We can't help but start our evaluation by focusing on the motif. Nokia has managed to pull off a distinctly creative and atypical design on the Surge, and while some may pass it off as mildly unsightly at first glance, we're actually big fans. The recessed "lip" at the bottom provides a great spot for sliding the screen up in order to reveal the spacious QWERTY keyboard, and the gliding motion is nothing short of delectable. The handset is sufficiently small, thin and light, though we do feel that it's one of the more sturdy featurephones we've had the pleasure of handling.
The glossy black finish is a fingerprint magnet, though the glowing backlit keys more than compensate. We will say, however, that Nokia could've stood to insert a slightly larger screen here. We mean, look at that bezel! There's more than enough room around the current LCD to have expanded things a bit, and considering that this thing's rocking Symbian S60, more pixels would've certainly been appreciated. That said, the combination of buttons on the main screen and the QWERTY keyboard underneath allowed us to navigate the OS sufficiently well, though we found ourselves tapping the screen on numerous occasions in a futile attempt to magically turn the non-touchscreen display into one that heeded our every finger press.
As for the button layout, we were generally pleased with the hard shortcuts (MEdia Net, main menu and Messaging) on the front of the device, though we would've loved
for the central square "Enter" button to support scrolling. As it stands, the button only understands downward pressure, not swipes in any direction. Around the horn (read: edges), there's a volume rocker that could stand to be more pronounced, a dedicated camera button, a woefully small 2.5mm headphone jack, an external speaker, an AC input and a USB socket. Sadly, you'll have to remove the rear cover in order to access the microSD slot, but at least you don't have to remove the battery / SIM card.
Upon sliding the screen upwards, you're presented with a majestic, backlit QWERTY keyboard that puts most other text-friendly phones to shame. We'll just go ahead and say it: the Surge's keyboard is the best QWERTY board we've ever used, and considering just how long we've been pecking on those vertical iPhone and BlackBerry keyboards, that's saying something. It took next to no time for us to fully adjust to the landscape layout, and within a few minutes of getting ourselves acclimated to the spacing, we were in texting heaven. The key travel is perfect, the spacing is utopian and unlike the XPERIA X1
, the top row isn't encroaching too heavily on the top of the display. It's one of the first mobile keyboards that we've really felt comfortable using for long periods of time, and we honestly started dreaming of things to say just so we had an excuse to text yet another member of our contact list. If you're one of those folks who puts out 10,000+ texts per month
, you owe it to yourself to try the Surge. Software and features
Despite the fact that Nokia gifted the Surge with just a 2.4-inch 320 x 240 resolution display, it still went ahead and loaded up S60. We can't say that we didn't find ourselves wishing for more screen real estate, but there's plenty here if you're willing to compromise. Put simply, using S60 was a pure joy on the Surge. Flipping the phone open and closed (and from horizontal to vertical) yielded screen refreshes that were startlingly quick, and we couldn't find even a hint of lag anywhere in system. Every single application we opened was ready to rumble within a matter of nanoseconds, and unlike HTC's Hero
, we really felt as if the hardware was plenty capable of keeping up with the software. Even when flipping from the camera to the Messaging screen and onto the web, each transition was alarmingly quick. We never witnessed even a hint of lag while texting / banging out emails, and the general responsiveness of the entire OS had us marveling.
Of course, it's not like everything was peaches and cream. S60 still has quite aways to go before it's as robust as Apple's iPhone OS 3.0 and Google's Android, and the overall dearth of applications was evidence of that. Plus, the built-in email setup only supported a handful of clients, none of which were Gmail. We still managed to get our Gmail account established via a far less glamorous method, and while it's certainly better than not
having mobile access to your email, it's definitely an antiquated system that looks more like something suited for SMS / MMS than unadulterated email.
To its credit, S60 handled all of the basics with class. Music playback was sufficient, IM / SMS / MMS was more than adequate and the MEdia Net web browser was perfect suitable for viewing web pages that were hand-crafted for use on mobile devices. Unfortunately, the cost of having access to these luxuries makes things entirely less appealing, a point we'll harp on more in the next section. We must say, the 2 megapixel camera on the Surge left a lot to be desired. Particularly in house light / low light situations, it was borderline unusable. In broad daylight you can probably get the point across, but this definitely isn't going to be your next P&S backup.