Review of the Ericsson T300


The Sony-Ericsson T300 is an inexpensive phone with a few surprising features. For those who value features over functionality it is probably one of the better choices offered by Fido. For those who demand a good quality phone with their features, the T300 might not be such a good choice.

Last Updated: 29-Dec-2003

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

General

The T300 isnít a particularly smart-looking phone, instead its just one of Ericssonís box-with-a-screen-and-keypad designs. However I would be the first to admit that looks donít matter much to me personally, so long as itís a good-quality phone under that nondescript exterior. Sadly the T300 is not a particularly great phone, despite some surprising features, such as a color screen, an optional camera attachment, and a POP3 email client.

Letís begin with the color screen, which is rather poor quality compared to what we are seeing on other phones these days. Itís virtually impossible to see without the backlight, and when the backlight is illuminated the colors are very washed-out, it has very low resolution (only 101 x 80 pixels), and it displays only 256 colors. 256 colors are simply not enough to render a color photograph, even though this phone supports an add-on camera. To be fair though, the screen wasnít any worse than on the low-end color Nokia phones.

Despite the clean traditional layout of the keypad, I wasnít very thrilled with it. The keys all felt a bit loose, and they were also a bit stiff. Still, despite that they seemed to actuate accurately, and so my issue with the keypad was really one of tactile feel rather than functionality. The 5-way joystick nipple seemed to work well enough, and I rarely had a problem with it doing the opposite of what I expected. Again, I just didnít like the feel of it.

The menus were standard Ericsson, with few differences between the T300 and countless other Ericsson phones presently on the market. This is a similar marketing strategy to that used by Nokia, who have also tried to retain a sense of stability throughout their model lines by sticking with a well-known menu scheme. I agree with the idea, but as with Nokia it tends to hold Ericsson back from fixing any long-standing annoying aspects of the design. If you are accustomed to Ericsson menus and like them, then you should feel right at home using the T300. Sadly the phone has a horrendously slow processor, and menu speed is detectably slow. This is very annoying.

The feature set is fairly standard for a low-end phone, but with a few surprising exceptions. The first is Ericssonís excellent POP3 email client. This feature allows you to send and receive email directly from your POP3 email accounts. You can attach photographs to outgoing email, but the phone completely ignores incoming attachments. It hasnít got the necessary hardware or software to deal with attachments, nor does it have enough internal memory (only 400 kilobytes).

It also has an IR port, thus allowing you to use the T300 as a wireless GPRS modem for your laptop or palm device. Many low-end phones do not include this feature.

You can buy an optional plug-in camera that allows you to take 640x480 photographs. The quality of the MCA-25 is actually quite good, and it handily beats out the built-in cameras in the Ericsson P800 and P900 models in terms of lens quality. Unlike the expensive P800 and P900 phones, the focus is excellent all around, as you can see from the sample photographs appearing at the bottom of this review. It also doesnít suffer form the pixilation problems that I demonstrated on the P800.

The only real limitation is that viewing the photographs on the phone is horrible. Because the screen only supports 256 simultaneous colors and has such low resolution, the pictures look weird at best. Fortunately they look fine once you transfer them to your computer.

The phonebook feature isnít anything to write home about, but it does allow you to store 3 phones numbers and an email address with each name. The latter allows you to easy send email messages to your friends using the previously-mentioned POP3 email client. Oddly you canít send an email from the phonebook directly. You are only allowed to start an email from the Messages menu, and then select a name form the phonebook. This is a very unfortunately oversight.

Text entry is by way of a fairly good T9 implementation. The scheme works well, but the phone is horribly slow, and has to catch up with you as you quickly press keys. This makes text entry feel very unnatural, and especially difficult if you make a mistake along the way. Nokia implementations are usually much better than this.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

I wasnít expecting much in terms of RF sensitivity, especially in light of Ericssonís reputation for building phones with poor RF capabilities. The excellent showing the by the P800 proved that they could build a good-performing phone if they wanted to, but would that translate to a low-end phone. In terms of RF sensitivity it does. The T300 is just as capable of pulling in a weak signal as its far more expensive brother the P800. It isnít quite as sensitive as my Nokia 6310i, but itís not far off.

Sadly the over-the-road performance of the phone isnít as good as the P800. The T300 has a terrible phone when it comes to handoffs. They sound both belabored and disruptive. I have used far worse phones (the Motorola P333 comes to mind), but compared to the P800 (or my 6310i) the T300 just doesnít work awfully well when on the move.

Sound quality is a mixed bag. The tonal balance is a bit tinny, but itís not really that bad overall. Sound reproduction is very clean (and much better than the P800, which sounds scratchy). Unfortunately itís hard to enjoy the sound given that it isnít very loud. The T300 is barely loud enough on Fido, and Iíd shudder to think how faint it would sound on Rogers (which has noticeably lower audio volume than Fido). Like the P800, outgoing sound quality is very good.

I got to keep the T300 for two weeks, and during that time I was repeatedly disappointed with its overall performance and sound quality whenever I took calls on it. My callers never complained due to the good outgoing sound quality, but I either had trouble hearing them (if they werenít particularly loud to begin with), or the handoffs messed things up so much that I had to ask them to repeat themselves too often.

So even though the T300 has some great features for a phone in its price range, the performance of it as a phone is poor, and not likely to thrill anyone whoís had an opportunity to try something better. However, for users new to PCS itís not a bad phone, but one has to hope they donít listen to a friendís Siemens A56, or Motorola V60i (both of which sell for approximately the same price, but offer superior RF and audio qualities).

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While the quality of the T300 photo doesn't come close to matching that of the Coolpix 990 (in 640 x 480 mode) it was markedly better than the results I got on the expansive P800.

(Above) Photo taken with the MCA-25 camera attached to the T300
(Above) Same view taken with a Nikon Coolpix 990 in 640x480 mode

Despite that somewhat poor showing in outdoor lighting, the MCA-25 did markedly better on indoor portraits, as seen in the next two samples. Note, this is not me in the picture, but some of you may know this face. He asked me not to mention his name.

(Above) Photo taken with the MCA-25 camera attached to the T300
(Above) Taken with a Nikon Coolpix 990 in 640x480 mode

 

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