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(Pocket-lint) - Sony Ericsson has always had different streams for its phones that focus on one key element in attempt to win over any competition. There was the Walkman range for music and the Cyber-shot offering for photographers, but can the two merge successfully? 

To cut a long story short and save you plenty of time there is only one good thing about the Satio: its camera.

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The 12.1-megapixel sensor, a decent lens on the back of the phone that comes with its own protective sliding door, and the ease of use of the photography software (to a point) is the crowning glory here.

It takes the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot brand and continues to run with it, building on previous K-series models to give you results that could have been shot with a compact digital camera.

The camera experience is helped in a number of ways: the dedicated shutter and zoom keys on the top, the fact that you are pushed into using it in a landscape rather than portrait mode and there's even a dedicated button to switch from still to movie mode and then there is the zippy shutter response time. This is a phone that wants to be a camera.

Packing more megapixels than most compacts and even older DSLR models, our test shots even on a gloomy day were impressive. The LED photo light and a Xenon flash are both helpful but not over-powering, the controls are handy and intuitive but not overly condescending.

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Photos are shot as standard using a 9-megapixel resolution to benefit the widescreen display. Saving shots to the memory card is quick and we only noticed a lag when boosting that quality up to 12 megapixels. 

And then it all starts to go wrong. Video recording support only comes in the guise of VGA rather than HD, a big surprise. Sharing your images is surprisingly limited to email, MMS or Bluetooth.

Then you have to deal with the shockingly slow and poor operating system that you can see groaning at every touch of the resistive screen. At times it is so slow that you'll find yourself double pressing a menu option, which then leads you into another barrage of menus that takes forever to back out of.

The multimedia experience has been based on Sony's Xross Media Bar experience found in other Sony Ericsson handsets and more famously on the company's games consoles.

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Press the media button and you get videos, music or photos, the ability to scroll through them (but not with multi-touch) and pick out your favourite tracks. Music playback sounds good with the accompanying headphones; a good job as those will be the only ones you'll be using. Yep, there is no 3.5mm socket on the Satio.

The video section comes with YouTube and BBC iPlayer pre-installed as well as the ability to side-load your own content via a microSD card or the Sony Ericsson PlayNow online store.

The 16:9 ratio wide touchscreen display is crisp and glossy, but the internal processor just not beefy enough to cope. The phone struggled to even playback footage we recorded with the camera. Our variety of tests found that the BBC iPlayer was too demanding, struggling to buffer its way through a episode of "So you think you can dance".

That lag that hangs around the multimedia features carries on through to every asset of the phone, with the Symbian operating system constantly having to think about the task at hand rather than snapping right to it. You press, it thinks, you eventually get what you are after.

Elsewhere there is the usual array of games pre-installed, an FM radio and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. The user interface is the usual grid offering with a smattering of shortcuts sitting on a home screen. The real estate is heavily underused and you'll end up trying to find a decent wallpaper in an attempt to feel better about the whole affair.

There are an array of keyboard offerings to help you master text input - with a landscape QWERTY keyboard being the best. There is a mini QWERTY keyboard setting which we hoped would be like the BlackBerry Pearl keyboard, but no - it's just the QWERTY one even smaller. Failing that, you can turn your hand to handwriting, but we would not recommend this. While it could easily capture most letters, those with two or more elements to it like "t" or "k" were impossible to write.

And then there is the design of the Satio. To say that it's fat would be an understatement. You can't even blame the camera, well you can, but while the lens and accompanying lens cover make it chunkier than it should be, the bottom end of the handset isn't much thinner. In fact we've seen digital cameras thinner than this phone.


Yes the Sony Ericsson Satio takes a great picture, but a phone isn't just a camera, it has to do so much more than that and that's something Sony Ericsson has forgotten.

The Satio is a smartphone that is neither smart, or really a phone.

One to avoid.

Writing by Stuart Miles. Originally published on 14 February 2010.