Sony Ericsson has garnered quite a reputation over recent years for successfully cornering the snap-happy handset market, upping the Megapixel stakes with enough regularity to stay top of the game. Unsurprising, then, that their new Satio model is packing quite the shutter-punch of a massive 12.1-MP. However, this megapixel mammoth expands mere cameraphone kudos with its smartphone multi-media functionality running on the Symbian S60 OS. But does Sony Ericsson’s much-anticipated market competitor live up to the hype or is it just a pretty interface?
Hands-On And Aesthetics
When you initially handle this surprisingly lightweight model you might well be of the thinking that the overall feel is somewhat marred by the slight extra bulk of the camera. However, as we shall come to see, once you’ve got to grips with testing out the camera functionality all will be forgiven. The 3.5-inch touchscreen is aided only by the call, end and menu hard keys on the upper face, with the sliding keylock, connector and camera control buttons located to either side. All this culminates in the Satio being a pleasingly clean and minimal handset to hold and behold.
Usability And Functionality
The sliding lock mechanism and resistive touchscreen may be a little trying on the patience of some people who are accustomed to other methods, however, this issue is really one of personal preference. For me, even with my low-level patience, I still prefer to press with intent rather than deal with the hyper-sensitive capacitive option which I find can be massively aggravating when it takes it upon itself to do what you’ve not asked it to do, particularly when you’re in the middle of something else. Similarly, the lock mechanism is actually pretty handy once you’ve learnt to pay attention to it, especially when dealing with almost entirely touch-sensitive commands. If you’ve got sausages for fingers and are worried about getting your digits round the digits, fear not for the stylus is on hand to aid your dexterity.
Once on the home screen, several major feature icons help you access the main functions, so making your way around the handset is pretty self-explanatory. Basic phone functions are easy to use, although lack of hard QWERTY keyboard may take some getting used to if you’re not touchscreen familiar.
Multi-media functionality is good, thanks largely to the 16:9 screen which makes viewing a pleasurable breeze. Likewise the net, accessed via Wi-Fi, is pretty speedy and when you tilt to widescreen it’s a lot less straining to scan. Movies can be downloaded at Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow arena, and if the demo video quality is anything to go by the resolution is high enough for excellent quality entertainment on the go. Musically, the downside is the lack of 3.5mm headphone jack, although Sony Ericsson fans will know that traditionally, if you’ve opted for the cameraphone, that’ll take precedence over Walkman functionality (their W series has that covered.)With an adaptor, though, you’ll be able to enjoy the FM radio, TrackID and player shuffle capabilities. (Point to note here, though, is that onboard memory is not massive at 128MB, although since Sony have done away with their proprietary memory stick in favour of the microSD card format, that’s easily overcome.)
And so to the Satio’s true selling point, the mighty 12.1MP camera. As a cameraphone, this is where Sony Ericsson is, of course, seeking to take the leading edge over the competition, but how does it actually fare? Really pretty fantastically, actually. Picture quality coupled with camera functionality is as superb as you’d expect from the people who uphold the reputation for excelling in this particular field. For a handset camera, this is as near as you’ll get to digital quality at the moment. Pics are crispy gorgeous, with truly impressive clarity in the natural light that’ll delight any roaming snap-fanatic (please see my flickr stream of snowy captures as examples.) Uploading is simple via USB connection, and Picasa and Facebook links are already included to directly share your lovely adventures, which you can happily whizz through with the handy scroll function. Indoor pics will appear a little grainy, though, if you’ve not enough natural light, but with the Xenon flash employed to work its magic, this is much improved.
Whether you are a snap-and-go pro or less sure of finding your way around a high-spec cameraphone, Sony Ericsson has put in massive effort to ensure you have all you need at your fingertips. There is a vast range of features available to help you make the best of your photographic efforts, including Smile Detection for capturing your less miserable friends and BestPic which is ideal for capturing moving objects in quick succession at an interval speed set by yourself so you may pick the best photo, as the title suggests. Panorama, also, is handy for the great outdoors as it will fuse a triptych seamlessly as a single wide photo. Video shoot/playback/upload follows similar lines and a side button gives the option to move easily and quickly between photo and video.
Despite some minor niggles, much of which can be open to personal preference anyway, the Sony Ericsson Satio really is smartphone/cameraphone combo well worth investing in. Whether or not the Satio will encroach upon the iPhone market really is a moot point when you consider the steadfast brand loyalty. However, for those open to life outside the Apple brand, the Satio, with its superior camera and smartphone capabilities, doubtless has the edge on its rivals, such as the Nokia N97 and Samsung Pixon 12. Absolutely ideal multi-media phone for those who seek the integration of near-digital quality snaps.