Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

The PlayStation Phone finally lands - but can it live up to the hype?

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Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Gaming

This is what you came for, right? How does the Xperia Play hold up as a gaming device and can it compete in the same league as the portable big boys?

Well, controls are the lifeblood of any console, dictating how the software experience plays out (if you'll excuse the pun), and the Xperia Play's are a real mix.

The D-pad and familiar PlayStation face buttons (circle, square, triangle and cross) are excellent, delivering a definite click and a really pleasing action. They're nicer on the fingers than the 3DS equivalents too, and a refreshing change from on-screen controls.

Sony ericsson xperia play review d pad

The dual thumbpads are far less laudable, though. The degree to which they worked varied a fair bit depending on what we were playing, but the core problem we had with them was always the same – they're too picky and there's not enough feedback.

Yes, there's a little metal circle at the dead centre of each one to help you orient yourself, and they're set in a dimple in the face of the device to let you know when you've strayed beyond their bounds, but even with those aids we found accurate control a struggle.

We'd often strike out at an angle slightly off what we really wanted, walk when we'd meant to run or overshoot the pads with half our thumb, causing plenty of confusion.

We have a few theories about why this is, but part of it is that the pads are quite small, meaning every little movement is a big deal. Also, they're not good at understanding quick changes of pace. As we said, picky.

We've found dual-stick shooters on the iPhone far more forgiving, perhaps because you can see where your thumb is in relation to events. And the thumbpads can't hold a candle to the circle pad on the Nintendo 3DS.

Then there's the shoulder buttons, which are a wee bit mushy for our tastes. Of even more import is that your digits are prone to rubbing on the back edges of the screen. This made us hold the Xperia Play awkwardly at first, but we did find a comfortable position after a while.

Sony ericsson xperia play review shoulder buttons

The Start and Select keys are good, as is the dedicated menu button. However, the latter seems a little superfluous, given it only replicates the function of other buttons on the device.

The slide mechanism is an unqualified success, though. It's rock solid, moving the pad up or down with a satisfying snick. The screen stays put with no wobble or flex too.

The dual-personality nature of the Xperia Play is continued in its gaming software. There are two apps that serve as launching stages: the confusingly titled Xperia Play, which is effectively a housing point for Android Market games that work with the device, and the PlayStation Pocket, which handles the honeypot PS One ports we were actually excited to play.

Sony ericsson xperia play review ps pocket

Bizarrely, it's the Xperia Play app that starts by default when you slide out the pad – the PlayStation Pocket is found in a Home screen widget and lurking in the menu. We've yet to find a way of switching them over and the inconsistent approach is cumbersome.

Our test handset came with five games preinstalled: Crash Bandicoot as the sole PS One offering, with FIFA 10, Bruce Lee, Star Battalion and The Sims 3 apps to finish the package. The latter barely benefits from being on the handheld at all, but some of the former will make good showcases for the hardware come launch day.

Sony ericsson xperia play review xperia play menu

We're conflicted about the Xperia Play as a gaming package. The controller section, while far from perfect, is a significant step up from playing on a touchscreen phone. But with so many niggles and the higher barrier to entry of the price, it's hard to see who this will suit.

If gaming on the go is important to you, we reckon you should wait for the NGP or go grab a 3DS. Having tested the Xperia Play and Ninty's console side-by-side, we can safely say the latter offers a better gaming experience, even if you never turn the 3D effect on.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen, QWERTY
Wireless LANYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported32 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyEDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSUPA
SAR Value0.36 W/kg
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationNo
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyXPERIA
Cellular Generation3.5G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 2100
Rear Camera Resolution5.1 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleSlider
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSony Mobile
Battery Talk Time8.41 Hour
Product ModelPlay
Screen Size10.2 cm (4")
Screen Resolution800 x 480
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)175 g
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityRoHS, WEEE, REACH
Maximum Video Resolution800 x 480
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 2.1
Operating System VersionAndroid 2.3 Gingerbread
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
USB StandardUSB 2.0
Height119 mm
Width62 mm
Depth16 mm
Radio TunerNo
Battery Standby Time425 Hour
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product NameXPERIA Play Smartphone
Processor Speed1 GHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon
Product LineXPERIA
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeDigital Compass, Accelerometer, Proximity Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberXPERIAPLAYBLK
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Need a super efficient, full-featured smartphone with Facebook inside Xperia? And what if it also had real game controls? You got it. The Xperia™ PLAY. A PlayStation certified Android smartphone that lets you immerse yourself in the games you want.

The latest Google apps on your Android mobile

Never get lost again. Explore cities and sights with 3D maps. Use Google Voice Search to call, text and more. With your Xperia PLAY Android mobile, there's no need to type. Just speak. Want more? Get the apps you need from Android Market.

"So, is this the PlayStation phone?"

Once a fantasy. Now a reality. The first PlayStation Certified Android smartphone gives you incredible graphics, great sound and real game controller. This phone is not actually named "the PlayStation™ phone" though - we call it Xperia PLAY.

Limited Warranty2 Year