Review of the Huawei Ascend Y300


The Huawei Ascend Y300 is a super-low-end phone that is presently sold in Canada by Bell Mobility as an entry-level prepaid phone. They usually sell it for $100 outright, but at the time of this writing (leading up to Christmas no doubt) you can buy one for just $80. It might even be possible to get it even cheaper elsewhere.

Last Updated: 15-Dec-2013

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

So what does $80 buy you? And how does it stand up to the Motorola Moto G, which sells for around $180 (on sale for $150 from Koodo at the time of this writing)? Letís find outÖ

RF Performance

Like the Moto G, the Y300 does not support LTE. I guess LTE chipsets still cost too much money and would unnecessarily raise the price of the phone. However, you do still get HSPA, though surprisingly just 7.2 Mbps HSPA. Itís been quite some time since we had phones that didnít support HSPA speeds higher than this. Even 2 to 3 years ago, support for 21.6 Mbps was common, and many phones also supposed dual channel HSPA which effectively provided a theoretical maximum of 43.2 Mbps. My Nokia N95 8GB from 2008 supported 7.2 Mbps HSPA, and it quickly became out-of-date.

I headed downstairs to my basement to see how well the Y300 worked when the service was weakened. For the most part, it managed to sustain similar speeds to the Samsung Galaxy S4, despite having a lesser HSPA radio. This is probably because under the conditions found in my basement none of the HSPA+ features work and the radio falls back to the lesser air interface anyway.

I next moved on to my dryer, which makes an excellent Faraday Cage for weakening the signal even further. This demonstrated that the Y300 doesnít have quite as much RF sensitivity and it will loose service when the S4 can hang on to it, but the margins are slim. Since the Moto G performed just as well as the S4 in HSPA, we can infer that that the S4 is an acceptable stand-in for the Moto G in this test. The conclusion is therefore this: the Y300 holds up well in weak service areas, but it doesnít quite match the Moto G when the signal gets really weak. Top-end transfer rates however will be limited by the radio technology used in this device.

WiFi Performance

For the price, you really wouldnít expect much from a phone like this, but surprisingly it does exceptionally well. During tests I performed on the Y300, along with the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and the LG G2, the Y300 actually did the best of the lot and it came the closest to matching the performance of my Galaxy S4.

When it comes to maximum speed however, the phone seems to top out at 15 Mbps, though this isnít surprising because top speed is a function of processor power and not the WiFi chip per se. When signals get weak however, the Y300 can provide data speeds that are the equal of, or better than, the other 3 phones I tested.

Audio Performance

The native earpiece in the Y300 acquits itself nicely, with pretty good tonal balance (itís just a tiny bit peaky) and volume that can at least match what the Moto G has to offer. The speakerphone sounds good, but it wasnít particularly loud. I didnít have a Moto G to compare with directly, but based on what Iíd said about the Moto G speakerphone however, the Y300 is likely quite close in both volume and clarity.

Multimedia Audio

This aspect of the phone was actually a big surprise. I had expected pretty awful audio from this device, but what I got instead was quite pleasant. It beats the Moto G, LG G2, and Xperia Z1, all of which had very tinny sound that actually very annoying. In fact, the Y300 is very much like the Moto X, which also delivers a pleasant tone at the expense of the high end. Maximum volume could do with being a somewhat louder, but overall listening to multimedia audio on the Y300 is, as I stated at the beginning of this paragraph, very PLEASANT.

Display

You donít expect much in a phone in this price class, but when you compare it with the much more expensive S3 Mini you get a surprisingly good display. Like the S3 Mini it offers 800 x 480 on a 4-inch panel, but unlike the S3 Mini it does not use Pentile sub-pixels and as a result it actually provides crisper text and more solid colors. The S3 Mini has the advantage of an AMOLED screen, which provides deeper blacks and richer colors. The Moto G completely blows it away however, with an incredibly good 1280 x 720 screen that is anything but low-end.

The screen brightness changes quite a bit as you move from looking straight on. Horizontally it just gets dimmer the closer to 90 degrees you get, but vertically it is its darkest at 45 degrees, and then gets brighter toward 90 degrees. There is very little color or contrast distortion as viewing angle increases, which actually makes it a better display in that regard than the 1080p screen of the Xperia Z1.

The glass is billed as SCRATCH-RESISTANT, but itís not Gorilla Glass and it seems to have absolutely no anti-grease coating at all. Given those realities, youíll DEFINITELY want to buy a PET screen protector for this phone. Even if you donít care about protecting the screen against scratches, the PET sheets do provide a reasonable amount of oil resistance. As it stands, the glass on the screen of the Y300 is a fingerprint magnet.

Processor and Chipset

The Y300 comes with a fairly lackluster dual-core processor clocked at 1.0 GHz, coupled with an Adreno 203 GPU. This particular combination yields very disappointing performance. Simply put, the phone is a SLUG. Its responsiveness is at least as poor as the first-generation single-core Samsung Galaxy phones and SMOOTH is NOT a word that would ever spring from your lips while working with this device.

Perhaps Iíve just become spoiled over the years, but I found the sluggishness of this phone profoundly annoying. This was especially true after Iíd spent time playing with the Moto G, which is refreshingly snappy for a low-end model. It may be $100 more expensive, but itís not difficult to FEEL what youíre getting for your money with a Moto G.

Camera

When it comes to still shots, the Y300 doesnít really do any better or any worse than either the Moto G or the S3 Mini. All of these cameras provide passable 5 megapixel cameras that are great for taking shots to post on your social media streams, but not much else. Surprisingly the Y300 has a front-facing camera. Youíd think with all the cost-cutting they were doing on this model theyíd have opted to leave out the second camera, even though it is just a 640 x 480 device.

However, itís the video aspect that is surprisingly outdated. It has been ages since Iíve tested a phone whose highest video resolution is just 480p. It almost seems impossible to wrap my head around the idea that phones are still sold today that have this kind of limitation. This is probably a restriction imposed by the low processing power available in this phone.

GPS

After the horrifically poor GPS performance in the top-of-the-line LG G2, itís actually refreshing to find such a good performer in the Y300. Now granted this chip only supports GPS (no Glonass), but the receiver is quite sensitive and it can find a lock very quickly. The lack of Glonass will result in great inaccuracy in the cavernous downtown areas of cities, and the tree-covered roads in the country, but at least it works well.

In a related note, the Y300 does not have a compass. Thatís something Iíve never encountered in my years of testing smartphones. Any app that relies on a compass still runs without error, but there is NO compass data to read. The phone does however support the standard accelerometer.

Battery Life

The Y300 only has a 1730 mAh battery, but thatís actually larger than the measly 1500 mAh battery provided with the S3 Mini. Itís smaller than the 2070 mAh battery in the Moto G. I didnít do extensive testing, but the battery life is actually not too bad for a low-end phone.

Android

The Y300 comes only with Android 4.1, which puts it well behind the Moto G which presently comes with Android 4.3 (and will soon get 4.4 it seems). Even the S3 Mini, which isnít worth the $250 they want for it, comes with 4.2.2.

Conclusions

I came away from this review with a fairly good idea of what $100 ($80 on-sale) can buy you in a smartphone, and it isnít much. Huawei have gone to great lengths to keep costs low and they pass that along to you in the form of a low price, but the sacrifices youíll have to make are daunting.

While the Y300 is actually not too shabby when it comes to phone duties, it leaves much to be desired in the smartphone department. The Moto G is simply light years better than the Y300, but it does cost $80 more (when these devices arenít on sale). However, unless you are pinching every penny (and $80 is an obscene amount EXTRA to spend on something that already does PRETTY MUCH what you want), then the Y300 is a poor choice. The Moto G is just so much better that youíll probably end up wishing youíd bought one anyway. It reminds me of the old expression ďbuy right or buy twiceĒ.

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