Sony Ericsson W300i


The Sony Ericsson W300i is a low-end quad-band GSM phone. It sports lots of features that make it seem higher-end than it really is, such as a camera, MP3 player, Bluetooth, removable memory stick, voice activation, and speakerphone.

The Sony Ericsson W300i is available on Fido.


Special thanks to StudentPhones for lending the W300i for this review.

Last Updated: 23-Nov-2006

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

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: I havenít tested a Sony Ericsson GSM phone in quite some time, but previous experiences with their products have usually been positive experiences when it comes to this aspect of performance. I therefore expected some really excellent showing by this phone, and to some degree I wasnít disappointed.

However, the W300i that I tested couldnít quite hang on to a signal as long as my old 1900 MHz Nokia 6310i when tested in the various Halls of Shame over Square One. The margins were slight, but Iíd come to expect at least a small degree of superiority from phones that sported 850 MHz.

So, the bottom line is that the W300i does have very good RF sensitivity, but it isnít quite good enough to move it to the head of the class. However, it compares favorably with other much-loved low-end GSM models that Iíve tested over the years.

Over-the-road Performance: This was one area where Iíd never had any preconceived notions about the capabilities of Sony Ericsson products. Sadly to say however, I was quite disappointed with the manner in which the W300i handled over-the-road issues such as handoffs. The audio was disturbed in such a way as to make me feel as through the call was temporarily falling apart, which was a far cry from the vastly superior performance of the recently-tested Motorola PEBL.

Recent Nokia models have shown an improvement in this area, even though they have yet to come out with a design that can match some of the better Motorola offerings. The W300i harkens back to the earlier days of GSM service here in Canada when handoff performance of phones was iffy to say least.

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: While Iíd have to categorize the overall tonal balance of the native earpiece as a little tinny, thatís really quite misleading. I think it would be fair to say that the W300i is on the crisp side of excellent. What I mean is that the tonal balance is superb, but when compared to other excellent models the W300i sounds a little crisper and less bassy. Which kind of excellence you prefer to comes down to personal preference.

What the W300i doesnít have is a shred of shrillness, an iota of boominess, or a scintilla of harshness. And thatís a remarkable thing in phones these days.

Sound Reproduction: I wasnít quite so blown away by the sound reproduction however, as it wasnít as clear and distortion-free as the recently-tested Motorola PEBL. That Motorola phone demonstrated to what degree modern designs can reproduce audio from a GSM CODEC, and the W300i sadly does not come close.

However, the W300i is (like the PEBL) wonderfully free of background hiss and noise. Itís so quiet in the background that even in a totally noise-free room you have to strain your ears just to hear that the phone is turned on when thereís no one speaking at the other end. Youíd be surprised how few phones can achieve this lofty goal.

Earpiece Volume: While the W300i doesnít appear to support a volume-boosting feature, as we often see now on Nokia and Motorola models, it has more than enough earpiece volume to be crystal clear, even in a noisy food court. Youíll rarely ever have to turn the volume up all the way, but itís comforting to know that you have that extra headroom in the event that your caller is extra-faint, or you happen to be in a super-noisy environment.

Outgoing Audio: As usual I recorded tests onto my voicemail from various noisy and quite locations to see how the audio sounded to callers. The W300i isnít the greatest-sounding GSM phone Iíve ever tested, but it sounds pretty decent and it copes quite well with noisy backgrounds. It doesnít have the background-canceling talent of my Motorola i580, but it does a much better job of suppressing unwanted noise than my Nokia 6310i.

Speakerphone: I wouldnít rank this among the best speakerphones Iíve ever experienced, but the one offered on the W300i is at least loud enough to be genuinely useful in quiet rooms and moderately noisy environments. Unfortunately the overall sound quality of the speakerphone is quite poor and it doesnít inspire you to use it unless you absolutely have to.

The speaker is on the back of the phone, but because of the bizarre-looking handle it sports, the speaker is never able to touch the surface on which the phone has been placed, and so it usually doesnít make any difference one way or another.

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: This has to be one of the quietest-ringing phones Iíve ever tested. While itís great that you can assign pretty much anything you want as a ringtone, including voice notes you record yourself, the overall volume of the ringers (even with the ringer volume turned up to maximum) is laughably faint. Donít count on hearing this phone ring in a crowded shopping mall.

Keypad Design: After experiencing the featureless flat keypad of the Motorola PEBL/RAZR it was hard to imagine that anyone could conceive of a worse keypad, but kudos to Sony Ericsson for pulling off the impossible. Clearly the keypad on the W300i was designed for looks and not for functionality.

While the keys press with good tactile feel, the problem is the ridiculous overlapped design. I donít exactly have monster thumbs, but mine are too big to accurately use the keypad on the W300i without accidentally actuating the key above. I can only image how much a pest this thing is going to be for men with even larger thumbs. Perhaps woman (or men) with small thumbs wonít have a problem with this.

The 4-way cursor key is actually not bad, except the itty-bitty recessed excuse for a center button. Thankfully the function of that button is almost always duplicated on the left softkey, which in itself suggests that the engineers at Sony Ericsson knew full well that the key was too small.

I also wasnít too pleased with the lack of dedicated TALK and END buttons. These functions have been relegated to the softkeys, and while it works for the most part, the subjugating of two of the most important keys on a phoneís keypad is an inexcusable design flaw that was no doubt done to satisfy the styling department.

Display: The inner display sports 262,000 colors (18-bit color depth) with a screen resolution of only 160 x 128 pixels. The resolution is therefore a bit disappointing, but the display works well, even in bright light. Use of the available screen real estate is usually quite good, with a few puzzling exceptions.

For example, when typing in phone number, the font chosen for displaying your entered keys is too large to fit more than 9 digits. So, since most places in North America are now on 10-digit dialing, your entered phone numbers ALWAYS awkwardly wrap the last digit around to a second line.

Aside from this quibble however, I had no real complaints about the inner display or how it was used.

The outer display is quite impressive with a resolution of 101 x 80 pixels. The display is only monochrome however, and itís presented in reverse (orange-on-black). Sony Ericsson makes good use of this display for incoming calls and other status information. The font is a bit small however, and so up-close good eyesight is a must.

Icing on the Cake

Camera: The camera provided with the W300i is just a VGA model with a resolution of 640 x 480. While it has good color saturation and reasonably consistent focus across the entire frame, it produces images that are just too poor to be of much value. If you use the camera solely for taking Caller ID pictures or wallpaper, it does the job.

MP3 Player: I would guess that associating the Sony Walkman name with a camera is to give you the impression that it has excellent music-playing capabilities. While I wouldnít use the ďexcellentĒ superlative, I will admit that the overall execution of this feature is very good. Sony Ericsson even provides a 256 MB Memory Stick Micro card with the phone. If you need more storage, you can buy Memory Sticks up to 1 GB in size.

I wasnít all that thrilled with the user interface of the MP3 player, perhaps due to being spoiled by a really first-rate program provided on my Motorola i580, but there was no denying the excellent sound quality on the supplied stereo earbuds. Right out of the box the W300i is really to provide you with hours of quality music.

Conclusions

Like the Motorola PEBL, I must admit that the W300i does many of the aspects I rate highly in a phone quite well. It has pretty decent audio quality and pretty decent RF performance, and it has a useable speakerphone and a good display. Sadly it does so many things wrong too, including a horrific keypad, faint ringtones, and a camera thatís so bad it barely matters whether the phone has one or not.

The price is ridiculous if bought outright or on a prepaid plan, but it drops to $25 if you are willing to go with a 3-year contract. At only $25 the phoneís overall lack of refinement is quite excusable and itís good qualities (namely audio and RF) may well be worth the other annoyances at this price point.

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