The Nokia E63 smartphone offers excellent business features at an affordable price.

The little brother of the Nokia E71, the Nokia E63 lacks a GPS receiver and preinstalled games, and it has a downgraded camera. On the other hand, it possesses the same excellent email and messaging capabilities as other members of the Nokia E-series. And the biggest news here: the E63 sells for less than £200 unlocked.

The lightweight Nokia E63 has a curved, slim design. Measuring 113x59x13mm, 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 Nokia E63 is available in two attractive colours - 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).

A 2.4in 320-by-240-pixel QVGA display occupies about half of the Nokia E63'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 Nokia E63.

Oddly, the Nokia E63 lacks a volume rocker; instead you must use the directional pad (d-pad) to adjust the volume during calls and media playback. We are, however, pleased to see a microSD slot located on the right spine. One of our biggest peeves about RIM BlackBerrys is that their microSD slots are inconveniently placed under the back cover.

Nokia E63: where are the extras?

Unfortunately, Nokia skimped on accessories for the Nokia E63, omitting a data cable and a microSD Card. Other than some assorted manuals, you get only a stereo headset, which delivers mediocre sound when used to listen to music or calls. Luckily, the standard 3.5mm jack lets you swap in your own higher-quality headphones.

The Nokia 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, we liked the convenience of having a standalone Ctrl key for cutting and pasting text within long messages.

NEXT PAGE: hands-on tests

The Nokia E63 smartphone offers excellent business features at an affordable price.

Nokia E63: hands-on tests

In our hands-on tests, we found that call quality sounded good for the most part. On a handful of calls, we could hear a faint hiss in the background. A few voices sounded tinny, a problem we experienced with the Nokia E71 as well. Parties on the other end of the line reported clean audio quality and couldn't hear any hiss. The Nokia 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 Nokia E63 and the E71, we'd take that figure with a pinch of salt.

Like the E71, the Nokia E63 runs on Symbian OS 9.2. To make the sometimes-confusing Symbian S60-based platform more user-friendly, Nokia provides customisable shortcut keys and a standby screen. You can access your home page, calendar, address book, and email from the keyboard's dedicated shortcut keys, which you can customise 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.

Nokia E63: email and web

Setting up personal email is a snap, too: you just enter your email address and password for on-the-go email. The Nokia E63 supports email accounts from over a thousand ISPs as well as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail. Business email requires your IT department's assistance. The free Nokia Exchange client synchronizes your phone with push email, contacts, and calendar appointments from Microsoft Exchange; but like the E71, the Nokia E63 won't let you access e-mail subfolders - a limitation that we find baffling in a business phone.

Web pages look 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, we found the audio quality mediocre with the bundled headphones, but it improved somewhat when we listened through a set of higher-quality headphones.

Video quality was surprisingly quite good, with smooth playback of test clips and very little distortion or pixelation.

Don't much from the Nokia E63's 2Mp camera. Sure enough, photos both inside and outside appeared dark and grainy and had a high noise level.

Furthermore, the Nokia E63 has no dedicated camera key or lens cover.

PCWorld.com

Nokia E63: Specs

  • 113x59x13mm
  • 126g
  • 1500mAh
  • 320 x 240 pixels/2.36 inch screen
  • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 (Quad-Band), WCDMA: 900/2100 (Dual-Band)
  • 2Mp camera
  • 15fps Video Recording (QVGA) MP4, 3GP, H.263
  • audio: MP3, AAC, AAC+,eAAC+ & WMA, FM Stereo Radio (RDS)
  • SMS, MMS (with video), email (POP3, SMTP, IMAP4, MS Exchange), Instant Messaging (MSN), Text-To-Speech Reader
  • 110MB (internal), microSDHC (external)
  • microUSB, Nokia 3.5mm AV connector, Bluetooth (2.0), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11g), GPRS Class 32
  • 113x59x13mm
  • 126g
  • 1500mAh
  • 320 x 240 pixels/2.36 inch screen
  • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 (Quad-Band), WCDMA: 900/2100 (Dual-Band)
  • 2Mp camera
  • 15fps Video Recording (QVGA) MP4, 3GP, H.263
  • audio: MP3, AAC, AAC+,eAAC+ & WMA, FM Stereo Radio (RDS)
  • SMS, MMS (with video), email (POP3, SMTP, IMAP4, MS Exchange), Instant Messaging (MSN), Text-To-Speech Reader
  • 110MB (internal), microSDHC (external)
  • microUSB, Nokia 3.5mm AV connector, Bluetooth (2.0), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11g), GPRS Class 32

OUR VERDICT

The Nokia E63 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.

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