capsule review

Sony Ericsson W300i

At a Glance
  • Sony Ericsson W300i Cell Phone (GSM, Bluetooth, 20MB, Memory Stick Micro)

    PCWorld Rating

    This budget music phone sports a light, compact design, but is a little hard to navigate.

Music lovers no longer have to pay a premium for a music phone. The $180 (with a two-year contract from Cingular) Sony Ericsson W300i comes with a music player, radio, and camera built in. It does the job both as a phone and music player, but the music software is basic and to achieve its compact size the phone forgoes some navigational conveniences.

As a phone, the W300i is a quad-band GSM/GPRS model that offers good sound quality. Volume was loud and clear, and our test unit reached the 10-hour limit in our lab tests of its talk-time battery life.

At 1.8 by 1.0 by 3.5 inches, the 3.3-ounce device has a compact yet boxy clamshell design, making the overlapping circular number buttons difficult for all but the smallest fingers to press cleanly (especially when composing SMS text messages). Another drawback: The phone lacks some of the convenient external buttons offered by other models I've tried. For example, to take a picture with the built-in 2-megapixel camera (with 4X digital zoom) and even to turn the phone to silent, I had to flip open the black-and-silver lid. The 2-inch, 128-by-160-pixel display is sharp and bright but a bit too small to permit meaningful Internet browsing, especially given that the phone supports only GPRS and EDGE, not Cingular's faster HSDPA network. On the other hand, the phone proved its durability by surviving a few tumbles.

As a music player, the W300i--which handles MP3 and AAC music tracks--works well, aside from some inconveniences. It has 23MB of internal memory plus a Memory Stick Micro card slot. (Cingular doesn't include a card, but it sells a 512MB version for $60.) I loaded music easily via Sony Ericsson's included Disc2Phone software, which curiously didn't allow me to create playlists on the PC itself. To do that, I had to select individual tracks on the phone. Our test unit readily accepted a few albums, whose songs I could then search for on the phone by artist, track, or playlist.

External buttons on the side of the phone let you play, pause, and navigate through tracks. Sound quality was clear, though the volume didn't get terribly loud (it was loud enough for my noisy commute, however). The W300i comes with stereo earbuds, which double as the phone's hands-free headset. I was excited about the phone's FM radio (the headset holds the antenna) until I tried it out. I had no trouble searching for and saving stations, but the reception always had at least some low-level static.

The phone's camera takes decent pictures in either large (176-by-144-pixel) or small (128-by-96-pixel) sizes. It has a night mode and permits you to add black-and-white, negative, and sepia effects. In addition, you can shoot QuickTime video, which looked smooth as long as we didn't move the phone too quickly. Linking to the camera with the included USB 2.0 cable lets your PC see the phone and the memory card as drive volumes, to which you can drag and drop files.

This inexpensive phone certainly won't replace your portable music player, but if you just want to listen to a commute's worth of tunes, it does the job.

Narasu Rebbapragada

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This budget music phone sports a light, compact design, but is a little hard to navigate.

    Pros

    • Nice, compact design
    • Plays music well

    Cons

    • Lacks exterior buttons
    • Doesn't allow playlist creation on PC
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