On behalf of tech enthusiasts worldwide, let us be among the first to welcome Sony Ericsson to 2009. At one point it seemed like the Swedish-Japanese conglomerate would be left in the recent past while the rest of the mobile world speeds away on the wave of touchscreen awesomeness. The Satio is Sony Ericsson's first touchscreen for the year and its first since last year's, and if you follow our reviews you'll know we didn't love the Xperia.
Happily, the Satio is exactly the kind of touchscreen experience we needed to see to restore our faith in Sony Ericsson. Though it uses resistive touchscreen technology the phone is extremely responsive. You do need to give the screen a gentle push when making selections, rather than just touching the screen as with capacitive screen technology, but it is a very gentle push and the extra effort will help you to not make selections accidentally.
The 3.5-inch display is bright and richly coloured and is a pleasure to use. We did find that the screen was difficult to read under sunlight at 50 per cent brightness, but this is par for the course with most mobiles. Around the edges of the phone you'll find a number of buttons and sockets, including dedicated camera keys and a microSD card slot. The Satio's lack of a built-in 3.5mm headphone socket is a disappointment and the absence of an adapter in the box with the headphones is a major oversight. Please Sony Ericsson, make a standard headphones socket a standard inclusion on your phones, especially ones geared towards media playback, as the Satio is.
Though the Satio might seem on the surface to be in the same category as the iPhone, Samsung's Omnia and Nokia's N97, we contest that it lives in a different category. While the aforementioned try to prove their merits as business phones with fun elements, the Satio is all party. Sure, it can access your business email and calendar thanks to a licensed version of RoadSync pre-installed, but the phone's strengths lie with media, in both capture and playback.
Its 12.1-megapixel camera is the show-stopper and we've been very careful to put it thoroughly through its paces. The verdict is good, and though there's a number of issues to point out, we've been very happy with the experience overall. The camera software starts quickly after you open the lens cover, and the settings are laid out in a finger-friendly fashion. The auto-focus and shutter speed is rather slow, averaging at about 1.4 seconds, so you may have a decent chance of catching your kid's second or third steps, even if you miss the first.
Photo comparison side by side: the Satio (top) and the Canon IXUS 120 IS (bottom)
Picture quality during our tests ranged from good to great, depending on the lighting situations. Daytime shots, especially in warm afternoon light, are gorgeous, but night-time shots tests the image sensor's sensitivity and the results tended to be extremely noisy. We also saw some of the worst red-eye in night shots that we've ever come across — even subjects across a room had glowing balls for pupils like burning hot coals.