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Nokia E61 review

Nokia E61 no case.JPG

On my last trip to the far East (China, HK, Taiwan, Singapore) I bought the Nokia E61 phone + PDA. This phone is quad band GSM (for best North America coverage, yes, places in the US still use 850 MHz) with 3G (2100 MHz, Europe only capability), bluetooth, Wi-Fi (802.11g/b). This is a true world phone, expanding its coverage into the previous no-man’s land of Korea and Japan (3G). It also has Blackberry capability via GPRS/EDGE. I paid around $410 USD after tax rebate. It can be purchased on the internet for $350 + S&H.

First impressions:

  1. I put in the Cingular SIM card and it worked. After activating Blackberry (yes, I’m paying ~$44 for unlimited BlackBerry, GPRS/EDGE unlimited alone will not work!) I can read work e-mails and my calendar is automatically synced.
  2. This phone has sketchier coverage than the RAZR V3 it replaced. With two internal antennas, this doesn’t have as good service. The indicator bars do strange things (i.e., no bars, make call, then full bars)
  3. I immediately bought an aluminum case for the E61, the “antenna” breathing holes in this case only expose one of the two antennas, which is perhaps why my service is getting worse (although, even without the case, it’s not good). This case was bought because of the number of screen replacements on my iPaq i1945 I paid for before smartening up and buying a Rhino aluminum case which is virtually indestructable. I immediately deployed the E61 on the belt clip only to have the E61 fall out of the case onto the pavement. Not a great case design. I also purchased some plastic holsters (like Blackberry has). Maybe these will work better.
  4. SIP doesn’t work. It doesn’t support any NAT traversal, so it’s not really useful yet. Apparently a firmware upgrade in the fall will fix this.
  5. It doesn’t have A2DP (stereo Bluetooth). The same firmware upgrade should correct this.
  6. The OS has crashed about 4 times (3 times reboot, 1 time frozen) in the couple of weeks I’ve used it.
  7. Renegotiation of connection doesn’t always work (i.e., switching, choosing GPRS vs. WLAN, etc.)

Nokia E61 case.JPG

So, all in all, I have mixed feeling about this phone.

Here’s the good:

  • Will support SIP, A2DP, be more stable soon
  • Voice quality is good
  • Does everything I could want from a PDA and phone
  • Buttons and keyboard easy and big enough for fat-fingered me to use.
  • Supports 802.1x and IPSEC, so technically should work for Wi-Fi at work
  • True world phone (not like many missing the 850 MHz band of GSM). I tried it on my way back in Japan via voice and data (voice worked like a charm, 3G data was alarmingly fast given my $0.02/K roaming charge)
  • Supports music functionality…
  • Really good battery life (with wireless off, 30 hours of music playback on planes)
  • Awesome, bright, high-resolution display: 320×240 (QVGA on its side). The pictures here do not do justice to the high-contrast, very sunlight-readable display.

Here’s the bad:

  • Earphone can be a little hard to get placed on the ear correctly.
  • Wider than Treo, should be thinner, although this may reduce key size. I also like the form factor of the m600 SONY-Ericsson, although this one is pretty limited with respect to features: no 850 MHz, Wi-Fi.
  • Not so good reception
  • Buggy OS – Bad switching between connections, crashes, difficult to use menus and configuration (no worse than Motorola). SIP & A2DP nonexistent or poorly functional.
  • Uses lame Nokia connector for data communication and earpiece. No mini-USB or standard connector which is really a let-down.

Overall:

This is an awesome gadget, with complete connectivity and world phone capability. Most of my complaints should go away soon with a firmware upgrade. I would recommend this or the E60 (not E62, the totally stripped down version which Cingular is bringing in this year). I may personally move to the E60 if I don’t become e-mail addicted (the E60 doesn’t have a QWERTY keyboard).

By Dave

He was born in Canada, but currently lives in Boulder, CO up in Boulder Heights.

7 replies on “Nokia E61 review”

You are wrong about SIP not working… It IS WORKING! Check out NokMe.com for detailed instructions on how to set it up (I think that’s the only place where you can get the set up details)

Thanks for the comment, Jake. Works like a charm. SIP is now up and working. In other news, in the show Weeds on Showtime, the lead character is using a Nokia E61 on the current season. Kind of weird, because a) the E61 isn’t offered by and carrier in North America, to my knowledge, and b) the "3G" indicator is shown to be on in the screenshot shown.

I think the crippled E62 which will be offered by Cingular doesn’t have the same connector on the bottom, so I think this isn’t the one.

So here’s my remaining problems:

1) Can’t text message (receive or send). There’s a number in the test message service centre field in the config, but I have no idea if it’s right or wrong, and what to change it to. I assume this is the problem.

2) Blackberry connect doesn’t synchronize to-do items or contacts (only calendar and e-mails). Occasionally e-mails don’t show up on the Blackberry (not a huge deal, first 2 BB problems much more important).

3) The rest of my problems are firmware design/fix problems: a) No automatic connection switching or "access point group" ability for web access.  b) Slow GPRS/EDGE access (~70 kbps). c) Poor reception compared to RAZR.

Hey Dave, I was wondering whether you had to do any special configuration to get the Blackberry integration working on Cingular – I bought an unlocked one as well, and the Cingular reps I spoke to didn’t seem to know whether I could use it on their network. Thanks! Sid 

Rich:

It was terrible. Don’t buy it. It was flimsy, and added way too much bulk to the E61.

Nash:

Don’t know, I think A2DP was added in the current firmware. I sold the E61 to a coworker. I now use the Blackberry 8310.

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