At the beginning of May we published my first review of a mobile phone from Fly, the SLT100. I found it reasonable but not outstanding. The headline features such as its touchscreen were let down by some omissions and it ended up with a rather average rating.
Now Fly has followed up with the tri-band SX200. At just £30 this undercuts the price of the SLT100 by £20. It is available from Woolworths on Virgin Mobile.
Handsets in the £30 price bracket draw a different set of expectations from those in the £50 one. We really are in budget territory here, and so have no right to expect fancy features, high quality hardware components or stunning design.
Budget handsets tend to rate low on some elements of our scoring system, simply as a reflection of lower end features. They can pick up points on design and usability, and the SX200 does that.
This is another Fly slider, and it looks very neat when first taken out of the box. The phone is mostly a rather nice shiny black plastic with a silver d-pad sitting beneath the screen. The d-pad has what look suspiciously like music controls on it indicating that this handset is equipped for fans of the odd tune or two.
The other front controls look like they might be touch-sensitive, but thankfully that is not the case. They comprise Call and End keys and two softmenu buttons, and they are backlight white when active.
Overall size and weight are perfectly acceptable. The phone measures 95mm tall when closed, 50mm wide and 14mm thick. When the slide is opened it grows to about 124mm. It weighs a pocketable 87g.
The slide mechanism is nicely spring-loaded and gives a satisfying click when opened and closed. However it is annoying that the lack of any kind of ridge on the front fascia means that your thumb inevitably has to get its purchase on the screen. This results in the screen becoming somewhat greasy very quickly.
The number pad that is revealed when you open the slide is comprised of nicely sized keys. They are again backlit white, though rather unevenly.
The screen is quite small. Squeezed into an area measuring 1.8in diagonally, and 23mm wide by 35mm tall, its saving grace is that its 176 x 220 pixels are sharp and bright, making it easy to read.
Probably one of the more compelling features of this mobile considering its budget price is stereo Bluetooth output. Coupled with the music controls on the front of the phone, which let you control playback, and a microSD card slot on the left edge, you might be forgiven for thinking this could be a good choice for music fans. When you learn that there is an FM radio built in too, you may be even more swayed towards that view.
But all is not what it seems. You are certainly going to need a memory card to build on the internal 0.5MB of memory. My review sample only offered around a half of this for my own use fresh out of the box.
Then there is the fact that the connector for the physical stereo headset is, very disappointingly, a proprietary type, making it extremely difficult for you to use an alternative favourite set of headphones. Finally the battery life is not that hot. I didn’t have the time to run a full music playing battery rundown test for this mobile, but maybe Fly will be happy about that. The quoted talk-time is 2hours 20mins, which isn’t good, even for an entry level phone like this one.
The internal speaker is very loud – to the point of distorting the sound quality. This is likely to make fellow train passengers grind their teeth. The FM radio offers one of the highlights of this phone. Just like the SLT100 you can make scheduled recordings from it. This is a feature that is rare on any handset and I’ve never seen it on something as low cost as the SX200. I’d certainly like to see it as a feature on more handsets.
There is a camera here and its back-mounted lens is hidden beneath the slide mechanism to help protect it. However the camera offers nothing to get excited about. It does shoot video, which is quite a feat for such a low cost handset, but there the good news stops.
The stills camera has no self-portrait mirror or flash and the highest resolution of just 640 x 480 (VGA) is rather low by today’s standards. There are three self timers at 5, 10 and 15 seconds, some filters such as greyscale, sepia, sepia green, sepia blue and colour inversion, and some white balance presets, for example tungsten, fluorescent and daylight. My sample shots, as always, left the phone to decide what to do by setting it on auto in this respect.
The sample photos reveal some key shortcomings. The coloured dish, photographed under normal household lighting is over-saturated and lacks definition. I also composed the shot so that the dish’s ends were positioned in the corners of the frame but the actual shot is nothing like that.
The white chair, again shot outside, also lacks definition and highlights are severely blown out. The shot was framed with the top and bottom of the chair out of the screen in order to get it to fill the finished photo. It took several attempts to get this right. If you find yourself needing to reshoot regularly you are going to get pretty miffed pretty quickly, lose out on some photos, which need a quick hand to capture the moment, while at the same time annoying any friends you ask to pose for you.
The flowers are also very poorly framed because I relied on what the phone suggested the final image would look like. Colour reproduction is not horrendous, but clarity is woeful.
Other software includes a WAP browser, calendar, to do list, alarm, world clock, calculator, stopwatch, unit converter, sound recorder, ringtone composer, body mass calculator and bio rhythm tool, as well as a game.
The FM radio recording and stereo Bluetooth output are this phone’s star features, and I do like the hardware design which shows that budget phones don’t have to be ugly or clunky.
Score in detail
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