Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 2 Stars

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Meet the X8, the latest addition to Sony Ericsson’s flagship Xperia range of phones. It seems to have something of an identity crisis, though: it looks like the X10 Mini, but it is bigger than that, yet doesn’t quite measure up to the Xperia X10.

First impressions

First off, we must say that Sony is aiming at the budget end of the market with the X8, so it is no surprise that the device is a rather flimsy plastic job. On the plus side, even though it is cheap and feels rather brittle, it is a lightweight handset. We found our review device rather brash in its bright white colour scheme – we couldn’t quite decide whether it looked tacky or whether the white colour made it stand out.

Apart from being larger in size, the X8 looks very much like the X10 Mini. It has a bigger screen – 3 inches – but its user interface is the same. There’s an icon in each corner of the screen, one each for contacts, music, messaging and dial pad. These can be customised to fit your favourite. Slide your finger to the left and you’ll see a number of home screens – each can be customised to show shortcuts or feeds. It’s a pity that you can only add one to each screen, especially as you have nearly half an inch more of display to play with than you did with the X10 Mini. If you slide your finger up the display, you’ll be able to view a menu of 12 icons. This can be slid from left to right to reveal even more features, It’s also where you’ll view any apps you’ve downloaded from Android Market.

When we reviewed the X10 Mini, we found the virtual QWERTY keyboard just too tiddly to offer a decent typing experience. With its larger screen, the X8 offers a better experience for emailing and messaging. It’s especially roomy in landscape mode, and we found it pretty accurate too – even if we did manage to tap the wrong key, the auto-suggest invariably produced the correct word for us.

Getting social

Also on board is Sony Ericsson’s own social streaming facility, Timescape. This integrates all your Facebook updates, texts and tweets into a single feed. You’ll only see one feed on the home screen unless you actually enter the Timescape app. The X8 also has a native Facebook app on board, but it was not terribly reliable – having clicked on a posted link, we found it would not react to our command, or we ended up having to go through a number of extra stages to get to the link. In general we found browsing a disappointing experience. There is no autofit facility – to view all text you’ll have to double tap on the page – nor is there any pinch-to-zoom function (you’ll have to wait until the promised upgrade to 2.1 in January).

We found it easy to set up push email, but while we were notified of new mail in the notifications bar, we actually had to refresh the inbox if we wanted to actually read the message. Nor can you set up more than one email account – the fault of that out-of-date operating system. Not, that is, unless one of your accounts is a Gmail one – then you’re in luck because it has an application of its own.

The verdict

Should you have a small budget but be in the market for an Android phone, the Sony Xperia X8 is worth a look. However, if you can stretch to a few extra pounds a month, take a bit of time to shop around and you’ll get a smartphone with more features. With the Android 2.1 update (due in January) and a few glitches sorted out, the Xperia may well be worth thinking about, but until then we’re not getting excited about it.

Pros:
A responsive virtual QWERTY keyboard offered good auto-suggestions.
Cons:
The operating system feels out of date.
Rating:
  • Look and Feel 2 Stars
  • Ease of use 2 Stars
  • Features 3 Stars
  • Performance 2 Stars
  • Battery life 4 Stars

Final verdict: 2 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice