Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
If you love gaming on your phone already, the Xperia Play’s controller will take this to the next level. There’s stacks of games and a great smartphone experience, but a few trade offs to consider as well.
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
The Xperia Play is the end-result of possibly the longest-running rumours in the history of mobile phones. For years, eager gamers cried out to Sony to deliver its Playstation gaming experience on a phone, and many of these fans went to the trouble of creating concepts of what they thought this phone should look like. The Xperia Play resembles those early mock-ups, although it takes quite a bit from its Xperia heritage, as well.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
Great range of games. Excellent Xperia Games launcher. Smooth, fast Android experience. Controller is well-designed. Decent battery life.
Thick and heavy handset. Track pads on the controller need tweaking. 8GB microSD is small for a gaming phone. Flaky Wi-Fi. No HDMI port.
The Bottom Line
The Xperia Play will resonate with anyone who already loves gaming on their phones; a great smartphone is paired with a ton of optimised games, but the Playstation controller does make this handset thick and heavy.
Xperia PLAY. Exclusive look on our 10 games!
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll know that the Xperia Play is the first phone to include a fully featured Playstation-style gaming control pad. This controller resides below the screen and is accessed by sliding the top half forward. This physical design is an excellent metaphor for the phone as a whole; on top you have Sony Ericsson’s latest Android smartphone experience and below you have its gaming side. It also highlights the great sacrifice with the Play; to accommodate the controller, the handset is twice as thick and 50 per cent heavier than Sony Ericsson‘s companion release, the Xperia Arc.
Gamers will appreciate the 3.7-inch WVGA display, even though it lacks the crispness and deep contrast of the Reality display in the Xperia Arc and Neo. The Play features all the usual knobs and ports you’d expect to find on a smartphone, though Sony Ericsson are wise to position in places where they won’t get in the way while you’re using the gamepad.
The Playstation style controller is well designed and easy to use. (Credit: CBSi)
The Playstation controller itself is also well-designed. It features a D-Pad, the famous four Playstation buttons, plus two extra paddles or triggers on the edge of the handset. Rather than using twin analog controller sticks like a PS3 controller, Sony Ericsson opts for two touch-sensitive track-pads, a move that is great on paper but which ultimately hinders gameplay. The sensitivity of these pads is crucial, but there is no standard method for adjusting this sensitivity and most of the games we played didn’t include this setting either.
The quality and quantity of games optimised for use with the Play’s controller was always going to be the make-or-break of this smartphone concept. Measuring the success of Sony Ericsson‘s efforts is also completely subjective, but we happen to think it has managed to pull together a great list of titles. We managed to play about a third of the games on offer at launch, and most of them are great mobile games. Included in this list and pre-installed on a new Play is Crash Bandicoot, the first of what we hope will be many classic Playstation game ports. Crash is one of the real standouts, too, with smooth gameplay, exactly as it was when we played it on out PSOne all those years ago.
Xperia Play games round-up
Also great is Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play launcher, a catch-all for the games you’ve downloaded and installed, with links to download-compatible games through the Android Market or directly through developer’s stores like Gameloft. The menu in this launcher is clean, colourful and so easy to use, borrowing heavily from the PlayStaion XMB menu structure on a PS3.
Our only frustrations with the gaming implementation on the Play both concern storage. By default all new game titles are installed to the phone storage rather than the included 8GB microSD card. After installing a dozen games or so we were alerted that the phone had low memory and then spent ten minutes or so manually moving the app’s data across to the memory card. Alerted to the problem we went hunting for an option to save directly to the SD card being installing more games, but to no avail. The 8GB microSD card is also on the stingy side; after installing the games and transferring some music and videos across we filled this space in no time.
Sony Ericsson’s first Android excursion — last year’s X10 — was a bit of a dud. With a FOCUS on form over function, the heavily customised Android firmware used by Sony Ericsson resulted in an extremely poor user experience, and because this customisation was built so deep into the system it took way too long for Sony Ericsson to release updates. In 2011, it’s a different ballgame; Sony Ericsson’s approach to Android is current and lightweight, using the latest Gingerbread build with a simple, fast Sony Ericsson overlay. The result is a smartphone experience on-par with the other big names.
Android also means that the Xperia Play is as business-friendly as most other smartphones — not that we expect to see too many Plays on the boardroom table. Users have access to a first-class browser, decent media playback and great email and messaging.
The Xperia Play also features a media sharing app allowing users to share videos, pictures and music over a Wi-Fi network. We tested this tool by pairing the Play with a Playstation 3 and it worked exactly as we expected it to.
Sony Ericsson pack a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash into this smartphone, though we weren’t overly impressed with the results. The photos we took looked washed out, especially when using the flash, and the sensor was extremely noisy.
For the most part of time with the Xperia Play was fantastic, though we did come across a bit of bugginess in the firmware. We had two review units in the office, one crashed a few times and the other experienced a few software crashes in games. Both units, however, experienced problems with the Wi-Fi network adapter, losing connection mid-session, switching access points without instruction and struggling to hand-off to 3G data once it had lost communication with a LAN. Keep in mind that Sony Ericsson was kind enough to let us review the Xperia Play two months in advance of its release, so there’s every chance that these bugs could be squashed before its launch at the end of May.
These issues aside, the Play managed most other tasks with ease. Calling, messaging and push email all worked flawlessly during our review. Access to the Android Market and app downloads was also fine. Battery life was also reasonably good, considering our heavy use. We managed to play games for about five hours on a full charge, and on most work days we came home with power to spare.
Built on the solid Android platform and with a huge list of games to download at launch, the Xperia Play will resonate well with its target audience. There is a trade-off, though; the gaming controller makes this phone thick and heavy, and while some will bear this burden easily, others may shy away. We also can’t forget the buggy firmware we stumbled across in this review process, though hopefully the Sony Ericsson boffins are already hard at work ironing these issues out.
Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Review. To Play or Not to Play?
The Xperia Play is being touted as the “World’s First Playstation Certified Smartphone”. Does that make it a good phone? Or even a good gaming system? We’ve been putting the phone through its paces. Sony Ericsson certainly has a great idea of adding a gaming pad to a mobile phone. Will it satisfy your mobile gaming needs, or leave you sad and depressed like a cold little puppy in the rain? Find out after the cut!
The first thing you’ll notice when opening the box is how small the phone is. We were expecting a bit of a clunker, but the phone is sleek and sexy looking, and not too big for a front Exact dimensions are 4.68 inches tall, 2.44 inches across and a respectable.63 inches deep. It’s definitely thicker than your average keyboard-less smartphone, but not enough to make it annoying. As you pick up the phone, it feels solid and well made. The screen itself slides up, but instead of revealing a typical keyboard, you get a mini Playstation controller! The buttons are well placed, and the phone doesn’t feel too top-heavy when held by the controller portion. There are also two shoulder buttons that are a little awkwardly placed, hidden behind the screen. They also feel like they have almost too much give.
Besides the gaming controls, you have your standard ports and buttons. The usual 4 button layout of back, home, settings and search sit right along the bottom of the screen. They are physical buttons that feel a little too nubby. We would have liked to see tactile buttons instead, but then you would likely have to take away some screen size. You also get a standard 35mm headphone jack and standard mini USB charge port on one side, and volume controls and the shoulder buttons on the other.
The screen lock and unlock button is right on top, and sits on the controller portion rather than the screen portion of the phone. This makes it feel like it’s a bit too far back on the phone and becomes slightly annoying after unlocking the screen several times. Speaking of the screen, while it’s not the biggest on the market, it’s vibrant and responsive to the touch. The 4 inch screen has a resolution of 480×854 pixels, falling short of a qHD display. On the bright side, the screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio, meaning those pesky black bars will be minimal when watching movies. You’ve also got a nice 5 megapixel camera on the back, and Sony Ericsson was nice enough to add a front-facing VGA quality camera for video chat.
Inside the phone itself we have a 1GHz CPU (Qualcomm MSM 8655) and Adreno 205 graphics processor, which keeps the operating system humming along. On the other hand, some of the Xperia games have significant load times, but generally run smooth once the game is up and running. You can see in the benchmarks below that the phone comes in below the HTC Desire HD, but beats out the Samsung Galaxy S and the Droid X.
You also get the standard wireless connectivity of 3G (CDMA EV-DO Rev A), Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR HID. Each phone also comes with an 8GB Micro SD card pre-installed. This is great news, because the phone itself has less that a gig of storage, leaving it up to the memory card to store all of your games, music and what have you.
The Operating System
The Sony Ericsson Xperia is running Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread. When you invest in a phone, you’re investing just as much, if not more, into the operating system, and Android is not a bad investment. It has a lot of great features, but two of the favorites are; 1. the ability to play flash, giving you an unhampered internet experience, and 2. the size and variety of the Android Market. You also get native support for multiple cameras on the device (which allows a front camera for video chat), and true multitasking. While playing any of the Xperia games, you can hit the home button and end up at the home screen. Your game will then reside in the pull down notification bar, allowing you to start right where you left off. Some other great features are speech to txt, the ability to install swype, and the constant Android updates Google continues to release.
As far as gaming content goes, The Xperia Play comes pre-loaded with a few games so you can play around with the controller and not waste any dough. The games are Ashphalt 6 (standard racing), Bruce Lee (kind of like Tekken), Crash Bandicoot, Madden 11, Star Battalion (fly around and shoot stuff), and The Sims 3. No matter what genre of gaming you like, there’s something there for you. The controls will be familiar to any Playstation fan, with your standard X, square, triangle and circle buttons. They even managed to squeeze in two touch pads that act as joysticks. The touch pads are responsive and more fluid than the clicky directional buttons. It’s interesting to note that some games have you interact with the touch screen, while some keep all the action to the game pad. It’s annoying when you select something and hit X a few times, only to realize you need to touch the actual screen. Some other games are at least nice enough to tell you to tap the screen, but I’d much prefer just hitting X since my hands are there already.
Playing the games does feel a little cramped on the small keypad but that’s to be expected with a mobile device. It’s still somewhat annoying though, as gaming is one this phone’s primary functions. The graphics themselves are far from revolutionary. Other phones could produce the same games, they would just be lacking the gaming controls. On the plus side, the speakers are better than your average smartphone and sound great playing games or listening to music.
If you’d like an alternate review of this device that’s got more detail than you could possibly ever want, check out [Android Community]!
So the bottom line, is it worth it? For the price 200 with a two year agreement on Verizon, non-stop mobile gaming could be yours. The only problem is, the Xperia play doesn’t really stand out as a phone or a gaming system. There are plenty of great Android phones out there to choose from, and the advantage of this phone lies mostly in the gaming controls. But unless you have the hands of a tween, the controls and phone itself are too small to lend to a great mobile gaming experience. If you’re serious enough about mobile gaming to consider buying this phone, you should save your money and either spring for a Nintendo 3DS or the upcoming Sony NGP.
As for my own personal opinion, I think this phone is like a great firework: the fun fades a little too quickly. It’s really neat to show off the game pad and let people play around with it, but it feels more gimmicky than an actual mobile gaming experience. I would use it more as a phone than anything else and that being the case, I’d rather have a regular phone without the extra bulk. I also think the Android OS could use some work, especially aesthetically. I use Windows Mobile 7 on a daily basis, and it feels a whole lot more polished. Of course I hate the fact that I barely have any apps to download, and the browsing experience is limited, but my phone is mostly used as. a phone. So it’s not a huge deal. Which operating system do you prefer? Even if you love one, have you tried out any of the others?
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Review
“Unless the bulk bothers you, the sacrifices made for hard game controls are quite livable, making the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play a worthy consideration for smartphones gamers sick of swiping at glass.”
- Slide-out game controller
- Clean Android install
- Vibrant 4.0-inch LCD
- Attractive Sony styling
- Acceptable 5.1-megapixel camera
- Bulky design
- Controls work with limited game selection
- Touch-based analog controls
- No 4G
- Smudgy screen
What do you get when you breed a portable game console with a smartphone? Sony Ericsson’s new Xperia Play — the long-rumored “Playstation phone” that combines the slide-out gamepad of Sony’s PSP Go with all the functionality of a modern Android smartphone. But can productivity and mindless button mashing really coexist under the same piece of glass? We worked our tender thumbs to blisters to find out whether Sony’s attempt to satiate hardcore gamers with a phone hits a new high score or uses up yet another of Sony’s dwindling lives.
Features and design
If Sony Ericsson’s first design objective for a Playstation phone was making it subtle enough to pass for just a phone, consider that box checked. From the outside, there just isn’t much to signal that Sony’s firecracker handheld is anything more than just another Android device. Witness: gloss black body, four standard Android buttons below the 4.0-inch LCD, and not even a hint of Playstation branding — you actually get Sony Ericsson’s green globe logo instead.
Slide the two halves apart, though, and it’s a different story. Rather than the typical slide-out QWERTY keyboard, the Xperia Play packs the familiar Playstation square-cross-circle-triangle pad on the right, a hard directional pad on the left, and two touch-based analog controllers in the middle. You’ll also find start and select buttons on the bottom, and in a nod to Android, the same three-lined menu button found on the face. In short, Sony has spliced the controls from the PSP Go into a handset.
Android phones of this generation, thanks mainly to the sliding form factor. The chunkiness turns out to be an advantage for gaming, where it feels comfortable and solid in the hands, but as a phone you’ll still wish there weren’t a game pad hiding inside.
Less intriguing phone specs also include 854 x 480 pixel resolution in the 4.0-inch LCD screen, a 5.1-megapixel rear camera that shoots 720p video and a VGA front cam for video conferencing. The Play supports microSD cards up to 32GB, and comes with a 8GB card preinstalled. Without features like HDMI output, an OLED screen or 4G connectivity, it certainly doesn’t rival many competitors on spec sheets, but that’s not where the Xperia Play was built to shine.
For a device that aspires to effectively merge two entirely disparate devices, the Android 2.3 install on the Xperia Play is surprisingly pedestrian at first glance. There’s a purple Xperia background, but no goofy new clocks, widget or other overt cues that this is a gaming device… until you slide it open. Gamepad glaring to all the world, the Xperia Play switches into a landscape gaming mode (via an app), bringing up a carousel of games to thumb through with the D-pad. Hit X on one to run and you’re gaming, no touchscreen tomfoolery necessary.
The Verizon version of the Xperia comes with six games preinstalled: Asphalt 6, Bruce Lee, Crash Bandicoot, Gun Bros, Madden NFL 11, Tetris and Star Battalion. Sony claims there are plenty more titles coming, including additional Playstation ports, but the Xperia launcher, at press time, only showed 21.
In some regards, it succeeds. Playing Modern Combat 2, a shameless Call of Duty clone, just felt more natural with the Play’s controls. You can strafe with the D-pad, precisely aim with the right touchpad, and fire with the shoulder buttons. This is, quite literally, how games like this were meant to be played, before Steve Jobs went on a button-crushing crusade for the iPhone and convinced subsequent imitators that touchscreens were king.
Keep in mind that the analog controls – the ones you would use for smooth movement – aren’t hard nubs like they are on the PSP and even PSP Go. You’re just moving your finger around on flat plastic, like a laptop touchpad. It works better than nothing, but we missed the feedback of a tactile controller, especially in games where we used the pads frequently, like Star Battalion.
On other games, the controls are quite literally worthless. Tetris has been preloaded on the Play, but fire it up and you’ll have to slide away the controls, since the entire game is played with the phone held vertically. Keep in mind that most random Android games will fall into this category – unable to use the Play controls because they haven’t been coded for it.
You might expect any Android phone advertising its gaming prowess to pack some of the most powerful hardware on the market, but the 1GHz Snapdragon processor in the Xperia Play is actually fairly dated. Sony makes up for it with an onboard Andreno 205 GPU, which handles 3D competently enough to make every game on the device ruin as fluid as you would expect from a dedicated handheld game console.
Sony Xperia Play In 2023
Sony’s 5.1-inch megapixel rear camera is, as with most devices in this class, adequate but unimpressive. It takes acceptable photos for a phone, but unlike some of the best smartphone cams we’ve seen, it doesn’t quite reach the level of image quality that would fool some folks into thinking you took your vacation photos with a dedicated point-and-shoot. Many photos had a yellowish cast, and even with the camera dead still, photos had a slightly foggy out-of-FOCUS look that we could never quite shake.
Shooting video only exacerbated the FOCUS problems. The camera also had trouble adjusting exposure in shots with mixed lighting, tending either to crush the blacks in the dark areas or blow out the whites in the light areas – a familiar problem but one that seemed to taint the Sony more than most. On the plus side, the lens offers a nice wide angle that’s great for indoor shots.
Sony rates the Xperia Play for 6.5 hours worth of talk time and 425 hours worth of standby from its 1500mAh battery – both of which our nonscientific testing seemed to bear out. Just remember the same battery now powers your portable game console, too. Firing up an intense 3D game at full brightness and losing yourself in combat for an hour will bite into battery life a lot more than swapping text messages and casually batting through websites. Even so, we had no issues surfing the Web through the day, downloading apps, hitting the asphalt in some games, and still having plenty of battery life left by the end of the day.
Verizon is moving full speed ahead with LTE handsets like the Samsung Charge and HTC ThunderBolt, but Sony missed the boat and still tools along on 3G speeds. Speeds weren’t bad, per se – but the lack of 4G means potential buyers will have to choose between a gaming phone or a blazing fast phone, because it certainly isn’t both.
If you want the most gaming-friendly Android phone, this is it. But don’t cancel your PSP Go purchase just yet. The first “Playstation-certified” phone is only a handheld gaming console in the same way a bicycle with an engine bolted onto it is a motorcycle – the difference is all in the details. With compromised controls, a small library of available titles that work with them and sometimes lukewarm controller integration on the games that do, the Xperia Play has a ways to go before any real gamer would swap a PSP or Nintendo DS for it. Even so, we have to give Sony Ericsson credit for adding game controls to an Android handset without destroying its credibility as a phone. Unless the bulk bothers you, the sacrifices made for hard game controls are quite livable, making the Xperia Play a worthy consideration for smartphones gamers sick of swiping at glass.
- Slide-out game controller
- Clean Android install
- Vibrant 4.0-inch LCD
- Attractive Sony styling
- Acceptable 5.1-megapixel camera
- Bulky design
- Controls work with limited game selection
- Touch-based analog controls
- No 4G
- Smudgy screen
Sony’s Playstation Phone STINKS At Gaming. And Pretty Much Everything Else [REVIEW]
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Ericsson’s Xperia Play just launched on Verizon Wireless for 199.99, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
It wants to be a PSP, but the power inside of it isn’t up to par compared to other dedicated handheld gaming devices.
And when compared to other smartphones, it’s not super impressive either.
Is the Xperia Play worth your money?
Measuring in at 16mm thick, the phone is almost twice as thick as an iPhone 4. It is a slider phone, so I knew it would be thicker, but this thing just feels giant.
The Xperia Play feels especially awkward when you’re holding it in your hand because on its right side, there are two flimsy shoulder buttons that get in the way and click around while you’re holding the phone.
Holding a PSP up to my ear would’ve been more comfortable. This is also to say the Play just feels plasticky.
Compared to some of the incredibly well-built phones I’ve tested lately like the HTC Sensation, the Xperia Play feels lightyears behind. It even has some mushy physical navigational buttons below the screen. On top of that, the navigational buttons are in a strange order that we’re not used to.
As far as the screen goes, the phone’s 4-incher is subpar. Even at its brightest setting, it doesn’t get very bright, and the screen feels plasticky. It attracted tons of small scratches and dust, as if the screen was made of plastic. When you press down hard on the screen, you see a weird dimpling like you might see on a device with a resistive touchscreen.
The Hardware Does The Job. But Not For Long
The Xperia has a capable 1 Ghz processor, but it’s almost undone by the 512 MB of RAM the phone has built in. Brand new phones shipping with 512MB of RAM aren’t going to last for long, especially if gaming is supposed to be your strong suit.
Also, the 5.1 MP camera is weak and doesn’t even shoot 720p HD video.
One excellent feature the Xperia Play has is stereo speakers. They’re still cell phone speakers, and you should be playing games with headphones, but this was a nice touch.
The phone handles calls well enough (you’re considering this phone primarily because of gaming, right?), and was pretty speedy in my 3G tests. But when you have a bunch of apps open, scrolling and pinch to zooming on the web is a bit of a drag.
Also, the virtual keyboard Sony stuck in this one is tiny. In portrait mode, I found it nearly impossible to type accurately on, even when I was staring at the keyboard.
Is It Fun To Play?
The Xperia Play is an odd device. It feels more like a touchscreen phone with a controller strapped on than a smartphone-gaming-console hybrid.
Playing games is fun, but the experience can be plain old confusing because there’s no way to know if menus are designed to be manipulated via touch or via the directional d-pad.
With certain games, the Xperia‘s slide out controller feels like an afterthought.
In Madden, for example, you can’t browse plays using the directional pad you use to move your player. I ended up feeling conflicted and frustrated, especially since the Madden controls weren’t what I was accustomed to on a home console. I have all the buttons of a PS3 controller (minus a couple extra shoulder buttons), so why aren’t controls the same?
This also goes with the analog control pads in the middle of the controller. It often gets down to trial and error to find out which buttons work and which don’t. You can re-assign controller buttons during games, but it’s a hassle.
My old PSP is ten times easier to use than this device.
The Xperia Play came with 7 games pre-loaded, and I would consider none of them truly better experiences because I had physical buttons. There are also twenty-some games you can buy on Vcast. Developers have done wonderful jobs outfitting games for touch devices, and while I often miss the portable game consoles of yore, having both touch and physical buttons is confusing.
Lastly, why is Sony getting ready to launch a bunch of Playstation games on the Xperia Play? They have to be stretched annoyingly because they’re originally for 4:3 aspect ratio TVs. Sony should instead FOCUS on moving over PSP games, or at least PSP Go games.
Should You Buy It?
I really wanted to like this phone, I did. I have a PSP and it’s great for what it does. But unfortunately, the Xperia Play isn’t good enough at any one thing.
You should not buy this phone unless you absolutely need a hardware controller for your gaming, but there aren’t even many games for it yet. Sony is notorious for building proprietary stores and mediums and abandoning them (remember UMD movies for Sony’s PSP? Also, PS Vita is getting Vita cards), so you’ll never know if your investments will pay off.
Of course the Xperia Play also plays games other Android phones can play, and Gingerbread is a welcome addition. Still, the phone just feels old. Like it should’ve come out a year ago.
These days people value cutting edge speed, vibrant screens, portability, and braggability, and the Xperia Play doesn’t have any of these things. It’s a good Android phone, but it’s just too big.
Here’s to the PS Vita being a little bit sweeter.
If you’re unconvinced, grab an Xperia Play for 199.99 on a two year contract with Verizon.
Madden is basically the iPhone version of Madden. The gamepad controls are unresponsive and I’d rather use touch.
There’s a VGA camera on the front for video chatting
The Xperia Play feels nice in your hands. It has all the same buttons as a PSP.
When your thumbs are on the Xperia Play, the buttons feel smaller than on a Playstation controller, but they’re still comfortable to press.
The Xperia Play’s back has a 5.1 MP camera, LED flash, and the tasty-looking Sony-Ericsson jewel we all love.
At 16mm, the Xperia Play is almost twice as thick as the iPhone 4.
Absolutely don’t miss.
Our full review of the HTC Sensation, the best Android phone we’ve ever used
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