We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again…the Chinese are coming. And not at a trot, but at a gallop. Regular readers will know that we’ve been tracking Chinese brand phones for a few years, and what we’ve seen in the past few months is a big shift in how they’re made and marketed, which is pitching them head to head with the premium handsets from major brands like Sony, Samsung and HTC. And where there used to be a huge gap in quality and specifications, today it’s all but gone away.
The latest THL W200 Android smartphone is a perfect example of what we mean. In the short few months since we reviewed this model’s predecessor, the THL W100, the company has pulled out all the stops and produced a handset which rivals the best the major brands can offer, and at a ludicrously attractive price. And it’s not just a specification win either. This new phone also comes with bags of style which makes it the kind of product people will want to show off at the dinner table. It’s a subtle point, but crucial.
So what’s the fuss about? Well on the surface, not much. The new W200 is not so much a revolution as an evolution on its predecessor, but it’s the sum of the parts that really makes the difference, as you’ll see in the rest of this review and our video run through.
This new THL W200 is the successor to the successful budget phone the W100, and while on the surface there’s little difference between the two, in reality there’s a universe of change, which makes this new product a real eye opener. The new Android phone features the brand new MTK6589T processor, which is an uprated quad core CPU running at 1.5GHz as opposed to the 1.2GHz of most current budget and mid range phones.
The remainder of the specs are typical of the genre, with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB internal storage space, Bluetooth, Dual SIM/Standby, GPS, WiFi and the rest, but this model also features a high resolution 1280×720, 5 inch screen, which makes it a little larger than the Galaxy S3, but with the same resolution.
We’ve commented before on the quality of THL’s packaging and user manuals, and the tradition is carried on with this handset. There are two 1800mAh batteries included in the pack, as well as the usual USB charging and data cable, a power block, manual and headset.
In terms of overall size, the W200 sits in between the W100 and something like the Galaxy Note, which although it has a 5.3 inch screen, seems so much bigger all round now. The result is the W200 comes across as a great compromise between the size of a phablet and the smaller standard screen real estate. You can even use it one handed!
Pulling the back off reveals the two SIM slots and the microSD slot which will accept up to 32GB of card. Don’t bother trying anything larger like a 64GB card because it won’t work.. When we tried, it failed to read instantly, declaring our new SanDisk card to be ‘damaged‘. It wasn’t. The battery is longer and thinner than its predecessor, which reflects the fact that the phone itself is also a slimmer, more elegant shape than the W100. It’s actually very cool looking too, in a black monolith sort of way. See our video review below for a more detailed look.
Click through past the jump to see our conclusions, the specifications and current price of this handset.
It’s hard not to be impressed with the sleek elegant design of the function keys on the phone. Nicely recessed, and yet placed in the right ergonomic position for easy access. You’ll find the volume buttons, power on, headphone jack and USB socket where you’d expect, so no surprises.
They work well, and our only small quibble would be that that it can be a little hard to locate the soft buttons for Home, Back and Menu at the bottom of the screen, since they disappear when not in use as the backlight switches off. But you soon get used to it.
The extra processor horsepower may not seem like much on paper, but it definitely makes a difference in operation. Games, apps and browser sessions load much quicker, and run with effortless ease as the quad core processor eats up the task. The handset benchmarks at a very respectable 15731 on AnTuTu Benchmark, which places the phone squarely in the Galaxy S3 realm and not far off the Note II, which is not shabby at all when you remember the price.
Oh yes the price. Well that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Delivering high quality functionality at a ridiculously low price, and in that regard, the W200 is definitely a winner. At just a shade over $200, the handset gives you all the smarts you’ll need from an Android 4.2.1 handset, without the horrendous wallet ache of the major brand alternatives. So what do you lose by buying so cheap?
Well it’s certainly not build quality, because this phone looks and feels as solid as any other handset we’ve seen recently with the exception of the HTC One, which really does stand in a class of its own. The handset doesn’t flex, it features a decent sounding speaker, the camera has definitely seen a jump in resolution and image quality, and we have to say even the styling looks bang up to date to us. There’s nothing cheap looking about the exterior at all.
What you do lose are things like NFC, LTE 4G capabilities, the more modern Bluetooth A2DP (it’s billed as only BT 4.0) and some of the more esoteric sensors like barometer. But you do get proximity, accelerometer, light sensor, gravity and magnetic field sensors and while there’s also no HDMI out, which is a shame, the big news is the fact that either THL or MediaTek have fixed the MediaTek GPS lock on issue .
Yes the GPS now locks on in a decently short time of under a minute (38 secs on our test) on the first lock, and works fine once running. Since that has been a fairly common complaint about these cheaper Chinese brands, it’s good to see that someone has been listening and dealt with the problem. I’ve included a video clip of a test to show the lock on speed at the end of the main review video.
We’ve mentioned the camera, which at 8 megapixel for the back and 5 megapixel for the front provide very good results, with much less softness and noise than the predecessor. The photos are now just about up to Samsung quality levels, which is a remarkable achievement in a few months. The video that this phone produces is also absolutely top notch, with the high def really evident in the footage. Very impressive.
(resized only, click for larger size)
Likewise gaming on the higher resolution screen is a joy, with the crisp colors and the seamless motion making it a great handheld console equivalent, especially with the 5 inch screen to play with. Of course you need to be aware of battery life with that larger screen, but in our very subjective experience the handset easily manages a day’s worth of use unless you spend a lot of time gaming or using other graphics intensive apps such as GPS maps or video.
While there’s nothing really revolutionary to talk about with this new phone, as we said before it’s the sum of the parts which makes it such a great little phone. The GPS fix, the improved camera quality, the sleek comfortable design all go towards adding that vital ‘desirability‘ to this model. It’s the kind of phone which will draw comments as you take it out of your pocket or bag, which says a lot when you remember it’s typically a third of the price of rival brand names.
And what about THL as a company, and the associated aspects of reliability and support? Well, as we reported in our review of the THL W5 back in January , the company is one of the few Chinese producers which has committed heavily in domestic high street stores and online support services, albeit not so much for the International market yet. And while there’s no clear upgrade path for the Android system, that’s not so unusual nowadays when most manufacturers fail to upgrade for ages after the release.
We’ve been using the older THL W100 for the few months since our review, and we’ve definitely been impressed by the durability and all round usability of that phone, and all the signs are that we will receive the same sort of experience from the successor. The bottom line is, if you’re looking for a budget Android phone with no compromise on performance and features, then this handset is a great place to start. It’s fast, sleek and solid and at just $203, a real bargain of a phone whichever way you look at it.
OS Version: 4.2
CPU: MTK6589T Quad Core
Processor Speed (max): 1.5GHz
3G: WCDMA: 850/2100MHz
2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, Adobe Flash
Portable WiFi Hotspot (3G Tethering)
8 Megapixel Rear Camera (Interpolation 12MP) + 5 Megapixel Front-Facing Camera (Interpolation 8MP)
Mic and Speaker
Battery Size: 1800mAh, Usage Time: 5 Hours, Battery Standby: 72 Hours
Display Size: 5 Inch, Display Resolution: 1280×720
5 Point Capacitive Multi Touch Display
Micro SD Card up to 32GB
Video: WMV, ASF, MP4, 3GP
Audio: MP3, WAV, MIDI
Picture: JPEG, BMP, GIF
eBook: PDF, TXT
3.5mm Audio Out Port
2 x SIM Card Slot
Micro SD Card Slot
Magnetic Field Sensor
Main product dimensions: 143x75x9mm (L x W x D)
Main product weight: 134g