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Review: Nokia Surge

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The Surge is somewhat of a departure for Nokia. It has made sideways sliders in the past (most recently the E75), but this one is a bit of an odd-ball — at least as far as looks are concerned. It has a large-ish footprint and I felt it was a bit wide (when closed). It has a decent amount of heft to it. With that said, it will fit into a pocket easily enough, and doesn't feel too awkward to hold.

When holding it in portrait orientation, the display is off-center, and this really bugs me. It may not bug you. It gives the phone a weird look. The navigation cluster is positioned below the display, and consists of a D-pad that is integrated into four other keys surrounding it. The two soft keys and send/end keys are easy to find and use and have good travel and feedback. I thought the D-pad was a bit on the small side, and my thumb felt a little scrunched when using it. It offered good travel and feedback, though.

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To the left of the navigation cluster you'll find three dedicated application keys that launch the browser, the main menu, and the messaging center. These buttons are a bit slim, and are positioned for easier use when the phone is open. They have minimal travel and feedback; I thought they were pretty mushy.

The slider mechanism that opens the phone works well. It has just the right amount of spring assistance. I found there to be very little give or side-to-side play with the slider; it felt solid. Opening the phone automatically unlocks the phone and changes the display to landscape orientation. (It also has an accelerometer on board — internal sensor that reacts to the direction a phone is held — that does the same thing, but it often got confused, and re-oriented the phone when I didn't want it to.)

Ah, the keyboard. Nokia QWERTYs seem to spark wildly different opinions from users, and I am sure the Surge will be no different. To me, the plastics feel cheap. On the other hand, the keys are much larger and easier to find than those of the N97. They also have much better travel and feedback than the N97's keyboard does. For my money, it is not as good as what Nokia was able to do with the E71 or E72, but it easily bests the N97 and E75. In other words, it will work well for most users. Perhaps the only item I'd nitpick about is that there are no dedicated keys for smilies, text messages, or other web-friendly text such as "www" or ".com".

The left side of the Surge houses the microUSB port, which is covered by a hatch. The hatch is no trouble to remove. The microUSB port can be used for data transfer. There is also a small charging pin located at the top of the Surge.

One bummer is that the Surge has a 2.5mm headset jack. This means it will require an adapter for most 3.5mm stereo headphones. On the right side of the phone, you'll find the volume toggle and dedicated camera key. Both of these keys are small and offer minimal travel and feedback. I also feel they would be easier to use of positioned higher on the side of the phone.

The microSD port is located under the battery cover, but thankfully not under the battery itself.

In all, the Surge gets some of the basics right, but there are a few oddities here that take a bit of getting used to.

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