|Nokia N95||Sony Ericsson P1i||Nokia E61i|
|Form factor, build quality||2-way sliding screen, monoblock. Plastic/metal mix, good build quality, 120g||Traditional monoblock phone but with rocker keypad. Plastic/metal mix, largely good build quality||Wider, not very phone-like, heavier at 150g, solid, mainly metal|
|Screen size, clarity||2.6" QVGA display, transflective, reasonable contrast outdoors||2.6" QVGA display, transflective, reasonable contrast outdoors||Larger 2.8" QVGA display, transflective and lower colour support, so top contrast outdoors|
|Usability, one-handed interface||S60 works well one-handed, although with the N95 in landscape mode the keypad is hidden. Dedicated Gallery button and Multimedia menu||Many operations can be done one-handed, but two are often needed, for thumb typing or stylus tapping. Dedicated Internet key||You can't really type one-handed, and it's a stretch to move to the left function key with just the right thumb. Best used two-handed for text entry, despite the S60 interface. Three dedicated keys (Contacts, Email, MyOwn)|
|Text input||Typical predictive or multi-tap on the keypad, around 15 wpm||Rocker-based keyboard. Takes some getting used to, but the keys have a light touch and you can work up speed. Average 25 wpm||Larger, traditional keyboard, thumb typing quite practical, average speed 25 wpm|
|Impression of speed||One of the fastest Symbian OS smartphones. Generally good multitasking, but limited by the low RAM, meaning that big apps keep having to close||Oodles of RAM and multitasking implemented well but the way the Task manager shortcut is tucked into the extreme corner of the screen really rankles||Once apps are running in RAM, overall speed is excellent, but you have to use the E61i 'right' to use the multitasking to best advantage. RAM generally sufficient considering the low resource camera|
|Battery life||Inadequate. 950mAh doesn't go far when you've got GPS and a heavyweight camera on-board||A bit disappointing so far, the 1150mAh seemed to run out quickly, but real world use needed to test properly||Long, thanks to the huge capacity (1500mAh) battery|
|Photography||Superlative 5 megapixel stills camera (esp with v12 firmware), with every option under the sun and with an excellent interface. See below for sample||Average 3.2 megapixel camera, poor optics, confusing and messy interface. See below for sample||Average 2 megapixel camera, with 352 by 288 pixel video recording. See below for sample|
|Video recording||VGA resolution, 30 fps, pretty good||320 by 240 by up to 15 fps, unspectacular||352 by 288 pixel, 15 fps, OK for mobile watching|
|Multimedia||3GP and MP4 playback, all clips (including H.264-encoded) supported via RealPlayer||3GP and MP4 playback, with some audio sync issues||3GP and MP4 playback, most clips supported via RealPlayer|
|Office suite||Quickoffice v3 viewers, pay to upgrade to full v3 or v4.5 editing suite||Quickoffice v3.6 in ROM, adequate office editing but has problems with large files and is in need of a big v4 update||Includes a licensed version of Quickoffice 3.85. Editing facilities on the E61i are fairly limited, though the pay-for update to v4.5 raises the game significantly|
|Web browsing||Has the 'love it or hate it' Nokia Safari-based browser, excellent rendering of web pages and page overview function, runs in portrait or landscape modes||Has Opera 8.65 in ROM. This was good for 2005 but now lags behind the modern Safari-based browsers on S60 and the iPhone. Works in portrait or landscape mode though||Also has the Nokia Safari-based browser, excellent rendering of web pages and page overview function, permanently in landscape mode, with keyboard available for form entry and URLs|
|Third party applications||A high quality choice of applications, many of them completely free from Nokia, with choice examples like Mobile Search, Maps, Sports Tracker and Worldmate||A fair number of high quality UIQ 3 applications from commercial third party software developers||A high quality choice of applications, many of them completely free from Nokia, with choice examples like Mobile Search, Maps, Worldmate and Pocket Express|
|Availability, price||£457 SIM-free, incl VAT||£370 SIM-free, incl VAT||£290 SIM-free, incl VAT|
As is sometimes the case in these head to heads, there's no overall 'winner', especially considering the big price range between the three devices. You want the maximum smartphone features and platform for your bucks? That'll be the Nokia E61i. You want beefier PIM apps and more PDA-like functions? You want the new P1i. You want a top spec camera and part-time camcorder, GPS, TV out, hardware acceleration and a kitchen sink thrown in? Pay the top money for the N95.
As to how the P1i compares to the other two 'class of 2007' smartphones: well, it doesn't disgrace itself. My own, utterly personal feeling, and one made stronger by my recent hands-on week with the Apple iPhone, is that Sony Ericsson's implementation of a UIQ 3 interface has more than its fair share of kludges. Not that the two S60 devices are free from quirks, either. Both Symbian OS-based interfaces could do with a heavy streamlining session involving myself and an education-sized set of marker pens....
But the P1i succeeds at nearly every aim that it was set. Compared to the near-disaster that was the P990, the P1i has a much better display, a great keyboard, a better camera, tons more RAM and it's lighter and slimmer. So it's not perfect yet - which device is? It's still Sony Ericsson's best smartphone to date.
Steve Litchfield, 29th July 2007
(cut from central 10% of typical garden scene, shown at full 1:1 pixel sizes)
Sony Ericsson P1i