Let's be frank: the Xperia Play is no knock-out punch set to revolutionise mobile gaming. It's better than playing on a touchscreen-only phone, the iPhone 4 included, but the advantage is minimal enough to be overshadowed by the cost and the competition.
The hardware is mostly good, but patchy implementation of software hobbles it. Indeed, consistency is not the Xperia Play's strong point.
The slide-out pad, despite some niggles, is a boon to gaming, with a selection of pleasing face buttons.
It's a great-sounding device too – we're happy to praise the stereo speakers and the media playback. And while bulky, it's a pretty sweet-looking machine, one we'd be pleased to show to our friends.
Oversights and bad decisions plague the software side of the Xperia Play. We desperately hope Sony Ericsson patches the device to plug the more egregious holes soon. Even so, this is a handset that could have been so much better and one we want to love. Seeing it this way is painful.
The price. Seriously, it's insane when some really great products cost less. The iPhone is more polished as an experience; the 3DS has a better overall layout, exciting tech, and is easier to use for being a focused games machine; and there are numerous decent Android phones that are less per month. Just off the top of our head, there's HTC's Incredible S and Desire HD.
Much of what ails the Xperia Play could be fixed with time and care. As it stands, however, we reckon you could do better for your money. The Xperia Play is too pricey for casual gaming, while we'd suggest serious gamers would be better served by picking up a full-on mobile console. Sony fans have the NGP to look forward too, and we'd seriously recommend the 3DS hardware as an alternative.
What's important is whether you can live with the Xperia Play as your everyday phone and if it's a sound investment of your hard-earned cash. On both counts, the answer is: not yet.