Sony Ericsson Satio review: Shooter by vocation

GSMArena team, 27 October 2009.
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Games department offers two puzzles

There are two games preinstalled on the Satio - Labyrinth and Sudoku. Labyrinth has the same premise as HTC's Teeter game - by tilting the phone, you guide a ball to an end point avoiding traps along the way.

There are some new obstacles on the way but the essence is the same. The maze is rendered in 3D and the camera shifts position as you tilt the phone. Unfortunately, it does so with noticeable lag, which somewhat breaks the illusion.

Sony Ericsson Satio screenshot Sony Ericsson Satio screenshot Sony Ericsson Satio
Tee… uh, we mean Labyrinth

The second game Sudoku is self-explanatory. It introduces a slight RPG element by letting you create a character with which you can earn prizes and trophies displayed on a shelf in a virtual cafe. You can create or join online cafes to show off your trophies. There's also an extensive tutorial in case you've never played Sudoku before.

Sony Ericsson Satio screenshot Sony Ericsson Satio screenshot Sony Ericsson Satio screenshot Sony Ericsson Satio screenshot
Sudoku will eat up your free time

GPS navigation talks you through

The Sony Ericsson Satio features a built-in GPS receiver. Its sensitivity is nothing spectacular - it managed to get a lock from a cold start in a couple of minutes but we had to go out into an open area. It wouldn't get a lock on the balcony of our office.

The Satio is equipped with a Wisepilot navigation software and offers all the features you'd expect from a proper SatNav solution. There's voice-guided walk and drive navigation, maps are courtesy of NAVTEQ, there's 3D view of the maps, extensive route-planning settings, speed camera alerts, POI and weather.

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Wisepilot navigation software

Its main downside is that maps are not stored locally but instead are downloaded over the air. A flat data fee is recommended but 1MB of data should get you about 600km of navigation. Still, we would have liked to have a map downloader as well, like with Nokia Maps. It really would have helped in avoiding data roaming charges.

We also wish there was a built-in compass, like on most of its competitors, to facilitate navigation.

Google Maps is included as well if you prefer it.

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Google Maps

Final words

Sony Ericsson need a winner right now and the Satio is the phone carrying the torch. It's equipped with a 12-megapixel camera, which puts it in an elite club. It failed to become the founding member of the club - that title goes to the Samsung Pixon12 - but the Satio offers a level of extra versatility available only on smartphones.

Let's look away from the camera for a moment though - we paid it plenty of attention in our 12-megapixel shootout. The smartphone capabilities do deserve praise as well.

The Satio runs on the same "engine" as the iPhone 3GS, Omnia HD, Palm Pre and Nokia N900 - an ARM Cortex A8 CPU running at 600MHz along with a PowerVR SGX graphics accelerator. Symbian OS is known to run merrily on much lower-clocked CPUs and with more horsepower it multitasks like a champ. It also sports a brand new look, which certainly helps.

But all that platform talk renders the obvious competitor of the Satio a bit obscure. Yes, the Samsung M8910 Pixon12 is currently the archrival but the 12-megapixel camera is the only ground where these two phones face off. Yes, the Pixon12 offers GPS voice-guided navigation and Wi-Fi, a WVGA AMOLED screen and smooth and silky TouchWiz - but it's not as versatile and flexible as the Satio's smartness. The Pixon12 beat the Satio in a pretty close game but it was the cameraphone that lost, not the smartphone.

Samsung M8910 Pixon12
Samsung M8910 Pixon12

When the Samsung M8920, the worldwide version of the Samsung W880 AMOLED 12M, finally comes out, pressure on the Satio will grow. The M8920 won't be a smartphone either but optical zoom will sure tip the scales. Until then, have a look at our preview of the W880 to get a taste of what's coming next year.

Samsung M8920
Samsung M8920

Going down a notch in the camera department, we find a whole bunch of 8-megapixel options.

The Samsung i8910 Omnia HD is a ready and willing candidate. Its camera is probably as impressive, but in another way - the still unmatched 720p video recording. The bigger (and AMOLED) screen is worth noting too.

Samsung i8910 Omnia HD
Samsung i8910 Omnia HD

In fact, the real promise is in the recent stir-up at the high end of the Sony Ericsson portfolio. We guess, phones like the Satio and the much-awaited Rachael give credence to the company's efforts for a comeback. The Sony Ericsson top dogs really need to pull their ranks together to stand up to the competition.

The Sony Ericsson Satio lost the race for the first 12MP cameraphone on the market, but maybe it's not too late to win the race for widespread adoption. There's certainly a great deal of hype around it and the phone manages to live up to a lot of it. Of course it will be up to the mid-range reinforcements to follow Satio, Aino and Rachael to claw back some of the market share the company has lost over the last couple of years. But things may as well be looking brighter already with Satio leading the way.

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