The Sony Ericsson W200a is one cell phone that plays it safe. While the W880i and the W580i took more daring design approaches (and not always successfully), the W200a's simple candy-bar shape puts it in-line with many of the company's basic phones, such as the Sony Ericsson J300a. Yet looks can be deceiving, for the W200a does more than just make calls. It offers a Walkman music player, an infrared port, and an FM radio. There's no Bluetooth, and the camera is just VGA, but the W200a is meant to be an entry-level Walkman phone much like the W300i. And to that end, it largely succeeds. The GSM W200a is unlocked at the time of this writing, so without any carrier subsidies you should expect to pay about $150. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
As we mentioned previously, the W200a has a minimalist candy-bar design with clean lines and no ornamentation. It may look a bit plain, but it's straightforward and easy to use. At 3.9-inches tall by 1.7-inches wide by 0.7-inch thick, it's quite compact; at just 3 ounces, it's also very portable. The plastic rear face feels a tad flimsy, but on the whole the phone has a sturdy and comfortable feel in the hand. It's available in two styles, "rhythm black" and "pulse white." We reviewed the black model, but our observations are applicable for either color.
The W200a's display is a sign of the phone's entry-level status. With a 65,536-color resolution, the 1.75-inch (160x128 pixels) display isn't terribly sharp, but it's more than adequate for this caliber of phone. Colors are relatively bright, and the menus are easy to navigate--but graphics, photos, and games were a bit fuzzy. Only the brightness level is adjustable.
The W200a's controls are uncomplicated and user-friendly. The five-way joystick is raised above of the surface of the phone. We had no misdials and could navigate through the menus with ease. Also, you can set the toggle as a shortcut to four other, user-defined shortcuts. Surrounding the joystick are two soft keys, a back button and a clear key. All of the controls are tactile and are well-sized. We had no problems with the rectangular keypad buttons, either. They are brightly backlit and are easy to use, even for people with large hands.
The left spine has a Walkman control and the memory card slot, while the volume rocker sits on the right spine. The handset's sole speaker and the camera lens are on the rear side of the phone, but unfortunately, there's no exterior camera shortcut. The dedicated power button and the infrared port are on the top end of the W2000a, while the headset jack/charger port is on the phone's bottom end.
The W200a has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail and Web address, a job title, company name and work address, a home address, a birthday, and notes. You can save contacts to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 16 polyphonic ring tones for caller ID. Other essentials include a vibrate mode; a voice memo recorder; text and multimedia messaging; an alarm clock; a calendar' a task list; a notepad; a timer; a speakerphone (usable after you make a call); a stopwatch; and a calculator.
As the W200a is considered an entry-level Walkman phone, it does not offer Bluetooth. As such, you can't make calls with a wireless headset, but the integrated infrared port should be adequate for wireless file transfers. Other features include voice dialing; e-mail support; an RSS news reader; PC syncing; USB mass storage; and a code memo for storing sensitive information.
The Walkman player isn't too different from other Walkman phones, despite the W200's "low-end" status. The interface is the basic Walkman orange found on earlier handsets like the W600i. Unlike the newer W580i, it offers no visualizations or album art. Settings include playlists, an equalizer with a treble boost and Sony's Mega Bass, and shuffle and loop modes. The only other thing lacking is stereo widening.
To load music, you use the included USB cable and the Disc2Phone software. The software can be a bit clunky, so we prefer to simply drag and drop music from a PC. Internal Memory is 27MB, which, strangely enough, is more than both the W580i and the W880i. But we recommend using a Memory Stick Micro card for even more storage space. You don't get the Music ID for identifying mystery songs on the radio, however, which is hardly a big deal. And in any case, you get a more useful FM radio.
With the VGA camera you can take pictures in four resolutions, from 640x480 down to an "extended" mode (whatever that is). The selection of editing options is fair, though as to be expected, you don't get all the options you'd see on a megapixel shooter. There's a night mode, four color effects, two quality settings, a self-timer, a digital zoom, and brightness control. For audio effects, you can choose from four shutter sounds--but there's no silent option. The W220a also includes a Face Warper application for turning your photos into surrealist art.
The camcorder takes videos with sound and offers a comparable set of editing options. Clip length is capped at two minutes for multimedia messages; otherwise length is limited by the available memory. Photo quality was sharp for a VGA camera. Thought the colors were a bit washed out and some objects were fuzzy, our images were still satisfactory.
You can personalize the W200a with a variety of themes, wallpaper, and screensavers. As always, you can purchase more options and ring tones with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Alternatively, the phone comes with a Music DJ application for composing your own ring tones and a quirky application called Music Match that plays guitar chords and piano notes. Gamers can enjoy two Java (J2ME) titles, QuadraPop and Treasure Tow, with additional titles available for purchase.
Music quality is decent, for the most part. The W200a lacks stereo speakers, yet the volume output was quite loud. Our tunes were somewhat bass-heavy, particularly at higher volume levels, but the player should be fine for short stints. The included wired headphones will offer the best music experience.
The Sony Ericsson W200a has a rated battery life of 7 hours talk time and 12.5 days standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 8 hours and 15 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the W200a has a digital SAR rating of 0.87 watts per kilogram.