Nokia is an old hand at Qwerty keyboard-packing smartphones, what with its Communicator series stretching back a dozen or so years. With the E75 though, Nokia has added a neat side-sliding keyboard to a candybar-style business device, enhancing some pretty powerful messaging muscle in a smart, sharp and slim S60 smartphone handset.

The E75, one of Nokia's enterprise range, has the classy look of the attractive but businesslike E51 candybar about it but the slider Qwerty offers a text-tapping alternative to the BlackBerry-alike keyboard of the E71 and E63.

It's loaded with plenty of smartphone functionality, including Wi-Fi and HSDPA connectivity, A-GPS satellite location technology (with Nokia Maps Sat Nav software available), support for internet calling using VoIP, media player functionality, plus extensive email, web-based apps, and other business-orientated features. There's room too for a 3.2-megapixel camera with flash, plus a front-mounted low-res camera for 3G video calling.

Design

Even with its 39-button Qwerty keyboard the E75 is still a trim 14.4mm slim device (the E51 is 12mm thin). It has a 111.8(h) x 50(w) mm footprint closed, extending to 80mm wide when the slider's open, and weighs a reasonable 139g – not bad for such a slide-packing device.

The front panel is tidily arranged, with glossy plastic numberpad keys that are sensibly sized for non-fiddly, responsive manipulation. The screen is a 2.4-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels) 16 million-colour display – OK-sized for a candybar phone, and it looks crisp and bright in action.

An accelerometer is built in, which can be activated so the screen auto-rotates in certain functions to suit the way you're holding the phone. Slipping out the slider numberpad automatically switches the screen to landscape orientation too., ready for typing action.

The main controls are focused around the navigation D-pad, which is slightly raised for firm directional control. Flanking it are four typical Eseries icon-labelled buttons, three of which offer fast access to key functions - Home, Calendar, and Email – plus a Backspace key. With a long press, the three shortcuts can also open up a list of running apps, initiate new emails, or pull up a new calendar entry.

Our only concern would be the proximity of the two softkeys to the Backspace and Home buttons (they're on the same strip of plastic), though in our test period we had few mis-pressing incidents.

Typically for an S60 device the display is set up with a row of shortcut feature icons in a row towards the top of the screen. These six can be user-customised to cater for practically every feature on the phone or to access online sites. The screen also displays rows of information, including messages and calendar entries, Wi-Fi and VoIP status, plus a Search box option.

Like other recent Eseries models, the E75 geared up for downtime use as well as work, with optional customisable 'Business' and more consumer-orientated 'Personal' home screens - featuring different shortcuts, etc. - which you can flick between with a quick button press.

The well-heeled build quality of the metal-edged design extends to the robust but smooth-action, softly sprung slider – it feels very solid and stable in-hand.

The characters on the Qwerty keypad are adequately sized for thumb typing, and arranged in four rows. The rubber feel keys are flat against the surface, though, so they don't stand out individually like some BlackBerrys and other similar devices that have sloping moulded keys – so you need to be precise about where you're pressing.

Keys are clearly labelled, and it's easy handle the Shift button and much used keys like the @ button are among the first tier Qwerty characters.

We found the Qwerty keyboard action heavier and not quite as springily responsive as the regular numberpad; however, while it's not built for speed touch-typing, it does the job well enough for such a compact design - we felt comfortable using it to compose messages at a decent lick.

Messaging is of course one of the core elements of the E75, and it is equipped with a fine set of email connectivity options. It supports both corporate email, using Microsoft Office Outlook, Mail for Exchange or Intellisync, and internet-based POP3 and IMAP services, such as Google Mail and Yahoo! Mail, and allows remote synchronisation and management of server email accounts.

It's easy to set up and use email, using a home screen wizard, with Nokia Messaging service allowing you to access multiple web-based email accounts. HTML email support enables you to view web content in emails, while MS Office documents sent as attachments can be viewed, edited and sent too, using pre-loaded Quick office software.

The email user interface is pleasingly intuitive, with drop down menus for selecting email folders and viewing categories. Sideways viewing with the keyboard out also provides an easier on the eye way to browse and respond to emails. It's nicely integrated into the phone, too, with the dedicated Email button accessing lists of messages with a single press.

The E75's S60 browser is an effective way to get around full web sites. It supports Flash, and offers the usual Mini Map page overviews and navigation options. Running on HSDPA or Wi-Fi – a breeze to set up – you can get fast online connectivity from the device.

The user interface is reasonable rather than slick – selecting options is standard mobile fare rather than iPhone-esque smooth. Downloading content is fast too, with video or audio files zipping through in seconds.

Other key features have been neatly organised in the main menu, providing a coherent way to find and work the features, applications or adjust any settings you want to. Eseries business-friendly organiser functionality is comprehensively implemented, with an assortment of apps – including calendar, notes, active notes, convertor and calculator, voice memo, Quick office and PDF document readers, and a dictionary function. Instant messaging is also supported.

Another potentially useful feature pre-loaded is Files on Ovi, an app that enables you to connect to your PC over the air and remotely access its content, including images, music and other files, which you can also send to others using the app on the handset. Naturally remote or local synchronisation of data is also part of the Eseries deal.

With A-GPS tech and Nokia Maps pre-loaded on the supplied 4GB MicroSD memory card, the E75 can be used for precise location finding, route planning and searching for local points of interest. The A-GPS is quick to lock on to satellites, and the mapping application does the job very well. Users can subscribe to other add-on services too.

For Sat Nav functionality, the E75 comes with voice guided turn-by-turn navigation, supplied for a three-month trial period. This gives a decent show of Sat Nav on a smartphone, though its smaller screen isn't quite as easy to read in-car as a dedicated Sat Nav set up. Still, it's a welcome extra to have in a handset like this.

Despite its business appeal, the E75 isn't just a no-fun phone for the serious-minded.

In the Applications folder, there are a hefty bunch of features to run through, including a spread of fine media functions.

The music player is familiar S60 – it supports MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, and eAAC file formats, and tracks copied or downloaded to the phone are tidily arranged under regular MP3 player categories. As well as artists, albums, playlists, all songs, genre and composer, there's a podcasts heading – a Podcasting client in the Media folder can be used to source and download these over the air. The phone also supports the Nokia Music Store download service, should you wish to buy music tracks.

With a 4GB MicroSD supplied, there's plenty of in-box storage capacity, although the phone's internal memory is a modest 50MB. A set of neck-strap equipped earphones are supplied, though they're average quality ear-wear that are serviceable but sound a bit trebly and harsh when volume's cranked up. Commendably, though, Nokia has equipped the E75 with a 3.5mm standard headphone jack, so you can easily upgrade to better headphones if you want improved sound quality.

The phone also supports a couple of radio options – a regular FM radio feature is accompanied by a very neat internet radio option, so you can easily connect and listen to numerous online stations via Wi-Fi or over an HSDPA mobile connection (watch out for potential mobile data charges, though, if you've not an inclusive data deal).

Nokia's Video Centre app provides access to compatible online video services you can stream or download onto the handset The RealPlayer app enables you to view downloaded or sideloaded video in decent quality, running smoothly, and in full screen if you hold the phone sideways.

Camerawork isn't a big priority on the E75, but it is capable of snapping acceptable quality shots with its 3.2-megapixel autofocus and LED flash-equipped camera.

The shooter fires up in 1 or 2 seconds using the shortcut icon onscreen, or around double that time via the dedicated side camera button. The autofocus system sets itself quickly and there are no shutter lag issues. Image quality is good for this grade of cameraphone, with decent colour rendition and a reasonable amount of detail in shots for such a shooter.

It has a solid selection of control options that are clearly labelled and straightforward to operate, including a variety of shooting environment optimisation controls, plus an effective close up macro mode that produces sharply focused close-in shots.

The flash does an acceptable job indoors, though it is quite limited in darker conditions. Shots can be geo-tagged – recording metadata for the location they were taken in – allowing them to be viewed with positioning info on compatible mapping apps.

Images can be uploaded directly online, via a Share online option that can be used with services such as Flickr, Vox and Nokia's own Ovi portal. Video clips too can be uploaded from the handset; the E75 shoots a cut above the average mobile fare, recording like other recent Nokia smartphones in maximum VGA (640x480 pixels) resolution at up to 30 frames per second for smooth-flowing playback.

Business users can also enjoy some quality downtime gaming, with an N-Gage gaming application pre-loaded onto the handset, enabling you to try the sophisticated games before you buy. A wide range of additional applications can be added to the handset via the embedded Download! tool which connects to Nokia's dedicated download portal.

Performance

We found voice calling quality uniformally excellent on this device, which is the sort of reliable performance you'd wish for in a business class handset. The battery life isn't bad either; Nokia estimates optimum talktime figures of up to four hours and 20 minutes on 3G networks (5 hours 20 in GSM coverage) or standby time of up to 270 hours on 3G (280 hours on GSM); alternatively, you can get up to 9 hours of VoIP calls over WLAN.

Real usage battery life will depend on how much you use various functions, make calls and manage your apps, though in our typical usage tests we comfortably managed over two days between charges.

Summary

With the E75 Nokia has delivered another finely tuned business-majoring handset. It has a strong line-up of useful features, with its discreet Qwerty keyboard slider adding to its enterprise-class messaging capabilities.

With its connectivity options, smartphone capabilities and navigation capabilities, this is one powerful device to do business with. But it also has an impressive suite of consumer-enticing features as well, for those who like a good work-life balance on their mobiles too.