Last year, Nokia announced the E71, a superb phone that provides tonnes of features in a great-looking, compact package. This year, Nokia is launching the E63, a less expensive version of the E71, with a few tweaks here and there. But is it as good? We took the E71 look-alike on the road to see if it delivers as good an experience.
You'll soon be able to get the E63 for free on a monthly contract with several major networks, or for around £200 SIM-free.
From the front, the E63 looks similar to the E71. There's a wide screen and a full Qwerty keypad. Unlike the E71, however, the E63 comes in a red or blue plastic casing, instead of a metal one. The E63 is also chunkier, but not so large that it doesn't fit into a pocket comfortably.
One of our favourite E71 design features is its easy-to-press Qwerty keypad, and we're glad to report that the E63's keypad is also a winner, delivering a satisfying typing experience. Each key on the keypad is raised, making them easy to press, and there's enough space between each key so that you don't feel too cramped when tapping out long messages. The keypad feels a little less slippery than the E71's and the thicker design means there's more phone to hold on to -- something you may or may not like.
While it doesn't have the finesse of the E71, the E63 looks good overall, and it certainly delivers when it comes to messaging. With a more colourful casing, the E63 looks less serious than the E71, and will most probably appeal to you if you want a phone that stands out from the crowd.
You might think that a thicker casing would mean additional space to cram in more features, but the E63 actually has fewer features than its predecessor. There's no HSDPA (3.5G), no GPS and no infrared. If the lack of those features doesn't bother you too much, the rest of the E63 delivers an almost identical experience to the E71.
You can browse the Web relatively quickly thanks to the phone's 3G capability and, if you want a faster experience, the E63 comes with Wi-Fi.
The E63's browser lets you see full Web pages, popping up an overview window when you're scrolling around so that you can see where you are in relation to the rest of the page. We also downloaded the third-party Opera Mini browser onto the E63. That worked really well -- we recommend that you try it out too.
Setting up email is fairly straightforward. The E63 supports Microsoft Exchange but doesn't support Exchange folders, which is very annoying if you need access to them.
A massive improvement on the E71 is the E63's 3.5mm headphone jack, which lets you plug your own headphones straight in. The E63's music player has a straightforward interface and supports a variety of formats, including MP3 and AAC. We like that you can search tracks by typing in the one you're looking for.
When it comes to the E63's photography capabilities, a 2-megapixel camera delivers okay pictures for small prints and MMS messages, but don't expect photos to look sharp when you view them on a large screen. In low light, the LED photo light doesn't illuminate objects very well, and only works properly at close range.
Other noteworthy features include the ability to download podcasts, watch YouTube videos, and listen to FM radio and Internet radio stations. A microSD slot lets you add more memory for storing songs and pictures. Although there's no GPS, the E63 comes with Nokia Maps and you can hook it up to a Bluetooth GPS receiver if you want.
Audio during calls sounded clear, with no noticeable muffling or distortion. The loudspeaker is loud enough to use as a temporary hands-free solution but you're better off using a Bluetooth headset.
Battery life lasted for over a day, but will vary depending on what features you use -- using 3G and Wi-Fi will drain the battery more.
Overall, we enjoyed using the Nokia E63, particularly for writing texts and sending emails, but it just doesn't feel as special as the E71, partly due to its thicker design and plastic casing. We also missed the E71's built-in GPS and HSDPA, which add that extra oomph. The E63 may be cheaper, but, as the E71 can be had for free on a contract, it's hard to recommend the E63 over it's more up-market predecessor.
Edited by Charles Kloet