Ion Maidens

Published Date
01 - Feb - 2008
| Last Updated
01 - Feb - 2008
 
Ion Maidens

Nobody’s looking for just plain old telephony from a cell phone any more; they’ve become a part of our work, and a part of our play....



When it comes to cell phones, the country is at a sweet spot right now—the place where demand and supply curves intersect, and maximum satisfaction is achieved.

With portable productivity becoming a necessity, we’re seeing multimedia phones with PDA-like functions, and PDAs with superb cameras and great PMP capabilities; people want one device to do it all, and they’re prepared to shell out the premium. Be it the Apple iPhone, Nokia N95 or Sony Ericsson W910i, every cell phone has something new on offer—something radically different that promises to change the way we use them today.

A year ago, cameras and music players were considered luxury features, and only cell phones above Rs 10,000 used to come with them. Today, even entry level models from most vendors have two megapixel cameras and a decent music player. Cell phones are being increasingly used for listening to music, watching videos, taking causal photographs, playing games, chatting on messengers, reading e-books—the possibilities are unlimited. They reflect our lifestyles, and new innovations are based around our senses—touch, movement—something natural.

In this comparison, we were in for some surprises; the first was the iPhone—something so radical it changed our perceptions of how a phone should be. Second was the Sony Ericsson W910i, another example where movements are used for changing music tracks. Third, the three phones with five megapixel cameras that are as good as digital cameras. Fourth was Motorola’s RAZR V2—a style icon—and lastly, the svelte Blackberry Pearl 8120. Then there were some that amazed us—the sheer value for money that is the Nokia E51. Read on to see the best for you.

LG KE970

Born to shine!

The LG KE970—also known as the Shine—is aptly named, because the first thing you notice about the phone is the brilliant shine from the brushed stainless-steel body. Even the main display is mirror-finished, and when the screen is inactive, you can actually use it like one!

This tri-band phone is based around a slider design. The slider mechanism feels smooth; opening the phone takes just a nudge. Build quality is good, and the phone is comfortable to hold. The (largish) 2.3-inch high-resolution display looks brilliant indoors; however, it pales outdoors—this can be attributed to the glossy screen.

The volume control buttons are on the right along with the shortcuts to the camera and music player. To use the memory card slot, you need to remove the battery cover, but it is hot-swappable. The phone’s 50 MB of internal memory can be augmented using microSD cards.

The keypad is flat but easy to use because the individual keys are large. The navigation keys aren’t the best we’ve seen, though. The rocker in the middle scrolls though the menu and can be pressed to activate the menu. The adjoining keys allow horizontal movement but they are small and tight—uncomfortable, we thought.

RATINGS
Features : 3.5
Performance :  3.5
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money :  3.5
Overall : 3.5


The 2-megapixel camera, though good, can’t match the ones on entry-level Sony Ericsson models such as the K550i. The auto-focus system requires delicate use of the dinky shutter release key; a little clumsiness, and you’ll see blurred, washed-out photographs. Tonal accuracy isn’t that great either; the photos are generally overexposed. Outdoors, the camera fares better, and the colours are more natural. Video recording is strictly okay; it is limited by the resolution and fps.

Music on the KE970 was good; the phone handles MP3, AAC, and AAC . The Inline control with 3.5 mm jack allows you to connect different pair of earphones, though the bundled pair is okay. With our reference Bose in-ear phones, the volume level was good and the quality crisp, but there is still room for improvement.

PhotoID, Bluetooth, mobile e-mail, USB mass storage, and a document viewer for MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF are some of the other notable features.

On the performance front, the phone is snappy, with no apparent lag in the user interface. Signal reception is good; however, voice clarity could have been better. With nominal use, the phone goes two days before the low battery alarm pops up.

The LG KE970 is a stylish phone, and is reasonably priced at Rs 11,990—if you can put up with the operational glitches and the extra bling.

LG KE770

Sleek, cool, affordable

The KE770 is the second phone in the Shine series from LG. It’s a candybar; “sleek and shiny” is the best way to describe it. At 9.9 mm, it’s slimmer than the Motorola L9 phone (on which it is modelled). Built from stainless steel with no moving parts, the KE770 exudes the built-to-last feel.

When the display is in inactive mode, the mirror-finished display screen can be, well, a mirror. The well-lit, flat keypad is a joy to use, with distinct tactile feedback. The navigational keys are well-spaced-out and free from the glitches you’ll see on the KE970. The Call End button is placed near the top and to the side; it also acts as a Power Down switch—strange placement, we’d say, but effective for one-handed operation.

The volume control buttons, Camera / MP3 button, and USB connectors are on the same side. Internal memory is 70 MB, which can be increased via the microSD card. The memory slot is placed below the battery, and it isn’t hot-swappable.

The 2MP camera with the photo-assist light and self-portrait mirror is on the back of the phone. The camera is similar to the one on the KE970, and the performance is similar, too. Indoor shots lack tonal accuracy, and are often overexposed. Outdoor images retain tonal accuracy but lack crispness.

RATINGS
Features :4
Performance : 3.5
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 3.5
Overall : 3.5


Music quality is not really great, but given that it isn’t touted as a music phone, we’d say the music capability is reasonable. There are no external playback controls. MP3, AAC, AAC , 3GP, and MPEG4 are supported, but files need to be copied to the right folder on the phone—else the media player can’t search through to them. Video playback is just about okay—it is seriously limited by the screen size.

The phone has a good bundle of applications: MS office file viewers, PDF readers, a health chart, and a data wallet. The phone also support the Lost Mobile Tracking System (LMTS). You’ll also find regular applications such as the clock, calculator, games, and more.
Signal reception was good, but voice clarity could do with a lot of improvement—especially that of the speakerphone. The volume is too low, and it crackles as well. Flight mode figures, and that’s a plus. Battery life is around a day and a half with nominal usage.

A price of Rs 7,990 means the KE770 is a good buy if you are looking for a sleek, cool-looking phone. If you’re planning on using multimedia features on a regular basis, we’d suggest you look elsewhere.

Samsung G600

One great slider!

Samsung makes the best slider phones, and the G600 would make you agree. It is a quad-band 2G slider; the fit and finish are exemplary. At 105 grams, it’s light, and the proportions are just right—the phone fits snugly in one’s palm. And it looks good, too—you might say “sophisticated”; it sports a black-grey combination with silver accents.

The front facia is dominated by a (large) 2.2-inch display capable of 16 million colours. The display is sharp and the colours crisp. Outdoors, the screen goes pale, but it remains perfectly legible even in direct sunlight. The navigational buttons are well-spaced-out and the Call and End keys are huge. The five-way roundel is superb, and can be used to navigate the menu without looking at the phone.

The spring-loaded slider can be operated with the minimum of force; it’s the best slider mechanism we’ve yet seen. The keypad is large and tactile, and therefore easy to use. But here’s a damper: when you enter a number, the digits on the screen appear as if written using a calligraphy pen (complete with the “scratching” sound)!

The G600 is equipped with 40 MB of internal memory with support for hot-swappable microSD cards. Samsung doesn’t bundle any, and the internal memory is too low (for the camera or for the music player).

The G600 joins the ranks of the Nokia N95 and the Sony Ericsson K850i by cramming in a 5-megapixel camera. During our tests, the camera performed well; the images were clean, and the tonal balance good; outdoor photographs were better than indoors. A good camera overall, but it’s not quite close to those on the Sony Ericsson or Nokia. The camera is on the slider, and it needs to be opened before you can click; though it protects the lenses, clicking snaps with the slider open isn’t practical.

RATINGS
Features : 3.5
Performance : 4
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 3.5
Overall : 3.5


The G600 supports most music formats, and has a great media player. The headphone connector is, unfortunately, proprietary, so replacement 3.5-mm-jack earphones can’t be used.

Performance-wise, the response of the G600 is good; skipping from menu to menu is fast. Signal reception is great, and so is voice clarity. The speakerphone is loud enough, and doesn’t suffer from echo problems like those on most phones do. Battery life is healthy—two and a half days with nominal usage.

Retailing at Rs 18,000, the G600 seems reasonably priced. As a phone, it shines in all departments, but if you want a multimedia device, we should say there are better options. If what you really want is a quality slider phone, the G600 should fit the bill.

Motorola MOTO RAZR 2 V8

RAZR fans, listen up...

With the release of the MOTO RAZR 2 V8, Motorola has yet again raised the bar for stylish cell phones. In fact, just “stylish” doesn’t do it justice—it’s stunning! In its second iteration, the body of the MOTO RAZR is built from exquisite materials; it comes with two large screens, a revamped keypad, and a great music player.

The RAZR 2 feels slimmer than the original RAZR, thanks to a less pronounced chin. The 2.2-inch LCD on the flap is the first of its kind on any phone—it’s sharp, and the clarity is amazing. Near the bottom of this screen are touch-sensitive electrostatic keys. All the keys on the new RAZR, including the touch-keys, vibrate when pressed—this, we think, is good in terms of haptic feedback.

The interiors of the V8 are pretty similar to those of the original RAZR except for the keypad layout and the overall feel. The main display is similar to the one on the flap—2.2-inch, 256K colours. The display is sharp and completely legible outdoors. The keypad has changed for the better—it has more feedback, and the backlight is much better than on the original RAZR.

The most significant change, however, is in the user interface. The phone is based on the Linux Java platform, called MOTOMAGX. The interface is visually more refined and definitely better than that of the older Motorola phones (the ones we’re used to cursing!).
The multimedia, especially the music player, is excellent. Playback can be controlled without opening the flap, thanks to the touch-sensitive buttons. Audio quality is excellent, and the bundled earphones are good. The phone supports the MP3, AAC, and AAC formats, but there’s no FM radio. Also, bundled memory is just 512 MB, with no expansion allowed—lame, from a media player perspective.

RATINGS
Features : 3.5
Performance : 4
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 3.5
Overall : 3.5


The camera is reasonably good—about as good as any other 2MP cell phone camera. Indoors, photographs turn out dark; colours also get affected in low-light conditions. Video recording is strictly okay.

In our tests, signal reception was good in all the conditions we put the phone through. Voice clarity was good, with no crackling or echo when we used the speakerphone. Battery life, when compared to the earlier model, is much better: with nominal usage, the phone remained alive for two days.

The Motorola RAZR is expensive at Rs 16,799; you can get a better-featured phone at that price point. However, there is a RAZR fan following, and the new phone strikes the right chord.

Motorola SLVR L9

A no-nonsense candy-bar

The MOTO SLVR line features typical, no-nonsense, slim candy-bar phones with a reasonable amount of features. The SLVR L9 is the successor of the L7; in the looks department, the two are nearly identical.

Despite it being entry-level, the fit and finish of the L9 are surprisingly good. The pearl-grey finish is as good as that on the more expensive RAZR 2. The back cover is finished in rubberised material, and therefore offers good grip.

A 2-inch, 256 colour, 176 x 220 LCD is more than enough for this phone. The screen is sharp and bright, and stays perfectly legible outdoors. The navigational keys consists of a roundel and two soft menu keys. There are two additional buttons (for Cancel and launching FM).

RATINGS
Features : 3
Performance : 3.5
Build Quality : 3.5
Value for Money : 3.5
Overall : 3.5


The keypad is well-spaced, with each key being separated from the other by small ridges; however, the tactile feedback isn’t as good as that on the new RAZR 2, despite the visual similarities.

One of the prominent differences with respect to the older L7 is the fact that the memory slot is on the right. The L9 accepts microSD up to 2 GB (the phone has just 20 MB of internal memory). With many phones supporting up to 4 GB of additional memory, this is a bit of a disappointment. The user interface on the L9 hasn’t been upgraded to the newer MOTOMAGX—it uses the older, not-so-polished UI. Well, we should say it is easy to work with, but visually-speaking, Symbian’s revised Series 40 is more intuitive.
Coming to multimedia, the SLVR L9 supports the MP3, AAC, AAC and MPEG4 formats. The media player is mediocre compared to that on the RAZR, and indeed, that of any music phone today. Audio quality is reasonably good.

The 2-megapixel camera is pretty much similar to that on the RAZR 2. The camera performs admirably outdoors; in low-light conditions and indoor environments, photos turn out dark. It’s also capable of recording video in the MPEG4 format, but the quality is nothing to write home about.

We had no problems as far as signal reception goes, but the speakerphone clarity could have been better. Battery life is strictly okay—we got around two days with nominal usage. At Rs 8,399  the L9 is reasonably-priced; however, we can’t see any compelling reason to recommend it to anyone.

Sony-Ericsson W910i

The Ultimate Walkman slider


The W910i is the latest in the Walkman series of phones from Sony Ericsson. It comes with a new media-browsing interface, and an inbuilt motion sensor for games and music.

The slim W910i employs a smooth slider mechanism. The front facia is dominated by a (huge!) 2.4-inch LCD screen—strikingly beautiful, and it remains perfectly legible even in direct sunlight.

The navigational keys include a small steel five-way rocker which doubles up as the Playback control when using media player, and two soft menu keys. Two additional keys are placed near the top, which are configured for the photo album by default; they can be used while gaming as well. The flat keypad lacks tactile feedback and feels mushy—not good if you SMS a lot. The Power On and Walkman buttons at the top are rather difficult to operate.

Music is the forte of the W910i. Playback quality is awesome; the bundled earphones are simply superb, plus you can use any 3.5 mm earphones you’d like. Two features have been added, called Shake control and SenseMe. Shake Control, as the name suggests, implies the use of motion sensors (gyroscopes, to be precise) to control music playback. Shake the phone in one direction to switch to the next track and in the other direction for the previous track—you’ve no doubt seen this in the advertisements for the phone. The feature works overall, but it needs refinement. SenseMe is a kind of media browser where tracks are sorted by tempo (like fast or slow) and mood (happy or sad). For a song to be tagged with the right mood, it needs to be uploaded via the Media Manager application (otherwise it remains hidden from SenseMe).

The camera on the W910i is decent, but not the best; you’d have expected SE to do better. As with all 2MP cameras, it performs better outdoors; image quality decreases with light. Video recording is okay.

RATINGS
Features : 4
Performance : 4
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 3.5
Overall : 4


The phone itself is typical SE—a simple user interface and snappy performance. A 2 GB card is included, and you also get a USB reader with this phone. The only gripe we had with the phone was the keypad, which has no tactile feedback, and feels like the buttons on washing machines.

The W910i is easily the best of the W series of phones from SE. Retailing at Rs 18,899, we’d recommend the W910i to someone looking for a suave, slim music phone.

Sony-Ericsson K810i

Good as a camera phone

The K810i comes from Sony Ericsson’s Cybershot series. The 3.2-megapixel camera sensor is what differentiates this phone from the crowd and from other SE phones. The 810i is aimed at causal shutterbugs, and has some neat features that should go down well with that audience.

The translucent body with steel buttons gives the phone its unique appearance. The phone is quite long, but is comfortable to hold. The back cover is finished in rubberised material, and that gives the phone excellent grip, which is good for clicking snaps.

The navigational keys are similar to those on older SE phones such as the K750i. The joystick is much better, though, and well-recessed. The soft menu keys and additional shortcuts keys are small and tightly placed; this could turn out to be a problem for some. The keypad is well-spaced-out, and consists of little round keys—much better than those on the K550i or the W880i. At first sight, the keypad might seem uncomfortable, but you’ll find it’s not.

The 3.2MP camera is well-protected by a sliding lens cover. Being a Cybershot, it has one-touch shortcut keys to change flash modes, timer, Macro, and megapixel rating. One row of the keypad has the appropriate markings, and gets highlighted when camera mode is activated. There are two buttons near the top, for changing the shooting mode and scenes. The Auto-focus works well and locks on the subject immediately, but in low light, it takes a while. There is a reasonably powerful xenon flash to light up the subject. Performance is quite what you’d expect from a 3-megapixel camera. Colours, sharpness, and detail were perfect; more importantly, the shooting experience is great.

RATINGS
Features : 4
Performance : 4
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 4
Overall : 4


The K810i can play music too, and the quality is above average; it can’t match that of the Walkman series, though. Further, the bundled earphones are the regular ones (which come with entry-level Sony-Ericsson phones), not the Fontopias. The K810i supports MS micro memory cards; though SE has bundled 128 MB, it might not be enough if you plan to carry music and click photographs at 3 megapixels.

We had no issues with the phone performance; signal reception was good, and so was the voice clarity. Battery life is okay—expect around two days unless you plan to surf the Internet and use Bluetooth a lot.

The K810i retails at Rs 15,500; we say it’s reasonable. In fact, we’d recommend the K810i to anyone looking out for a good camera phone.

Sony-Ericsson K850i

Some of this, some of that—and a great camera


The K850i is the flagship model in the Cybershot line-up from Sony-Ericsson. Based around a 5-megapixel camera, it’s pitted against Nokia’s N95 as far as the camera is concerned. The K850i comes in at a notch above the K810i.

The phone sports a completely revamped design, with hardly any resemblance to earlier SE models. It is blocky, but the fit and finish are excellent. A nice, luminous green strip runs around the edge.

The navigational D-pad is a squarish ring that surrounds the 2 and 5 number keys. The edges are raised for proper contact. There is no action button; rather, there are touch-sensitive buttons just below the screen. They are context-sensitive and are dynamically assigned the proper functions, similar to soft menu buttons. The touch-sensitive buttons work flawlessly, but require some time to get used to. The backlight at times seems overpowering, and distracts. The keypad consists of small square buttons—usable, but no fun when texting.

The camera is at the back, and the lenses have their own retracting cover. A hard plastic sheet is drawn over the length of the phone, covering the lens. It protects the shiny back of the phone, but also attracts fingerprints; when clicking, you’ll need to clean the portion near the lens.

The K850i is designed to deliver a digital-camera-like experience, and it doesn’t disappoint. The camera controls have evolved over the K810i, and the ergonomics are much better. Since the K850i doesn’t have any additional dedicated buttons, most settings can be changed from the single touch-sensitive button.

RATINGS
Features : 4
Performance : 4
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 3.5
Overall : 4


Camera performance was superb; colour accuracy is pretty impressive—better than that on the N95. The K850i feels snappier throughout; it starts in an instant, file saves are fast, and it switches back to the phone in a second. Indoors, the camera has a tendency to underexpose if the flash is used.

The K850i comes with 40 MB of internal memory, and a 512 MB MS micro card comes bundled, but with a 5 megapixel camera and music, you’ll have to buy more memory. Music-wise, the phone is on par with the K810i, and it betters the N95, but can’t match any of the W series phones.

Priced at Rs 21,000, the K850i is 10K cheaper than the Nokia N95. It misses out on GPS and WiFi, but it has a much better camera and music player, and longer battery life. Let’s just say the K850i fits the bill if you want a good smartphone with an excellent camera.

Nokia N95 8GB

This is it!

The successor to the acclaimed N95, this new incarnation just got better all round.

The navigational console has been completely revamped. The oblong buttons are easy to use, and the directional pad is much better than that on the N95. The extra chrome on the buttons could have been avoided, we think—it picks up finger smudges and is likely to peel off. The number keypad is well-laid-out, but the hard-touch keys, combined with the slightly raised surface, makes finger-pad touch-typing a pain.

The music player is feature-rich—you can shuffle and repeat tracks, there’s a functional equaliser, and a visualisation function too. Audio quality seems to have improved over the N95. Music quality is decent on the supplied earplugs, and this phone is just great with better earphones! Sony Ericsson still rules the game with their Walkman series of phones, though.

The 5MP camera is another first—great image quality and a good flash unit. However, like all cell phone cameras, the zoom is useless. The lens cover you see on the N95 has been dropped in this new incarnation—and that’s not something we approve of.

Image quality is similar to that on the N95. The camera performs admirably outdoors; colour saturation is perfect, and so is the exposure. Indoors, in low-light conditions, the focus tends to hunt for a while, and tonal accuracy suffers as well.

RATINGS
Features : 4
Performance : 4
Build Quality : 3
Value for Money : 4
Overall : 4


The phone comes with 160 MB of internal memory, which is well-supplemented by 8 GB of flash memory. No expansion is available for memory cards, but it’s not required. There’s a fully-functional GPS application inbuilt. This works well in conjunction with a GPRS connection. WiFi (g) is inbuilt, as is the mandatory Bluetooth (version 2.0, now with A2DP), and the jurassic infrared. For the radio fan, the N95 8 GB incorporates FM radio.

The new N95 8GB comes with higher-capacity batteries that extend its life by two hours over the N95. With nominal use, we got around two days of battery (45 minutes of talking, 2 hours of listening to music, and intermittent GPRS use).

In conclusion, the Nokia N95 8 GB is a superb convergent device. Be it music, camera, GPS, or Internet connectivity, it just does everything better than most devices on the market. Priced at Rs 28,000, this is the device to have—if you can cough up the money.

Nokia N81 8GB

Good enough music, not-so-good camera


The N81 marks Nokia’s entry into music-related services similar to that offered by Apple (as in iTunes). Like the N73 and N95, the N81 comes in two editions—Standard and Music. The former has a memory card slot, while the latter has 8 GB of flash memory and no memory slot.

The N81 is handsome—rounded edges, black lustrous finish, and you’ll notice the use of contrasting brushed silver on the edges. Build quality is excellent, and though the body has a plastic feel to it, it’s rugged, and should take the rigours of everyday life. The slider mechanism is taut, but we’ve seen better ones on Samsung phones (and lately, the Sony Ericsson W910i).

The front facia is dominated by a huge, sparklingly-clear 2.4-inch display. The screen equals that on the N95 (which has the best among cell phones).

Just below the screen is a whole new navigational console. The directional pad (D-Pad) now also acts like a touch-sensitive scroll wheel, but the keys can also be used like regular keys. Though it works OK, the touch-sensitive scrolling needs refinement. The playback control keys are cramped near the D-pad and are frustrating. The alphanumeric keypad isn’t quite what we expected from Nokia; it is flat, hard, and frustrating to use.

RATINGS
Features : 4
Performance : 3.5
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 3.5
Overall : 3.5


The music player is similar to that on the N95 and other Symbian-based phones. However, the Navi-scroll gives it an edge in terms of usability. We’d like to see Nokia ironing out the chinks in the touch-sensitive UI. Eight GB of memory means enough space to pack in your entire collection. Transfer times are reasonably fast. Audio quality is good, and nearly equals that of the N95; what we liked was the placement of the 3.5 mm jack—it’s on the top. The bundled earphones are good, but we liked our music with the Bose in-ear plugs.

The camera is a complete let down, be warned: just 2 megapixels doesn’t cut it anymore—at least not on a high-end phone.

Three games come preinstalled—all of them demos. The games are based on the Ngage platform, and gaming is fun thanks to two additional keys and the excellent display. Internet browsing is great—thanks largely to the Web browser which is the best you’ll get on a handheld today.

The Nokia N81 8 GB retails at Rs 19,400. That price is reasonable, but we feel the N95 is a much better overall device—we’d recommend it over the N81.

Nokia E65

Not quite the E…

As much as common sense tells us to avoid slider phones for obvious reasons—as in moving parts, wear and tear—they’re hot! The E65 is red-hot (literally), and it’s available in mocha, too. The entirely matte-finished body offers good grip, and it manages to also look classy. Red—russet brown really—might not appeal to all, but the soft contours are nice.

With Bluetooth, WiFi, 3G, EDGE, and more, the E65 is a business-oriented device with some artistic flair. The number keypad is well-laid-out with raised demarcations on each key, similar to the N95—but remember there’s no QWERTY. Keypad backlighting is good. The 2MP camera and the music player are pretty ordinary.

Pop the hood and it’s a Symbian S60 9.1 device. Quick Office has been provided, but it’s Word and Excel editing at its barest (document creation is out of the question). GPS software is bundled: it’ll work with any Bluetooth GPS device. There’s also a pretty nifty text-to-speech module that will read out data whose menus are placed in the Voice Aid folder. Contacts can be read out, as can phone numbers, recent calls, and the time. You also get a voice assist while dialling, which will help in the event of miss dialling while in a hurry (only if you remember the number). Still, we think the software needs a lot of work to be decently functional.

RATINGS
Features : 3.5
Performance : 3.5
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 3
Overall : 4


The phone is slow, though, especially while using the voice functions—which bespeaks low memory. Call quality is good, but not on par with some of the other Nokia phones we’ve tested. Calls disconnect easily when signal strength is at one tower.

At Rs 16,800, the E65 isn’t the definitive business phone that the E series label might indicate. A phone with very similar specifications and functions with a cheaper price tag comes to mind—the N80. But then all new phones are costly, and a couple of price cuts may see this one become popular.

Nokia E51

A classic reborn

If you are an executive in the market for a cell phone, Nokia’s E series offers the best bang for the buck.

The E51 has a superb 2-inch display capable of 16 million colours. The resolution of 240 x 320 is very high for a small screen, so fonts appear sharp and crisp. In direct sunlight, the screen is completely legible—even at half the maximum brightness!

As compared to the E50, the new phone has a completely revised keypad with dedicated keys for Contacts, Calendar, E-mail, and Home. This approach has its advantages: you can directly access essential information at the touch of a button. The soft menu keys, however, are a pain to use—they are too small for comfort. The keypad is a delight to use—good tactile feedback, and the key spacing is immaculate. The rubberised keys for volume up / down, push to talk, and the power switch are hard to operate, and require some serious poking to work.

The E51 is peppy—it uses the same processor as the flagship N95 model. With 130 MB of memory onboard, you can do lot of multitasking without the phone getting slow, and the memory can be expanded to 4 GB via the microSD slot. The E51 runs on Symbian OS S60, and crams in a lot of additional features. For example, the Advanced Call Manager lets you manage incoming and outgoing calls more efficiently. WorldMate, an application meant for frequent fliers, comes bundled too.

RATINGS
Features : 4.5
Performance : 4.5
Build Quality : 4.5
Value for Money : 4
Overall : 4.5


The Nokia E51 has an abundance of connectivity options. It’s a 3G quad-band phone with HSDPA, WiFi (802.11g), Bluetooth, Micro USB, as well as infrared (just in case). The WiFi locator feature helps a great deal in searching for nearby WiFi hotspots. Multimedia features include an MP3 player (it sounds good), a 2MP camera with still and video shooting, and FM radio.

The phone performed admirably during our tests; signal reception was good, and so was the voice clarity. Internet browsing was fast as compared to the E50 or E61, thanks to the revised Web browser. The pictures from the camera were above average, but not in low light. The speakerphone is clear, with little or no echo on the recipient’s side. The speaker is placed on the anterior side of the phone, and though it’s loud enough, when it’s placed on softer surfaces such as a bed or sofa, the ringer volume gets muffled. Battery life is good—we got around three days with nominal usage and a terrific seven days of standby.

The Nokia E51 retails at Rs 13,000, and we say that’s how Nokia should price all its phones. For truckloads of features, snappy performance, classy looks, and terrific pricing, the Nokia E51 is a must-buy !

Palm Treo 750

Windows on a Palm!

The Treo 750 is the latest PDA phone from Palm; it promises one-handed operation (a Palm trait), though it’s a Windows Mobile based device. The phone has a lot in common with its predecessors on the design front, and it has the distinctive Palm device feel to it—nice!

The new phone is tad slimmer than its predecessors; it feels lighter, and the curvaceous design helps hide the bulk.

The 2.5-inch LCD screen dominates the front. It is sharp and completely legible in direct sunlight. The navigational console (buttons) consists of a five-way rocker, two soft keys, and four additional pre-defined keys (Call, Windows key, Hang up, and OK).

The dinky QWERTY thumb-board still remains one of the best we’ve seen thus far; though small and cramped, the chances of mistyping are very low.

The phone is powered by Window Mobile Version 6; given that the phone runs a 300 MHz processor, this may not have been a smart choice—Windows Mobile version 6 requires a speedy processor. As available memory goes, the Treo 750 is anaemic, and Windows’ dodgy memory management doesn’t help either.

RATINGS
Features : 4.5
Performance : 4.5
Build Quality : 4.5
Value for Money : 4
Overall : 4


Palm has done its bit to revamp the interface and make it easy to navigate without touching the stylus—something we really like about Palm devices. The “Today Screen” shows information such as messages, e-mail, voicemail, appointments, and more upfront; each of them can be accessed using just the navigation keys. To place a call, a contact name can be directly keyed in from within the Today Screen.

On the performance front, the phone is no slouch; the UI is generally zippy—applications open in a snap. We did encounter some instances when the phone nearly crawled when a lot of applications were open, but then no-one opens too many applications simultaneously in a real-world situation. We encountered no signal issues, and voice clarity was good with no background noise or echo. The speakerphone quality is good, too; however, the ringer volume needs improvement. The camera quality is average.

At Rs 22,990, the Treo 750 is expensive considering that competing models offer a better feature set at a lower price. Palm is giving away a foldable Bluetooth keyboard along with this phone, but that still doesn’t justify the price. Nevertheless, discounting the high price, the Treo 750 is a good Windows-based PDA phone.

Motorola Moto Q V8

A great bundle—but that’s about it

The Moto Q marks Motorola’s entry into the highly-competitive PDA cell phone market. The company has earlier tried getting into this market via their A series of phones (Moto Ming), but failed to garner any footing.

For the Moto Q, Motorola has gone with the tried-and-tested design for a QWERTY phone. It is wide but well proportioned, and therefore feels much better to hold when compared with Nokia’s E61/61i. Lessons learnt from the RAZR have been used to good effect on the Moto Q; the phone is slim for a PDA phone.

Finished in jet black, the exterior has a rubberised feel, and the body offers excellent grip. Except for the navigational D-pad, all the buttons are flat and at times difficult to press. The QWERTY keypad offers excellent tactile feedback and equals that of those on high-end PDAs such as those from Blackberry and Palm.

The 320 x 240, 2.4-inch, 65K colour screen seems dated; the Nokia E61 has had a 16 million colour screen for a long time. The Moto Q has an anaemic 40 MB of internal memory, which can be augmented via the bundled 1 GB mini SD card.

RATINGS
Features : 3.5
Performance : 3.5
Build Quality : 4
Value for Money : 3.5
Overall : 3.5


The Moto Q runs on Windows Mobile 6, and the user interface is zippy. By default, the Moto Q uses Motorola’s theme, but we prefer the Windows theme. The Today screen can be customised to show events such as meetings and birthdays, as well as e-mails and text messages.

The “Documents To Go” application comes preinstalled, and it’s great; it ably handles Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and ZIP files. A default Windows file manager helps browsing the device effectively. System tools include a memory manager and a task manager. (The task manager is useful for when you need to know about background processes and kill them.)

Multimedia features are mediocre; Windows Media Player can be used for MP3s and video. The 1.3MP camera is strictly okay; the photographs are passable, and video capture is jerky. Connectivity options include USB, Bluetooth, IR, GPRS, and EDGE. Motorola has been generous with the bundle: a portable adapter, a good-quality leather pouch, a headset, the USB cable, the 1 GB miniSD card, and two batteries. The higher-capacity battery is fatter and requires a different battery cover, which also comes bundled.

Rs 17,325 is expensive for the hardware on offer. The Nokia E61i with WiFi and better multimedia features is available for less.

ASUS P750

The über business phone

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