Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

1st Apr 2011 | 16:27

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

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

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

An interesting take on the PlayStation phone concept that still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of gameplay and hardware design.

Like:

Pleasant feel to button presses; Attractive chassis; Strong speakers; Decent music player;

Dislike:

Overpriced; Poor game selection; Laggy browser; Hard to get comfortable grip; Weighty;

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Overview

The PlayStation phone is the device equivalent of El Dorado, in that it's spent a long time as a golden fable to trot out when conversation slows. Now the fusion of gamepad and Android phone has emerged into the modern world in the form of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play.

It's a time when iPhones have permeated the globe, able to deliver tactile gaming on the go, and Nintendo's 3DS is making waves by bringing portable 3D fun to the masses.

Even within the Sony stable, the Xperia Play has rivals to overcome. There's the NGP, successor to the PSP, on the horizon, which will arrive boasting enough processing power to run the LHC (well, a quad-core CPU and graphics processor, at least).

What's more, it must establish itself over a selection of fast and competent Android handsets, such as Sony Ericsson's Xperia Arc, which will also have the chops for 3D gaming of the non-stereoscopic kind.

Our colleagues at T3.com grabbed some Sony Ericsson Xperia Play video which you can watch below.

As a gaming-oriented mobile, the headline feature here is, of course, the slide-out controller section. This comes bearing a D-pad, the familiar PlayStation face buttons, a pair of touchpad 'thumbsticks', two shoulder buttons and some menu keys. There's also an accelerometer on board, and the four-inch 480 x 854 multi-touch screen for getting all handsy with your software.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: main body

Powering this is a 1GHz Snapdragon processor with embedded Adreno 205 GPU graphics, 512MB of RAM and Android 2.3, or Gingerbread. While that's competitive in terms of modern smartphones, we have to admit we were expecting more pixel-pushing oomph.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: pad

Rounding out the offering are a smattering of features, including Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, 5MP camera, Bluetooth and a bundled 8GB microSD card.

Okay, now you know what's on offer, let's talk price. SIM-free, the Xperia Play will require a £480-520 extraction from your wallet, and to get the phone free on a contract will typically require paying £35-40 per month.

To put that in perspective, you could get the much-lauded Orange San Franciscoand a 3DS for the same cost as a SIM-free Xperia Play, with change enough for a small library of games. For this kind of money, you'd be right to expect legendary performance.

The Xperia Play hardware itself isn't unattractive, but it is bulky, coming in a finger-width shorter than a closed 3DS and a few millimetres less thick at 62 x 119 x 16.5mm.

It's heavy as well, and feels too plasticky in the hand, mainly thanks to the creaky, glossy backplate. Oh, and the whole device retains fingerprints better than a crime lab database.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: with 3ds

Holding the phone upright as you would to make a call, along the left-hand side of the slide-out section is a 3.5mm headphone socket and the micro-USB port. We're not huge fans of how the jack is placed, given its location makes the provided headphones rub against the base of our thumb while playing games and gets in the way for movies.

On the top edge of the phone is another less than ideally placed button – the power/lock switch. Because it's recessed, it requires a fair flex of the index finger to operate, which can be faffy at key moments.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: in hand

The right-hand side has the shoulder buttons (more on them in a bit) and a volume rocker, which is in a great place for adjusting volume on the fly during calls, but awkwardly right behind the middle of the screen during gaming.

There's a minimal selection of non-backlit buttons along the bottom of the screen too to handle navigating duties. These are: Back, Home, Menu and Search respectively. They're pleasant enough to use, but we think you'll find it hard to make them out in the dark.

One neat touch is that when you flip the phone over and take off the backplate, you can access the sim slots and microSD card without removing the battery.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: sim

Not quite the killer start we'd hoped for, but we've yet to venture onto the Xperia Play's home turf: gaming.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Interface

The interface on the Xperia Play looks pretty similar to its cousin, the Xperia Arc. By default, there are five Home screens to populate as you wish, with a persistent dock-like bar along the bottom with space enough for four customisable icons and a static menu launcher.

The Contacts and Phone apps take up the right two slots, with the left two given over to the Media folder and Messaging. We fast swapped out the Media file for the Browser, given that one of the five Home screens is already filled with widgets for the Gallery and Music apps, but you can hone this bar as you wish.

Tapping the centre icon on the dock brings up a list of apps to add to your Home screens, and all you need do is press and hold one to drag it into a free slot. Handily, the background lines behind it will turn green when you've found a valid place, so organising is fast and intuitive.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: menu

One minor quibble we do have is that you'll have to bypass this system and go via the external menu key to place widgets, folders and shortcuts, which seems a little inconsistent and caused us some early confusion.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: widgets

By default, the centre screen is almost entirely given over to the Timescape widget, which acts like a stream of postcards, each presenting Facebook and Twitter updates as well as text messages. Much like the Friend Stream system we've seen on recent HTC models, each of these acts as a slick starting point for finding the content you want.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: timescape

Other screens tend to be more open, but notably there's one screen dedicated to gaming, with a half-screen widget for the PlayStation Pocket app and a link to the Android Market to buy more games.

All you need do to navigate between screens is swipe left and right, but there's also an exploded view of all your widgets that you can access by pinching. Tap on a widget and you'll be taken to its resident Home screen.

We're not huge fans of this system, since it neglects to show you apps as well, making it selectively useful, but if you're a widget-fiend then it's perfect.

Scrolling left and right between Home screens is generally quick and fluid, though. However, we've found it can be jerky just after waking the device from its slumber in the mornings. On the flip side, we were impressed by the speed of the scrolling Rolodex-style widgets (as well as the PS Pocket, there's one for the Gallery, too), making them eminently usable.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: home

Taken as a whole, the system doesn't quite gel together as we'd like, but its not hard to learn to work around its quirks.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Contacts

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Contacts and calling

Contacts are accessed through the icon found by default in the dock and the menu. You can also access the phone dialler, call log and favourites from the menu at the bottom.

Importing our contacts to the phone proved as simple as providing our Google log-in details, and there's a wizard in place to help you get contacts onto the phone in various other ways too.

Sony ericsson xperia play

With your contacts loaded up, you'll see them presented in a fairly standard alphabetical list, which you can filter in a couple of ways, but not reorder.

The presentation of contacts is stylish, if a touch counter-intuitive where it matters. Primarily, it's the main info page for each contact we find awkwardly inconsistent. To send a message, you tap the messaging icon, while making a call means tapping a phone number from the list of possible numbers below.

We'd prefer either clear messaging and call icons in a prominent position, or a menu asking what you'd like to do when you press a number. Ideally, both.

Sony ericsson xperia play

Also, you can't set a number as the primary one, so you'll have to enter a custom field to make differentiating between, say, two mobile numbers easier. When you have a friend with a personal phone and a work one, that's unnecessarily tricky to work out.

Still, the rest of the page is good, and more handy pages are added as information becomes available, showing, say, Facebook statuses or your message history in conversation bubbles, which we liked.

Adding contacts is simple to do from the main list too, with a dedicated button in the top-right of the screen.

Finally, joining duplicate contacts into a single entry is as simple as pressing and holding on one entry and then choosing the appropriate menu option.

We're pleased to say the Xperia Play is very competent in-call too. The dialler is simplistic, with no support for smart dialling, but the big screen does make it easy to key in what you want.

Sony ericsson xperia play

Once we'd established a line, the connection quality was good, and didn't drop at all during our calls. We'd say the volume could stand to go a little higher for those calls when you're fighting inner-city traffic noise, but it's not a big deal.

One thing that's worth noting is that letting the handset speaker drift up and slightly away from your ear during calls will result in dramatically diminishing volume. It's more sensitive than a number of handsets we've used, and a little frustrating.

Speakerphone calls were fine on our end, but the person on the other side of the line did detect a little echo.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Messaging

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Messaging

Messaging on the Xperia Play follows the basic-but-competent motif. Fire up the app and you'll see a list of your current messages, plus drafts and a big ol' New Message button at the top of the screen.

Sony ericsson xperia play

Tapping any message summons the conversation view, which is presented in translucent speech bubbles on a blue-black background. Each message is timestamped to make trawling back through a conversation easier.

You can also compose a message from this view by pressing the white 'Write Message' bubble at the bottom, and add photos or video to your texts by clicking the icon that appears to its right in portrait view. Handily, there are options to record new media specifically for sending here, too.

Sony ericsson xperia play

The keyboard isn't the stock Android one, but it's pretty similar with a lot of keys crammed at the bottom of the screen in portrait view – we're not really sure why we needed a Menu key when there's this little real estate.

Flip the phone over and you'll be treated to a much more spacious version of the same, which is far more comfortable on the long, thin screen.

Sony ericsson xperia play

Typing is pretty standard, but you can only change the autocorrect options for the current word you're typing, so you can find hilarious 'correction-ese' slips in. At least you can press and hold words to select them when this happens and fix them.

Building up your catalogue of lingo is simple, too. You add words to the user dictionary by clicking on them to override a correction once, after which they're saved to use again.

Email is similar, with a list view of your inbox, and it makes use of the same keyboard when writing a message, but with a few extra fields and an attachments button.

Flip the phone into landscape view, though, and clicking on any message in your inbox presents it in a little frame on the right-hand of the screen, which makes skimming through your emails pleasingly simple.

Sony ericsson xperia play

The goodness of the app makes it a real shame the Xperia Play didn't deem it necessary to inform us of when new mail had arrived, which seems like a pretty big oversight. There's no widget for the Email app either, so there's really no way of knowing what's landed in your inbox unless you go and check.

The now-familiar Gmail app is on-board too, and does a far better job of keeping you updated via the notifications bar.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Gaming

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.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Media

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Media

With the Xperia Play, obviously the main media concern is the gaming side of things. However, that's not to say that other multimedia options are left in the cold, and the device proves more than capable when it comes to music and movies.

8GB of card-based storage plus the 400MB of internal memory provides plenty of room to get you started, and you can swap in a card up to 32GB in size if your media collection is sizable.

The Music player is minimalist, but none the worse for that. You can control it via either the handy Home screen widget or through the main menu. Upon entering, you'll see the current track's album artwork front and centre, with a large play/pause button and smaller track skipping keys to either side.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: media

At the lower edge is an easy-to-access slider that enables you to scrub through your track, handily displaying a prominent time reference in the upper portion of the screen as long as your finger's on the slider.

Below that sit three icons to access your music collection, get online information about your currently playing track and see a list of what's currently playing.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: music

It's all exactly as we'd expect, pleasingly responsive and well thought out.

Press the Menu key and you'll be able to access a set of equaliser presets (no custom option, unfortunately) as well as set the playing track as your ringtone. Neat.

Special mention must also go to the handset's two built-in speakers, which give clear, enjoyable stereo sound without the tinniness that accompanies most mobiles. We weren't big fans of the included earbuds, though, given that they seemed to contrive to communicate every cable movement and rustle directly into our cranial tissues, regardless of the rubber tips we used.

Movies also benefit from the great stereo sound, and we found the four-inches of screen real estate put to good use. Again, the player itself is simple yet efficient, with simple skip buttons, the obligatory play/pause key and a timeline appearing on a grey bar when you tap the screen.

There's none of the jerkiness that can accompany fast panning, but some of the images are a little fuzzy when in fullscreen mode.

Aside from the weight of the unit, it's comfy enough to hold in the hand for a while too, so watching an episode or two on the train is entirely feasible if you're all gamed out.

Finally for now, let's touch on the Gallery. This is another slick-looking app that's clearly been the focus of attention. Enter the main screen and you'll see files for your pictures and movies laid out in pleasingly messy stacks.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: gallery

Tap one stack of, say, pictures and you'll see it expanded out into a wall of thumbnails. From here, you can select one to see all up close and personal, or use as the starting point for a slideshow. You can also access basic editing and sharing options by tapping the menu key.

One issue we did have is that the Xperia Play got confused when we took new photos with the camera, showing us the same folder of shots twice instead of the folder of images on our memory card and the new one. It had us worried for a moment until we quit out and returned, although we couldn't replicate the problem again.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Internet

With Google's might behind the Xperia Play's OS, it's surprising that we've found the web browsing as mediocre as we have.

On our test unit we had the option of connecting via Wi-Fi or 3G/HSDPA. Getting our Wi-Fi set up was simple, and handled neatly by the Xperia Play's set-up wizard. All we had to do was enter our password and we were away.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: browsing

So far, so good, but once connected we found the stock browser hardly blistering in pace. Sites are accessed quickly enough, but scrolling around the full BBC homepage proved prone to stuttering. The pinch-to-zoom functionality was decidedly jerky too.

In a similar vein, text reflowing is merely okay, requiring a double tap to make the device get the job done once you've zoomed in.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: text reflow

Using the little plus and minus zoom keys on the screen worked far better for reading a news site in both regular a mobile formats, reflowing text as we zoomed. But these can be annoying too, and we had an issue where one key disappeared behind website content.

That said, Flash support has been promising, with our few test sites loading quickly and playing well.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: flash

The bookmarks system is praiseworthy as well, offering a little icon by your entered URL to log your favourite sites. Enter the pane accessed by the menu key and the top-left square of the screen is dedicated to a creating a bookmark of the current site, while all the other entries show the sites in your collection in handy thumbnails. You can opt for a list instead if you prefer.

Sony ericsson xperia play review: bookmarking

Similar lists exist for your most viewed pages, which is a handy secondary jumping-on point, and recent history.

It's by no means awful, but the jerky nature of what we experienced is a far cry from browsing on the iPhone 4 or other Android phones such as the LG Optimus 2X. It's disappointing and really impacted how we felt about the browsing experience.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Camera

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Camera

Toting a five-megapixel camera, the Xperia Play can produce beautiful images. Unfortunately, once again it suffers from inconsistent software muddying the offering.

Don't get us wrong, there are loads of options, including a host of white balance settings, scene modes, exposure control, colour effects and quality settings. Plus, on the hardware front, there's a decent flash.

What the Xperia Play lacks, oddly, is a zoom function, at least that we could find. We tried double tapping, pinching, scoured the menus, but nada. Also, there seems to be no way of picking out what you want to focus on beyond the auto, infinity and macro options. It's a real disappointment, because as you'll see, the camera itself is great.

Sony ericsson xperia play

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CLOSE UP:We got this sharp image using the macro mode. The colours are vivid and some of the detail on the central flower's petals is amazing

Sony ericsson xperia play

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CLOUDY DAY: Wider shots are a little more prone to fuzziness. The overcast sky is slightly overexposed here, too

Sony ericsson xperia play

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WIDE SHOT:The central area of grass here is quite pixellated at full size. Still, the colour rendition is good

Sony ericsson xperia play

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MOVEMENT:The Xperia Play handles moving subjects reasonably well. It's a shame we couldn't have focused more and zoomed in on the central subject, though

Sony ericsson xperia play

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CONTRAST:The Xperia Play has failed to capture all the detail in this dark bronze lion against a brighter sky, but it's done really well considering that we took this shot to tax it

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Video

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Video

With a five-megapixel camera and a 1GHz processor, we'd have hoped Xperia Play would be shooting HD video. The highest quality setting, however, is 800 x 480 at 30fps. You can also shoot at medium and low quality settings, plus there's an option for YouTube-optimised video.

There's a video light if you need it, but it's found under a section called flash mode, which seems sloppy. You can also apply Mono, Sepia, Negative and Solarize colour effects and tweak white balance. Again, we could find no way of zooming.

Sony ericsson xperia play

The first clip shows how the Xperia Play handles transitions from dark places to light ones. Our transition was at a fairly gentle walking pace, but the phone seems to be constantly searching for the right exposure.

The detail in the second clip's panning shot is a little bit lacking, but there's no stuttering from the phone, which is good.

Our, ahem, moving subject in the third clip turned out fine but there's a definite lack of definition in the grassy areas.

Faster movers, such as the cars in the last clip, seem to really tax the phone, though, which is a shame.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Battery life

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Battery life

Sony Ericsson knows that along with gaming comes the concept of gaming marathons and the Xperia Play's 1,500mAh battery is stated to be good for around five-and-a-half hours of thumb-numbing action.

It should also manage nearly eight-and-a-half hours of call time on GSM/EDGE networks and around six-and-a-half on UMTS/HSPA. Meanwhile, stated standby times stretch to over 400 hours.

Sony ericsson xperia play

Out in the real world, you'll chop and change between calls, games and downtime, but we tried a few days of different intensities of use and found the battery life average for modern smartphones and totally adequate.

An intensive evening of play followed by a day of minor use left the phone gagging for juice at around 5pm. A less taxing span of taking a few calls and doing a bit of web surfing, plus about half an hour of gaming helped the phone last around two days before the little red warning triangle appeared to tell us the cells needed some time hooked up to the national grid.

Sony ericsson xperia play

Turning the screen's brightness down (you have to do this through the menu, since the widget is a simple on/off affair) helped eke out a few more minutes of life, but the screen's not bright enough to tolerate going too far below halfway, even indoors.

Consign yourself to plugging it in every evening, though, and you'll be fine.

Connectivity

Talking of plugging things in, when it comes to connectivity, there's a bevy of options. The regular smartphone options are all here – 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3G/HSDPA, Bluetooth – and they're joined by DLNA, GPS and the option to use the phone as a portable hotspot.

Getting hooked up to our Wi-Fi network and connecting the phone via Bluetooth were both as simple as entering the requisite passwords. In this respect, the Xperia Play has been one of the easiest devices to get linked we've played with so far.

Establishing a link with GPS satellites proved simple, too

Sony ericsson xperia play

Physically, there's also a micro-USB port (and micro-USB to USB cable included in the box) for charging the phone and linking it up to your computer.

There's a full, and frankly overbearing, software suite you'll be asked to install when your computer detects the phone, which helps you manage the usual business of loading files onto the phone and syncing calendars contacts and the like.

We're quite taken with the included Media Server app, which enables you to stream content on your phone over the local network. Setting it up is simple, requiring just a few clicks and even streaming video was admirably nippy over our wireless network. It's a glittering gem that we could see proving genuinely handy to those with full-on gaming consoles at home.

Sony ericsson xperia play

The only downside is that it highlights the phone's inability to stream content from other DLNA devices with the packaged media apps.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Apps

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Apps

Rather than come with the slew of apps that most modern smartphones pack in, the Xperia Play has just a few apps beyond the realms of what we've already covered elsewhere.

There's Timescape's own dedicated UI, presenting a stream of social media updates and even your text messages on a scrollable stack of cards this time. Tap one to bring the message up in full, and then again to visit either a full SMS conversation view or the profile page of your chosen subject.

Sony ericsson xperia play

A dedicated Facebook app is also on board, which is functional if not particularly flashy.

The calculator ties in with the overall translucent buttons of blue-black background theme, and there's an option to switch the basic functions for an advanced panel. This is fine for one-off sums, but doing your maths homework on it would be a chore.

Sony ericsson xperia play

There's also an app for the PlayNow media store, where you can purchase new music for your phone, although this is notably more expensive than iTunes or Amazon's MP3 service.

Of more use is the TrackID app, which is a Shazam-alike that worked really well in our trials. We especially like the options to search for it on YouTube and recommend the tune to your friends.

Speaking of searching, there's a Voice Search option, but this was far less accomplished at figuring out our mumblings.

Sony ericsson xperia play

Sony Ericsson's sync app is here too, for keeping your devices up to date.

The Calendar app should help you stay current too, but making a new appointment is tucked behind two layers of menus form the default screen, which is worth being aware of.

Finally, there is an OfficeSuite icon if you must pretend you're ever going to work on the Xperia Play, but you'll have to fork out $9.99 for the pro version of the software.

More software is, of course, available from the ever-growing Android Market, which has thousands of apps to download.

Sony ericsson xperia play

For getting around, the quadrumvirate of Google Maps, Navigation, Places and Latitude is here. They act much as they do on other Android smartphones, although the Play's accelerometer is put to use for a behind-the-shoulder view in Maps.

The GPS sensor was fast and accurate at pinpointing our location, while asking for directions was quickly and efficiently handled, too.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Verdict

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review: Verdict

Sony ericsson xperia play review

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.

We liked

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.

We disliked

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.

Verdict

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.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Android 2.3 PlayStation phone
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