Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
When Sony Ericsson set out to make the Xperia Play it had a distinct goal to make the very best Android-powered smartphone along with the best mobile gaming device.
In the closed position the Xperia Play looks like many other Android smartphones with a generous 4-inch multi-touch screen with 480 x 854 resolution
Onboard is Android operating system 2.3 – other known as Gingerbread so users are getting the latest version.
In regular portrait mode the Xperia Play offers the same experience with social networking, the latest Android apps and multi-media entertainment.
Along the bottom edge below the screen there is still enough room for four hard keys – home, back, search and menu.
There is a little more thickness – 16mm in fact – but that’s with good reason when you consider what lies beneath. Hardly a dealbreaker considering what else the Xperia Play is packing.
Of course we’re talking about the dedicated gaming controls which reveal themselves when the screen slides upwards.
The spring-loaded mechanism which enables this action is solid and precise and users are greeted with an assuring snap whether they are sliding up the screen to play or closing it when they are done.
There is the familiar d-pad controls and familiar circle, cross, triangle and square buttons along with two analogue touch pads and two shoulder controllers.
When the controls snap in place the screen automatically adjusts to widescreen landscape mode
There are lot of functions and uses for this device so having the Qualcomm optimised Snapdragon 1Ghz processor sure helps things along.
But what helps really enhance the experience, especially when gaming, embedded Adreno graphics processing unit which provides smooth video playback and gaming at 60 frames per second.
In phone mode the Xperia Play was fast and the touchscreen was responsive and easy to scroll through menus and apps.
But where the device comes in to its own. The games, which are available to download directly to the device when connected to a wi-fi network are surprising quality.
For our testing we played FIFA 10, Crash Bandicoot, Star Battalion and Bruce Lee and each game was equal to the quality of those played on the dedicated PlayStation Portable.
It was comfortable to hold the device in your hands as well as accessing all the gaming controls easily.
Even the sound matched the visual experience. By launch there will be many more games which give players a wide selection from key gaming publishers across a number of categories.
The beauty of having physical controls is that there is a lot less crowding of the screen with your thumbs and fingers.
For touchscreen devices this action takes up valuable screen real estate which impairs the experience on some titles.
But there’s no such worry with the Xperia Play.
Apart from having PlayStation games in your pocket, the Xperia Play also fits in a 5 megapixel camera complete with auto focus and flash. Pictures were good not great and unfortunately it can’t capture HD 720p video. The best video it can capture is a standard 800 x 480
The Xperia also packs in a quality music player along with GPS and 3G, wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
The device only has a 400MB internal memory but it does include a 8GB microSD card.
Now with a device that can do so much including playing games it needs a battery that can get the user through the day.
We found the promise of five and half hours of gaming on a full charge to be about spot on so players who can’t keep their hands of the Xperia Play will have plenty of game time.
And if they decide to lay off the games and stick to mainly phone functionality this battery lifespan can get through a full work day and well into the night.
The Sony Xperia Play will be welcomed by users who just can’t be separated from their games and, with the backing of a vast library of games by launch in May, it offers an attractive package. Games will be priced at around $6-$7.
Non-gamers will probably turn up their nose at the beefier build but gamers will find this a small price to pay.
The Xperia Play is not just a mobile with a gaming platform attached to it. Each half – the gaming and smartphone components – are individually impressive.
The fact they are actually part of the same device means the Xperia Play will, for many, stand out from the already crowded Android smartphone market.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
Price: $TBA. It will be available for Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Vodafone will offer a white model of the Xperia Play exclusively.
Three and a half stars (out of five)