When Sony Ericsson launched its Xperia X8 the handset ran on Android 1.6. At the time Android 2.2 was around, so it immediately felt a little out of date. The handset has recently received a refresh and our review sample was sent back for a reflash. But the update brings it to Android 2.1, and now 2.3 is the latest version.
The Xperia X8 is a fairly dainty smartphone measuring just 99mm tall, 54mm wide and 15mm thick. That makes it tidy for the hand and pocket, but it does mean the screen is small. At 3 inches and with 320 x 480 pixels, it feels a bit undersized.
There is a real oddity here, because the tiny Xperia X10 mini measures 83mm x 50mm x 16mm and has a 2.55 inch 320 x 240 pixel screen. You’d think it would be less comfortable to use, but in fact we found it a delight and were quite happy with the size compromise.
The point, we think, is that the Xperia X8 is almost large enough to compete with the likes of the HTC Desire or Sony Ericsson’s own Xperia X10, but too small to be really effective as a multimedia user’s smartphone. It is stuck, to use a popular saying, between a rock and a hard place.
The build quality left us a little nonplussed too. While the pearlescent white chassis looks great, the plasticy material does not feel very robust.
Wi-Fi, HSDPA and GPS are all present and correct, of course, and Sony Ericsson has repeated the use of its proprietary skin for Android. This features four customisable corner icons on the home screens which give you quick access to apps without cluttering the screen too much.
Sony Ericsson’s Timescape widget is on one screen by default too, sitting in the centre and bringing together Facebook and Twitter in one place. Timescape is an acquired taste, and we don’t really find it that alluring. It only shows one update at a time, and you need to click it to get through to a carousel that lets you see more.
If you want to make a comment yourself you need to tap again and you are taken through to full screen apps. There is a separate Facebook widget if you don’t need Twitter.
There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of home screens you can set up, which is good news, but you can only put one widget on a screen. That seemed like a fair compromise on the small Xperia X10 mini, but here it seems odd. You could end up doing a lot of flicking around. We actually preferred to sweep upwards from the bottom of the screen and call up the full apps menu making widgets redundant.
The music player does a good job of delivering music through its speaker. Sound is a little tinny but volume is quite loud. Through the provided headphones the quality is a bit bassy but again good. The in ear buds are a notch above many we’ve seen in quality. And the 3.5mm headset connector is on the top edge of the handset, which is another positive point.
There is a button on the music player main screen which looks like a repeat button but which in fact initiates a web connection to find YouTube content and PlayNow tracks. An FM radio rounds the musical capability off nicely.
The camera is limited to shooting stills at 3.2 megapixels and it lacks a flash and has very few settings or features. That is disappointing as is the 128MB of internal memory, albeit boosted by the addition of a 2GB microSD card.
The processor seemed to struggle at times, making us wait while it performed actions and sometimes performing its screen animations jerkily rather detracting from all the design effort Sony Ericsson has put in to its Android skin.