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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Handset Review: Nokia 701


Nokia gave a pompous debut to the first trio of Symbian Belle software update loaded smartphones —Nokia 701, Nokia 700 and Nokia 600. Out of these three, we got lucky to receive the best of the three — Nokia 701. Loaded with the neat looking Symbian Belle operating system, the Nokia 701 comes with fancy set of features, functions and interesting bunch of pre-loaded applications.

Nokia has stepped in with couple of first with Nokia 701 — it's the first Symbian Belle device, first to have a 1 GHz processor among Nokia handsets and first with a 'functional' Near Field Communication chip. Most important is its 1000 nits brightness spreading display which measures 3.5-inch. Amongst the three Symbian Belle handsets, the Nokia 701 remains to be the high end.

Journey of Nokia Symbian Belle devices started off with a hiccup when Nokia 600 got cancelled even before it arrived. However, Nokia immediately has replaced it with 603 model.

The closest competitor of the Nokia 701 handset in terms or form-factor, feature set and pricing is the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray. However, the focus is on the Symbian Belle laden Nokia 701.


Design and Display
In terms of physical appearance, the Nokia 701 comes in a metallic shell body and the curved as well as angular edges reminding of the Symbian Anna icons. Despite of the metallic body, the phone weighs 131 grams sans the SIM card and is actually feels almost like the metallic body bearing Nokia E75. At the first look, Nokia 701 does look similar to the Nokia C7 smartphone but the obvious differentiator lies in the home/menu button design.

Nokia 701 comes with a super-bright 3.5 inch ClearBlack display with the IPS panel LCD with Corning Gorilla Glass technology. That means it offers good viewing angles and also scratch resistant strong glass. The display is a 24-bit colour depth supporting IPS panel which offers 640x360 pixels native resolution. That promises you three things — crisper text, vibrant colours and high brightness. The screen indeed made the images and the text legible under the direct sunlight but bit of contrast settings would have been welcome there.

At the left are well laid volume buttons with Voice Command activator button in the center. There's a dedicated camera button on the left side of the bezel in the bottom and just above it is the spring lock button. It is high time Nokia should drop this spring lock button and integrated the sleep/wake function into the power button, just like several other smartphones mostly — Android and Apple iOS based devices.

The Audio port (3.5mm) rests between the power button and microUSB slot. Just to note over here that the Nokia 701 does support the USB-on-the-Go function which will let the users connect the compatible set of USB peripherals with the smartphone. The metallic back panel cover protects the 1300mAh battery. The speaker mesh is visible from the button that pops open the back-panel cover to expose battery and SIM card slot.

The bright display is the unique aspect of this Nokia 701 handset and makes it stand out amongst the competitors that usually offer a display with about 400 to 600 nits luminance.

User Interface

The feature set that arrive with Symbian Belle have been covered number of times earlier. Major ones include the new notification drawer that also brings toggle switches for mobile data, WiFi, Bluetooth, and turning the phone to silent mode. The multi-tasking feature offering task manager remains the same and is visible when the Menu key is pressed and held for couple of seconds. Apart from more home screens, free-form widgets and improved navigation, the native browser offers better scrolling but the number of tabs is still limited to six.

The touchscreen is quite responsive and responds well while working with the apps or while gaming. Major highlight of the Symbian Belle update is the new Notification tray system that offers combined list of notifications related to the respective apps. This tray is accessible by pull down gesture and resembles so much like the Notification tray in an Android handset. While the four Toggles Switches stand out, it would be great if those switches could be interchangeable or replaced with any other toggle function.

The ARM11 architecture based 1 GHz processor with 512 MB RAM does make lot of a difference in the user interface to make it appear slick and fluid between transitions.

However, one of the pitfalls of this interface would be lack of icon differentiations because many icons come with similar/same color. But you can group the icons together and form a folder with them. The keyboard appears pretty cramped up in the portrait mode and support for SWYPE would be heavily applauded.

Imaging and Multimedia

Nokia has added an 8 megapixel camera with a fixed focus which is capable enough to record 720p HD video at 30fps. The camera does lure to click amazing images with dual LED flash. However, the actually image quality does appear bit washed in case of too much brightness or sunlight. The lack of auto-focus even during video shooting mode is kind of a downer over here. But if you are more of a casual shutterbug, then you might just be happy with the image quality provided the settings are being used properly. However, Nokia has tried to compensate for that with a still image editor. There's also a front facing VGA camera that is usable for video calling.

The Nokia 701 has a Broadcom GPU chip with 128 MB RAM dedicated to it so forget playing the HD quality videos on it. Along with the regular set of video and audio file format supports, the 701 comes with FM Radio and FM transmitter. The sensitive mic located just between the aluminum bezel and the Menu key offers active noise cancellation feature. During voice calls, the voice was clear and quite audible to the other end. No network issues were visible during the usage.

NFC fun

Just for record, we thank Nokia for sending a C7 unit to test out the NFC Tippit app that comes preloaded in the Nokia 701 handset. Exchange of business card and other information by merely tapping the phones back to back was quite a smooth process.

Also the Nokia 701 was also used to get the exclusive content from the movie specific posters placed at the Nokia Priority Partners. Must say, that the NFC interface has been coded nicely to share and accept the data from equally supporting devices.

Power Management

Nokia had packed 1300 mAh battery with the 701 and given the high luminance display coupled with 3G Network support, we doubted the phone would last even 18 hours. Surprisingly, the phone lasted just a bit more than a day with brightness limit hit, email accounts set, social features active, music listening of an hour or two, number of phone calls and bit of texting. Nokia indeed has done a commendable job with power management with the Symbian Belle by using it with the low-power consuming ARM11 architecture based processor.

The handset also offers power saving mode that automatically configures the necessary settings to save battery juice for longer run time. Keeping the technical terms aside, the Nokia 701 is capable of offering you longer talk time on 2G networks but it drops drastically when it comes to 3G networks which eat up more battery. Considering the form factor, 1300mAh was the perfect size for this handset and Nokia certainly proves the 701 is one of its best high-end handset with good battery life and power management features.

Conclusion

Nokia 701 smartphone is meant for the multimedia frenzy folks who wish to make the best of their handset without having to wrap their heads around operating system or hackery. This smartphone is meant for serious travelers who wish for a mobile with promising battery life and compelling features. Packed with metallic finish, by looks the Nokia 701 does look chic and premium.

Typing on landscape mode is quite comfortable due to the rounded corners that provide a good grip and also it is much easy to use the virtual keyboard in that mode. The Automatic screen rotation is still not smooth as compared to the competing operating system.

As an overall package, Nokia 701 indeed is an amazing package with fresh looking Symbian Belle and long lasting battery support. Available in India at a price of Rs. 18,990 in retail stores, you can also buy the same handset for less online.

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