Sony Ericsson Satio Review

Introduction and Design
This is a global GSM phone. It can be used with AT&T and T-Mobile USA, but without 3G.
The American versionsupports AT&T's 3G network.


It was not that long time ago when Sony Ericsson announced the Idou at MWC 2009, although the handset got renamed to Satio later. The interesting thing about the cell phone is it´s manufacturer´s “first” in several respects – the first with 12-megapixel camera, the first based on Symbian S60 and the first all-in-one multimedia smartphone in the company´s range of products. It is equipped with 3.5-inch resistive screen with native resolution of 360x640 pixels (and cinematic 16:9 ratio) and 16 mln color support, Wi-Fi, GPS, 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 processor and is OpenGL ES 2.0 capable, so hardware-wise the newcomer does have what it takes to grip the attention of high-tech buffs, but let´s see if the device performs well enough to win over their love.

What´s in the box?

•    Sony Ericsson Satio
•    Stylus
•    8GB microSDHC expansion card
•    Wall charger
•    USB cable
•    Stereo headset
•    User guide in several languages


The Sony Ericsson Satio is by no means a compact cell phone, but let´s not forget about the 3.5-inch display it´s equipped with. We are surprised the handset is really light-weighted for its sheer size and we do like that. It´s made of plastic almost entirely, with the only exception being the metal, sliding camera cover. As a whole, the device feels neither cheap, nor expensive when you hold it. In terms of overall design, the Satio looks like a close relative of contemporary digital cameras with touch sensitive screens. It neither has an imposing, austere presence, not cuts a fine, elegant figure and aside from the grey color solution, the Satio will be available in black and red and latter looks quite eye-catchy indeed.

You can compare the Sony Ericsson Satio with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Similarly to most cell phones with touch-sensitive screens, there are no many things to see on the front side. The 3.5-inch resistive display supports 16 mln colors, has native resolution of 360x640 pixels and good overall sensitivity, but we must say we´ve seen better resistive screens, say the ones the affordable Samsung Star  S5230 and LG Cookie feature. It delivers good, saturated colors in artificial lighting conditions, but doesn’t perform this well in direct sunlight. It´s not that you won´t be able to use the Satio in the open, it´s just that details are somewhat hard to distinguish in bright lighting conditions, plus its love for fingerprints makes things even worse.

The three thin buttons below the screen have well pronounced travel and you shouldn’t have any troubles with them. The send and end keys bear standard designations, the button in between takes you to the main menu when pressed or the phone task manager when you hold it pressed for a while.

The microSD card slot is on the left hand side of the Sony Ericsson Satio, along with the screen lock/unlock slider and manufacturer´s standard charger port, while the camera shutter, mode switcher and gallery access buttons are clearly visible on the opposite side. The volume rocker can be used to zoom in and out on things as well. Completely in character of Sony Ericsson, taking pictures with the phone upright in your hand feels as if you were operating a digital camera. Unfortunately, the Satio is not equipped with 3.5mm jack, meaning you will have to fork out for a proper converter, because as usual, the manufacturer doesn’t provide one.

The upper part of the back side appears raised, because the 12-megapixel camera with xenon flash is hidden right there. Aside from them, the phone is equipped with auxiliary LED light to help the handset bring objects in focus more easily. Once you slide the cover open, both the camera shutter and a small light indicator under the lens will start glowing in blue, which reminds of the Cyber-shot lineup and is something we do like.

Sony Ericsson Satio 360 Degrees View:


We have already told you the Sony Ericsson Satio is the first model of the manufacturer running Symbian S60. Actually it´s 5th Edition, the same version that powers the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia N97, Samsung OMNIA HD i8910 etc. Similarly, the interface has had a facelift to keep it in step with the overall styling of the other Sony Ericsson models.

You will see the first novelty feature on starting up the phone. The StandBy home screen theme is totally different from the standard ones that come with the operating system, although these are also available. Sony Ericsson´s theme consists of 5 tabs, located at the top of the screen that allow access to different functions and are easy to switch between by sliding your finger or simply pressing them. So, here´s what the 5 tabs have to offer.

•    The first allows you to take a look at a vertical scroll list of your favorite contacts. If you select an entry, you will be able to take your pick from the options that pop up, i.e. give the person a call, send them a message or edit the entry.

•    The second tab hosts shortcuts of up to 8 of your favorite internet pages.

•    The third is, by default, the home screen itself and pressing the end button gets you back to it automatically. The interesting thing is that there is shortcut at the bottom of the screen that leads to the Sony Ericsson´s audio Flash menu. Even if you leave the audio player running in the background, you will still be able to see the track name and all necessary playback controls. There are four other shortcuts at the bottom that get you to the dialing menu, multimedia Flash Menu, your messages and the search function that you can use to locate information on the phone itself as well as on the Internet (via Google).

•    The fourth tab is actually a gallery of pictures taken with the 12-megapixel camera of the Sony Ericsson Satio. They get visualized in huge size on the large 3.5-inch display and can be scrolled by sliding your finger up or downwards. If you spot a picture you like, you can easily set it as wallpaper, send it in a message, share it on the Internet or see it in the fully functional Gallery app with just a few clicks. Come to sharing content on the Internet, you get two preinstalled services – Picasa and Blogger. Certainly, more can be added manually, but it would have been nice if at least Facebook was here.

•    The last leads to a vertical menu where you can place up to 8 shortcuts to applications and functions of your own choosing.

The other new feature of the Satio is the phone theme alters the colors and overall design of the icons… and there are eye-catchy transition effects when switching between menus. Since Ovi Store is only available with Nokia phones, Sony Ericsson offers you the option to go shopping for applications at Handango. Unfortunately, there is this slightly annoying problem that the online store doesn’t actually support the handset… This basically means you will have to look for software elsewhere.

The Sony Ericsson Satio comes with several preinstalled applications that can be found in a submenu called My Apps. Aside from the two games, Labyrinth and Sudoku, here is what you get:

•    SMS Preview shows you the latest text message directly onto the home screen - we do like both the idea and implementation of the app;
•    YouTube – sports quite an appealing interface really, that sadly works in landscape only. On the other hand, it packs beautiful transition effects, well-made video player, handy buttons and allows easy navigation;
•    Facebook application that shows the current status of your online buddies, the number of your unread messages and nudges you´ve got, all add-me-as-a-friend requests and all of your event participations. If you press any of the options available on screen, you will be re-directed to the internet page of the popular social network service. In our opinion, the Facebook app is designed to notify you of various events only and its functionality is a far cry from what the iPhone and Windows Mobile versions deliver. In this case, we would rather use the touch screen version of the official webpage available at

The rest of the interface is not any different from what we have seen on other handsets running the same operating system, so please take a look at our reviews of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, Samsung OMNIA HD i8910 and Nokia N97. You will have to put up with the lack of kinetic scrolling and the fact that you need to double tap to select options in the menus that visualize as vertical scroll lists.

There are no changes in the phone organizer and contacts and they are just as good as the versions found on other handsets with the same operating system. You have several entry options when creating messages and similarly to the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, you can use handwriting recognition, small, but full QWERTY keyboard that can be moved around the screen, full screen, landscape QWERTY keyboard and standard numeric keypad. The email client is the standard app that´s integrated into Symbian S60 5th Edition and it supports several email accounts. Switching between them is not exactly handy, because you need to log out of the currently selected account to log into another. As we have already mentioned in our reviews of other Symbian S60 5th Edition handsets, we would rather use Nokia´s alternative application – Nokia Messaging. Unfortunately, Nokia doesn’t have plans to support other than its devices.

Internet browser:

You will have to use the standard WebKit-based browser that comes with the operating system to browse the Internet. We have already taken a detailed look at the app in our reviews of the Samsung OMNIA HD i8910, Nokia N97, 5800 XpressMusic etc. The available options are not any different - you have Overview mode, zooming in and out on things and full screen mode. All pages visualize almost as they would have on a normal computer, except for certain Flash elements like the video players of or In addition, there isn’t a kinetic scrolling, like in the N97, but as a whole, we are pleased with the browser. Not last, the 3.5-inch screen makes surfing the Internet a pleasing experience.


The 12-megapixel camera of the Sony Ericsson Satio will certainly fail to fascinate you with a striking interface. Just like with the Samsung OMNIA HD, it looks monotonous and boring. The available options include 8 preset scenes, several shooting modes (panorama among them), BestPic, smile detection and touch focus to help you pick the object the camera should bring in focus (similarly to the HTC Touch Pro2). The flash sports red eye removal, plus you can activate picture geo-tagging that utilizes the built-in GPS. Anyone who hates fiddling with the setting will be happy to find out there is an Auto option that works similarly to the Intelligent Shot function available on the LG Viewty Smart and Crystal - it allows the phone software to automatically make the best selection for you. If you turn it off, you will be able to manually set the color effects, white balance and exposure, but not the ISO sensitivity. As a whole, the interface offers most of the contemporary options you would expect, but the snapshot quality that Sony Ericsson´s first 12-megapixel handset delivers is, by far, more important. All test pictures are taken with the camera in Auto and are directly compared to the images captured with the 8-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD870 IS.

All objects appear properly exposedin snapshots taken in the good lighting conditions. Colors look realistic, yet somehow monotonous, similarly to what you get when using the K810, K850 and C905, so we are not entirely satisfied. Comparing the results to what the Pixon12 delivers, we have to say we are even disappointed. The Satio performs way worse than the other 12-megapixel handset, not to mention it’s a far cry from the digital camera we benchmarked it against. Ultimately, come to snapshots taken in bright lighting conditions, the Satio lags behind its arch-rival in all respects.

The xenon flash of the Satio manages to light up nearby objects properly and not just in artificial lighting conditions, but in pitch dark places as well. Pictures are rather noisy, but at least there is no drastic loss of quality due to the lack of enough details and colors appear realistically represented. Certainly, we tested the Satio by taking pictures at night. Surprisingly, the handset actually performs better than the digital camera in terms of color representation and managed to impress us. Come to quality of details, both devices seem to perform at par, so the Satio scores another point here. Compared to the other camera phones on the market, the Satio is definitely one of the best for taking pictures in poor lighting conditions and at night.

The Sony Ericsson Satio captures videos with maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels, bitrate of about 3,900 kbps and at 30 frames per second. Their quality is really good, but still, the handset we would rather use for videos remains the Samsung OMNIA HD.

Sony Ericsson Satio sample video at 640x480 pixels resolution

All told, the Sony Ericsson Satio is by no means a bad camera phone – it performs decently in general and great at night shots. It, however, does not deliver the high-end camera performance it’s supposed to, not to mention the relatively low video capture resolution (despite the good overall result).


All multimedia functions of the Sony Ericsson Satio are available through the beautiful Flash menu we know from previous models of the manufacturer. It comes with eye-catchy transition effects and you need to take your pick from the three options you are presented with on opening it – browse snapshots, listen to music or watch videos.

The audio player filters content by several criteria – artist, album, shows content sorted in alphabetical order, audio books, podcasts and voice notes. It has an interface that reminds us of the version found on the two-year old Sony Ericsson W960, especially during audio playback, but the application comes with quite a few eye-catchy improvements as well. On the overall, it’s comfy to use, although it lacks equalizer settings and sound effects, something we don’t like. The Satio is equipped with FM radio that features a rather simplified, yet capable interface and TrackID audio recognition engine.

The sound through the loudspeaker managed to surprise us with its loudness. We certainly didn’t expect it to pack such a powerful punch, considering there is just one loudspeaker. Unfortunately, the boxed headset is a weakling, plus the trebles and basses it produces aren’t clearly discernible, something that music lovers will definitely be disappointed at. Sadly, plugging in a better pair means you will have to shell out for a proper converter to 3.5mm jack, because the Satio is equipped with the manufacturer’s proprietary port and there is no adapter in the box either.

The video player interface looks quite appealing and sports large control buttons. Aside from the standard playback options, you can stretch videos so as to make them fit the screen. Unlike the Samsung OMNIA HD, the Satio doesn’t support subtitles, DivX and Xvid files and cannot play HD videos either. Still, we didn’t have any troubles watching H.264 and MPEG4 coded MP4 files with resolution of 720x480 pixels, high bitrate of about 1,500 kbps at 30 frames per second.

The 3.5-inch display makes the experience really pleasing, although its colors are not as saturated as those delivered by the AMOLED screen of the Samsung’s multimedia monster. Ultimately, the Satio is a decent performer in terms of multimedia, but the Samsung OMNIA HD is quite better.


Similarly to all members of the motley Symbian S60 5th Edition family, the Sony Ericsson Satio is relatively sluggish, despite the fact it’s equipped with capable hardware. The menu transition effects are to blame to an extent, because they slow down the handset even further. Alongside the other models running the same operating system, it’s perhaps only the Nokia N97 that is as fast as the Satio. At least the in-call quality is really good. Sound is loud on both ends of the line and you will have to turn it down a bit to address the noticeable crackling. Things get much better once you’ve decreased the volume a step or two, with voices becoming clearly discernible and easy to catch onto. All told, the only issue that prevents us from rating the overall in-call quality as excellent is the slight voice sharpness.


Having told you what Sony Ericsson’s first 12-megapixel, all-in-one, Symbian S60 5th Edition based handset is all about, it’s time we passed our verdict. The only advantages of the Satio over its rivals are the almost impeccable in-call quality and splendid night shots. As a whole, the handset takes on the job of being a decent camera phone pretty well, but its arch-rival, the Samsung Pixon12 performs better.

The Satio is not a bad multimedia device, but the Samsung OMNIA HD is head and shoulders above, thanks to the integrated support for DivX files and larger display that delivers more saturated and appealing colors.

We need to point out that the overly steep price tag (contract free) of the manufacturer’s first Symbian S60 device influenced our opinion and overall rating of the handset. The difference to its rivals is significant and this is a cardinal sin, because it´s actually unjustified. If you need to know what we would advise you to go for, here is our answer:

1.    In case you need a capable camera phone with 12-megapixel sensor, you will be better off opting for the Samsung Pixon12 – it’s better on the overall and is available at a far lower price.
2.    If you are intent on getting an all-in-one Symbian S60 5th Edition multimedia smartphone, the Samsung OMNIA HD is the perfect choice. Aside from its pretty good multimedia functionality, the device will allow you to take good pictures in proper lighting conditions. Similarly to the Pixon12, the OMNIA HD is inexpensive alongside of the Satio.

If the Satio had rolled out earlier, say at the end of the summer, it would have had a better chance of becoming a popular device. However, it took Sony Ericsson about 9 months to release it on the market since the cell phone got officially announced at MWC 2009 - this is quite a long time these days, even more so because the competition, Samsung in this case, has managed to come up with a proper answer.

Sony Ericsson Satio Video Review:


  • The second cell phone with 12MP camera
  • Great night snapshots
  • Extremely good in-call quality


  • Outdoor pictures could have been better
  • Unjustified price tag
  • Sluggish operational speed
  • No 3.5mm jack
  • Doesn’t support DivX and/or Xvid files

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