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Design and Keyboard

Despite being a business handset, the E7's lineage means it has impressive multimedia credentials. Its 8-megapixel camera has a dual-LED flash, and can also record 720p quality video at 25fps. You also get an FM radio receiver, and video format support is fairly decent too. Also included is Dolby Mobile, which was demoed to us on the N8 at IFA.

More important than any of these considerations, however, is what the handset is like to use and here Nokia gets off to a good start. Despite having the slide-out QWERTY keyboard, the E7 is comparatively slim (13.6mm) and at 176g is not especially heavy by the standards of other similar handsets. Size and weight is normally a real problem for such handsets, but not so here.

It's also an attractive device to behold, but its real allure is that keyboard and it's an excellent one. Initially the sliding mechanism for accessing the keyboard slightly awkward, as it requires you to push down and forward on the front edge. Once you get the idea, however, it's an incredibly smart and sharp mechanism that oozes quality. As does the keyboard, whose keys have an excellent layout and don't feel in the slightest bit cramped or compromised. Overall, this is the kind of phone that will have email and messaging addicts purring.

Things do go a little awry elsewhere, though. There's no escaping the fact that Symbian^3, on which the E7 and all of Nokia's current crop of smartphones are based, looks and feels a little dated. Though the touchscreen seems responsive enough, the operating system - particularly when swiping between the various home screens - feels ever so slightly sluggish. Not massively so, but enough to make us pause.

Another element we're still less than convinced about is the widget implementation, which has been a fixture of all Nokia's touchscreen phones so far. There's nothing wrong with widgets in principle, as Android and HTC's Sense UI in particular have proved, but the way they're presented in Symbian quickly descends into clutter. On the plus side it's all entirely customisable, so you can dump the widgets if you don't like them and in some instances they are still quite useful.

Our initial feelings, then? Nice hardware, great keyboard, but we're not so sure about the software - a similar refrain from most recent Nokia's recently. As such we're still tempted to wait for Nokia's Meego-based handsets to finally appear, though there's no doubting this is a business handset with great potential.

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