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Display of class

The Satio was meant to be the world’s first 12 MP handset, but Sony Ericsson took their time to release the phone. Has the wait been worth our while?

tech reviews Updated: Dec 15, 2009 19:06 IST
Shayne Rana

Sony Ericsson’s mobile phone initially surfaced at the CommunicAsia ’09 in Singapore in February. The specs were really impressive. SE was the first to announce a 12 MP camera with this handset (also called the Idou) but Samsung beat them to it with the Pixon 12.

Looks
It’s a camera phone but it’s not a Cyber-shot. The handset is a bit on the bulky side because of the camera module at the rear that hides the lens and Xenon flash behind a very smooth pop-sliding lens cover.

The large 3.5-inch display is crystal clear and makes interaction with the handset very easy. On one side are a set of dedicated camera function keys — zoom/ volume, gallery view, video to still switching and, of course, the shutter release. The phone goes into the camera mode automatically when the lens cover is slid back.

On the other side is the slider lock for the display and Sony’s infamous proprietary universal connectivity port. The charger cable’s pin has another port attached so you can connect your handsfree while the phone charges. In my opinion, the standard 3.5 mm port would’ve been better. The Satio also uses a microSD card for extending memory instead of an M2.

It’s not really a bad looking handset, but it’s bulky with a depth of 13 mm and weighs in at 126 g, which means a bulge in your pocket.

Interface
Sony Ericsson has called back quite a few of the Satio and Aino devices because of an issue with the display, but this is the first time I came across a test handset that didn’t have the generic model problem.

The display is very responsive and thanks to its size, makes it very easy for navigation. The double tapping to access certain functions, which comes with a Symbian S60 5th edition operating system and user interface, is annoying but nothing you can’t get accustomed to. The Symbian browser, though usable, still needs a bit of tweaking. Typing is a cinch because of the large display; the large virtual QWERTY keypad is absolutely great to use.

Sony Ericsson tried to incorporate as much as they could to make it seem like their handset. The media screens offer a very SE styling with auto rotation, and the accelerometer thankfully works for almost all features and functions of the handset. I give that a double thumbs up. The UI is relatively smooth, speedy and colourful thanks to the ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz processor and PowerVR SGX graphics that are part of the handset’s make up. Like other S60 handsets, the desktop can be customised with shortcuts to various applications.

Media
I was disappointed to find that the Symbian player did not come with a set of EQ presets. Considering the hefty price tag, you’d think simple functions would be included! The handsfree is comfortable to use but the decibel level was too low, although I have no complaints whatsoever about the quality of the audio.

The Satio reads MPEG4 and 3GP video formats including iPhone resolution videos, which incidentally look awesome on the large display. But once again the low volume was an issue.

The handset’s built in Stereo FM radio worked out just fine providing pretty good reception almost everywhere I tested it. SE has included their TrackID feature to be used both with the radio or independently with the microphone. A voice recorder is also present for leaving voice memos.

Connectivity
The Satio is well prepped for connectivity but is strangely not equipped with any social networking applications.

The IM download section offers only Google Talk. You’ll have to find third party developers for other applications such as Twitter or Facebook. You can upload or get images from Picasa though, use the eBlogger service and also a YouTube application that’s on board. Most applications designed for the OS are found on Nokia’s Ovi store but the Satio is not a compatible handset.

The Satio is 3G-enabled and capable of HSDPA speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps. However, we’ll have to settle with EDGE and GPRS speeds for the time being. It also offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with an A2DP profile, and a USB 2.0 for PC connectivity. Google has included its Search feature and Google Maps. I had to download the Google Mail application, as I’m not a fan of the S60’s built in POP and IMAP email interface. Sadly, the Gmail app is not optimised for the device either.

GPS is also a feature that can be used either with Wisepilot (a 30-day trial pack comes by default) or Google Maps. RoadSync is a handy application for when you need to back your data up. It works great with MS Exchange to access Outlook, etc.

Features
The handset is otherwise decently equipped with all other basic functions including a calendar, calculator, dictionary, notes application, converter, alarm, etc. Extras include a read-only version of QuickOffice and Adobe’s PDF reader. Both are great to use thanks again to the device’s large screen.

Camera
As far as I’m concerned, the 12 megapixel camera is by far the best feature this handset has other than the brilliant display. It’s rich with features and functions from adjusting white balance, lighting and effects to high profile options such as image stabilisation, scene modes, auto-stitch Panorama, face and smile detection, geotagging, touch focus and Sony’s ‘Best Pic’ function. The Xenon flash makes a huge difference when it comes to taking photos in dark areas. Image quality is very good; from macro to landscape and portraits, the pictures appear quite crisp and clear with colours that are retained quite well.

Video resolution isn’t as high as I’d expected. In fact, the Satio is only capable of recording videos at VGA resolution (640 x 480) at 30 frames per second, which is quite average; we’ve seen 8 MP cameras do that better. An LED light is
provided to help lighten up dark locations, though only a bit, when shooting.

Battery
The Satio’s battery life is not bad at all. With basic usage that included a few short calls, messages, net activity (since there’s no social networking) and music, I was able to use the handset for a little over two days before needing to charge it. Talk time averaged in at over 4 hours and 20 minutes.