At 99 x 54 x 15 mm the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 is a compact phone, just not as tiny as the X10 mini. This leaves enough room for a 3” HVGA screen, so that the custom Android UI doesn’t feel cramped.
The weight of 104g is at the lower end of what you can feel in your pocket, though the 15mm of thickness are a bit above the average for an Android smartphone. Still, it’s comfortable to hold and comfortable to use single-handedly – you can easily reach all the controls.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 looks like a stretched out X10 mini, which in turn looked like an X10 in miniature. So, there’s a clean line of succession in terms of design. It’s not as boxy as the mini and not as much of a slab as the big X10.
The plastic used on the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 doesn’t have a “premium” feel to it. Still, it hides fingerprints and helps keep the weight down. The matt finish on the front is pretty good at concealing fingerprints too (especially the white one), but the screen is a fingerprint-magnet – just as any other touchscreen.
The touchscreen on the front has grown almost half an inch over the X10 mini’s and has double the resolution: HVGA. The image is much crisper and you won’t feel like an elephant in a china shop thumbing your way through the menu.
The screen sensitivity, as was to be expected in a capacitive unit, is excellent. The slightest of touches is enough for a click to be registered, for a great touchscreen experience.
The 65K-color limitation inherent to Android versions prior to 2.0 could result in the occasional banding but it’s not as easily noticeable on a screen this size. If the X8 receives the Android 2.1 update those issues should be solved.
The image quality is passable as far as TFT displays go, with good brightness and contrast. Viewing angles are good too. Sunlight legibility on the XPERIA X8 is poor too – the screen reflects too much light making it near impossible to use the phone on a bright sunny day.
Below the display there are three hardware keys – contextual menu, home and the back button. Those are thin buttons but nicely raised and with good press feedback. What’s missing in the Android standard assortment of keys is the search key – you get a search widget on the homescreen instead.
Above the display we find a status LED, the earpiece, as well as proximity and ambient light sensors. There’s no option to deactivate the auto-brightness. The proximity sensor is in charge of locking the display when you hold it next to your ear during calls.
The sides of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA 8 follow the X10 and X10 mini arrangement. The left side is left completely bare.
On the right you get a volume rocker and a shutter key. The volume rocker is too thin – thinner than the keys below the screen. The shutter key is not all too comfortable either but it’s a fixed-focus camera after all.
On top of the handset is the screen lock key which also acts as a power button. It’s small and barely protrudes but we guess it was done on purpose to minimize accidental presses. More often than not it needs a push with a fingernail really.
At the top of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 you’ll also find the audio jack and the microUSB port. The audio jack is absolutely compatible with standard 3.5mm plugs but the unusual shape is designed to accommodate the optional Hi-Fi Sony Ericsson MH-810 headset with music controls remote.
There is a protective cap over the microUSB port (which is too hard to open), while the audio jack is exposed.
The bottom features just the mic pinhole and the lanyard eyelet.
The back of the phone hosts the 3 megapixel camera lens and the loudspeaker. The camera is not covered but quite inset, giving it a reasonable protection against scratches.
Removing the battery cover reveals the microSD card slot and the SIM compartment. The microSD slot is hot-swap enabled though not accessible without opening the battery cover. The good news here is that the battery is removable, as opposed to the one of X10 mini.
Both the back and the front cover come off relatively easy – this means you can quickly dress up your XPERIA X8 in new colors and there are plenty to choose from.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X8 fits very well in the hand. Its medium size and slightly curved back make it comfortable to hold and even the 15mm thickness didn’t bother us that much as the curved corners help mask some of the thickness.
The absence of premium finish is understandable – you can’t have swappable panels if they’re made of metal and even the XPERIA Pureness, which was more about show than features, was plastic.