Geek on a Budget: Part 1 – Nokia E5 & Amazon Kindle Reviews

Even though I love gadgetry, I am a realist, and we are living on a tight budget every since we moved to Thailand (and quit our full time jobs!).  Now that we’re in the states for the summer, it was an opportunity to get some inexpensive gadgets that are more expensive to buy overseas.

As you can see in the photo, the new arrivals are the Nokia E5, and the Amazon Kindle.  They arrived this afternoon, in fact.  So, is my phone curse over?  Let’s see.

Nokia E5 & Amazon Kindle, delivered fresh!



I’ve used both devices before, and chose them not because they are necessarily the best smart phone and e-reader out there, but because they are the best items I could buy on my budget.  Sure, I would love to play around with an iphone, iPad, or an Android honeycomb tablet, but I need to be realistic.  Luckily, we accumulated $175 worth of Amazon gift cards (via credit card reward points), which helped a great deal.

Why I chose the Nokia E5:

Dollar for dollar, the Nokia E5 is a terrific sub $200 unlocked smart phone, in my opinion (on Amazon today for $189.99, prices do vary, and I’ve seen it as low as $169.99).  It’s well built, like most Nokias, has good messaging and email capabilities, Mail for Exchange for syncing your email/contacts/calendar; great battery life, comes with a 2gb memory card, decent processor, wifi, and lifetime free voice guided navigation with OVI maps, the best Nokia app that I’ve tried.

OVI maps is the primary reason why I bought this phone. The E5 is one of the most inexpensive smart phones available with it.  Why was OVI that important for me?  OVI maps allows me to download maps from dozens of countries, and use voice guided, turn by turn navigation without using a data connection (aka “offline,” I’m cheap, remember?).  Since we travel a great deal, I wanted a new phone that had OVI maps.  Do other navigation apps work offline?  I’m not sure since I haven’t tried them all.  Let me know of a good alternative and I’ll give it a try.

Sure, it’s far from perfecto, and it’s not the ultimate ‘wow-worthy’ gadget.  No one will stop me and say, “Dude!” (Well, they do, but not about my phone) Based on my previous 2 week trial phone from Womworld Nokia, I noticed that the screen washes out a bit under bright sunlight (lol, as opposed to weak sunlight?), and the menus can be a bit disorganized and redundant (too many layers).   Like other reviewers’ comments, the Symbian OS just doesn’t WOW anymore.  I know the new E6 is coming out, similar form factor, with Symbian ^3 OS, plus a capacitive touch screen as well as the qwerty keypad, but it’s very likely to be out of my price range.  I also love the N8, but it’s $399.  So, the E5 will do for now…just wished they had the copper colored one that I’ve seen in the product photos… but haven’t seen it sold, ever (as well as the blue one).  I used the white version for 2 weeks, and noticed that when the keypad backlighting comes on (as it did even in daylight), there wasn’t enough contrast to see the keys well.  So, I got black.

**Quick Update: Before i even had a chance to use the E5, one of the two back cover latches was defective.  The spring was not working, which means the battery cover pops open easily.  Oye, I guess the curse continues!  Time to return this phone, and consider an exchange, or a refund and start my search again…**

Why I chose the Kindle:

The Kindle has dropped in price ($114 with Wifi and screensaver ads), and improved in quality over the years.  It was not killed by the iPad, despite many ‘expert’ predications.  It does what it does very well.  You can even read amazon books on your pc, smart phone, but the Kindle still sold very well.  The B/W E-ink screen is easy on the eyes, plus we already had a few E-books purchased from Amazon.  I was considering the Nook Color, but at $245, I could not justify paying double for reading books.  Sure, the NC has more goodies: a selection of android apps, email, and COLOR (great for mags, etc.), but I may as well get the real deal in an android 3.0 tablet if I want to read books on a backlit LCD screen.  The Kindle has great battery life (a few weeks at least), since the E-ink screen uses very little juice.  Amazon will even open up the Kindle to use while reading E-books from public libraries (later 2011).  About time, Jeff!  😉

The bottom line for me is balancing my ‘wants’ v. my ‘needs.’  One could argue that both of these gadgets are luxury items, and I could live without either of them.  Of course they are, I can’t argue with that.  But as a gadgety guy on a tight budget, I feel that I can still enjoy my ‘hobby’ without breaking the bank.

Are you as cheap as I am?  How do you enjoy your gadget hobby on the cheap?  Comment away!





6 thoughts on “Geek on a Budget: Part 1 – Nokia E5 & Amazon Kindle Reviews

  1. Hey Bubba,
    Thanks for the review. I had not even heard of Ovi before reading your review. My family and I are planning on doing the world tour thing next year and I was just beginning to think about communication options. Your gadget geekery is a help. Thanks, Erik

    1. Erik,
      Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. Have a great time on your travels and feel free to drop me a note any time. Yes, it’s a shame that many people, especially in north america, aren’t familiar with nokia software and the OVI app store.
      It’s not as big as apple or android, but there’s enough good apps out there.


    2. I haven’t ever owned a smartphone, but I’m a writer and the need to keep up is catching up with me! I’m thinking of the Nokia E5 from Straight Talk – my needs are: email, posting on my blog, internet (duh), and a built-in music player would be awesomely nice. I don’t know … does a smartphone have a word doc app so I can write on the fly? I could use some advice selecting a good phone that will serve my needs and last a couple of years.

      1. Hi Curious, thanks for dropping by my humble blog.
        Since you’re officially asking for advice, then I won’t hold back in ‘giving’ it. 😉
        If I were you, I would focus on your smart phone needs, as you’ve listed:
        -email (most smartphones can do well)
        -blog posting (most phones can do, but check app stores for it)
        -web surfing (yes, with wifi built in, but you’ll want larger screen)
        -music player
        -doc app
        With regards to the E5, I’m not sure if that will fit your listed needs. It does email well, music player is good, and you can write docs. But, the screen is small, and not the greatest Nokia puts out, so that will hinder any web surfing and writing. I’m not 100% sure if the Nokia WordPress app will work on the E5, but if it did, might be cumbersome to use.

        Do you prefer real keyboards, or are you okay with typing on a touch screen?
        With everything you want to do, an ipod touch or iPad (or similar tablet, 10″ or less) might be good. The only downside is that you’ll type on the glass, not keys, unless you get a bluetooth wireless keyboard. Then use a feature phone for calls and texts.
        If you plan on doing much ‘work’ on a phone, then I’d recommend one with a larger screen (nokia e7 has a 4″ screen, with a slide out keypad that is wonderful to type on).
        If you have a larger budget, then go for a tablet.
        Check the apps stores from Apple (iOS), Android, OVI store ( for nokia), and windows phones. Then look for the hardware that matches your needs (physical keybd, size of screen).
        Oh, and check your budget, too.’s ebay store has great selection of used smartphones for decent prices, and they have 30 day return policy.

        Hope that helps!

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