Sony Ericsson Xperia X8

Style and handling summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 review
While it's pocket size, the Xperia X8 seems rather flimsy and cheap with its plastic chassis
Sony Ericsson Xperia X8

User friendliness summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 review
The user experience is far from smooth thanks to the complicated menu navigation, and the version of Android - 1.6 - seems out of date

Feature set summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 review
There's a 3.15-megapixel snapper, A-GPS and Sony's own Timescape, plus for surfing there's Wi-Fi and HSDPA

Performance summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 review
With its elderly operating system and a number of restrictions and hiccups, we just couldn't warm to the Xperia X8.

Battery power summary for Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 review
Battery life impressed, lasting for 476 hours on standby, and 340 minutes of chat

Full Review and Specification for the Sony Experia X8
The X8 is the latest introduction to Sony's Ericcson's flagship Xperia range of phone. It feels like it doesn't quite know what it is - it's larger than the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini, but more diminutive than the Xperia X10, although it's the Mini that it most looks like.

First impressions
Before we get started, we need to make it clear that the X8 is definitely aiming at the cheaper end of the market. So, first up we should not be surprised that the handset is made from somewhat flimsy plastic. However, despite feeling brittle and budget-priced, the device is also pleasingly lightweight. Our review phone came in a rather brash white, which on the one hand makes it stand out, yet on the other makes it look rather tacky.

Apart from being slightly bigger, the X8 looks pretty much like the X10 Mini, although it does have a slightly bigger display, measuring 3 inches. Its user interface is just the same as the X10 Mini's - you'll find four icons, one in each corner of the display, for dial pad, messaging, music and contacts.

It is possible to customise these to show your favourite features. Slide your finger to the left of the home screen and you'll be treated to a collection of home screens, all of which can be customised to show feeds or shortcuts. However, it is only possible to add one on each home screen - a shame because there's nearly half an inch more space on the display as there was on the X10 Mini. Slide your finger up the screen and you'll see a 12-icon menu - slide this from left to right and you'll discover even more features. This is also where you'll find any of the apps that you download from the Android Market.

When we reviewed the X10 Mini, we slated the virtual QWERTY keyboard for being too tiny for typing on. The X8, with its larger screen, makes for a larger keyboard and a more comfortable experience when keying in text messages or emails. The keyboard works better in landscape mode, as it ensures each key has a little more room. Mostly we found it accurate and even if we hit the wrong key, the auto-suggest usually came up with the right word for us.

Getting social
Timescape, Sony Ericsson's social streaming facility can also be found on board. It integrates all text messages, tweets and Facebook updates into one feed, but on the home screen you actually only see one feed. To see more, you need to enter the app. There is also a native Facebook app on the X8, but we found it rather unreliable - clicking on a posted link, it would either not acknowledge the command, or we found we had to go through extra stages to get to the link.

In fact, we were disappointed by browsing in general. There was no auto adjustment on pages so that all text could be viewed - we had to double tap to make this happen - and there's no pinch-to-zoom facility (that won't be available until the upgrade to 2.1, which is supposed to happen in January).

Setting up push email was simple, but while news of any new emails appeared on the notifications bar, we still had to refresh the inbox when we went into it to be able to read the new message. It's also not possible to set up multiple email accounts - again due to the elderly operating system. However, if one of the accounts is GoogleMail you're okay, as that has an application of its own.

The verdict
If you want an Android phone and you're on a budget, it's worth taking a look at the Sony Experia X8. But if you can afford a few extra pounds each month, shop around and you'll get a smartphone with more features.

Once the X8 has its Android 2.1 update, and some of the glitches are ironed out, it may be worth considering, but at the moment it doesn't offer anything for us to get excited about.