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Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review

Posted: , by Daniel P.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
This review is mostly based on our experience with the GSM version of the Xperia PLAY. However, we've now updated it with our impressions of Verizon Wireless's Xperia PLAY, so it fully reflects the experience you'll get from the CDMA variant as well.

Introduction:


Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
Can we say beginning of an era about the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play? In case you are wondering why, it is the first ever smartphone with a dedicated gamepad. Sure, its chipset is not the most powerful there is, and its screen is not with the best resolution out there, but when you slide it open, and a PlayStation-style game controller winks at you, instead of a boring QWERTY keyboard, you know something's shifting.

We've been teased about an upcoming PlayStation phone since last summer, and until today so many details about it have been leaked and prototypes examined, that it probably deserves the worst-kept secret crown more than any other phone in recent memory. But that's only regarding the specs and appearance.

For the main part, the Sony Ericsson Xpera Play remained a relative mystery so far. Is the chipset powerful enough to play sophisticated titles? How's the gameplay, and can I resurrect older titles on it? What kind of dedicated game store will be out there for the Xperia Play? All pressing issues that will be addressed in our review, so read on to find out...


Design:

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play keeps up with the “human curvature” design philosophy that the manufacturer introduced with the Vivaz, and followed through with the Xperia line. It mostly indicates the presence of a curved back that makes the phones cuddle and fit comfortably in the hand, and the Xperia Play is no exception, despite that it’s 0.63” (16mm) thick and 6.2oz (175g) in weight. The phone's glossy plastic back also hosts the 5MP camera with LED flash, and the Sony Ericsson green-silver logo. The plastic shell is not the best industrial design out there, but build quality is decent, and we got the the cool white version to boot.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play fits comfortably in the hand - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play fits comfortably in the hand - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play fits comfortably in the hand - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play fits comfortably in the hand - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play fits comfortably in the hand


Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review

You can compare the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The display is 4” LCD with 480x854 resolution and the ability to show 16 million colors, standard fare for today's high-end Android handsets, and has good viewing angles, which is important, since you will be constantly tilting it in all directions, when frantically pumping those controller buttons. Brightness levels are average, though, so forget about playing anything but music under direct sunlight. Our unit doesn't have an ambient light sensor toggle in the Settings app, and we kept the screen at maximum brightness at all times, since even the maximum level is comparatively average. 

The phone has a 4-inch LCD display - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
The phone has a 4-inch LCD display - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review

The phone has a 4-inch LCD display


Underneath the display are the four physical Android navigation buttons, arranged in a thin chromed arc that is trademark for the Xperia line. The sides are also chromed and shiny, which looks classy,  combined with the glossy plastic, if you are into this thing. On the left are the standard audio jack and the microUSB port, the top hosts the power/lock button, and on the right we have the volume rocker in the middle, and two buttons you can't see on any other Android handset, namely the shoulder buttons for the game controller.

The four physical Android buttons - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
Top side - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
Right - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
Left - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review

The four physical Android buttons

Top side

Right

Left


Now we've come to the part you are most curious about in our design examination – push the screen part gently up, and it snaps into place reassuringly, opening the view to the two circular areas with buttons that probably every gamer is well-acquainted with. The PlayStation-style gamepad has four arrows on the D-Pad on the left, for movement within games, and four action buttons on the right, marked with the iconic PS symbols. They can also be used for navigating in the interface, such as in the main menu, lists, messages, and the browser.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY has a PlayStation-style gamepad - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY has a PlayStation-style gamepad - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review

The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY has a PlayStation-style gamepad


There are two circular analog pads between these two sets, which allow you to make precise movements in games, as if on the touchscreen, without your fingers obstructing the view. Underneath all these game controls is the Android menu key on the left, and Start and Select keys on the right. To top it off, we also have two shoulder buttons/trigger keys for your pointer fingers, akin to the L1 and R1 buttons on the PlayStation controller, which are very sensitive.

In the middle of the gamepad there are  two circular analog pads - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
In the middle of the gamepad there are  two circular analog pads - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
In the middle of the gamepad there are  two circular analog pads - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review

In the middle of the gamepad there are two circular analog pads


That leaves us with no less than 12 ways to interact in gameplay, and the keys are very easy to press, with deep travel, but without being wobbly, ensuring hours of finger gymnastics. In the words of Aaron Duke, Xperia Play's Product Manager, you can “beat the crap out of the keyboard”. We honor his sincerity, and that's exactly what we intend to do, after finding the design nice to look at, and the phone comfortable for handling and, above all, gameplay.

The gamepad takes a little getting used to, and it is slightly tiring to keep pounding on it after the first hour or so, due to the controller half being thinner than what you are usually accustomed to with full-size gamepads. Still, that's the price to pay if you want to keep the handset's waistline in check, and the only other issue you are likely to encounter is when you have to press a bunch of buttons at once, including the shoulder buttons. Unless you are a kid with small fingers, of course. We also didn't notice any backlighting of the keys, and no way to turn it on in the Settings app. With that out of the way, we do think that Sony Ericsson has done a very good job overall with this gamepad, which is by far the most comfortable gaming control on a cell phone (for those types of games that require it).

The back side of the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
The 5MP camera with LED flash - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review
Under the back cover - Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review

The back side of the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY

The 5MP camera with LED flash

Under the back cover




Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY 360-degree View:



15 Comments
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posted on 31 Mar 2011, 10:32 3

1. fatexo (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 May 2010)


First..!!

posted on 31 Mar 2011, 10:42 5

2. fatexo (Posts: 93; Member since: 21 May 2010)


it would be better if they kept the Bravia Engine in this one..
it would have given it nice viewing angles and colors giving a better gaming experience.

posted on 31 Mar 2011, 10:57

3. yoyofellow (unregistered)


It seems to be experiencing some software-related problems. May it be only for the UK devices?

http://readatech.com/2011/03/27/sony-ericsson-xperia-play-delayed-at-o2-because-of-software-problems -2848/

posted on 31 Mar 2011, 12:48 2

4. Seylan Naidoo (unregistered)


error, the sides of the phone aren't chrome...its just shiny plastic!
Yeah, I agree since its a gaming phone, they should have put the Bravia mobile engine...or why not give it an OLED display with that 960 X 544 resolution like on the Sony NGP ? And this really needs a dual core...Imagine how owners will feel in a year when they wont be abled to play "new" games?
And wheres the 6-axis gyroscope????
Plus the phone is pretty thick, if the Xperia Pro could have an 8mp exmor R camera, why couldnt this? And no HD video recording out of the box, whats up with that?
I 'was' thinking of getting this...but i decided that its all just hype about the "first Playstation phone" Maybe if it were called the Nintendo phone, people would understand its 'out-datedness'

posted on 31 Mar 2011, 13:41

5. videophone (unregistered)


ugh.. just like all sony ericson phone.. indeed prone to color fade out, especially those plastic keys. anyway, i thought this phone has a dual core cpus..-_-

posted on 31 Mar 2011, 13:43

6. videophone (unregistered)


if they put all those bravia engine, hires screen etc.,all of watever you desire on a high end phone.. then this phone will fail! no one will buy it because it'll be too xpensive

posted on 02 Apr 2011, 08:37 1

9. Junior in Jamaica (unregistered)


Exactly. This is not marketed to be a high end Android. I'd say by today's standards it is midrange.

The only issue I have is that for a gaming device, they should have definitely made the screen better.

However all else considered I am sure they didn't want to pack it all with the latest greatest hardware features and make the price unmanageable for their first gaming phone.

posted on 31 Mar 2011, 17:10 2

7. cheetah2k (Posts: 817; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)


Its a great concept, but will it blend???

posted on 01 Apr 2011, 12:23

8. Jyakotu (Posts: 819; Member since: 12 Dec 2008)


Still want it. Seems like the first true "gaming phone" that I've seen.

posted on 03 Apr 2011, 10:50 1

10. Bob Smith Jr. (unregistered)


apparently the play has a plastic screen.
Really SE? This isn't 2004. All high end phones need scratch resistant Glass.

posted on 25 Dec 2011, 10:13

17. jellytime (Posts: 135; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


it´s Glass

posted on 03 Apr 2011, 11:46

11. Sean Johnstone (unregistered)


Eh, the screen is whatever but they really should have put dual core in this phone. That is my only concern. Looks like I won't be having this phone for long but it's a flagship so I must get.

posted on 27 Apr 2011, 15:38

13. Mini_Pritchy_18 (Posts: 4; Member since: 07 Feb 2011)


This phone is insane, everything is great except the camera, just the lack of zoom can get annoying but still good, don't think twice about it, just get it :L

posted on 16 May 2011, 09:25

14. phonejak9 (Posts: 3; Member since: 28 Mar 2010)


Hey i'm curious, does any one know anything about the texting? I was wondering if you could use the key pad to text too that'd be kinda cool something like a PSP. Anyone know anything about that?

posted on 30 Sep 2011, 22:31

16. julio (unregistered)


Ihave a xperia play and a sony bravia 2011 series dlna certified and i can only stream pictures nit videos why ?

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Display4.0 inches, 480 x 854 pixels (245 ppi) TFT
Camera5 megapixels
Hardware
Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 MSM8255, Single core, 1000 MHz, Scorpion processor
512 MB RAM
Size4.69 x 2.44 x 0.63 inches
(119 x 62 x 16 mm)
6.17 oz  (175 g)
Battery1500 mAh, 8.41 hours talk time

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