The ambient light sensor and the earpiece are at the top of the front panel. Right below them is the 2" QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) active TFT display that supports up to 16 million colors.
The main bank of controls under the display and the alphanumeric keypad, integrated nicely in one unbroken layout, are well distinguishable and offer a praiseworthy tactility. The set of control and navigation buttons include a large and comfortable D-pad, two selection keys, Menu key, Calendar key, Contacts key, Messaging keys and, finally, the Call and End keys. Right under the D-pad is the Clear key. There may be arguments in favor of accidental presses on the Clear key when dealing with the D-pad but we confirm that usability isn't compromised a jot. The Menu key icon is now a house instead of the usual Symbian logo. The C key has changed too. Probably the reason behind all this is that Nokia are trying to attract non-smartphone users for their smartphone product lineup.
Nokia E51 is yet another Symbian handset to miss the Edit (pencil) key; however its functionality is accommodated by the Hash key. All control and navigation keys are large enough and tactile to make wrong presses highly unlikely. The D-pad is very comfortable and responsive, and it gets appreciated even more should the questionable joystick in E50 come to mind. This set of keys is slightly elevated from the alphanumeric keypad, providing for a great typing experience and seamless control of the phone.
The keypad itself is yet another ground for praising the ergonomics of E51. The tactile feedback is simply superb and typing SMS and emails is sheer pleasure. The ambient light sensor is generally accurate, but it would sometimes switch the keyboard backlighting on prematurely.
The soft and even white backlighting is a pleasure to use and look at. The display is, as usual, well above average with crisp and vivid colors. Legibility even under direct sunlight is spot on. The 2 inches display is with QVGA resolution makes system font tiny as it did with Nokia E50.
|"...Nokia E51 is yet another Symbian handset to miss the Edit (pencil) key; however its functionality is accommodated by the Hash key. All control and navigation keys are large enough and tactile to make wrong presses highly unlikely..."|
We move on to the top of the handset to find the Power key. Its rubber-like finish is a nice touch, making it look sturdy and unlikely to press unintentionally. Indeed, we had a very hard time making it work. Regretfully, all the side keys are equally rigid and unyielding.
On the right side of Nokia E51 we find the volume rocker with the voice command key in-between. Again, the keys suffer a tremendous lack of response. The left side houses the Voice recorder key only. The side keys have the same rubber-like finish.
Bottomside is the miniUSB port, the variety we get to see more and more lately. The Pop-port we used to have in E50 is way past it, really. The charger plug and the mouthpiece are on the right with the neck/wrist strap eyelet completing the tally.
Flipping the phone over, the steel finish of the battery cover is quick to impress. The top part of the back is black plastic and it's where the camera lens is nested. The loudspeaker and the Nokia logo over it are the only things to see. Simple and stylish, the back does bring back the conservative and solid feel of the old E50.
The battery cover is easily opened (wish we could say that for E50, too) to reveal the Li-Ion Battery (BP-6MT) with a capacity of 1070 mAh. Obviously, Nokia have replaced the old battery to meet the new power requirements, now that we have Wi-Fi on board.
Probably the efficiency of the battery is its benefit. However, we are more concerned about the official standby and talk time values. The manufacturer promises up to 310 hours of standby time and up to 4 hours 20 min of talk time. Well, as the standby time is tangibly pepped up, the talk time is scaled down, compared to E50.
In reality the phone performs on average. Three days of moderate usage is pretty much an adequate estimation, while adding extra diversions like listening to music or working with wi-fi is sure to further reduce battery life.
Nokia E51 feels great to hold and operating it single-handedly is no problem at all. The only drawback is the rigid side keys, which take away some of the delight of using this exceptionally solid and user-friendly handset.