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Maximum PC Staff Dec 09, 2009

Nokia Surge

At A Glance

Snapple

Sexy exterior and decent keybaord. Light at 4.4oz.

Squirt

Too easy to drop. No touchscreen. Screen to small. Poor battery life.

Is it a savvy corporate email manager? A text-happy messaging device for Gen Y? The Nokia Surge has style galore but it is heavily skewed toward the latter camp due to an unconventional design and more than a few awkward interface choices.

This Symbian S60-based GSM phone immediately catches the eye with its glossy black shell, impressively small footprint, and an unusual design that recalls a shrunken version of the iPhone, complete with metal trim around the edge.

To do just about anything with the Surge, you'll need to slide it open -- in landscape mode -- which reveals a QWERTY keyboard. There's no touchscreen on the phone, though it feels like there should be one, especially since the accelerometer in the handset responds quickly by reorienting the display when you twist the device between the horizontal and the vertical.

Fortunately the keyboard is quite good. Keys are surprisingly large for such a small phone (as few extra keys aside from the standard alphabet are included), our only complaint is that they need a little more vertical separation in order to make it a bit easier to thumb-type at speed. The general flatness makes the experience not unlike typing on a touchscreen, so you'll need to pay close attention to make sure you're hitting the right buttons.

One of the phone's bigger failings is its tiny LCD -- just 2.4 inches diagonally and 320 x 240 pixels in size. Symbian's web browser won't win any performance or beauty contests, and it's made even more disappointing by the tiny  display you have to work with. If you're looking for a device that will give you a full-blown mobile web experience, look elsewhere.

The rest of the featureset just seems low-end for a modern phone. The 2-megapixel camera is only fair, and the integrated GPS is a hassle to get working. There's no Wi-Fi, either. There are also a passel of quirky design choices: Getting to the microSD slot is tricky, since it requires removing the phone's stubborn rear cover, and the headphone jack is cruelly undersized. Worst of all its placed right next to the nearly identically-sized Nokia power jack, which often leaves you stabbing at similar tiny round holes when you're trying to connect the device to its charger.

And you'll need that charger more than you might expect. With just four and a half hours of talk time, the Surge lands on the weak side of the battery life spectrum. Audio quality is acceptable, but that does you no good when your battery is dead.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Surge, though, is that its curvy design and lack of grippable surfaces make it one of the slipperiest phones we've ever held. Flipping up the screen tends to make the phone recoil violently such that it regularly flies from your grasp. I've yet to meet someone who can hold on to it reliably. And at just 4.4 ounces in weight, it flies an amazing distance, too.

The Surge is ultimately fine for texting but it's just not a great email workhorse. Corporate environments will likely be disappointed with the device's limitations.

THE VERDICT

Nokia Surge

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