Product: Sony Ericsson Satio
System Specifications: Symbian S60 5th Edition, 3.5-inch touchscreen, 12.1MP camera, Xenon Flash, microSD, aGPS, WiFi, quad-band, HSDPA
Price: Depending on contract; SIM Free - £469.99
SONY ERICSSON ANNOUNCED its flagship 12.1 megapixel camera phone way back in February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where many of the year's new handsets were unveiled for the first time. The mobile was then known as Iduo, though at the end of May the company renamed it as Satio.
It took eight months for the phone to arrive from when it was first announced, but it finally came out, albeit with some recent teething troubles. Two resellers temporarily withdrew the Satio from retail sale recently, as a number were returned with issues such as the phone crashing when trying to run more than one application. There has since been a patch released to resolve that issue.
On first impressions the handset has an almost Bakelite phone appearance, from those house phones of yesteryear with its matte black finish and solid build. It feels a good weight in the hand - just right for a digital camera that happens to be a mobile phone at the same time, as let's face it, that's what it really is.
Its 3.5-inch 640x360 resolution resistive touchscreen has a clean and sharp viewing quality, while being fairly responsive to the touch on most occasions. There were some instances where we found a lag or a gesture not actioned by the touchscreen. We believed this may have been down to the OS, rather than the touch display being unresponsive. Selecting menu options and typing on the virtual keyboard were best performed with the top of the finger rather than the very tip, as anything else was a bit hit and miss on the Satio.
The Symbian S60 5th Edition mobile operating system runs this phone, which isn't the best version of that OS we've seen on a handset. It's rather clumsy, lacking in frills and is a very basic interpretation of that Nokia owned software platform. It is almost as if Sony Ericsson ran out of money in developing the phone when it threw the whole budget into the camera, then barely developed the OS as a result. It's a harsh criticism, but one we feel we have to make after regularly using Nokia's S60 5th Edition phones, such as the N97 and X6. Despite those mobiles running the same platform, their GUI is 100 per cent better, far friendlier, more feature laden and easier to use as compared to the Satio's deployed version.
The phone's GUI has clearly been influenced by Android, as it has a few different screens alongside the home screens used for housing the most frequently used functions such as contacts, messaging and the viewing of pictures. Pressing the green call button on the Satio only produces a list of missed calls, dialled calls and recent calls. You can only access the dialler from an icon on the main home screen.
Web browsing on the phone wasn't the easiest of tasks. A very precise touch is needed to select links on web pages, which we struggled with on this phone from time to time. Every time the browser is launched there's a pop up message to select the phone's carrier for surfing or using WiFi. This becomes very tedious as time wears on.
There were some disappointing hardware choices made by Sony Ericsson in the Satio, where it included its own proprietary socket for the phone's charging and data needs. This is an odd choice as we would have thought Sony Ericsson would have moved on from this unpopular choice of socket by now. It will become an EU mandate to use microUSB on mobile phones next year, making this decision an even more unpopular choice. Adding salt to the wound is the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack, where the only audio output possibility for the handset is through that very bulky proprietary socket. That's an even more curious decision, as it added its music feature from its Sony Walkman phones, making it a camera and music phone all in one.
The camera aspect of the phone, or the whole the reason many will buy the phone, is rather good at 12.1 megapixels. In most cases photos taken were clear and sharp, although a steady hand is needed when taking a shot, as even the slightest unsteadiness shows up much more clearly on the larger image.
With the average size of a 12.1MP image being close to 3MB, the 8GB bundled in microSD card comes in handy as the phone has only 128MB of onboard memory. There are good features surrounding the image taking capabilities of the camera phone, not ones really aimed at the professional photographer but more aimed at the casual snapper. These include autofocus, red-eye reduction, face detection, smile detection and best picture quality. These are all just minor tools to use, rather than anything too taxing or advanced for the average punter. Sony Ericsson has also included 16X digital zoom and a Xenon Flash that aids in producing decent images, although the zoom didn't produce the better quality we've come to expect from a higher megapixel camera.
Some of the images we took looked great on the handset, stunning in fact on the phone's large screen, but when fully blown up to the actual size were not as great as expected. The images taken with the Satio seem a bit hit and miss in terms of quality.
There are some anomalous aspects to the picture taking ability of the Satio, most of which we can live with but we would be remiss not to mention the foibles we uncovered. The massive 12.1 megapixel camera can only capture images in 4:3 ratio, not a widescreen 16:9 ratio despite the phone's own screen dimensions being that ratio. To capture a 16:9 image you have to drop the resolution to 10 megapixels, which really isn't that much of a bother, but to those who are used to a widescreen format it will be an issue. Taking another shot directly after already taking one isn't the Satio's forte, as there's a huge delay before another attempt at capturing an image is possible. We found that to be one of the more annoying foibles of the handset, where the Satio really should be capable of capturing multiple shots.
Video was a bit of a letdown on the Satio, both in capturing and in playback. The handset is only capable of video recording at a VGA resolution, where we really expected something more. Perhaps not full 1080p, but somewhere beneath just to show the full potential of the camera phone and what it could offer. Video playback has no support for DivX/XviD or any AVI, only Realmedia and mp4 file extensions. It was a shock to see those codecs passed by in the handset, as the box even includes a video out cable that other handset companies such as HTC sell separately.
The Satio 1000mAh battery was put to the test over a day's use, where we managed to get 8 hours of calls from the phone before the handset died, all while taking 12.1 megapixel photo shots here and there, which really didn't make as huge an impact on the battery as one would have thought.
This handset will be bought for its camera's megapixel count. At 12.1MP it is the highest we've seen to date and is the main reason the Satio exists. There are some good qualities to the phone surrounding its picture taking abilities, although we feel it's marred by the basic version of the Symbian OS and the touchscreen that apparently needs some sensitivity training. µ
12.1 megapixel camera.
Proprietary Sony Ericsson charging and data socket, no 3.5mm audio jack, awful web browser, no DivX support.
Touchscreen not as responsive as it should be, very basic Symbian OS version.