- Compact and lightweight
- Superb battery life
- Usable keypad with large buttons
- Two easily switchable home screens
- Poor key markings
- Shortcut keys are slightly awkward to use
Nokia's E series of smartphones is primarily aimed at business users, but has broader appeal thanks to its combination of good software features and pleasing hardware design. The E71 was an excellent QWERTY-keyboard handset, and the E52 is an equally impressive candybar device, offering a slimline design packed with features.
The Nokia E52 measures 116mm tall by 49.9mm wide by 9.9mm thick and weighs 98g, and is therefore a 'sub-10mm, sub-100g' device. It's actually smaller and lighter than many 'feature phones' that pepper the mid-range of the consumer market.
The all-grey casing lends it a professional look, while the aluminium parts should help the phone withstand its share of drops and knocks. If we have a grumble about the colour scheme it's that the white of the key markings does not always stand out too well. In bright outdoor and dull indoor conditions, when the backlight is not activated, it can be difficult to distinguish their markings. The brilliant white backlight does a superb job when it's on, though.
Nokia has managed to fit in an impressively large number pad, with the largest keys almost 15mm wide and 6mm tall. The two outer columns of keys are slightly smaller than the inner one and the bottom row of outer keys is particularly curtailed, but all of the keys are relatively large.
The navigation button above the keypad has a raised outer rim that makes it easy to hit accurately, and the inner select button is also big. The remaining buttons aren't quite so successful: Nokia has crammed eight functions in the space above the number pad and outside the navigation button, and the result is a little cramped.
A flat section left and right of the navigation button houses the softmenu keys plus the Call and End keys. In between, a pair of raised buttons with a rocker-like design access Home and Calendar on the left, and Messaging and Back on the left. The raised buttons feel a little flimsy under the fingertips, and people with large or stubby fingers may find the arrangement a little challenging.
The screen measures 2.4in. across the diagonal and its 240 by 320 pixels deliver a high-quality image. Importantly for those interested in activities like web browsing, automatic screen rotation allows you to take advantage of widescreen orientation simply by turning the handset in your palm.
The sides of the E52 house a small array of buttons and connectors. On the right side, volume buttons double as zoom controllers for the camera; there's also a voice commands and mute button, plus a camera control key. The left side houses a microUSB connector that handles battery charging and PC connection. The top edge has the on/off switch and a 3.5mm headset connector.
The presence of a 3.5mm jack is welcome, as it allows you to substitute your own headset for Nokia's supplied one. Unfortunately, although Nokia's headset includes a hands-free microphone, it's a one-piece unit, so you'll have to choose between a better-quality headset and Nokia's with hands-free calling.
The Nokia E52 ships with an AC adapter, a PC connection cable, the aforementioned one-piece stereo headset and a printed manual. You also get a converter from microUSB to the two standard round-pin Nokia charger connectors, and a 1GB microSD card with the Nokia PC Suite software on-board.
The Symbian Series 60-based Nokia E52 offers a strong set of business-orientated features, but also has plenty for the crossover user. To this end, Nokia has integrated its dual home-screen system. We've seen this before in E-series handsets, but it remains a simple yet smart solution.
You can set up two different home screens, with different wallpapers and application shortcuts. Switching between them is a matter of choosing an option on the shortcuts menu. It's an easy way to switch between 'work' and 'play' modes.
The E52 is a quad-band GSM phone with GPRS, HSDPA (10.2Mbps max) and HSUPA (max 2Mbps) support. Despite Vodafone's recent announcement of a 14.4Mbps upgrade in some areas, this handset can be classed as capable of handling pretty much the highest mobile broadband connection speed available.
Bluetooth (2.0+EDR, A2DP) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) are integrated, and a sniffer application can be left on to inform you when a Wi-Fi network is available. The E52 supports SIP VoIP 3.0 for Voice over IP conversations.
The E52 also has a GPS receiver, and Ovi Maps — the new name for Nokia Maps — is preinstalled. You also get an application called Landmarks, which lets you save the locations of specific places in a database and access them later. Business users could save client locations, for example.
Unlike many a larger smartphone, the E52 has two cameras. The front-facing VGA-resolution camera is for two-way video calling, and is complemented by a 3.2-megapixel camera at the back, complete with LED flash. Image quality from the latter is adequate, and it's easy to change image-capture settings.
The music player is complemented by an FM radio with RDS and a massive 50 presets. You can download stations in your area over the air, but the handset does not have the facility to auto-tune by scanning frequencies.
Business users may appreciate the fact that a fully functioning version of QuickOffice is present, allowing you to read, edit and create Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Using the number pad for extended work is not ideal, but at least the option is present should you need it. The software bundle also includes a PDF reader.
Nokia's online Ovi service is also supported on the E52.
Performance & battery life
We have few complaints as far as usability is concerned. The E52's automatic screen rotation is responsive and the accelerometer can also be set to silence calls and snooze alarms simply by turning the handset face down, which is handy. The number keys large and easy to use, although the key marking could be clearer in lowish light conditions where the backlight is not yet activated.
Battery life is startlingly good. Nokia says you should get up to 8 hours of GSM talk, 23 days on standby and up to 18 hours of music playback or 30 hours of FM radio listening. Our own test involved playing music continuously from a fully charged battery through the handset's loudspeaker. We had to conduct the test over several days, as the E52's 1,500mAh battery delivered an amazing 26 hours 19 minutes of music playback.
The E52 is Nokia's best candybar-format E-series handset yet. Small and neat, it crams in plenty of features and delivers superb battery life. If you don't need a touch-screen, consider this smartphone.