Review posted September 11, 2006 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Sony Ericsson announced the W300 back in February of 2006. It was the seventh Walkman phone in the series that focuses on a great music experience on top of a mobile phone. Along side of the Sony Ericsson W600 and the W810i, which are the higher-end models in the series, the W300i comes in a compact clamshell form with the Walkman music hardware controls, support for a wide variety of music formats and a Memory Stick Micro expansion slot. This quad-band GSM world phone sports EDGE for data, a VGA camera, an integrated FM radio, stereo audio, Bluetooth, Java for 3D gaming and syncing to desktop via PC Suite. That’s a sweet laundry list for a feature phone that sells for an affordable price. Cingular will likely announce this phone at CTIA around September 12, 2006 in the US. If you can’t wait or prefer another GSM carrier, you can buy the phone directly from Sony Ericsson’s web site for $299 unlocked, which means you can pop in your own SIM to use it.
Design and Ergonomics
The Sony Ericsson W300i is a compact clamshell phone that feels good in hand. If you have seen or used the Sony Ericsson Z525 then you’ll notice the resemblance. The W300i comes in two colors: Shadow Black and Shimmering White. We have the Shadow Black for this review. It’s a light phone at 3.3 ounces and has a two-tone body (black and silver in this case) that gives the phone a modern look. The front face houses the VGA camera and a self-portrait mirror and a 1” monochrome external display which shows basic info such as date and time, battery status, signal stats in standby mode and incoming call notification (no call ID photo on the external display) when a call is coming in, and track and volume status while playing music. The W300i has very few buttons on its sides- there is only the music control cluster of buttons on the left side that includes a play/pause button and up and down keys. The up and down keys control the volume when you press them quickly and they also function as a track selectors when you press and hold on them. When in a call, you can press these buttons to adjust the incoming voice volume. You will find an IR window on the right side of the phone.
On the back of the Sony Ericsson, you will find the loud speaker up top and the battery door below it. Open the battery door you will have the access to the user replaceable battery and the spring-loaded Memory Stick Micro card slot. Since you will need to open the battery door to get the storage card, the phone won’t shut down if you only open the door without removing the battery. The SIM card lives under the battery. The combined charging port/music headset port lives on the bottom of the W300i.
When you open the flip you will see the internal display and the ear piece on the top cover and the menu and functions keys, the number pad and the mic on the bottom half. The round 5-way directional pad is large enough for playing games and also functions as the quick launch for the camera app and navigation functions. Two Select keys, the Back key and the Clear key flank the d-pad. Below them is the number keypad which has orange backlight. The top row number keys are round while the rest of the number keys have been over-laid by the number keys above them, which make them look like up-facing PacMen. The layout is playful but gives you smaller to work with. I found myself hitting two keys by accident a few times too many. Below the number keypad you will find a small Walkman launch button on the left, the mic in the middle and the power on/off key on the right.
Phone Features and Reception
The Sony Ericsson W300i is a quad-band phone operating on the 850/900/1800//19000MHz frequencies, and will work anywhere in the world where GSM services are available. If you buy an unlocked version from Sony Ericsson, you can use it on either Cingular or T-Mobile networks in the US. If you buy the Cingular version, it will most likely be locked to Cingular. The Sony Ericsson W300i has EDGE Class 10 for data.
The W300i has great reception on Cingular here in North Dallas area where both Cingular has strong coverage. The phone gets full signal strength on the phone everywhere including indoors. Since we received the unlocked version for review, we also tested it with a T-Mobile US SIM. The TMO SIM gets full signal bars outdoors and 1 bar short of full strength in some indoor areas (T-Mobile coverage is also excellent here). Call clarity is very good on Cingular. The voice quality is crisp with no distortion and the volume is high. You can control the incoming volume using the music controls on the left side of the W300i. The Sony Ericsson supports most phone features such as speed dial (1-9), redial, conference call, call waiting, call forwarding, two voice lines, call recording, speakerphone and more. It also comes with a voice dialing feature, though not true voice command, which means you will need to record voice tags before using the voice dialing feature. One nice thing about the voice dialing on the W300i is that you can use it in conjunction with hands free solutions including Bluetooth headsets.
The EDGE speed is decent for data on the W300i. The Access NetFront browser bundled with the phone enhances the web surfing experience. It’s speedy by WAP browser standards and provides tools such as saving an image from a web page to your image folder, dialing a number if you highlight a phone number on a web page and other options. It handles most WAP sites with ease, and even can load some HTML pages. Should you buy the unlocked version rather than the pre-configured Cingular model, you’ll need to enter your carrier’s settings for data, MMS and email. The set-up is easy enough since you can go to www.sonyericsson.com/support and enter your device model and phone number, and you will receive a text message on your phone that will walk you through the connection setting process. Manual configuration isn’t needed on the Cingular version and all the data connection settings will be pre-loaded.
Storage and Expansion
The Sony Ericsson W300i has over 20MB of internal storage space out of the box (about 23MB on our unit). You can download additional applications, ringtones, images and videos from the web. The Sony Ericsson WAP portal offers some free applications such as World Clock, Converter and more. It’s worth a look. Once you’ve downloaded the jar files, you will find them in the Games folder by default.
Like the W710i and the K790a, the Sony Ericsson W300i has a Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot for storage and supports up to 1GB Memory Stick Micro cards. The Memory Stick PRO Duo used in the W810i would have been too big to fit in the W300i’s petite body. The tiny Memory Stick Micro, developed by Sony and SanDisk, is about one quarter the size of Memory Stick PRO Duo and is compatible with Memory Stick PRO card readers with an adapter. Oddly, Sony Ericsson included a 256MB Memory Stick Micro card with the W300i but no adapter.
Music, Gaming and Multimedia
Next to being a phone, the W300i really wants to be your music player. The Sony Ericsson comes with the Walkman set-up: hardware music controls, expansion slot for music storage, stereo headsets, USB cable for transferring music and Disc2Phone software to get music into your phone with tracks and albums info intact. You can use the included USB and PC Suite software to rip the CDs directly to your phone’s internal memory or the memory card. If you have an adapter, you can also put the music on the Memory Stick Micro card. Unlike some recent Verizon V Cast phones, the Sony Ericsson W300i supports a wide range of music and video formats including MP3, AAC, AMR, MIDI, IMY, EMY, WAV (16 kHz max) and MP4 as well as 3GP and 3GPP for streaming content. The music quality via the included Sony Ericsson stereo earbud headset is great with clear and crisp sound, full and deep bass and no audio distortion or noise at all. If you have higher-end headphones or audio speakers, you can hook them up via the included headset cable that has a 3.5mm jack. The Walkman player has Artists, Tracks and Playlists and you can shuffle lists and loop tracks as well.
The Sony Ericsson W300i has 3D gaming support and can play Java games. It comes with Neopets, PuzzleSlider and QuadraPop games and game-launching time is average. The d-pad on the Sony Ericsson provides good space for the game controls.
In addition to the music and video player, the W300i also comes with an integrated FM radio with RDS. You will need to plug in the hands free headset cord since the radio uses the cord as its antenna. The auto search in the Radio program skips ton of stations, so you might want to use the manual search function. The program gives you 20 favorite station settings.
Sony Ericsson pleased us with the W810i’s great camera quality that could rival some high-end Nokia camera phones. Alas the W300i is a lower end phone and has only a VGA camera with 4x digital zoom. The picture quality is quite good by VGA camera standards. You will notice a bit of the usual VGA camera phone noise in photos, but the color saturation is very good and colors are more balanced compared to many other VGA cameras, though it has a slight pink color tint. You can turn up the brightness for poorly lit areas but you will get some whiteout on reflective surfaces and white objects in your pictures. The camera can take still photos at 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 resolutions. It has two picture quality settings and several shooting modes including normal, panorama, frames and burst mode. All the sample photos are taken in Fine quality at 640 x 480 resolution.
The W300i’s camera can also take videos with audio in 3gp format and you can take video at either 176 x 144 or 128 x 96 resolution. The video quality is good for a VGA camera with no blocky distortion or frame jumps and the audio is in sync with the video.
Sample photos taken by the W300i
The Sony Ericsson W300i has an integrated Bluetooth that supports most useful profiles such as Dial-Up Network (DUN), Object Push, Synchronization and both Hands-free and Headset profiles (it does not support A2DP for Bluetooth stereo headsets however). Sending files from the phone to a desktop via Bluetooth gets about 40k/s and the phone can pair with multiple devices. Pairing the W300i with Bluetooth headsets is easy and we tested it with the Cardo scala 700 and a few other Bluetooth headsets. The W300i works great with the scala 700 with clear and loud voice on both incoming and outgoing ends. It got over 20 feet in range with headsets which is very good. One nice thing about the W300i’s voice dialing is that you can use Bluetooth headset to voice dial. Make sure that you record your voice tags in a quiet environment and the voice dialing via Bluetooth headset usually gives you fairly good results.
Battery life does take a hit when you keep the Bluetooth radio on and the connection with your headset alive. The Sony Ericsson does offer a powersave mode, in which case you can only connect the phone with one Bluetooth device at a time.
The Sony Ericsson W300i comes with a standard 900mAh battery (BST-33 mode). The claimed talk time is up to 9.5 hours and the claimed standby time is up to 400 hours. Our tests reached about 7 hours talk time and standby of 1.5 weeks. Those are still very good battery runtimes and should you still need more power, you can purchase an additional standard battery from Sony Ericsson. Playing music with phone radio on uses very little power and you can use even less if you boot the phone in music playing mode only without turning on any other radios. Downloading files from the web, taking photos and transferring files used reasonable amounts of battery power. The only thing that drains the power fast is the Bluetooth radio. If you keep the Bluetooth radio on and keep your Bluetooth headset and car kit connected to the phone, you will likely charge the phone every other day.
The Sony Ericsson comes with a basic suite of PIM apps including Contacts, Calendar, Notes and Tasks. The Contacts database can store 1000 contacts on the phone, and each contacts can have five numbers, multiple email addresses, URLs, business and home street address, notes and birthday. You can also associate a contact entry with a picture for caller ID and a unique ringtone. That’s a very capable Contacts app for a feature phone that’s not targeted at business users. The Calendar, Notes and Tasks applications along with several other utility apps live in the Organizer folder. Calendar has monthly view, weekly view and appointment view. You can sync the data from the Contacts, Calendar and your notes and tasks to your desktop via PC Suite using the included USB cable. You can also sync via Bluetooth or IR, but USB 2.0 syncing is the speediest. In addition to the PIM apps, you will also get a File Manager application.
The W300i comes with a CD that includes PC Suite, Adobe Photoshop Album SE, QuickTime and Disc2Phone. PC Suite is a very capable syncing application that makes sharing data between your desktop and your phone a breeze. Always check Sony Ericsson’s web site for free PC Suite updates. Another application you will use often if you use the phone as your music player is Disc2Phone. This Windows-only application will convert to MP3 and transfer songs from music CDs to your phone’s internal memory or memory card with the track and album info. The conversion time and transfer speed is decent: a full music CD will take less than 5 minutes when using the Disk2Phone to rip it to your phone.
The W300i has support for SMS, MMS and email in the Messaging app. SMS is pretty straight forward, as is MMS. The email client supports POP3/IMAP4 accounts.
A very capable feature phone that’s easy to use and small enough to live in any pocket. The full Walkman treatment makes it easy to use the phone as a casual music player, though it can’t compete with iPod’s higher music storage capacity and even better fidelity. If you are looking for an affordable GSM clamshell phone with good phone features and connection capabilities, you should give the W300i a look, especially if music is your thing.
Pro: Compact size and lightweight, strong reception, excellent call quality, good browser by WAP browser standards and capable messaging features. Transferring music files to the phone is easy and the expansion slot is handy for storing tunes. Score one for Sony Ericsson for supporting MP3 and AAC music file formats. USB 2.0, Bluetooth and IR keep you connected.
Con:The package doesn’t include the Memory Stick Micro adapter to use with card readers. The phone is a little buggy and freezes up once in a while with no apparent cause. (When that happens reboot the phone or take the battery out for a few seconds.) The number pad keys look great but are a bit hard to use. The Bluetooth radio drains a lot of battery power.
List Price: $299 without contract, less with contract
Phone:GSM quad band world phone supporting the 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands. EDGE and GPRS for data.
Camera:VGA camera with 4x digital zoom. Also records video clips with audio. Picture resolutions are 640 x 480, 320 x240 and 160 x 120 and videos can be taken at 176 x 144 and 128 x 96 resolutions.
Audio:Built-in speaker, mic and Sony Ericsson’s proprietary Fast port stereo headset connector. Supports polyphonic ringtones, MIDI and MP3/ACC audio. Supports MPEG4 and 3GP video and 3GPP streaming content. Vibrating alerts supported.
Networking:IR and Bluetooth.
Software:Sony Ericsson OS. Bundled applications include Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, Messaging (supports SMS, MMS and email), WAP browser, MusicDJ, VideoDJ, PhotoDJ Sound recorder and calculator applications. Also included are three JAVA games. The desktop companion CD includes software for syncing with PC, File Manager, Image Editor, MMS Home Studio, Disc2Phone and Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 Starter Edition.
Expansion:Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot. 256 meg card included with the phone.
In the Box: The phone with battery, a 256MB Memory Stick Micro card, an A/C charger, a stereo headset, USB cable, PC Suite companion CD and user manuals.