Nokia's E7 is a high-end Symbian smartphone with a physical QWERTY keyboard and a decent-sized 4in. screen. It's not cheap at £499 (inc. VAT) SIM free, and is something of a hybrid device.
The E7 has a lot of Communicator heritage, offering plenty of business functionality, including easy document editing, plus Microsoft Exchange and VPN support. But it's also pitched at consumers, with an 8-megapixel camera, social networking and good entertainment features.
This hybrid nature isn't necessarily a problem. Business and leisure boundaries tend to blur these days, and a smartphone that's great for both could be ideal. However, the Nokia E7 exhibits a few cut corners, while the operating system, Symbian ^3, won't appeal to all.
Cut corners include an interesting approach to chassis design. The anodised aluminium chassis is certainly solid and strong, but it results in a hefty overall weight of 176g and the backplate is not removable. The fixed backplate means you can't remove or replace the battery.
The E7 has 16GB of internal storage but no microSD card for storage expansion. This is also a regrettable feature of Windows Phone 7 handsets.
The physical keyboard becomes accessible when you push the screen away from the base section. This is a little awkward to do two-handed, and almost impossible one handed — even when you get the knack, which involves a down-and-back push rather than a straightforward backwards push.
The keyboard itself is well made with nicely spaced, raised keys that are easy to hit at speed. Typing doesn't get a lot easier on any modern smartphone with a physical keyboard. And if you don't like it you can always resort to the on-screen keyboards. The 4in. touchscreen, which is capacitive and nicely responsive, supports a QWERTY keyboard in landscape mode and a T9 keypad in portrait orientation.
The screen's 640-by-360-pixel resolution doesn't match the 480-by-800 that's the standard for today's high-end smartphones, but Nokia's ClearBlack technology ensures that colours are vibrant. The screen sits at an angle when the keyboard is deployed, making it easy to read with the Nokia E7 sat on your desk.
Because of the non-removable backplate, the SIM card has to sit in a slot on one edge of the chassis, which holds another surprise in the shape of an HDMI port. Nokia provides a converter from its miniature HDMI connector to standard size, and you can use this to display output on an external monitor.
There won't be any Nokia handsets running Windows Phone 7 for a while, and until then Nokia's flagship OS remains Symbian ^3. Based very much on the old S60 look and feel, ^3 adds touch support, three home screens and a customisable widget-based appearance.
Symbian fans may well like the E7 as the learning curve is relatively shallow. However, those used to iOS and Android may find it restrictive and convoluted at times.