The W200i is a candy bar form factor mobile phone that measures in at 101mm by 44mm by 18mm with a carrying weight of 85 grams. The W200i is available in two colour schemes -- Sony Ericsson amusingly calls them "Rhythm Black" and "Pulse White", otherwise known outside the marketing fraternity as black or white. Our review sample was of the white variety, with bright orange highlights. Just as many other phone manufacturers do, the W200i looks an awful lot like the rest of its phone line, which means if you're familiar with Sony Ericsson's usual design outlines, the W200i will be either a familiar and comfortable phone, or a stale concept, depending on how you nominally find Sony Ericsson phones. We quite like the dialling keys on the W200, which are a decent size, but are far less enamoured of the joystick selector, which has the all too common problem of selecting when scrolling downwards, or vice versa.
The W200i's 128x160-pixel display isn't the sharpest you can get -- far from it -- but it's adequate for basic phone tasks. The W200i sports a surprisingly loud internal speaker -- it's pitched as a music phone with plenty of use of the Walkman branding -- as well as headphones with what Sony calls Bass reflex; this is intended to preserve music fidelity even when bass is at a maximum.
As with many other Sony Ericsson Walkman phones, the W200i sports a custom connector on the base of the phone which is used for charging, USB synchronisation and audio output. Like other Walkman phones, this locks you into using only Sony Ericsson supplied accessories and headsets.
Sony Ericsson's pitch for the W200i is that while it bears the famous Walkman brand, it's not really designed to act as a replacement for your MP3 player; instead it's a complimentary device that just happens to store some of your favourite tunes of the moment. As a music phone, it supports MP3 and AAC files, so in the very near future you could even conceivably stick some DRM-free EMI iTunes music on it if that took your fancy. The W200i comes with a 128MB Memory Stick Micro for music storage, along with up to 27MB of internal memory.
At a basic phone level, the W200i is a tri-band GSM phone. Astute buyers may notice the inclusion of a camera on the rear of the W200i. Wholly astute buyers who enjoy actual photographs, as opposed to random collections of pixels that might possibly look like their targets if you squint a lot, may just want to put a chunk of duct tape over the W200i's camera sensor to save themselves a whole lot of pain. With only VGA capabilities we weren't expecting much, and that's exactly what we got out of the W200i's lacklustre camera. The duct tape might just save you from presuming that a drunken pub pic was in fact any good, when it almost certainly wasn't.
The supplied PC Suite software covers the phone basics, with the eponymous PC Suite (for data transfers), Quicktime, PhotoShop Album SE and Disc2Phone software for musical transfers. Installation of Disc2Phone worked on our test Windows Vista system with only minor glitches. Testing on Vista Ultimate, it kept dropping the colour level for some (but not all) of Disc2Phone's installation screens. We were irked by the fact that Disc2Phone requires activation via an e-mail address, but we just plain hate software product activation, which offers zero benefits to consumers anyway. PC Suite was another story -- in that it refused to install at all, requesting instead that we install it only on Windows XP or Windows 2000 systems.
In basic phone terms the W200i worked well in our tests, with clear audio for calls and decent battery life. Sony Ericsson rates the W200i as being capable of up to 360 hours standby and seven hours talk time. In our tests, it ran for around five days in-between charges under moderate usage, which is reasonable for a budget-level phone.
As a music phone, we can see why Sony's so keen to pitch the W200i as a compliment to an existing MP3 player, rather than a replacement. It's a capable enough unit, but the interface is relatively basic, and the single speaker is tinny and entirely uninspiring. Switching to the supplied headphones did improve audio quality markedly. You're rather stuck with the cabled headphone model, however, as the W200i lacks Bluetooth compatibility, and thus support for A2DP stereo headphones, and the proprietary port means you're stuck only with audio accessories supplied or sold by Sony Ericsson.
Certainly, many consumers who end up with a W200i will do so on a plan, and as such pay very little for the phone itself. Within that model, it's a capable enough basic phone with music an added extra. If you're looking at it with an eye to buying it outright, however, we'd advise shopping around. Aside from the truly awful camera, there's nothing terribly wrong with the W200i, but then there's not too much that's all that exciting. You are in effect paying a small premium for the Walkman branding, and in the ultra-competitive world of mobile phones brand alone isn't enough to convince us that the W200i is worth purchasing outright.