The E63 is essentially a cut down version of Nokia's venerable, keyboard-touting E71 smartphone that was warmly received when it was released last year. In fact, that handset managed to rack up our top score when we reviewed it back in July, so the E63 certainly has a lot to live up to.
The phone follows the E71's design quite closely, but there are some significant differences. For instance, this model is slightly wider and fatter, and forgoes the E71's metal battery cover in favour of a plastic one with a slightly rubberised finish. It means that the phone doesn't feel quite as sturdy, but the pleasing 'grippiness' of the new battery cover does counter this somewhat. Overall, we'd say that while the final finish is not as solid as the E71, it still looks very classy.
One of the best things about the E63 is its excellent keyboard. It takes a lot to match the keyboards found on RIM's Blackberry devices but in our opinion, Nokia has managed it here. The keys are relatively large and slightly domed so it's easy to hit individual letters without accidentally nudging the key next to it. Furthermore, all the important symbols such as the '@', full stop and question mark characters can be hit without having to first press shift, which speeds up typing when you're tapping out emails or text messages. The E63's keyboard also has some improvements over the one used on the E71. Nokia has shortened the space bar and used the extra space on the right to add dedicated keys for the 'Ctrl' and 'Char' functions and on the left for two keys that give direct access to the '(' and ')' characters.
Above the keyboard sits a cluster of controls including shortcut buttons for the home screen, calendar, contacts and messaging functions. Nestled in the centre of this lot is a very traditional four-way keypad. It could be argued that a Blackberry Pearl-style trackball or optical touchpad, like on Samsung's i780, would have enhanced the E63, but actually the d-pad is perfectly adequate in all the main applications, apart from perhaps the web browser.