If you want a handset with a bit of spark, Sagem's myX-8 could be a good phone to consider. It's bright and quirky in many respects, and although it looks all mouth, it has the trousers -- it's pretty clever, both in its own right and when used with your laptop as a modem or to share data and make backups.
Power users might find some features annoyingly absent -- there's no HTML Web browsing or email client, for example. But 40MB of internal memory isn't to be sniffed at by snapshot photographers or music fans.
This handset has not yet been picked up by an operator, but you can get it direct from Sagem if you can stomach the SIM-free price of £300 with a Bluetooth headset. A few other online stores are offering the handset SIM-free for around £250, so it's worth shopping around.
The myX-8's cool white exterior screams 'I am a fashion phone'. If you have a burning need to coordinate every gadget you own with your iPod, this handset does the job, finished in pure white and silver-white brushed metal. Even if you don't feel the need to coordinate, a white handset makes a nice change from all the silver and black out there. The overall build standard is high, with touches like the curved upper back and lower front edges subtly oozing style.
It's not a tiny handset at 47 by 115 by 21mm, but it's not overweight either. The number keys are all very small and squeezed into the bottom third of the casing, and we found them difficult to use one-handed. On the other hand, the shortcut keys, which are about a third smaller than the number keys, are well spaced and easy to prod. Between them sits a tiny joypad which works surprisingly well for getting around the handset's applications, although it's not ideal for gaming.
The white surround makes the screen look vast, though in fact it measures a fairly standard 33x44mm. It's designed for those wanting the very latest specifications, offering 240x320 pixels and 262K colours. It's sharp, bright and clear.
Flip the myX-8 over and you see its camera lens, mirror and flash. The sides are relatively unadorned, with the right edge housing an infrared port and the left a button that doubles as volume control and camera shutter (you can't use it to start the camera, though). With the shutter button in this location you can sit the handset on its side using the button with your right forefinger -- just as you would a conventional digital camera.
The right edge also has a hole for a neck-strap, but Sagem doesn't provide one. A stereo headset with a proprietary connector is included, along with a mains power adaptor and a CD containing PC software.
40MB of internal memory is not bad at all for a phone. You can fill this with whatever you choose, music and photos being the obvious options. But the handset will also play tunes from a mini SD card, which fits under the battery cover but not under the battery itself.
The good news is that you can swap cards without powering the handset down. The bad news is that playing tunes is a real palaver. You don't play individual songs from the audio software -- you need to browse the contents of the internal memory or a card through the multimedia menu and choose them from there. The audio player only has a role when you've added selected tunes to a playlist. It's all too convoluted, in our view.
The camera is a similarly mixed bag. The screen renders images superbly, and the 8x digital zoom might be useful at times if you have a very steady hand. But it's a nuisance that you can't change many settings while looking at an image. You change image size and quality from the Settings area of the handset.
What you can do when in camera mode is zoom by pushing the joystick up and down, and change the image 'look' by moving the joystick left and right, choosing from sepia, negative and black and white modes. You can also use the timer with a softkey but you have to have to set it to 5, 10 or 15 seconds from the Settings menu. You take shots using the joystick or the side button. Among the shutter sounds is a dingdong doorbell and a cuckoo.
These sounds are an example of the fun nature of the handset. There are plenty of wacky ringtones and if what you want isn't provided, it's easy to record your own.
The myX-8 has Java support, and a game is already built in, but it isn't an ideal choice. Alive and Fearless is an arcade-style alien-shooter, and we felt it required more agility than the small joypad could deliver.
You can use the myX-8 as a modem with a laptop and setup couldn't be easier -- we had a connection up and running literally within a couple of minutes using infrared, though you can use Bluetooth. Sagem also provides some synchronisation and phone backup software for your PC. It has its own calendar, address book and task manager that can synchronise with the handset, and you can even create SMS messages with it.
We did experience some break-up in the myX-8's call quality and the volume wasn't particularly loud, but the easily accessible volume control meant we could push it as high as possible without any fuss. Call quality was best through the headset, which also delivered excellent audio. There's no equaliser but we didn't feel one was necessary.
Battery life, at a manufacturer estimate of 5 hours talktime, was average, and if you intend to use the myX-8 for a lot of music listening, you'll need to schedule a daily charge. Even without using the music feature, you'll need to feed the handset some mains power every few days.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide