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Again we follow up on the theme of the NEC Primero, which dominated the market at one time. The NEC 238 is the better and more expensive of the two NEC phones that were launched in Malaysia recently.
I found it rather attractive, as the internal antenna does not deface a clamshell phone with a protruding antenna that is unpleasant to look at. Nevertheless, let us see how the NEC stacks up against the competition.
Blue is a really pleasant colour
The NEC e238 that came in for review was a pleasant metallic blue in colour. The back slid off easily enough, and installing the SIM card was a breeze. I felt the clicking sound that occurs when you flip the phone open and close to be rather reminiscent of the Panasonic models, but this is in a phone that is smaller than the Panasonic ones such as the X700 and the GD88.
The navigation pad is the standard four-way one with a button in the centre that you can press to select something from the menu. There are four soft keys that surround this navigation pad, two on each side.
I find that the buttons on the number pad are close together, and even the call and disconnect buttons are grouped together with the number pad. This makes for a rather tight layout, and you will probably find it difficult to type on the numberpad without looking at it. The hash key is a little easier to reach compared to the e101, and this is good for one-handed SMS texting, which a lot of people do while they are on the move.
I rather like the pseudo-glass toggle button on the left side of the phone, but I did not like all the rubberised covers all over the phone. One of this covers protects the connector to the USB port at the bottom of the phone, while the other protects the headset groove on the right side of the phone.
The navigation system of this phone is the most confusing one that I have seen in nearly five years of playing with handphones. Admittedly, what is shown on the screen is rather attractive, but it was really frustrating trying to figure which buttons to press to activate a feature that caught your eye on the screen.
A few years ago, Motorola was making phones that many people complained about having difficulty using. Engineers call this ergonomics, and NEC would do well to hire an expert in the field before making products. I’ll bet that this will increase sales of the product once the word gets around that the phone is easy to use.
Anyway, texting is also rather fast with the e238, and the good response of the e101 is also found in the e238. However, as mentioned earlier, this is somewhat restricted by the small buttons that are places close together.
The NEC e238 also has an Openwave browser capable of connecting at GPRS class 10 speeds. It conforms to J2ME MIDP 2.0 standards, and has a regular VGA camera inside. Unlike the e101, the e238 is capable of video capture, and the surprise would be that NEC’s flagship model does not sport a megapixel camera or higher.