The Nokia Asha 201 is the first phone from Nokia’s Asha line of budget phones to land in the UK. This particular white model, which is exclusive to Vodafone, comes with a very friendly £45 price tag.

Boasting a solid built quality, a full, 4-row Qwerty keypad and a comfortable fit in the hand, the Nokia Asha 201 easily caters for the basics - calling and texting - and adds a dash of apps here, a 2-megapixel camera there and some web-based services.

But with no 3G or Wi-Fi we wonder how much use the Nokia Asha 201 will be for catching up with people on Facebook, let alone browsing the web. As a basic communicator we’re confident the Nokia Asha 201 will serve its purpose. What else does it have to offer though?

Nokia Asha 201: Design and build

Cut from the same cloth as Nokia’s E6 design-wise the Nokia Asha 201 crams a 4-row Qwerty keyboard into a wide-looking frame. It’s a bit smaller than it might look in pictures; measuring 115.4 x 61.1 x 14.0 mm it’s only a little wider than an iPhone 4/4S.

Composed mainly of plastics, the Nokia Asha 201 feels lightweight and airy. The buttons of the keypad have a pleasant springy feel to the touch and respond nicely. Texting is effortless on the Nokia Asha 201. Finding your way around the menus and layers of the Symbian S40 interface is made easy thanks to the direction key and the two context-sensitive keys.

Over on the back the camera unit sits up in the top left with a single speaker grille occupying the bottom. The battery cover lifts off at the base of the phone and slots back into place easily.

Overall impressions of the Nokia Asha 201’s build quality is good. There’s something especially nice about this white version that we’ve got from Vodafone that we like; the back cover features a frosted effect which gives the Asha 201 a bit of style and class. It’s no LG Prada 3.0 lets be clear, but it’s not an eyesore by any means.

Nokia Asha 201 Close Up

Nokia Asha 201: Interface

The Nokia Asha 201 runs on Symbian S40 and as such comes with the same set up of menus and settings pages that anyone who has used a Nokia phone from the last few years will be right at home with.

Nudge the directional menu key right from the home screen to load the calendar. Nudge it left to quick-load the text message editor. Press down to load up your list of contacts and up to access the three customisable menus that sit on the home screen.

The bottom-most menu is a Windows/Mac OS-esque toolbar of icons that let you quickly fire up the camera, the music player, Opera Mini web browser and others. In the middle there’s a section for social networks and above this there’s space for you to add your favourite contacts.

The main menu section lets you delve into the inner workings of the Nokia Asha 201 and make use of utility apps like a calculator, voice recorder, stopwatch and a to-do list. There’s a handful of casual games pre-installed and the option to download more through the Store.

You can also set your own backgrounds and change themes to suit your mood, add pictures and ringtones to specific contacts - basic phone personalisation stuff.

On touchscreen phones like the Nokia N8, the Symbian interface didn’t translate very well. On a phone where you’re navigating using a four-way directional key and context controls it makes perfect sense. The basic phone features are easily accessible and with a bit of navigation and tinkering you’ll soon easily know your way around the Nokia Asha 201.

Nokia Asha 201 Jack


Nokia Asha 201: Camera and multimedia

With a small 2-megapixel sensor and no flash, the Nokia Asha 201 isn’t every going to snap any Pulitzer winners.

There’s no focusing options, so objects up close look blurry. Under artificial light, there’s noticeable speckling and noise. Lack of a flash means taking pictures in the dark is a no-go and none of the settings available (adjust for white balance, grid, effects) really improve situations much. Video’s not much cop either, with results looking blotchy and shaky.

On a plus side the music player app offers simple, straightforward thrills. MP3s, AACs and WMAs (the most common files) are supported and making playlists is easy.

Nokia Asha 201

Nokia Asha 201: Browser

Two web browsers come pre-loaded on the Nokia Asha 201, Opera Mini and Nokia’s own Nokia Browser. Opera Mini, known for its nippiness, didn’t really fare that well on the Asha 201. It wasn’t noticeably faster than the Nokia Browser which at least came with shortcuts to Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia bolted on to the home page.

The standard Nokia browser also had a neat search setting that remembered all of the search terms that we’d typed in.

Ultimately, web browsing on the Nokia Asha 201 is slower than a slow loris on sleeping pills. So unless you’re Googling in desperation to get the times for the last bus or train home we can’t see you getting much joy out of either browser.

Logging into Facebook or Twitter takes an ice age as well, long enough for any desire to update your status or tweet about whatever’s on your mind to have come and gone.

In short, its best if the web services of the Nokia Asha 201 are avoided altogether.

Nokia Asha 201

Nokia Asha 201: Performance

Slow web use aside, general operations of the Nokia Asha 201 are pretty speedy. Nothing that ever makes texting or calling difficult or a pain. We had some problems with the camera app locking up when we tried to exit it, which normally resolved itself after a few seconds of being left alone.

Call quality is generally good though you’ll want to have the volume turned all the way up; it can be occasionally muffled on calls to other mobile numbers, especially if there’s plenty of background noise coming through from the other end.

The battery is solid as a rock. Though we’ve not has our Nokia Asha 201 review unit long enough to test whether the 37 days of standby time as stated on the official specs is accurate, we’d not be surprised if it was true. In the first three days that we had the Nokia Asha 201 where we’ve been making calls, messing around with the camera and playing music we’ve still been on the same original charge since.

Nokia Asha 201

Verdict

The Nokia Asha 201 does the basics with minimum fuss and costs a super-inexpensive £45 on pay-as-you-go. Battery life is great and we like how easy it is to find your way around everything.

The music player is pretty basic but we like that there’s support for all of the main audio files and microSD cards of up to 32GB. Surfing the web, checking Facebook and Twitter is more hassle than its worth on the Nokia Asha 201 - without 3G or Wi-Fi web services really crawl at a snail’s pace.

If you want something that will give you a solid battery and do the basics then the Nokia Asha 201 is ideal - functional, inexpesnive, unfussy. Those who want a phone for checking Facebook or searching the web on the go should look elsewhere.