At AU$179 (locked to Vodafone), the Huawei is a cheap phone, and it looks it. The handset is a little thicker than its more expensive competitors, and its two-tone white and silver plastic chassis isn't winning hearts in the CNET labs — especially with thick seams visible between the handset's various pieces. But then, this is like looking over a KIA car and moaning about it not having the same finish as the Ferrari on the lot next door: you get what you pay for.
The G300 is a comfortable handset to hold. For as deep as the seams are, separating the various plastic pieces of the chassis, these don't cut into your fingers when holding the phone. The plastic curves nicely around the edges so that the phone sits nicely in the hand. The power button is on the top of the phone, so it is easy to find with an index finger when using the phone with one hand.
It includes a 4-inch capacitive touchscreen, with a WVGA resolution. This isn't too shabby when you consider that the top phones of 2011, like the Samsung Galaxy S2, had 4.3-inch screens with the same 480x800 pixel resolution. Sadly, the quality of this screen doesn't match up to the Galaxy S2. The G300's screen is perfectly usable, but it doesn't look great, especially off axis. From directly front on, images look good — crisp text and decent colours, but even from subtle angles off-centre, the image begins to deteriorate. It is a fine screen for under AU$200, though.
It's ports and switches are all exactly where we'd expect them. Power on top, volume on the side. There is a 3.5mm headphone socket on top as well, and a microUSB port on the base for charging the phone. On the underside, you'll find the handset's camera lens, LED flash, external speaker and a second microphone, presumably to help cancel ambient noise during calls.
User experience and performance
As with the physical design of the phone, there is nothing particularly attractive about the Huawei Launcher software installed on the G300, but it certainly works well. Despite some visual jitters in the animated transitions throughout the system, we had no trouble using the G300 on a day-to-day basis. The combination of software and hardware creates a responsive canvas for users to swipe and scroll through. Powering on the phone from sleep is as near-to instantaneous as you can expect, and the basic system is ready to use straight away.
Huawei opts for a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor for the G300, with a single-core 1GHz processor and an Adreno 200 graphics chip, which serves this unit well. This zippy performance is also a product of Huawei using the older Gingerbread build of Android. Though this is now two-generations of Android old, it is probably the best system for a phone with this hardware profile.
During our tests, we recorded 4-hours and 48-minutes of battery life when browsing the web continuously on a Wi-Fi connection. This is a good result, helped in part by the size of the screen — with most new Android phones having screens slightly larger than the 4-inches here. We also like to run a continuous video playback test, but none of our standard testing video files would play on the G300. This might be something to consider if you are hoping to use the G300 as you own portable cinema. All in all, 4.5-hours of screen on time should be sufficient for most people shopping for a G300, we think.
It's also worth noting that, while some video files wouldn't play, all of our favourite 3D games did. We tested fast-paced games, like Riptide GP, on the G300 and they all worked fine and ran smoothly.
Snap-happy smartphone users will be pleasantly surprised by the images taken by the G300's 5-megapixel shooter, as we were. When in focus, the photos we took were pretty impressive: colours were rich, with strong contrast leaning towards being a touch too dark, overall, but it is still a pleasing effect. The caveat about focus is important to note, though, as more than half of our test images turned out too soft to be usable. Using this camera takes a steady hand.
For under AU$200, you really shouldn't expect much in the way of "value-adding bonuses", however, Huawei does manage to sneak a few onboard the G300. There's a few basics, like an FM radio and a voice recorder. The pick of the litter, though, is a Backup tool that can be used to back-up just about everything on the phone that you would lose after a system wipe. You can copy SMS, contacts, system settings and even alarms and bookmarks, all to a microSD card — though you will need to buy one separately to use this feature.
Huawei also includes a third-party keyboard with the G300, though we struggled to consider it a "value-adding bonus". Called Touchpal Input, it is one of the worst Android keyboard replacements we've come across. For starters, each key has two functions listed — usually a number and a letter. However, with both icons as larger as one another, it is extremely difficult to know accurately where you are placing your fingers. Even for the CNET team, with years of QWERTY keyboard use under our belts, we still hesitated with every keystroke. Uninstall and replace.
Like other entry-level Huawei handsets before it, the G300 is excellent value for money. It lacks a certain level of polish, but this shouldn't steer you away from a closer look if your budget tops out at about AU$200.