Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2012 Technology Review: Nokia Asha 200 - Dual SIM Card Mobile Phone

Nokia's Asha is back for another round of bargain basement action and we find ourselves wondering how much cheaper it can get. Most of the time it makes sense to be skeptical of the lowest bidder but we've found the Finns' budget lineup to be efficient and dependable.

So, cheap it is. And although there're lots of bad ways to be cheap, the Nokia Asha 200 seems to get it right. It's a QWERTY messenger with dual-SIM support. There isn't a whole lot more to it than that - but Nokia are getting ready to sell big. You don't offer eight - repeat, eight - paintjobs unless you anticipate huge demand.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
The Nokia Asha 200 in Pink, Aqua, Green, Light Pink, Blue, Orange, Graphite and Pearl White.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200

The Nokia Asha 200 is two phones in one and we don't mean the dual SIM support only. The Asha 200 is literally made out of a couple of fairly recent Nokia handsets. And it's pretty obvious which two ended up in the blender. The Nokia X2-01 provided the S40 interface and QWERTY keyboard, while the dual SIM support and colorful bodywork is courtesy of the x1-01.

Key features

  • Dual-SIM, dual-standby phone, hot swap
  • Dual-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • 2.4" 256K-color QVGA TFT display
  • 2MP camera
  • Series 40 UI
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS, recording
  • Bluetooth 2.1 (with EDR)
  • Standard microUSB port
  • Hot-swappable microSD card slot (32GB supported)
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Good audio quality

Main disadvantages

  • No Wi-Fi
  • No 3G
  • Basic camera
  • No multitasking
  • No smart dial
  • No USB charging

As usual, we'll have to do without one or two things that are otherwise taken for granted in contemporary phones. But the omissions shouldn't be hard to forgive in a phone that costs next to nothing. 3G and Wi-Fi are available elsewhere in the Asha lineup, and so is touchscreen. The Asha 200 focuses on the basics instead - with value-for-money features like dual SIM and a QWERTY keyboard.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
Nokia Asha 200 live pictures

A dual SIM QWERTY messenger pretty much sums the Nokia Asha 200. But it comes in plenty of colors and is not entirely clueless when it comes to music, social networks and even some basic photography. Of course, shoppers on a budget have priorities and build quality and durability are usually high on their list. 

Unboxing the Asha 200

The Asha 200 comes packaged with the most basic stuff only - a typical Nokia charger and a single piece headset. There is no USB cable or a microSD card inside.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
Nokia Asha 200 retail package

Nokia Asha 200 360-degree spin

The Asha 200 is 115 mm tall and 61mm wide, more than reasonably sized for a QWERTY messenger. It's quite chubby actually at 14 mm, but the comfortably curved back feels nice in the hand. The phone weighs just 105g and is entirely made of plastic.

Design and build quality

The Nokia Asha 200 is finished in glossy plastic except the matte frame that runs around the entire body and accommodates the secondary SIM and memory card slots. The graphite version that we're testing is quite prone to fingerprints but they're not that easily noticeable.

The other color versions of the Asha 200 may do even better at hiding smudges although they don't seem to skimp on gloss either. Anyway, it's an impressive selection of paintjobs with a color for every taste, from classic, through youthful to feminine.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
Nokia Asha 200

Up front, a 2.4" QVGA display and a four-row QWERTY keyboard are separated by a navigation deck, built around the usual D-pad.

The 2.4" QVGA screen is probably the best we could've hoped for in a basic feature phone. It offers more than decent sunlight legibility nonetheless, with good contrast and viewing angles. Colors could've been punchier and graphics smoother, but overall the screen quality is passable. Unfortunately the Asha 200 doesn't have any kind of brightness control, so we ran our brightness test at 100% brightness only.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Nokia Asha 200 - - - 0.51 377 746
Nokia Asha 300 - - - 0.49 399 856
Nokia Asha 303 - - - 0.76 377 498
HTC Explorer 0.26 201 763 0.47 358 755
Nokia N9 0 349 0 596
Nokia Lumia 800 0 108 0 369
Nokia Lumia 710 0.39 426 1085 0.62 692 1115
Nokia 701 0.64 619 964 1.12 1022 905

Above the display we find only the earpiece. There's no ambient-light sensor on the Nokia Asha 200.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
The Asha 200 has quite good display • the earpiece at the top

Below the display is the navigation deck, complete with a D-pad and the usual soft keys, call buttons and shortcuts to SIM management and messaging. The flat call keys and the shortcut buttons are conveniently separated by thin plastic ridges. The D-pad is reasonably sized and very responsive. The two vertical knobs of the soft keys did feel a bit awkward at first- we're used to them being level and right beneath the screen. On the other hand, they're the most prominent controls in the layout and very sold to press too.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
The controls and the QWERTY keyboard • the backlit keyboard

The different finish makes the QWERTY keyboard stand out against the surrounding glossy surface. Well-defined and comfortably convex buttons offer great tactility and reasonable typing speeds. The numpad is centrally placed and you can assign speed dial to the number keys 2 to 9. The backlighting is impressively sharp and solid as well.

The left side of the Nokia Asha 200 is completely bare, while the right is quite busy. It accommodates the microSD slot and the secondary SIM compartment. Both slots are hot-swappable and you can replace cards at any time, no phone reboot required. Both slots are sealed with thin plastic lids.

The Nokia Asha 200 supports dual SIM standby, meaning the two phone lines can work independently. For the SIM2 to work though, a SIM needs to be inserted in the master compartment under the battery.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
The left side hosts nothing • the microSD and secondary SIM slot on the right

Unfortunately there is no dedicated volume control on the device, you'll have to use the D-pad instead during calls or when playing music or video.

On top there's a 3.5mm audio jack, along with a microUSB port and the 2mm Nokia charger plug. The Asha 200 doesn't have USB charging enabled.

The lanyard eyelet is also around.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
The audio jack, connectivity port, charger hole and lanyard eyelet are all on top • the bare bottom

There is nothing of note at the bottom.

The bottom half of the all glossy battery cover has a bit of see-through finish revealing a mesh pattern underneath the solid base color. There are only two things of interest at the back - the 2MP camera lens on the top and the loudspeaker grille at the bottom.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 
The Asha 200 all glossy back has the camera lens and the loudspeaker grill

The battery cover feels quite solid - the thick piece of plastic fits perfectly in place, producing no squeaks when handling the phone.

Underneath is the 1430mAh BL-5J battery, which is quoted at the impressive 552h (that's 23 days) of standby and 7 full hours of talk time. If you turn the network off you should squeeze up to 52h of continuous music playback. We can't confirm those numbers, but we've never had worries with phones like the Asha 200. We should note too that it's a considerable upgrade over the 1020 mAh battery of the X2-01.

Nokia Asha 200 
The primary SIM compartment is under the battery

The Nokia Asha 200 doesn't get fancy with the finish - it comes in a rich selection of colors instead. The design is simple but the good build should rate higher in an entry level handset. The Asha 200 has a comfortable QWERTY keyboard and the general hand feel is quite good. It's a dual SIM phone and the hot-swappable SIM is a major point in favor.

Nokia Asha 200 Nokia Asha 200 

Nokia Asha 200 held in hand 

This post sponsored by:
Dr Mobiles Limited
1 Huron Street, Takapuna, North Shore 0622
Tel: (09) 551-5344 and Mob: (021) 264-0000
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