One of the reasons the E71 was so hotly anticipated was because it brought QWERTY back into the Eseries after quite a while, the last Eseries in the same form factor being the E61i. But because of its size, it created doubts in the minds of a lot of people about its real world usability. I have been a Nseries man for a long time and since it still offers no QWERTY, I became really proficient with T9 and never really felt the need for QWERTY. A few months ago I bought my first Eseries device, the E90 and still found myself using T9 on it more than the internal keyboard. It was just too wide for me, however with the E71 that changed. This in my opinion is the best form factor for a QWERTY device and when coupled with predictive text and auto correct, it makes for a deadly combo.
This post pits the E90 and a T9 based device, against the E71 and we try and find out which is the best text entry solution.
In order to find out which was the fastest in the real world usage, where we will regularly need to input words, numbers, names and so on, I created the above sample sentence which takes care of most of these things. The sentence was written five times on each device and the corresponding seconds it took me to complete were recorded. This was done to try and get a better picture and guard against extreme results. Here is how each of the devices, namely the E90, E71 and the N95 performed.
(Note: I was going to do this test with the N78 as the T9 device but dropped it because it does not represent the regular T9 keypads we normally find).
THE N95 – I pride myself on my T9 speeds and the trusty N95 didn’t let me down. It took me an average 81 seconds to key in the 40 words. (Note: The smiley and symbol have been counted as a word)
THE E71 – I have large thumbs and the smallish keypad was always going to be a problem, but with auto correct holding fort I was faster than I expected – averaging at 79.2 seconds for the sentence. For anyone who’s thumbs are any smaller, expect this figure to be much lower.
The one thing I have learnt from this exercise is that predictive text is not always useful when you need to type fast and infact, sometimes becomes a problem. What is needed is auto correct and I’d like it if there was an option to turn off predictive text while keeping auto correct.
THE E90 – The Eseries Flagship with its large keys and dedicated number buttons should have enjoyed a distinct advantage here, but due to frequent spelling errors and the not so efficient spacebar, it 81 seconds on an average. This is inspite of the fact that after typing on the smaller E71, my speed on the E90 has increased.
The above test included all sorts of variables, but there are times when we only input text, for example while writing somebody an email. To give an accurate description of how these devices would perform when only text entry was an issue, I carried out another test with the same parameters as above.
THE N95 – It took me an average 42.8 seconds to fire in the 26 words. Since there were no numbers or names, T9 had no problems whatsoever.
THE E71 – The E71 too averaged exactly same as the N95 at 42.8 seconds.
THE E90 – Surprisingly the E90 took slightly longer at about 43 seconds. Since there were no numbers involved it didn’t enjoy any particular benefits, moreover the lack of spelling/auto correct support also didn’t help either.
I have used the N95 for almost 10 months, the E90 for 3 months and the E71 for about two weeks. So its safe to assume that I was pretty comfortable using their respective input mechanisms. Before I undertook this test, I thought the E90 would have an advantage because of the larger keys and the dedicated numerals. Its width was going to be a disadvantage. The E71 would be around the same level, but where numbers came in, it would take a severe beating. My trusty N95 would sail with text and suffer with custom words. All reasonable expectations.
What has come out of this test is almost a reiteration of what I thought. With a mixture of text and numbers, the E90 does 33 words a minute, while the E71 comes in at 30 with the N95 being a close third at 29. The N95 has surprised me a little with its performance and other T9 based keypad such as that on the N82 or N78 would never be able to match this performance. With pure text in play, all devices finished at a very good average of about 36 words per minute.
Keeping the figures aside for a moment, here are the conclusions I have come to:
– The E71 despite its smaller keyboard can still hold its own and with a little practise you should be able to get fair speeds on it. However concertration is a must and you possibly can’t type without looking.
– The E90 needs the auto correct option from the E71, with that it will be a killer text behmoth. Although, it stills holds the crown of being the best option. Its much less taxing typing on its keyboard vis-a-vis the E71.
– If you are just looking for casual data entry, even good T9 phones such as the N95 and possibly the N96 will more than suffice.
– Will I buy the E71 just for the QWERTY? No. But there is so much to like in it that I am finding it very hard to resist.
Have I overlooked anything? Let me know and I’ll be sure to update the post.