On paper, Sony Ericsson's Satio smartphone certainly looks impressive — with its whopping 12.1 megapixel camera with Xenon flash, a large 3.5in touch screen display and an interface that uses standby panels on the home screen to access commonly used applications. The Sony Ericsson Satio is a well equipped smartphone with a wealth of features, but it's lacking in a few key areas.
In many ways, the Sony Ericsson Satio smartphone represents a new era for the company — a new name and slogan (make.believe) and an all new look make this a very different mobile phone. Sony Ericsson has a history associated with the Walkman and Cyber-shot brands and using product names consisting of numbers rather than catchy words — the new Satio breaks this mold.
Appearance wise this Sony Ericsson phone departs from the previous models, largely thanks to the 3.5in touch screen consuming the front phone real estate. The widescreen display is one of the best in its class, possessing good viewing angles, rich colour and clarity. Unfortunately, it’s a resistive touch screen rather than a capacitive one and Sony Ericsson includes a stylus in the sales package. Despite a few small hiccups using the Symbian operating system, we didn't have to use the stylus very often and the screen is responsive to touch.
The body of the Sony Ericsson Satio is primarily constructed from a glossy black plastic, with chrome flourishes on the side in an attempt to give it a stylish feel. Unfortunately the Satio is a fingerprint magnet, but overall it feels solid and well built — a highlight is the spring operated camera lens cover, although it does make the Satio a little chunky at the top.
The left side of the smartphone has a slider lock key and a microSD card slot, while the right has volume controls, a dedicated camera button and camera keys to switch between still and video modes and review captured images and videos. Below the display are physical answer and end call keys, as well as a menu button that doubles as a task manager when held down.
Undoubtedly the best feature of the Sony Ericsson Satio smartphone is its 12.1 megapixel camera. Offering a Xenon flash as well as smile detection, panorama and Best Pic modes, the Satio's camera is one of the best we've seen. It takes clear, sharp photos with excellent colour reproduction. The Xenon flash works well in low light situations and its performance on par with an equivalent stand-alone digital camera — although the resulting photos taken in overly dark environs weren’t up to scratch. For outdoors use, the Satio's camera produced excellent shots — the photos have minimal image noise compared to most mobile phone cameras and although image quality is lost when you enlarge it, snaps are crisp and sharp at their standard size. At 12.1 megapixels, photos captured range from 2.5 to 3MB in size. The Satio's camera also records video and while it does a reasonable job, it isn't a patch on Samsung's HD Icon, which can record HD quality video in 720p.
The Sony Ericsson Satio smartphone runs the Symbian S60T OS. The user experience is similar to using the Nokia N97 or the Samsung HD Icon, but Sony Ericsson has added its own touches. Five standby panels are accessible on the home screen by tapping the icons at the top, or simply sliding your finger across the display. You can access your favourite contacts, Web bookmarks, image gallery and a customisable shortcut menu. The bottom of the main home screen also has four icons to access the call dialer, multimedia, messages and search functions. Located above these icons is a music shortcut that displays playback controls and song information when you are playing a track. Sony Ericsson's standby panels are definitely convenient for accessing shortcuts, they don't do anything amazing. We feel Samsung's HD Icon feels smoother (largely thanks to the capacitive, AMOLED display) and has nicer transitions between the screens.
The rest of the Sony Ericsson Satio's Symbian interface is similar to what we've seen elsewhere (aside from the multimedia menus) and its quirks remain. Scrolling is a frustrating experience — annoyingly following your finger when flicking through a list — single and double click inconsistencies remain in various functions, and there is no dedicated Symbian app store. The good news is that Sony Ericsson has pre-loaded a number of apps on the Satio. Available in the "my applications" menu, these include YouTube and Facebook clients and a range of games such as Sudoku, MyLook and Labyrinth.
The Sony Ericsson Satio smartphone has an great multimedia menu, similar to the tiered interface found on the PlayStation 3 Slim. Accessible with one click from the home screen, photos and video can easily be flicked through by swiping your finger and are viewable in a smart grid layout. Once a photo is selected, a single tap will bring up a menu allowing you to zoom, print or edit the picture, or use it as wallpaper, assign it to a contact, send it via e-mail or MMS and add it to a slideshow. In addition to the music player there is also an FM radio.
Unfortunately, what would have been a capable multimedia device only includes a proprietary USB and charging port, and doesn’t include a 3.5mm headphone jack. The headphone jack omission is an inexcusable one, especially at this price point. Worse still, the Satio doesn't even come with an adapter to use regular headphones in the sales package, so you're stuck with the included proprietary headphones. The Satio only comes with 128MB of internal memory, but Sony Ericsson includes an 8GB microSD card in the sales package and the phone can accept microSDHC cards of up to 32GB in size. Unlike Samsung's HD Icon, the Satio can't play DivX or XviD video files. Built-in GPS is included and the Satio comes pre-loaded with the Google Maps application.
The Sony Ericsson Satio is a HSDPA capable phone running on the 900MHz and 2100MHz bands, though Sony Ericsson will also release a version that will run on the 850MHz network band — specifically for use in Australia on Telstra's Next G network. The Satio has Bluetooth with A2DP and Wi-Fi connectivity and a battery life rated at almost five hours talk time and 340 hours standby time. In our tests the Satio was quite a battery hog and in that regard it’s definitely comparable to the iPhone 3GS. We had to charge our review unit every night, especially when using the camera and multimedia functions regularly throughout the day.
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