There is one gem to this phone when it comes to software, and that's Ovi maps, which is a completely free mapping and sat nav app that is easy to use and has good maps for a huge number of countries, all of which can be used without a mobile data connection (though this takes a bit of setting up).
Of course, given its slide-out keyboard, one thing this phone should excel at is tapping out messages, and indeed that is the case. The layout and key feedback is excellent so we had no problems cranking up our typing speed. We still find the best on-screen keyboards can be faster but for those with large fingers or who just prefer a physical typing tool, you should the E7 more than capable. Which is just as well, as the onscreen 12 â€“button keypad-style keyboard is appalling.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this phone is that it's actually quite slow. A look at the specs might suggest this isn't a shock given the device's 680MHz processor, where most of its smartphone rivals use 1GHz chips. However, Symbian is usually a more efficient platform, requiring less powerful hardware to seem just as fast. Apparently, the E7 is pushing Symbian^3 to its limits though, as general navigation and particularly opening even seemingly undemanding apps results in significant pauses.
Taking photos also leads to disappointment. Instead of the sublime 12-megapixel shooter used on the N8, Nokia has equipped the E7 with an 8-megapixel unit. It's not this step down that's the problem, though - it's actually the lack of autofocus. General snapshots of friends and scenery are fine, and indeed the quality's a cut above, however any close-up shots are rendered blurry and unusable â€“ for instance it's no good for snapping a shot of a business card for use with the many business card reader apps now available.
Thankfully the usual Nokia strong suits of call quality and battery life are on hand to give this phone a last hurrah. A noise-cancelling microphone and quality earpiece means calls are clear and natural sounding. The speakerphone isn't amazing but is still good for its class. Battery life could actually have been better as well, as there's only a 1200mAh cell used as compared to the 1400mAh+ units used in high-end alternatives, but thanks to the phone's low power usage it still lasts a healthy 3+ days.
One last point to make before wrapping up is that Nokia has committed to updating Symbian for a little while yet, and an update announcement is expected next week. If that brings some much needed usability to the platform then the E7 starts to make much more sense, though even then we'd probably still opt for the N8 instead.
There's no two ways about it, the Nokia E7 just doesn't cut it. The hardware is lovely with loads of luxurious metal, a great screen and superb keyboard. However, the software is a pig to use and is rather slow as well. Add in the silly slip up of having no autofocus on the camera and you have a phone that's only worth considering if you're a Nokia/Symbian/keyboard fan that simply can't bear to change. Even then we'd probably opt for the Nokia N8.