Sony Ericsson Xperia

Ever since the first rumors came out regarding the emergence of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, then known as the PlayStation Phone, the device has gotten immediate attention from the smartphone and gaming communities alike. It combines the versatility of an Android smartphone with the gaming capabilities of the PlayStation making it one of the most, if not the most, anticipated smartphone being released in 2011.

Is the buzz truly merited with all the hype surrounding the Xperia Play? Will it live up to the expectations of the smartphone and gaming communities? Read on for an incisive review of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play and decide for yourself if it is truly worth the attention being thrown its way.

Design and construction

Measuring 119 x 62 x 16 mm and weighing in at 175 grams, the Xperia Play is kinda thick and hefty. Its headline feature is its slide-out game pad. The game pad slips out from under the screen just like the QWERTY keyboards on numerous smartphones in the market. The spring-loaded sliding mechanism responsible of revealing the game controls is pretty flawless and movement is consistent and very smooth.

Mostly made of plastic with poor construction, squeaks and creaks are very apparent with the Play. In spite of this, the device still feels sturdy in the hand but the over-all glossy aesthetics tends to make it prone to scuffs and scratches.

Under the hood

The Play relies on a single-core 1GHz scorpion processor on a Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon chip and comes with an Adreno 205 GPU for graphics matters. This pair is enhanced by 512MB of RAM and 400MB of onboard storage which can be expanded via a microSD card slot capable of taking up to 32GB.

The display

The front panel of the Play is taken up by the massive 4-inch LED-backlit capacitive touchscreen LCD with a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels. Colors and viewing angles are so-so but is somewhat lacking in terms of brightness. The display is mediocre indoors and downright unusable outdoors at times. Under the right circumstances, pleasantly vibrant images may be obtained but the display of the Xperia Play could easily be one of the worst among “high-end” smartphones.

The gaming controls

The Xperia Play is defined by its gaming controls and prompts the most interest. Slide up the spring-loaded display and you get the D-Pad, PlayStation-style buttons (cross, circle, square and triangle), and two touch-sensitive analog controls that try to mimic a DualShock’s physical analog pads.

The physical keys are good and very responsive as to be expected but the touch-sensitive analog controls might take a little more getting used to. As for the L and R shoulder triggers, they are somewhat flappy but broad enough that they are easily found when the need for them arises.

The software

The Play runs Android 2.3.2 Gingerbread and on top of that, Sony Ericsson’s custom UI is added on for some unique Sony Ericsson user experience. However, the meat of the matter would be the two apps that make the Xperia Play THE PlayStation Phone: the Xperia Play (the software, not the device, very confusing I know) which showcases Android Market games compatible with the controls of the Play, and the PlayStation Pocket which has the PS One games that are to be enjoyed with this device.

No complaints here in terms of in-game performance with smooth frame rates all throughout. A little drawback here though is the black portion on the sides of the widescreen display since PS One games were coded for 4:3 aspect ratio. Another letdown is the Play only comes with one preloaded classic game which is Crash Bandicoot. Sony Ericsson has assured the masses though that the PS One library is already en route. Well, they better make sure about this.

The shooters

Just like most high-end Droids, the Play has two shooters: a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash that takes pictures up to 2592 x 1944 pixels and a regular front-facing VGA snapper. The rear-facing shooter is able to snap decent pictures but when used as a video recorder, well, that’s when things go downhill a bit. Instead of 720p video recording which is pretty much standard, you get WVGA resolution clips at 30fps which come out blurry and uninspiring. You wanna hear more? Nah, I didn’t think so.

Phone and battery

The Xperia Play provides decent in-call quality and the speaker phone is a little louder than most Droids owing its gratitude to the boosted speakers. In terms of juice, the battery life of the Play is far better than other Droids running Gingerbread.

It packs a 1500mAh Li-Ion battery that provides the device the needed juice to keep it running for 24 hours with moderate use. On a single charge, the Play should be good for 8.5 hours of talk time, 413 hours of standby time, and 5.5 hours of game play.

Final thoughts

With the strength of its gamepad, the Xperia Play should be able to round up the usual suspects willing to participate in its gaming revolution. Add the good ergonomics and extremely durable and effective spring-loaded mechanism and the number goes up.

However, the poor quality of the screen and the less than stellar hardware specs would be sort of a deal breaker at this time. Also, Sony Ericsson failed to embrace the availability of a broad selection of affordable games that are easily accessible – the same reason why iOS devices and Android gaming is so popular.

Is the Xperia Play the right phone for you? If you are a serious gamer who doesn’t mind the shortcomings of the device, go for it. If you are the cautious type of consumer, holding off is recommended until more game titles become available and Sony Ericsson decides to use higher-quality materials.

At the end of the day, the success of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play will definitely be determined by the availability of cutting-edge games. This is what the Play was designed for in the first place, isn’t it?


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