At one time, buying an affordable Android phone meant suffering with a horrific screen, awful design and an outdated version of Android that almost certainly won't get any updates.
The design problem hasn't seen much improvement, but the Huawei Ascend Y300 is a breath of fresh air for the budget market. It has a 4-inch display, a 1GHz dual-core processor and runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Those specs would make most budget phones feel not a little jealous.
Best of all though, it's available on pay as you go for a ridiculous £60, making it a great option if you need an emergency phone you don't mind losing.
Should I buy the Huawei Ascend Y300?
The Y300 boasts a decent 4-inch screen, a dual-core processor (not single-core, as per the video review) and a recent version of Android and comes with a ridiculously cheap pay as you go price of £60. If you're looking for your first smart phone, or just want a phone that you don't mind losing at a festival, the Y300 is an excellent choice.
Alternatively, take a look at the Nokia Lumia 520. It's a 4-inch phone with similar specs. It's a little more expensive, but its processor gives a much smoother experience and the various preloaded Nokia apps are great additions.
Design and build quality
To look at, there's no escaping the fact the Y300 is a budget phone. It has the same plain black, chunky aesthetic that its brother, the G510 has. It has also been given a textured pattern though, which does make it a little more interesting. Even so, the best you can really say about its design is that it's functional.
It measures 124mm long, 64mm wide and is 11mm at its fattest point. That's unquestionably rather on the portly side -- particularly when you compare it to more svelte phones like the iPhone 5 or even Huawei's own Ascend P2.
It's far smaller than phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. While that does mean you have less screen space for videos and Web browsing, it makes it perfectly comfortable to hold in one hand. You also don't need to stretch your thumbs too far to hit icons on the far side of the screen. If you find your hands are too teeny tiny for the 5-inch blowers, the Y300 might be more suitable.
Build quality seems generally fine. The plastic back cover is pretty flimsy, but you can argue the same about the Galaxy S3, and it's certainly no worse than that. At least the yawn-inducing design might prevent scratches and scuffs showing up quite as much as its more expensive, glossy counterparts. The screen isn't made from tough Gorilla Glass though, so it's likely to be more susceptible to scratches from keys in your pocket.
Around the edges you'll find the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB port and power and volume buttons. The Y300 comes with only 2GB of usable internal storage, of which just under 1GB has been reserved just for apps -- meaning you can't install apps on the other 1GB. I really don't know why Huawei has intentionally split the storage as you could easily only save photos to an SD card, leaving the already pitiful space free for apps.
Titles like N.O.V.A 3 are way too big to install on the phone. Smaller games like Angry Birds will fit, but you'll need to be mindful of what you download.
The 4-inch display has an 800x480-pixel resolution. That's a far cry from the Full HD displays of the HTC One or Galaxy S4, but it's perfectly reasonable for a budget phone. By comparison, the LG L3 II has a much lower-resolution screen, which makes even basic tasks unpleasant and it's more expensive than the Y300.
The Y300's screen is good for the money with acceptably sharp icons, decent brightness and colours that will do a good job of Web browsing and tweeting. If you really want the most crisp screen in the business then you should look towards the Full HD phones, but you will be paying a massive chunk of extra cash for the privilege.
Viewing angles are reasonable, but not brilliant. You can still see a fairly accurate view of the screen when looking off-centre -- perfectly decent enough for people on either side of you to see a YouTube clip well. It's leaps and bounds above the Samsung Galaxy Fame, which see its 3.5-inch screen becoming distorted if you don't look at it head on.
Software and processor
The Y300 is running on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which is an acceptably recent version of Google's mobile operating system. Huawei has given it the same tweaks that it gave the G510. Those tweaks weren't welcome there and they're still not welcome here.
The main problem is that Huawei has removed the app list, meaning that everything you download will be scattered on any of the nine available homescreens. Once you've got all those pages filled up with apps, it's easy to lose the tools you need most. It'll take discipline to make sure you arrange all your most used icons onto one screen.
Having so much on the homescreens is also a bigger drain on processing power -- particularly if you fill them up with live widgets. With nothing much on the screen the 1GHz dual-core processor manages to tick along adequately. It's certainly an improvement over the terribly sluggish thing stuck inside the G510.
Once all the screens are filled up with widgets hogging background processes, things are much less smooth though. Swiping around all the homescreens was an experience often plagued with judders and delays, and menus and apps didn't open as swiftly as I'd like. Going back to the homescreen from an app regularly required a wait of a couple of seconds before all icons loaded.
Mobile games like Temple Run 2 and Fruit Ninja played fine on the Y300, but the more demanding Beach Buggy Blitz wouldn't even load. This really isn't a phone for gamers among you. Still, for the absolute essentials, it will cope well enough. It achieved 492 on the Geekbench test, which is about standard for a budget phone.
Huawei has popped a 1,700mAh battery into the Y300, which is a pretty hefty cell for a phone this size. It therefore offers a decent battery life, and with careful usage you won't struggle to get a day of life out of it. Like all smart phones, you should expect to charge it each night.
As always, your experience will totally depend on what you do with it. If you keep video streaming over 3G and gaming to a minimum, you'll get a longer time. Use the camera, flash, YouTube, Netflix and Bluetooth connections and you can expect your battery to drain away faster than beer at a CNET party.
Around the back is a 5-megapixel camera that won't exactly blow you away. It did an okay job when shooting outside in good lighting. The blue sky was reasonably rich and the exposure wasn't bad. It lacks a lot of clarity though, which is particularly noticeable on the crane arms.
It doesn't deal well in indoor situations either. In my shot of the CNET UK breakout area, it didn't achieve very good exposure, causing the windowed area at the back to be totally blown out. It again suffered from poor clarity, particularly in the more shadowy areas.
If you're not at all fussed about photography then the camera won't be a problem for you. It'll be good enough for a quick snap of your friends in the sun, but don't buy it hoping to take the photography world by storm. For the cut-down price though, it's really difficult to ask for more.
The Huawei Ascend Y300 really isn't going to appeal to those of you looking for a stylish, high-performance phone. If your budget is more modest and you only want a phone for the essential day to day tasks, the Y300 is definitely worth a look. For the money, you'd be hard pressed to find a better phone.