Sony Ericsson has released the first PlayStation certified smart phone in the form of the XPERIA Play. With its unique concept and the PlayStation branding, let’s find out what this so-called PlayStation phone can bring to the table.
Keeping faithful to the design of its other XPERIA cousins, the XPERIA Play sports its familiar rounded top and bottom design. The back panel is rounded on its edges and the corners are tapered. It feels a bit bulky for one-handed use in portrait mode but it will sit comfortably in your hand when gaming.
Dominating the front is a 4 inch FWVGA (480 x 854) LCD screen which is kind of disappointing since this device could really benefit from Sony’s Bravia Reality display found in the Arc. Anyway, the screen is quite bright – not too bright but colors are vivid and the contrast is quite good when viewed head on. The same cannot be said for you game spectators since viewing angles on this phone is not that good. At the bottom front you will find the oh-so-familiar chrome Android keys present in most XPERIA phones.
On the left side, you will find the micro USB port and the 3.55mm audio jack opposite each other. On the right side, the volume rocker is situated between the L and R trigger buttons. The power/lock button is situated at the top and amusingly the LED indicator is incorporated in it as well.
On the curved, fingerprint-magnet back panel you will find the 5MP camera and the LED flash as well as the 2nd mic pin hole for noise cancelling. Prying the back panel to open is a tedious task in itself and doing so will give you access to the microSD slot and SIM card slot which you can freely remove and change without taking out the battery.
Sliding the phone open is spring assisted and locks firmly into place which will give you access to the PlayStation-certified gaming controls. Below the action buttons are the start and select button, small enough not to be pressed accidentally but also big enough to be located by feel. On the left side, just below the directional keys is the menu button which functions the same as the one located in the front of the device. In the middle of the controller deck you will find 2 analog pads which substitutes for the analog sticks present in most PlayStation dual-shock controllers.
The hardware design of this device might not appeal to everyone because of its extra bulk but that extra heft is actually an advantage since this device is definitely geared towards gaming by providing a good grip and stable feel when held accordingly.
Performance and UI
With the release of numerous dual-core devices in the market, it seems like the XPERIA Play’s 1GHz Scorpion processor is a bit underwhelming, but do not fret for the XPERIA Play is still a very capable device. Sporting the Adreno 205 GPU, the XPERIA Play can hold its own in many ways.
Here is the Quadrant score (1368) which is on par with current-generation 1GHz phones we reviewed like the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, the HTC Desire S, and LG Optimus Black.
Running on Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) with Sony Ericsson’s Timescape interface for the XPERIA Play, navigation is fluid and snappy. Similar to other Android UI’s, the XPERIA Play utilizes five home screens to place your widgets, folders and shortcuts on. One really cool and unique thing about their UI though is that doing a pinch gesture on any home screens will give you a widget overview wherein all the widgets you placed on your home screen will be laid out (albeit only a lot smaller) on one gigantic overview screen.
There is a persistent dock at the bottom housing the application launcher button in the middle flanked by two editable buttons on each side. These buttons could either be shortcuts to applications or a folder containing more shortcuts. Sony Ericsson also includes a set of exclusive widgets for the XPERIA Play such as their TimeScape widget which aggregates your messages and social network updates into one place.
There is also the PlayStation Pocket widget where you can easily view and launch your PlayStation games. Messaging on this phone is similar to existing Android smart phones currently in the market especially now that text-selection on Android 2.3 is al lot better.
The phone is also fully integrated to Facebook meaning you can connect your existing contacts to their respective Facebook accounts along with their details and, if you are constantly connected, their status updates can also be viewed instantly.
Call quality on the XPERIA Play is better than most smart phones I’ve tested delivering clear voice quality whether you are using the provided earphones or not. What really bugged me though is the absence of smart dialing on this phone. It is a feature that you would expect to be included in a smart phone but Sony Ericsson somehow managed to neglect. It is an annoyance but not so much of a deal-breaker.
Having a 4-inch screen, the XPERIA Play is an excellent device for multimedia consumption. The screen is big enough to comfortably watch your favorite videos although the Play does not have native DivX support. There are free DivX players from the market though.
Browsing in this device is also a good experience with a relatively significant screen real estate; you can view a lot of the content without zooming in too much. The browser supports pinch-to-zoom gestures as well as double top to zoom. Text reflow is also supported as well as native Flash support.
The XPERIA Play comes with a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash. There’s no physical shutter button like the Arc but you can use X button on the gamepad if you don’t feel like using the onscreen shutter button.
Here are a few sample shots taken with the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play.[nggallery id=21]
Unfortunately, the camera here doesn’t have the same Exmor R lens as other new Xperia phones out there but photo quality is not that bad at all. Noise is evident when not using flash while indoors but that should be expected and using Flash takes care of things. Outside in broad daylight though (last pic), images are sharp and has the right color balance.
With the PlayStation moniker attached to its name, much is expected from the XPERIA Play in the gaming department and indeed, it does not disappoint. Despite the seemingly average specs on this device, HD games play smoothly without any significant drops in frame rate.
There are 4 pre-installed games on the XPERIA Play most of which are already existing in the Android market/IOS App store with the exception of Crash Bandicoot which is exclusive to XPERIA Play only. Aside from these, there are plenty of XPERIA Play enhanced games available in the market for download and the provision for physical hardware controls provides better gaming experience since most games are really meant to be played with them.
As such, the question remains whether the conception of a smart phone with gaming controls is a good move for Sony Ericsson considering that it would fall into a niche market. The fact is, most of the XPERIA Play-enhanced games can also be played with a normal or more powerful smart phone save for some XPERIA Play exclusives most of which are PlayStation 1 games ported by Sony.
Currently, there are only a few PS1 games officially ported to be playable on the XPERIA Play and I don’t consider most of them stellar games. But then again, the saving grace for this device is the multitude of available console emulators in the market. For the dedicated retro gamer, this is the ultimate smart phone that would enable you to play most of the classic games made for NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, N64, MAME and even PS1 titles as well. Most of these emulators allow for binding hardware controls and the XPERIA Play is perfect to be your ultimate retro-gaming device in one slider phone package.
So what happens when you receive a message or a call during an intense game on the XPERIA Play? When your phone receives a message, it basically just notifies you via your message alert tone, meaning, your game will not be interrupted. However, when there is an incoming call, your game is paused on its current state and you can either take or reject your call. You can go back to your game afterwards.
With a phone marketed as a gaming device, nothing is more important than battery life. As a gaming device, the XPERIA Play is on par with most handheld gaming devices offering around 4 to 5 hours of dedicated gaming. As a smart phone, it provides a decent duration of more than a day before running out of juice. However, combining both functionalities, the phone would barely last a day after a couple of intense gaming and having it perform its smart phone duties as well.
Being the first and only smart phone with built-in dedicated gaming controls, it seems like the XPERIA Play is catering to a minor set of audience. However, the potential for this device as a dedicated handheld gaming device coupled with its substantial smart phone capabilities, the XPERIA Play is one competent device. You can enjoy both touch-based games as well as those requiring joysticks and buttons.
With a suggested retail price of Php19,900 (although some stores are selling it for as low as 16,500), we highly recommend this phone if you’re into mobile gaming. The price is attractive even for just a new 4-inch 1GHz phone so you can treat the gamepad part as a bonus.
|Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Specs:|
|1GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon|
|Android OS, v2.3.3 Gingerbread (2.3.4 coming real soon)|
|4-inch screen (480 x 854 pixels), 16 million colors|
|PlayStation certified game controller|
|5 MP, 2592Ñ…1944 pixels, autofocus, LED flash|
|720p HD video recording|
|VGA front camera|
|400 MB internal storage, 512 MB RAM, 8GB microSD included|
|Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot|
|Li-Ion 1500 mAh battery|