A good alternative to the BlackBerry for business travellers with desktop file sync support

Nokia launched the E series of smartphones in late 2005 and the range has since spouted 11 different incarnations, with the E63 launching at the end of 2008. The range is targeted firmly at business users who might be considering a BlackBerry and the aquamarine E63 could easily be mistaken for its hugely popular rival.

The E63 sits very comfortably in your hand – those Nokia ergonomists know something about functional design. On the bottom edge of the handset there is a thin Nokia charging socket while on the left edge you will find a USB socket and a microSD card slot, expandable up to 8GB. The top edge includes a 3.5mm audio jack for your ‘phones while the back face features a camera, low-power flash and a mirror to help you line up taking pictures of yourself.

A full qwerty keyboard gets my thumbs up and you access numbers through a function key at bottom left. A wide spacebar is a particularly good feature. Four function keys give access to the home screen, calendar, contacts and email.

The home screen seems a little cramped and includes six application shortcuts accessible by the scroll key linking to mail, the web, maps, music player, gallery, clock and mode switch. There’s also a list of several key functions, accessing your Exchange email, setting up your email or internet telephony service and current entries in your calendar,

The mode switch referred to above is a cool concept for those who don’t like mixing business and pleasure. It lets you switch between business mode during the day and a personal mode at night. Your boss will no longer have to listen to your embarrassing personal ringtone any more.

Push email is hugely important for the E series. The E63 can handle POP, SMTP and IMAP as well as Microsoft Exchange email, through a Mail for Exchange download.

Another interesting download is Files on Ovi, a way to access your PC desktop and files from your handset. To access your PC, you need to sign up for a Nokia account and then download the Files on Ovi connector software to your PC. It works similarly to Microsoft’s Live Mesh system and offers 1 gigabyte of storage on an internet cloud. When you first sign up you get a year’s subscription to the service free of charge. It’s a weird sensation to be on the road and seeing your familiar desktop files pop up on your tiny mobile screen.

The E63 also comes loaded with QuickOffice Premier, which allows you to create simple word processing, spreadsheet and presentations from the device. More realistically, given it s small size, it allows you to open and, crucially, edit email attachments created in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, including the DOCX and XLSX formats of Word and Excel 2007.

Rather surprisingly, there’s also support for VoIP so you can use internet telephony services when at a wireless hotspot.

The spec

Dimensions: 113 x 59 x 13 mm, weight: 126g, 320×240 2.4 inch TFT screen, talktime: 11 hours, standby: up to 18 days, microSD slot expandable to 8GB, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, 2.0MP still camera with flash, 320 x 240 video camera at 15 fps, 802.11b/g, quad-band, VoIP support, GPS, Nokia Maps

The hype

They say: “Helps you to get things done when and where it matters most.”

The reality

We say: The E63’s push email support is very powerful and the inclusion of QuickOffice Premier and Adobe Reader means you can handle most attachments while out on the road.

The bottom line

£199 SIM-free from Nokia. Free on a £20 a month tariff with 3

The verdict

Nice ergonomics and an excellent choice for anyone who doesn’t want to go down the BlackBerry route. QuickOffice and Files on Ovi make this a truly business-class handset.