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Nokia E90 Long Term Test

16th January 2008

< Part III (Review)


We've had the flagship Nokia E-Series device for five months now, and we felt that it was time to revisit the latest Communicator series device. Our original review covered the E90's more unusual capabilities, but how would it stand up to the real world?

Nokia E90 Microphone Fault

Early versions of the Nokia E90 suffered from two major microphone faults. One of them was a buzzing noise that could sometimes be heard while in call, the other more serious fault was a complete failure of the microphone. Our Nokia E90 worked fine for five months, but then the microphone failed completely and Vodafone replaced the E90 under warranty (they didn't even try to repair it). Our understanding is that the return rate on the early E90s is as high as three out of four units. This problem has apparently been resolved in later models.

If you are having problems with the microphone on your E90, then you should ask for a completely new unit under warranty rather than a repair. The problem appears to be a design defect.

How to tell early E90s from later models

It is very difficult to tell early E90s apart from later ones. There are very few clues on the E90s themselves to indicate that they are different.

 Nokia E90 original

 Nokia E90 replacement

 Nokia E90 closeup A very careful examination of the handsets does show that there is a different board, just visible through the casing. The newer E90 has part of the board marked "NR_14", the older one is marked "12".

Note that the IMEI sequence has also been updated, the original phone had an IMEI of 35365901105xxxx, the newer one is IMEI 35365901377xxxx. Higher IMEI numbers usually indicate a later manufacture date

Creaky Casing and Keyboard Problems

Early E90s suffered from creaky casing. Our original E90 did have some creaky panels, the replacement E90 did appear to have a slightly better construction.

Also, early on early E90s, the keyboard would press slightly against the screen when closed which would transfer greasy fingerprints, and sometimes even damage the screen. We have seen reports that this can be fixed at a Nokia Service Centre. They keyboard can also be a bit fiddly to use.

Software Bugs

Perhaps the most troublesome application on the E90 is the mapping / navigation tool. This takes a very long time to get a fix, has a number of annoying bugs and most seriously seems to crash after using it for an hour or so. This application received a significant upgrade in the new firmware version, but at the time of writing that is only available from Nokia Service Centres.

Battery Life

The battery life can be hugely variable. Often, we found that the battery was significantly depleted after a couple of days of light use. The problem with a highly sophisticated handset such as the E90 is that there are so many features that can drain the battery such as 3G, WiFi, GPS and leaving applications running.

One annoying feature is that the E90 cannot be charged via a USB cable - and connecting the E90 to a PC seems to drain the battery very quickly. All-in-all, you will probably want to make sure you have access to a Nokia charger to make sure that your E90 will keep running.

So is it a good phone?

Despite its flaws, the E90 has some very strong points. In particular, the 800 pixel wide display is excellent for web browsing and other applications. The camera is good, video quality is excellent, and multimedia playback is good enough for most people. If in a business or home environement, it is very easy to take the E90 out of your pocket, connect to the local WiFi network and then connect to the internet.

The most significant competition comes from Nokia itself with the N810 Internet Tablet. The N810 has a larger, touch-sensitive screen and a much better web browser.. but it isn't a phone, and it isn't compatible with standard Nokia S60 applications.

The E90 is likely to be phased out by Q3 2008, and quite what Nokia will replace it with is unknown. We know that Nokia will introduce touchscreen phones this year, and a touchscreen Communicator would be very welcome. The Communicator range has always been a bit of a niche product, we certainly find it to be a useful device.. but it's not for everybody.

< Part III  (Review)

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