that I am completely sold on the E7's design. Admittedly there are a few tiny bits I'd polish up if I had the option, but from where I'm sitting it is design alone which makes the E7 such a great phone. This is something which isn't limited to mere aesthetics, as the tactile sensation that this phone induces in-hand is one of unbelievably solid construction. I once praised the iPhone 4 as being such a well-designed and built phone because of the in-hand feeling and I am delighted to say Nokia has finally managed to figure out how to mimic this sensation to the dot, if not better it. (That's not to say Nokia hasn't had super-solid phones but the E7 is in a class of it's own.)
With that quick disclaimer out of the way, the E7 is really quite simple. Up front there's the 4-inch AMOLED display which, when turned off, manages to (almost) completely hide in the inky black of the border surrounding it, a very neat effect. There's a centered button located below it and a small cut above it for the earpiece. Right side of the phone is home to a volume rocker switch and one-step camera shutter button while the left side has only a screen-lock toggle. Up top there's a 3.5mm audio jack, mini-HDMI port (the dongle for which is included), a micro-USB port (for which there is an included dongle enabling USB-host capabilities), and a power/ringtone-profile-toggling button. South side of the phone is completely devoid of anything except a small microphone hole. Back side of the device has a little class window for the 8MP (non-Autofocus) camera with dual LED flash and a couple more tiny holes which I assume are the location of another microphone for stereo-audio recording in videos.
Then arrives the E7's party-piece as the display is "popped" up with a unique but not difficult press of the fingers on the edge of the display. The screen snaps up with very solid feeling and accompanying noise with a comfortable angle to enable a slightly more ergonomic typing experience when using the keyboard that has now been revealed. A four-row keyboard is what Nokia went with here and for some reason still included four directional arrow keys in case their use might benefit the user.
Not much is left to be said about the E7's design from a hardware perspective. Everything seems well thought ought, clean, and well put together. The only exception to this comes in the form of the endcaps on the device, which are actually plastic to ensure proper functioning of the many radios built into the device, but for some reason don't sit quite flush with the large aluminum piece which makes up the rest of the device. There is no play, flex or squeaking resulting from this improper alignment but the fact that it exists is a visual eye-sore to the eye of a wannabe perfectionist.
As per Nokia's more recent green-thumb take on things even the box has been redesigned from devices which aren't even that old by comparison. In comparison to my N86's packaging box it is quite clear that Nokia decided to take a more eco-friendly approach with the E7. Of course, the box for my Motorola F3 is still noticeably smaller but if you ask me, the E7 box is already about as small as it can go before sacrificing cushioning for the device itself and space for all the included accessories.
The E7 just works. It really is harder to go into much more depth than that. S^3, the Symbian operating system already slated to be killed off in the near future, has shown quite a bit of improvement with regard to touchscreens in the last year or so but it's still not quite ideal. Whether or not a user likes S^3 really depends on whether or not they've used Symbian S60 devices in the past and found them to be cumbersome and annoying or simple and efficient without flair. If the latter, then S^3 will likely be a cake-walk with only a few necessary usage adjustments from the devices of the past. But it's a bit hard to claim that S^3 is the most efficient OS for this device after having used iOS and Android (and Windows Phone 7) touchscreen devices, which were built from the ground-up to function better with the type of hardware the E7 flaunts. With the recent announcement of the N9 it is a bit hard not to lament the fact that the E7 wasn't equipped with MeeGo, as this phone would undoubtedly have sold like hot-cakes, even if only to the more financially sound high-end users.
In short, the E7 functions great as is. There are optimizations that the OS could have received, but to learn more about that I feel that it's better to go read a review of the N8 in which all of these "issues" were confronted head-on. To a certain degree, I actually liked the N8's S^3 variation better than the E7 partially because of the iconography that was employed. The E7 has a lot of tweaked icons which look a more intricate and classy but they also look extremely dated and dull on the E7's beautiful AMOLED display. Which, since there's no other place better than here to mention, is an absolute sight to behold. The ClearBlack technology enables the display to easily be read in direct sunlight but that's not even what I'm raving about this time around. Having just recently owned a Samsung Galaxy S which has a much-loved Super AMOLED Plus display.... I can't help but wonder why the E7 hasn't been noticed to have what I believe to be a better display. While I was unable to figure this out exactly, my internet searches returned results which claimed that the E7 used a traditional RGB sub-pixel layout whereas the Super AMOLED Plus employed a Pen-Tile layout which is actually sort of cheating and results in less usable pixels although the density may appear to be the same. As a result almost everything displayed on the E7 was unbelievably crisp and saturated with color.
Will I buy an E7? The answer here is most definitely no. If I were to come across a used in in great condition for an unbelievable price in the future I might consider it but at this point that seems highly unlikely. The device is simply out of my budget and more complicated than I need right now. That said, the device is one heck of a package with the only drawbacks being the hum-drum non-AF camera and software which is either a hit-or-miss, depending on who the user is.
Without a doubt, however, the E7 has to be one of the best looking Nokia devices of all time. It'll be interesting to see if Nokia drags its chassis out of the closet to give it another go once Windows Phone 7 begins to gain steam and, if they do, they're likely to have a killer combination of hardware and software.
Photos taken from the E7: