Review of the Sony/Ericsson T200


The T200 is the newest entry-level phone from Ericsson offered by Fido, but unlike previous bottom end models, this one is loaded with features. It therefore promised to be a terrific phone, but as youíll see, I came away with very mixed feelings about it.

Last Updated: 15-Sep-2002

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

General

Stylistically, the T200 follows in the mold of the T68, with bulgy sides and a rounded top. In terms of size and weight, the T200 isnít really that much bigger than the T68. When I was picking up the T200 for evaluation, I directly compared it to a T68. Both phones are about the same width and depth, but the T68 is slightly shorter top-to-bottom. I didnít weigh the phones, but in an impromptu balance test, they felt markedly similar. I later checked the weights listed on various web pages, and my initially feelings were correct. The T200 weighs 85 grams, and the T68i weighs 84 grams.

Construction is fairly tight, and the phone is mostly free of creaks and groans during normal use. Unfortunately, the model I tested had a positively hideous keypad. The four-way cursor was stiff and cheap feeling. The other keys werenít much better, with stiffer-than-usual feel, and only mediocre feedback. Yes, the keypad was better than the one on the T18z, but that isnít saying much.

Phone ergonomics isnít the greatest either, but itís certainly better than many phones on the market these days. The generous square ďtrenchĒ around the earpiece ensures that the phone has a fairly broad ďsweet spotĒ, and so finding a comfortable position on your ear is relatively easy.

The screen isnít huge, but it seems to have plenty of real estate, and excellent readability. Unlike other new Ericsson phones though, it does not offer a choice of font sizes. Fortunately however, the standard font is a good balance between legibility and volume of content. The display includes a deep-blue electro-luminescent backlight, which produces no interference to the audio that I could detect.

The menu system is quite good, and it borrows from the last couple of years worth of Ericsson phones. In other words, the menu scheme should be immediately familiar to anyone with experience of Ericsson phones. The left and right keys on the four-way cursor allow you to select a main menu, while the up and down keys let you scroll through the menus. Oddly though, you canít use the left or right keys to select a sub-menu item. Those keys do nothing while in a sub-menu.

Secondary menus are abundant, and provided by an unmarked bluish key on the left side of the phone under the Yes button. Iíve often complained that Ericsson doesnít provide enough context-sensitive menus, but the T200 seems to cover this issue better previous models. It could still do with some improvement, but itís otherwise more than adequate.

Extra abound. The phone supports picture messaging, multiple part SMS, custom ringtones, screen saver, games, calendar, clock, alarms, and all the other toys that weíve come to expect from Ericssonís high-end phones. In this respect, the T200 has a terrific toy-to-cost ratio that should please the gadget freaks.

The phone is even a tri-band, and it supports GPRS. However, to use GPRS you are going to have to get a cable, since the T200 doesnít have an IR port or Bluetooth. GPRS is primary provided for the purposes of packet-switched web surfing on the phoneís microbrowser. This is especially important now that Microcell Connexions no longer supports circuit-switched WAP browsing.

RF Performance and Audio Quality

In terms of audio quality however, the T200 is only average. It neither impressed me, nor did it repulse me. To the average user, the T200 will sound just fine, but for more demanding users, especially those used to a phone such as the Motorola P280, the T200 will sound a tad sub-par. Having said that though, I should also note that most conversations I had on the phone sounded quite clean, and if I were forced to use the phone day-to-day, Iím sure I could learn to be quite happy with its sound.

Earpiece volume is a bit low, but not overly so. As I noted earlier, the sweet spot is fairly broad, and so you donít have to constantly shift the phone around looking for that location where the volume is the loudest. This is mostly due to the fact that Ericsson put a square ďtroughĒ in the faceplate to stop your ear from cutting off the holes through which the sound emanates.

Outgoing sound quality was slightly above average, but again it was nothing stellar. In side-by-side comparisons with the P280 the T200 sounded a bit hollow and tinny, but not by that great a margin. Iíve tested many phones that sounded markedly worse than that. Iíd have to say that your callers probably wouldnít mind how you sound, but they certainly wonít think you are calling from a landline.

RF performance is also a mixed bag. The T200 really shines in terms of handoff management. Throughout all of my tests, I found handoffs to be far less noticeable than on virtually any other GSM phone Iíve tested. Only the P280 and V60g make handoffs sound better, and even then, it is only by a slim margin, and subject to personal interpretation.

Where the T200 doesnít do so well is in an area that Ericsson phones have traditionally done poorly, which is RF sensitivity. Compared to the P280, the T200 is not particularly good. In many locations where I could carry on a perfectly interference-free call on the P280, the T200 could barely find service. Even if it did, the audio broke up badly, and was difficult to hear.

The funny thing abound RF sensitivity is that you can only detect a problem when you compare one phone to another. If the only phone you own is a T200, you would have absolutely nothing to reference it to, and so when signals became too weak to sustain a call, youíd merely assume that all phones would be in the same boat. The bottom line here is, for most people RF sensitivity is probably a moot point, but for those wishing to get the most RF performance out of a phone, the T200 isnít the way to go.

Summary

So in the end, I couldnít see myself using a T200 as my day-to-day phone, but at the same time, I can see a lot people being very pleased with it. More importantly, I can easily see most people paying the extra money to get the T200 over the V-Tech A700, which has far fewer features, worse audio quality, and approximately equal RF capabilities. Bottom end phones donít usually get much better than this, and in that context, I would highly recommend the T200 to anyone looking to buy an inexpensive phone on Fido.

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