Once a giant in the mobile phone market, the Nokia today is more focused on manufacturing network equipment, though it did release new phones and revived beloved old phones not too long ago. Like its smartphone competitors, it also started dabbling in wearables, with the latest addition to the list being the Nokia Essential True Wireless Earphones E3511.
The Nokia E3511 is a pair of earphones designed in the shape of Apple’s Airpods, with active noise cancellation (ANC), up to 6.5 hours of use time, and offers decent audio quality. However, it is let down by a lacklustre ANC and badly-located, overly-sensitive touch controls. At a retail price of S$149, the E3511 loses out to other ANC wireless earphones in the S$100-plus range, such as the S$119 Creative Outlier Pro.
Out of the box, these earphones come with the stem protruding downwards from the buds, which have become a signature look because of Apple. The earphones come in either black, white, or blue. The review unit was decked out in black with a grey charging case, which offers about three additional charges for the earphones, before it needs to be plugged into a power source itself with the USB-C to USB-A cable. Both earphones and charging case take about two hours to go from empty to full battery.
The case measures approximately 55 x 45 x 30mm, weighs 40 grams, and is covered in a nice matte finish. There’s a decent heft to it and its small size makes it easy to recharge the earbuds while on the go, or fit in your pocket or handbag.
Performance wise, the E3511 packs two 10mm dynamic drivers that deliver clear, light, and balanced sound, despite only supporting the low-complexity sub-band codec (SBC). “Andrew’s Song” (I The Mighty), “Star Sky” (Two Steps From Hell), “Dragonborn” (Jeremy Soule), “Hootsforce” (Gloryhammer), “The Sound of Silence” (Disturbed), and “The Sound of Silence” (Simon & Garfunkel) come across with pretty high fidelity for the most part, though a heavier bass would have been appreciated (subjective, we know). Unfortunately, the earbuds don’t come paired with any app to let you tinker with the equaliser, so you’ll have to depend on other ways to tweak the settings.
Like other brands, the E3511 offers three modes of Active Noise Cancellation (ANC): ANC on, ANC off, and ambient, which amplifies background sounds. The ANC in E3511 can best be described as average. It does mitigate some noise in the background, but it doesn’t do enough. While putting its paces through the hawker centre test, we had to crank up the volume to 60 percent on a POCO X3 smartphone – up from 20 percent in a void deck setting – to get a similar perceived volume even with the ANC turned on.
The E3511 comes with three pairs of ear tips and the regular ones fit comfortably in our ears. They are light and mostly feel unobtrusive, with no risk of falling out – even after long hours of use.
Nokia claims the E3511 can last up to 6.5 hours without ANC and 4.5 hours with ANC on a full charge. From our use test, the claim holds up pretty well, lasting the whole 4.5 hours with extra to spare with the ANC on.
The E3511 has a touch sensor on the stem of both earbuds that allow you to control the ANC mode, volume, and playback, activate voice assistant, and pick up calls. In fact, it is the only way for you to change the ANC setting since there is no paired app for the earpieces. Do note that you’ll have to reset it every time you put them on, as the earbuds don’t store the previous ANC setting. The preset touch controls cannot be changed as well, which takes away some of the customisation flexibility that others might be seeking.
The location of the touch sensor is, in one word, troublesome. As it is positioned on the stem, which faces forward when in the ears, you’ll end up touching the sensor every time you put the earpiece on or when adjusting it, unless you move your fingers into unnatural positions.
The sensors also tend to be a touch too sensitive. This, plus the lack of haptic feedback makes it difficult to judge if you’ve actually pressed one, two or three times, and whether the sensor is reading the presses correctly.
It does have audio feedback to help distinguish the different commands: one beep to indicate stopping the current playback as well as when volume changes; two beeps when skipping to the next track; and a ping when activating voice commands.
The issue, however, is that the touch sensors make the controls an exercise in trial-and-error. We have had many instances of stopping a playback (one tap) or accidentally activating the voice assistant (three taps) when trying to adjust the volume (two taps).
The E3511 comes with IP44 rating, making it resistant to water splashes and dust particles bigger than 1mm. It won’t suffer if you are caught out in the rain, but water submergence is a definite no-no.
It utilises Bluetooth 5.2 and the connection is generally stable up to 10 metres. However, we noticed some latency when watching videos, where the audio would sometimes lag behind the on-screen content. We don’t know if that’s a particular issue with the set we have or something on our phone, so that’s something to keep in mind.
The left and right earbuds can also be used solo if you so wish. Just grab the earbud you want from the charging case and it will pair up via Bluetooth to your phone seamlessly. Touch functions are still tied to the respective earpiece so know that you will lose some control.
The microphone works as intended, but is nothing to sing home about. It functions fine in a relatively quiet location like your room, in your car, or in the garden, though sound quality does go down in noisy environments.
All in all, the Nokia Essential True Wireless Earphones E3511 is a decent pair of earphones when it comes to audio quality and comfort. It suffers from a somewhat weak ANC and what we felt were badly placed touch sensors; you have to be constantly mindful when you are touching the earphones, lest you accidentally trigger commands you didn’t intend to make. At its retail price of S$149, however, we find that there are better options out in the market in the S$100-plus price range.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Nokia Essential True Wireless Earphones E3511 works fine, but disappoints in its lacklustre ANC and badly-positioned, oversensitive touch controls.
Aesthetics - 6/10
Build Quality - 6/10
Performance - 5/10
Value - 5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 5/10