It may be banging the drum for bill topping Walkman phones like the W902 and big shot Cybershot phones such as the C905, but Sony Ericsson has also been taking care of business at the credit-crunched end of the mobile market.

The T303 is designed to appeal to phone buyers who aren't looking for the latest high end, cutting edge gadgetry, but are more concerned with getting a handset that will do the basics well – and look good while doing it.

Budget phone

This entry-level handset sells itself mainly on its snappy sliderphone design and compact styling rather than its sparse specs list.

Its main features extend to a basic 1.3-megapixel camera, an FM radio and a music player – although storage for tracks is a meagre 8MB, and there's no memory card expansion support, so you're not going to be able to line up much in the way of tracks,

What is more appealing is the price. Available on pre-pay for around the £50 mark, the T303 is aimed squarely at the hearts and purses of a younger fashion conscious – but cash strapped - audience.

Stylish design

Fair play to Sony Ericsson – it is a bit of an eye-catcher, with a brushed metal casing, chrome look plastic control panel, and a mirrored front panel covering the screen.

Available in either silver or black, it's a compact handset, measuring 83(h) x 47(w) x 15(d)mm, and at 93g it feels unexpectedly weighty in the hand. It'll fit inconspicuously into a handbag or pocket, but it's reflective front panel will attract the eye when taken out to play.

Beneath the mirror frontage, the phone's display pops up when the phone's active, although it's rather small and basic – a 1.8-inch screen, with a 65K-colour, low resolution 128x160 pixels array. This is really the minimum you'd expect from even a budget handset in 2008, and it isn't helpful for decent mobile internet viewing, or for glancing at images you've taken.

Menus look a bit blockier than on other Sony Ericsson's we've seem recently, but it's no handicap for getting around the straightforward navigation system.

Simple layout

The front panel controls are ranged around a central navigation D-pad.

There's pair of rice-thin softkeys under the display, plus prominent Call and End buttons. Also built into the chrome-look plastic panel are a Shortcuts button and the Clear key – both of which are a tad too stiff to press for our liking.

The flush keys on the numberpad are large and well spaced out, considering the room available. They have a slightly spongy action compared to the best texting phones, but are reasonable enough to use.

Getting around the menus is no hassle. The typical Sony Ericsson navigation system may have fewer options than more upmarket models, but it's easy to negotiate and based on a similar main menu grid of icons with assorted sub menus.

The D-pad also has four extra shortcut options from standby to add to the Shortcuts key, opening up access to most of the key features in a couple of presses.

Low spec camera

Tucked behind the solid slider mechanism, the 1.3-megapixel camera is a rudimentary snapper. Most budget cameraphones now start at 2-megapixels, so don't expect great things from this one – there's no flash let alone sophisticated stuff like autofocus control.

It has a plain, no frills user interface, with the central part of the screen doing viewfinder duties in portrait mode, and the D-pad acting as the shutter button.

Very few setting and control adjustments are possible in what is, effectively, a basic snap and send cameraphone; users are unlikely to be showing off the limited quality snaps of which this camera is capable.

You don't have to worry about poor quality video capture though – as there is no video shooting capability on this phone. The T303 is also shorn of the auto blog imaging upload features that's now pretty much standard issue on most Sony Ericsson handsets.

Limited memory

Although there is a music player, the lack of onboard memory – and no expandable memory – rather negates the point of having the music software there.

At a stretch you might get a few short music tracks into the 8MB of memory, but it's not equipped for any serious music playing. If you want to listen to tunes, then Sony Ericsson's budget Walkman range are much more likely to deliver what you want for only a little more cash.

As it happens, entry-level earphones are supplied and music playback quality is OK, but if you're in to music you'll probably be making more use of the FM radio. This works nicely, and does its low-key entertainment job perfectly well. Although you have to plug in the earphones to act as an antenna, it can also be played through the phone's loudspeaker.

Clever features

Among the additional bits and pieces of software, Sony Ericsson's clever TrackID song identification application is included.

A WAP 2.0 XHTML browser is onboard too for basic mobile internet action using the phone's GPRS-speed data connectivity. The T303's organiser functionality gives a decent account of itself with staples such as calendar, tasks, notes, timer, stopwatch, alarm and calculator.

A voice memo function is available too, while a couple of Java games are pre-loaded.

Decent battery life

The T303 may not be the most spectacularly endowed of handsets, but it does the basics right with a good quality, dependable voice call performance.

Battery life is pretty good too - the flip side of its lightweight specification is fewer power-hungry features to eat up the battery.

Sony Ericsson claims the battery will provide up to 9 hours talktime or up to 400 hours of standby in optimum conditions. With real life average usage we managed 3 to 4 days between charges, which should be fine for most users.

Basic handset

Its design is small and attractive for a basic entry-level phone. But with a token music player effort and its feeble camera, Sony Ericsson's T303 is a very limited handset, even at this price point.

It does the basic stuff fine, but smarter younger buyers are advised to look elsewhere, as there are plenty of more capable and appealing handsets – including some from Sony Ericsson – available for not much more cash.

Network availability: O2, Orange, T-Mobile

Looks: 3.5/5
Ease of use: 4.5/5
Features: 2/5
Call quality: 4/5
Value: 2.5/5