Sometimes you don't want a massive Sunday roast with all the trimmings -- you just want something light. The Sony Ericsson W302 Walkman is light like a plate of sashimi, both in terms of its features and weight, at only 79g.
Luckily, it's also light on price. It's available from free on £25-per-month contracts with O2 and Orange, or from £60 on pay as you go with T-Mobile.
Big sounds, small
The W302 is aimed squarely at the budget buyer, but it's still a member of Sony's Walkman family, so its sound quality is excellent. We compared the sound output from the W302 against our usual test set-up -- the wonderful SanDisk Sansa Fuze MP3 player and a pair of beautiful Audio-Technica headphones. The W302 sounded clear and full when we listened with our own headphones, and we noticed hardly any difference in sound quality.
When we used the included in-ear headphones, however, we found that the sound lost some of its spaciousness. The audio quality was still good, though, considering that we were using cheap, plasticky earbuds.
Unsurprisingly, like its Walkman cousins, the W302 has a proprietary USB port instead of a 3.5mm headphone jack. An adaptor is included, but it adds about a metre to the cable length, so you could end up throttling yourself to music. It also means that we had to unplug the headphones every time we transferred music, so that we could plug in the USB cable. But the W302 does have stereo Bluetooth, so it could stream to a set of wireless headphones.
The handset includes an FM radio, which picked up a strong signal during all our travels around central London. It has RDS and TrackID, which can identify a song based on a clip of a few seconds. We found TrackID worked perfectly with pop songs on the radio, and failed gracefully with speech radio and the like, which it didn't recognise.
The user interface for the radio isn't as good as that of other Walkman handsets we've tried. Scrolling through stations is a slow process, setting up new stored stations is confusing, and the lack of a skip function is criminal.
The W302 doesn't support podcast subscriptions, which is a feature we love in handsets that are higher up the Sony Ericsson totem pole, like the W705 Walkman, for example. You can sync podcasts along with your other music using the free Media Manager software, but we're not fans of the software's usability. We like that it supports drag and drop, but it reorganised our music based on its own rules, and it's not clear what file formats are supported. We had to check the W302's folding user manual to learn that MP3, MP4, 3GP, AAC, MIDI, IMY, EMY and WAV are the supported formats.
Files in all of those formats can be packed onto the handset's 512MB memory stick. If you like, you can spend the money saved by not buying a pricier phone on a memory-stick upgrade, up to 4GB. The W302 also has 20MB of on-board memory.
The W302's music features got us through the night, but the rest of the package let us down. Pictures look fine on the 176x220-pixel screen -- nothing to write home about, but clear and bright, with vibrant colours. But Web pages look awful in the browser, with images an over-compressed mess. Since it also doesn't have 3G or Wi-Fi, we wouldn't recommend the W302 for anything more than an occasional emergency Google search.
The 2-megapixel camera can shoot video or stills, but, with no flash or LED, it's only suitable for snapshots in bright light. The video quality is dreadful, rendering CNET UK colleagues and potted plants as similarly blurry blobs.