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Review of GSM-handset Sony Ericsson W200i
The area of music heavy handsets has been in Sony Ericsson’s field of view for about two years now, and the fact is, the company has proven to be much of a success there. However lately almost each and every maker has thought that it is “do-or-die” to come up with own music-centric offerings for various price-brackets. That is why, in an effort to maintain its formerly undisputed leadership in the niche of music-minded phones, Sony Ericsson presented its entry-level Walkman proposal going by the name of the W200i the other day. Unwilling to make the things complicated by struggling to trump everything else with an all-new design, the developers preferred to take advantage of the time-proven “duos”. But in this very case we are dealing with a “trio” actually, as Sony Ericsson W200i is modeled after K310i/K320i, which, in their turn, share every last thing but trims and some functionality.
The model comes in two colors – Pulse White and Rhythm Black, and design-wise is pretty much like a simplified version of the W800i and the K750i respectively. The light-colored W200i sports ivory-painted front and rear plates, while the casing is edged by an orange string. The darker edition of the handset though is made entirely of black plastic, saving for Walkman logos, dedicated player button and the joystick’s rim, which are all orange. In terms of dimensions the newcomer’s casing is akin to what we experienced with its “big brothers”: the W200i’s 101x44x18 mm compared to 100x46x20.5 mm put up by the W800i. Sony Ericsson W200i gets a bit narrower on the back panel, but it still manages to fit in hands well. The device weights 85 g.
The W200i’s shell is made of plastic you can rely on, but what we do like is its build quality and the sturdy feel it delivers – all details are well-attuned, nothing seems loose or sounds creaky. The music player shortcut button is positioned more towards the top end on the left, but it’s not of much use since it allows only for starting up the application, requiring you to push the joystick to get a track playing. Honestly, it is not a very convenient solution. A bit lower is a flap-covered M2 memory cards slot, overall it is done in a beautiful way meaning that you won’t have any problems with interacting with the memory cards at least, on top of that the W200i comes included with a card 128 Mb big, which is not too much of space, to begin with, but still enough for storing 1-2 albums of your favorite band. Those who feel deeply unsatisfied with this little onboard memory will have to get a more capacious M2, topping out at 1 Gb at present.
The top end traditionally houses the power button and Infrared window, gotten together within a monolith plate made of black glossy plastic, next to it are two holes serving as a carrying strap slot.
Much of the W200i’s rear real estate is taken up by the battery cover sporting the speaker’s grill and a socket for the lens of the built-in camera, lacking a protective glass, which is not badly needed here though. First, it is sunk deep into the casing, and second, a VGA camera could hardly oblige someone to treat it with some sort of awe.
The right side plays host to the volume rocket key doubling as a track switcher while in the playback mode (long press) – but after all, it is no different from what we saw on the W800i. This button is a breeze when it comes to handling it or pressing it blindly.
As always, at the bottom you will find Fast Port socket, enabling you to link you the phone with a charger, USB data cable or a headset, but you can opt for any standard 3.5 mm headphones in this case, keeping in mind that Sony Ericsson’s headset consists of two parts: a remote, which is an antenna for the radio and a microphone, as the earphones themselves.
The upper half of the phone’s face is occupied by the display, which, similarly to the W800i, is covered by a thick layer of transparent plastic preventing it from getting scratched or damaged in any other way. The screen itself sports a resolution of 128x160 pixels, utilizing UBC technology, so the image suffers from the old pixel-illness, being not too bright and crisp on top of that and becoming washed out in the sun, yet remaining readable even in that case. The display accommodates up to 7 text lines, apart from the service lines (in help and tips windows), in other modes it can keep up to 6 text and 2 service lines at a time, as well as the status bar indicating signal strength and battery life. The display is capable of 65 K colors.
People familiar with Sony Ericsson W800i will feel themselves right at home once they get their eyes down on the keypad. All buttons are arranged in the same four plastic-inserts-separated lines without being spaced out too much horizontally, but this time around the keys are made of pretty much different type of plastic and stick out of the otherwise flat surface to a greater extent. We had no serious gripes with the keys – with the bulk they have, you should really put some effort into making a wrong press. The buttons are evenly (or almost – the flanks are somewhat out of focus) lit in orange, typing in the dark is not an issue with the W200i.
Unlike the numberpad, the joystick and the soft-keys were a bit of disappointment. As for the joystick, it feels solid and is somewhat hard to lean, that’s why after first 10-15 minutes of playing around with the handset you thumb literally aches. The soft-keys flank the joystick and are laid out pairwise. For more ease-of-use they are slightly uplifted on the edges, but not just about everyone will be able to master blind-typing with these – mistakes are not such a rare thing, after all.
The handset carries a 750 mAh Li-Ion battery, and as the manufacturer claims, it can keep the W200i up and running for 7 hours in talk mode and up to 360 hours in standby. In conditions of Moscow networks the device lasted 2 days at 15 minutes of calls, 9 hours of music playback and pretty heavy usage of other functions. It takes the phone about 1.5 hours to charge up from empty to full.
The main menu includes 12 items arranged in a 3x4 grid, but you can please yourself with a “whirl” layout, which the W200i also comes pre-installed with. Navigating in the menu can be done both via the joystick or fast number shortcuts, which is way handier, furthermore, tabbed structure of some items like Phonebook and Calls History delivers even more convenience.
Phonebook. Like most of the other Sony Ericsson-branded devices, the W200i holds 1000 empty entries in its phonebook. Each contact may be bound up with 5 different numbers (mobile, work, home, fax, other) but for each type you can submit only one number, so assigning to “mobile” phone numbers to one contact is impossible. In addition to the phone numbers you can also add an e-mail and URL, home and work address of the contact, birthday date and also additional information. On top of that you are free to set up a personal image and ringtone for any entry.
As it always happens with Sony Ericsson’s handsets, accessing contacts stored on SIM card is a major bother, as they can be viewed only a separate list. Apparently, over at the company they think that once you get your hands on a phone you start making best use of its build-in memory alone, where all new entries end up in.
Not only does the W200i can get its phonebook synchronized with a desktop PC – it also comes in with BackUp feature onboard, which is a very handy way of saving you contacts onto the memory card.
Even though you can create groups of your own, they can be used only for sending messages to multiple at once, since you cannot personalize them with own pictures or ringtones.
Messages. The W200i brings nothing new to the table in terms of messages management, compared to other Sony Ericsson-labeled models. At the initial stage you are offered to pick from SMS, MMS and a voice message. Besides, the handset feels at ease with e-mail as well – all you have got to do is state account name, address, Internet connection profile and connection type (POP3/IMAP). However it is no different from other devices belonging to the same class, e-mails can be saved on the memory card.
Games. This item plays host to 2 games - QuadraPop (another way of playing tetris) and 3D-arcade Treasure Towers, where your alter-ego has to get out of a tower before it gets filled up with water.
Creative folks will be happy with PhotoDJ and MusicDJ: the former app allows you to slightly edit images, while using the latter making up own tunes by tuning four sound tracks bring a lot of fun.
The last item on the list is Sound Recorder enabling you to make voice notes, whose length is limited only by the amount of free memory you currently have, at that these clips may be used as ring tones.
Camera. The bundled camera sports a resolution of 640x480 pixels and 4x zoom feature, plus an ability to record small video clips (in 3gp with a resolution of up to 176x144 pixels). While the settings pool here is poor, it is what you would normally come to expect from a camera this cheap.
Organizer. This very functionality, which is common for phones coming from Sony Ericsson, though, packs a lot of stuff, like calendar, tasks and notes (even though merging these two would make some sense, but developers seemingly considered that ease of use should be above all else).
Month- and week-views are available with the W200i’s calendar, with the possibility of drawing up a schedule for a particular day and setting up reminders, the bad thing is that all events turn out to be the same type-wise, so that you will end up submitting names, place, date, duration and setting up optional reminder manually. Recurrent events are unfortunately missing on the W200i, thus it can’t be helped, but to get everything in gear manually.
On task submission you are offered to choose its type – Task or Call – which is a binary choice, to start with, but at the end of the day enough for day-to-day routine, as you type in its name and set up a reminder if required afterwards.
Notes is nothing but an application letting you save any text you typed in – more than just simple, isn’t it?
Calculator, countdown timer, stopwatch and code memo have been around in Sony Ericsson’s phones for quite a while and haven’t changed a bit over that time, so we would rather pass them by now.
Applications. The handset carries two Java-applications onboard: FaceWarp and Music Mate which should be familiar to many from the prior models. The former app allows taking portrait snaps and then twist and shake them whichever way you like, while Music Mate is a sort of teach-yourself book for mastering instruments.
Alarm clock. For reasons unknown, the alarm clock in Sony Ericsson W200i got singled out in a special menu item, but following in the footsteps of most unsophisticated models, the W200i has to offer only two alarm clocks: single and recurrent alarms, which can be set up to trigger off on certain weekdays. Tunes that will wake you up or warn about something is chosen separately.
WAP. It comes as no surprise that Internet connections have a menu item of their own. By default the W200i makes use of NetFront-browser, which allows viewing html-pages, creating folders, making bookmarks etc. While surfing the web is seemingly trouble-less, the first thing that will come across your mind will be how limited the browser’s abilities are – complicated and “heavy” pages (over 500 Kb) are not supported.
Settings. This item holds five tabs inside, which allow altering the menu appearance, set up ring tones and sound notifications, modify profiles, manage calls and handle data connections.
General list plays host to profile, date and time, menu and input language, voice functions and security settings.
Sound & Alerts item presents you with volume adjustment tools, as well as tunes selection, messages alert and key tones. Pay attention, all these settings will be in effect only for the currently active sound profile.
The display settings include wallpaper and screensaver, theme, greeting message, display brightness and watch for the standby screen. Overall there are four themes that come along with the W200i - Cheerful, Default, Orange orbit and Stencil art – which are all good and nice and keep the menu layout untouched, changing only its visual appearance, with Cheerful theme being the only exception, since it turns the default menu grid into a whirl. However sub-menus look no different from before even with this theme applied.
Calls section is pretty much standard, so no comments are required here, but really does draw attention is how deserted the Connectivity menu is. It has only Internet connection settings, carrier selection and a couple of data transfer protocols – Infrared and USB with Bluetooth module being left out in the W200i.
Player. Even though this application is in fact the centerpiece in the W200i, it is nothing to shout about in general, as it is a replica of those players found in other Walkman-branded models, allowing you to playback mp3- and aac-tunes, as well as 3gp and mpeg4-coded video clips. Tracks may be played either randomly or sequentially, loop is also enabled on the phone along with playlists. The run-of-the-mill equalizer presents you with 5 manageable bands and should you not be willing to get into manual adjustment, the W200i comes pre-installed with some presets: Bass, Voice, Tremble and so on. The player has nothing against working in background mode, on top of that in Sony Ericsson W200i you can turn the network part off locking all functions out but music playback.
Radio matches those apps coming in other Walkman’s and doesn’t need any special note. This application has support for RDS and can keep up to 20 FM-stations in its memory bank. The reception quality is not bad at all.
The 40-chord polyphony found on the W200i doesn’t save the day for mp3 tracks, where some deeper basses would be most welcome. The speaker here is quite weak, meaning that at full blast it won’t live up to your probably high hopes, and furthermore, its volume limit is not that high at all – while carrying the phone in a pocket it’s not a big deal to miss a call. The silent alert is average strength-wise and might be not felt in a jacket, but for the most part it is much of an issue. The reception quality delivered by the W200i is good and matches that put up by other Sony Ericsson-branded handsets.
What we were really pleasantly surprised with is the default headset the W200i comes boxed with. The headphones are standard earbuds, but as Sony Ericsson claims, the HPM-64 boast better performance at low frequencies thanks to «Bass Reflex». To tell the truth I had though that it’d been just another trick invented by the marketologists, but the facts proved me wrong – compared to HPM-70 stereo-headset, which comes in one box with Sony Ericsson W800i and the W300i, the HPM-64 deliver much more natural and penetrating sound right to your ears. After having them around for some time, I couldn’t just go for the HPM-70 again, even though they are subjectively superior convenience-wise.
The figures acquired in four versions of JBenchmark did some more-than-expected surprises – the W200i is a match for a mid-range Walkman handset, Sony Ericsson W300i, and even surpasses them in some ways.
The most crucial letdown of Sony Ericsson W200i is definitely its lack of Bluetooth model. It is beyond doubt that not all consumers use it to its fullest, but still, the vast majority of handsets owners have already come to master Bluetooth and think of it as an integral part of any phone. All we can do now is hope that similarly to the K310i, who got a successor in the form of the Bluetooth-enabled K320i, Sony Ericsson W200i will be updated to “W210i” which will show off Bluetooth..
On PC connection via USB data cable, the phone can work in one of two modes: Phone mode and Data transfer. To get the former mode work you will need extra software (otherwise it won’t be identified and connection will be a waste then), while the latter mode is seamlessly picked up as USB Mass Storage Device by your operating system, thus the W200i easily doubles as a portable drive.
Other than that this phone does very well for its class – at 200 USD it is more likely to occupy top spots in sales charts, in light of the fact that Sony Ericsson W200i doesn’t have any reasonable rivals as of today.
Indirect competition may come from Nokia 5200 positioned pretty much in the same price-bracket, and while the spec sheets of these handsets are comparable, Nokia’s offspring arrives in the market with some significant trumps onboard, such as EDGE support and Bluetooth module.
Published 26 January 2007
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