Not that it's that important, but the most expensive Nokia comes in a plain box, like most of the brand's common models. Nothing ostentatious, nothing of the 8600 Luna stuff. Who would want that in a device that means business anyway? Purpose is what matters. You get a stereo headset, a 512 MB microSD card, miniUSB cable, a battery and a charger. The package also contains a Quick Start guide and a User Manual. The latter is 120 pages and still fails to cover all the features. The enclosed DVD ROM has the essential PC Suite application.
Nokia has learnt a lesson from constructing communicators, the touchy hinge now has metal reinforcement. The E90 proudly puts its shiny ends on show. Two distinct stops are noticeable when opening the device: one at near 100 degrees, the other in full flat position. None of them is perfect though, the good thing is that the device is stable in almost any selected angle in-between.
Although the casing looks uniform, the materials used are not the same. The front is almost all made of metal, except for the plastic keypad. The rear side is plastic, the battery cover the only metal element. Surfaces are of exceptional quality, the finishing of all elements is excellent.
As we already mentioned, in closed position the handset looks a classic Nokia bar, a generously sized one, that is. The traditional layout has taken advantage of the available space and all controls are ample enough and very user-friendly. The D-pad is brilliant, comfortably raised and with a very well-sized confirm key. The keypad is a truly up to the highest standards of the brand. The external display supports QVGA resolution. Though smaller than the inside one, it's by no means secondary, as it takes the better part of the phone-related workload of the communicator. An interesting detail halfway down the right side of the display is the ambient light sensor.
The multimedia elements are at the back. The lens of the 3.2 megapixel camera is unprotected and risks suffering damage. At least, it's sunk half a millimeter inside its nest, thus out of contact with the surface when using the communicator in open position. Next to the lens is the LED flash. Two tiny grills mark the loudspeakers. The sound they produce is loud and fine.
Comparing the Nokia E90 to a laptop computer could be a little too far, but certain similarities can't be overlooked. Opening the communicator gives the user a QWERTY keypad of unrivaled size and a huge landscape display.
There are five rows of slightly elevated alphanumeric keys, with control buttons on both sides. Made of hard plastic, the keys are very responsive. Marked by a delicate click, every press is precise and perceptible. Although we're talking of unmatched keypad size, in mobile phone terms of course, all-finger typing is still out of the question. The perfect setup seems holding the communicator with both hands and using both thumbs to type.
You maybe interested how the two parts of the Communicator behave in the hinge area. When you're closing the Communicator, the display hinge starts to fold first. Only when you've reached its closing point, the keyboard hinge will start to fold too. If you deliberately change that order, the two parts will touch indeed, but this time it doesn't seem to be a problem. Just the opposite, the two halves are easy to fix at a comfortable angle for working with the device. With the keypad part considerably heavier than the lid, the E90 is very stable in laptop-like use. You're only likely to break the balance when using the control buttons on both sides of the internal display.
Back to the QWERTY keyboard, on the right, above the Enter and Backspace buttons, is the 5-way navigation key. It's almost identical to the one on the front cover of the handset. Reasonably enough, this time it's a tad smaller and flatter, and therefore a little less comfortable to use.
Backlighting does look pale, especially compared to the bright display. Surprisingly enough, that didn't stand in the way of working with the E90. Much to our disappointment, the main control keys aren't backlit.
A row of seven application keys and the Symbian key are framed in chromium above the alphanumeric keypad. With them, Symbian multitasking gets a whole new dimension. On the sides of the display there are two pairs of buttons: the Call and End keys on the left, and the Selection keys on the right.
Another point of interest is whether the keypad is touching the display in closed position. We regret to inform you that it does. We did a few tests moistening several keys and closing the lid with as little pressure as possible. Folding the Communicator open revealed moisture stains on the display, and that's bad news given our experience with notebooks. With laptops the contact area is incomparably bigger, but the display of the Communicator is also facing problems in the long run. Folding it hundreds of times with the keypad obviously touching the screen, you're in for a trouble. Pity, raising the rubber cushions in the corners of the lid by an extra millimeter could've been enough.
Another downside we came across is that the keyboard layout seems market-dependent. We failed to find a setting allowing to switch form QWERTY to an alternative QWERTZ layout. Changing the input language didn't do either. It looks like it will take a third party application to address this issue.
The internal display is the pivotal aspect of the Communicator. It will only take a few seconds to see the point in carrying an oversized brick in your pocket. With the E90, mobile web browsing is a truly novel experience. Some people on the team claimed they came across noticeable shades when changing images but I have to disagree. On the other hand, I can't afford to overlook the excellent color rendering, outstanding contrast and fineness without visible rasterization.