Huawei Y200 – Android for the budget, and pretty darn good one

Android has evolved fast, and the Huawei Y200 maybe at the more towards the lower end of the Android phone range, but it packs a very up to date hardware and configuration that is superior to the far more popular Samsung models!  The Y200 has close bearings to the Huawei Soniq in form factor and design, but features a higher spec on the hardware aspects.

Hardware

The device has the latest Cortex A5 processor which uses a 45nm technology, the result is less heat and battery consumption and processing power that is far better than the previous generation products.  However the graphic processor sadly has no changed, and remains the what seems to  be the standard for most mid range phones, the Adreno 200.  Though most may all feature the Adreno 200, the actual GPU core speed and memory speeds differ which is why there are differences in the graphics performance though the same GPU used.

The screen is not what you call small, at 3.5″ as its actually larger than an Iphone 4S screen in physical size.  The resolution is also above the competition at 320×480, compared to the  Galaxy Y range which has a very low 320×240 resolution.  The colors and brightness are pretty good for a budget phone.  The touch is smooth and multi-touch is decent.  However the bottom shortcut buttons are a bit lacking in the touch sensitivity.

The area that the phone has a weak point on the hardware aspects is on the available memory.  The phone only has 256MB memory, of which only around 140MB is available for use by other apps.  For most general usage the limited memory does not impact and the phone is very nippy and smooth.  However the very moment you start loading a lot of apps or try running apps that require more memory, such as games the phone starts to lag.   Huawei should have opted for at least 384 or 512MB as that is the optimal for a phone.  However since the phone comes with a minimal customized  gingerbread version the phone performs far better some phones with higher memory configuration which might be running skins which required more memory (as done by LG, Samsung, HTC and Sony)

External design and build

The unit has a standard design that is rather conservative very similar to the Galaxy Y range, here the LG L3 unit definitely has the edge with the different design.

The build quality is good, with no squeaks, though the rear cheap plastic may show wear and tear unless its protected from the elements. After a month of use without any back cover the phone has started to get some small scratches as expected from a plastic back cover.

While the phone has no Gorilla glass, Huawei seems to have a good source for their glass, as I had it in my pocket with keys, etc and the glass has not shown any damages!

The lack of chrome may make the phone look less expensive, but I strongly believe cheap chrome which will fade is worse, and hence this is a better option for heavy use phones.

Interface and software

Huawei goes on the route with minimal customizations to the stock gingerbread, and while this means decent performance the interface can be a bit drab.  You can spike things up by using a custom launcher.  May use Go Launcher or ADW launcher, as these offer very nice customized skins. However I prefer a low memory and smoother launcher, and I have used Nemus launcher on this phone.

However the small tweaks done by Huawei are useful, such as the drag down toolbar at the top which offers instance shortcuts to enable data/wifi/gps/bluetooth, shame they missed the toggle for silent/vibrate.  I have installed notification toggles that provides a wonderful addition that is highly configurable for quick access options.

The phones software was excellent, with solid performance after 2 months of use, which bodes well for the phone.  However if the battery drops around 15% the phone sometimes has a tendency to shut down, i am not sure if this is intentional (Some Samsung phones also have this behavior though its well defined, where 10% battery causes the shutdown).

The phone is not likely to get an upgrade beyond 2.3 Gingerbread, and frankly even if a upgrade is available I would avoid it as even phones with 512MB and 768MB RAM are struggling with ICS which has proved to be a memory hog.  Custom ROMs may offer ICS that can run smoothly but I will leave that option to the few who do go around to upgrading with custom ROMs.

The HiSuite from Huawei looks basic but it offers features that many of the big names missed out including my high end HTC!  The app allows backup and restoration of apps, contacts, importing contacts from other phones, taking snapshots of the phone screen, and updating the phone software. Huawei should invest on a professional UI designer to beef the user interface to reflect the features of the software! Someone who has worked with Apple maybe 😉

Camera and multimedia

The camera unit is decent with 3MP and has auto focus which means you can take close-up photos including pictures of documents, etc, a feature that many phones higher up also lack.

 

What lets it down badly is the lack of a LED flash.  For most users of such phones, the camera is important as they may not posses any other form of digital camera.  Without a flash the camera offers no capability to take photos in the dark or low light.   For many the availability of the flash is required not just for photos but to use it as a flashlight.  The Galaxy Y missed this point, and sadly so has the Y200.  Huawei could have easily boosted their Y200 sales by including this feature.

On the picture quality the pictures tend to have a whitish tint, no matter what the form of lighting.  While it will do well for general shooting, don’t expect to win any photo awards with this camera.

The video recording is VGA (640×480, 30fps), which may seem outdated but its actually far superior to the competing products which offer very primitive video of 240×320, and that too at pathetic frame rates of 15 or 24fps.  So here again the Huawei offers decent video recording feature compared to the rivals from Samsung and LG.

The phone has limited codec’s bundled, hence downloading an alternative video player that offers software rendering for other formats is important.  My preferred choice these days has been MX player for this. TheY200  has enough juice to playback 720p video smoothly, I used MX player and found that the 800Mhz on the Y200 was able to use the software renderer to playback video smoothly, and matched the performance of the 1Ghz A5 processor for video.

The Y200 hits the spot on sound, with its powerful stereo speakers it puts out a lot of sound at full volume, far greater than many higher end phones. The phone maybe tiny but it sure does produce a lot of sound, so if you are configuring an alarm make sure you reduce the volume, if not its going to wake a lot of people up!

Storage and expansion

The phone has 512MB internal storage, of which around only 160MB is available for user apps.  For most users you will need an expansion card, and the microSD supports up to 32GB cards.  Gingerbread (android 2.3) has the built-in feature for moving apps to the SD card, though using the app “App2SD” is recommended as it can to the movement automatically rather than you doing once you hit the storage limit.

Call quality, signal strength and battery

The area the phone really excelled is on the signal strength and call quality.  The Phone has a second microphone for noise cancelling which is one other reason why the call quality is very good.  The phone has very good connectivity and outdid the Sony phones we have used as it never dropped a call.  The powerful speakers means the loud speaker performance is also good.

The phone battery was able to provided 2-3 days of use with occasional internet and wifi use, and video watching in addition to calls.  If used only for calls and with no internet usage the phone can take last 3-4 days, and I believe this is mainly due to the use of the A5 processor which is far more power efficient than the Arm9/11 based units which are powering the Galaxy Y phones.

Performance

On general use the phone is excellent as its smooth and switches between apps in decent fluidity.  However if you load larger apps the phone can get laggy.  Performance tests for the phone are shown.

A point to note is that the performance no from this benchmarks are based on a combined set of sub tests such as CPU, 2D, 3D, storage, etc for Quadrant, Antutu and Geekbench.  However the Y200 is able to match the more Sony Arc in performance in most areas tells how budget phones have evolved in hardware, which also explains the good performance of the phone.

One reason I find the perceived performance of the phone is good is due to its good 2D performance.  The phones 2D sub test in Antutu and Quadrant actually had ratings higher than many high end phones, mainly due to the lower resolution and decent GPU and processor.

The Nenamark tests of the Sony tipo by the popular site gsmarena indicates that the usual higher performance you expect from ICS is not evident on the similar configured Tipo, so the Y200 Android 2.3.6 build has been optimized well by Huawei.  Comparison of Quadrant and Antutu reveals the same, so the Y200 performance is on bar with Sony who are known to optimize their software well.

Huawei Y200

800Mhz A5

Sony Tipo 

800Mhz A5

Sony Arc

1Ghz

Android Vn

2.3.6

4.0.4

4.0.4

Quadrant

1140

1418

1130

Geekbench 2

434

 –

Antutu

2625

2670

2834

Nenamark 2

15.3fps

15.9fps

25.6 fps

Conclusion

Huawei has analyzed its competition and priced the Y200 to compete well and also backed it with sound hardware.  The phone easily beat the Galaxy Y and Galaxy Mini in practically every aspect, and nearly matches the far more expensive Galaxy Ace product (actually it will perform better than the Ace S5830i which features the less capable Broadcom chipset).

Huawei’s though has competition in the market with the launch of the Sony Tipo which is priced in the Galaxy Mini range, while its definitely low down on hardware it comes with ICS out of the box and a cooler design, but missed out by providing a fixed focus camera with no flash that takes away the Sony advantage that people buy it for!

However if Huawei had put this phone out with a LED flash and slightly higher memory configuration, my belief is that it could have had a great product.

Regardless of these two shortcomings the Y200 proved that budget Androids are extremely capable and offer a rich experience that will outdo most Symbian phones in the market, and in the android space it was ahead of its key rivals in most areas.

UPDATE: Huawei Y201 released recently has Huawei fixing all the negatives of the Y200, the Y201 Pro features 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, and now comes with Android 4.0 ICS as standard

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