BenQ-Siemens' new slider, the EL71, isn't going to set anyone's world alight with its amazing features. First impressions are of a neat and tidy slider styled in silver that looks every inch an impressive piece of kit.
But second and third impressions start to reveal that the deeper you delve the more average the handset shows itself to be. That's fine if average is what you need. After all, the EL71 makes calls, plays music, has Web access and sports a built-in camera. Just don't expect state of the art from any of these capabilities.
The EL71 is coming soon on Orange Pay Monthly and its price was not fixed at the time of writing this review.
Did we say this handset is silver? Front on, its brushed aluminium and magnesium screen surround (the remainder of the casing is plastic) looks good, though the screen -- a relatively small 64mm TFT -- seems a little lost in its surroundings. Turn the handset on and that screen shines out. Its 240x320-pixel resolution is bright and clear, and it is actually one of the EL71's best features.
This being a slider there is no immediately visible number pad. Instead a large navigation button is surrounded by six keys. Call and End and two softmenu keys are joined by a couple of music control buttons. One of these starts the built-in music player running, the other is a pause/play button. You can use the navigation key to skip about between tracks and within them too.
The navigation key has shortcut functions assigned to it which come into play when you are not listening to tunes. So, for example, pushing it down opens the built-in contacts software, pushing it left starts the camera running.
The button takes a bit of getting used to. The central 'select' section is fine, but the surround is small and we found a fingernail much more effective than the flat of a finger for pressing it.
Open the slider and the number pad looks presentable with its silver predominance and blue backlight. It is not made up of separate keys, but an area separated by indents which help you feel your way around. The material used for this area is soft and spongy, and we didn't take to it a great deal, but the keys are well spaced and we managed fairly fast texting.
The slider mechanism is spring loaded, and you need only the merest touch to open and close the handset.
Turn the EL71 over and silver fades to black with the camera lens and the tiniest flash and self portrait mirrors we've ever seen sitting in the top left corner.
On the right side of the casing is a rocker button the bottom section of which launches the camera (yes it doubles the navigation key function) and then shoots a picture, while the top section drops you into a speed dialler. On the left side a duplicate rocker takes care of volume. Power is supplied via a connector on the right edge which doubles for headphones and, if you invest in one, a data cable that you can use with the provided desktop software to share diary and contact information with the handset and manage its contents generally.