Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

T3 2
  • Decent hardware, but in current format doesn't cut it for gaming

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

    Love

    • Looks pretty stylish
    • PlayStation controls

    Hate

    • Feels like it's going to break
    • Lack of proper PlayStation titles
    • Jack of all trades

    After a while in the mobile wilderness, Sony Ericsson is back with a splash with its new line-up of use-focused Xperia handsets. The Arc is its flashy line leader, impossibly thin and sporting a gorgeous Bravia-powered screen, the Pro its business-focused model and the Xperia Neo (read our review here) a good-quality mid-range option.

    But all the hype has been about the Play, the long-mooted 'PlayStation Phone' that comes promising "real" console gaming on a mobile for the first time. Make no mistake, in the wake of the iPhone's App Store success, this is the selling point that Sony Ericsson is focusing on, and for good reason, as the Play is no more than competent in most other areas.

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play: Specifications

    It has a perfectly decent 4-inch capacitive multi-touch LCD touch screen with a 480x854 pixel resolution and 16.7 million colours, and a 5.1-megapixel camera-cum-video recorder with autofocus, flash, image stabilizer and geotagging, which knocks the socks off the iPhone but doesn't set the world on fire outside Apple's camera void. It comes fully Gingerbreaded up with Android 2.3.2, which is swift and intuitive, with the usual media player offerings, customisable interface and a very nice cover flow-style integrated Twitter feed. Connectivity-wise it has the expected HSDPA-backed Wi-Fi for internet access, 3G and Bluetooth functionality, as well as A-GPS. There is 400MB of internal memory, but an 8GB microSD card is included and this can be expanded up to 32GB.

    So far, so standard. But let's face it, with the frankly gorgeous and similarly priced Xperia Arc rocking a much more impressive rig, not even Sony Ericsson is expecting this to sell on these stats. This is meant to be the first Android handset to kick Apple in the joypads. So what of the all-important gaming inclusion?

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play: Controls

    Well, the PlayStation controls hidden within make the handset a little on the chunky side (119 x 62 x 16mm), but less intrusive than we'd imagined. When closed, it's reassuringly solid and expensive looking, unlike the slightly plasticky Neo. At 175 grams it's by no means light, but not as pocket-denting as you might think, so its passes first impressions with flying colours. Get one out on the Tube and people will be impressed, if that's your thing.

    The familiar PlayStation controls of a D-pad, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, select and start, and the not so familiar flat analogue thumb areas, slide down on two runners, but once freed of their casing the build begins to feel a little flimsy. The Play clearly has its design foundations in the reworked PSP Go, although it's noticeable that beyond the iconic square/triangle/circle/cross buttons there's no PlayStation branding anywhere on the handset, and the slide mechanism doesn't feel like it will stand up to much punishment. It's had to be made impossibly thin so that the overall handset isn't too bulky, but the result is it appears eminently breakable under intense gaming.

    When playing with the controls slid down, the handset also feels very top-heavy and not particularly comfortable to hold. We didn’t get much gaming joy from the slightly bizarre analogue thumb pads, but we can confirm they do kind of work. The shoulder pads are hidden behind the screen and not at all ergonomically designed, while the D-pad feel plasticky and not firm like we've come to expect on dedicated gaming systems, distancing you slightly from the experience. It's functional but not much more. Importantly, it doesn't really feel like you're playing a PlayStation. Or a PSP, for that matter.

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play: Games

    Then there are the games. As advertised, there are more than 60 titles available for the Xperia Play at launch. But only six of these are actually purpose-built, PlayStation-certified ones, which you access through the PlayStation Pocket hub, with the rest standard Android games reconfigured to the Play's controls. But unfortunately this lack of conformity – some would say the defining issue between Apple and Android – means the standard and speed of experience varies wildly, and the button reconfiguration even more so. At present, the term 'PlayStation Phone' seems very much a misnomer.

    Qualcomm's 1Ghz Snapdragon CPU and Adreno GPU processor promises smooth 60 frames per second, although this doesn't seem to be being utilised at the moment and it’s a shame it’s not dualcore. While FIFA (10, not 11, unfortunately) is palpably faster than the iPhone version, the graphics are poor and controls so unresponsive, we found it more effective to use the touch-screen's virtual stick instead - although the screen slides around a lot on the control-board's runners, so screen-based gaming is far from ideal. The quoted gaming battery life of five and a half hours also seems slightly optimistic.

    Next up, the intergalactic shooter Star Battalion takes a mammoth two and a half minutes to get from app press to actual gaming. After much bashing of all the buttons trying to skip the stuttering loading screens, we found that a simple tap of the touch screen at least skipped the relentless intros, despite this not being flagged up anywhere and you being in PlayStation control mode at the time. Confusing.

    The one pre-installed PlayStation-certified game, colourful 3D platformer Crash Bandicoot, is fun but the graphics disappointingly don't fill the widescreen display, with big ugly black borders either side, and while it's initially fun, it hasn't aged well over the 15 years since release. This could be a big problem, as while this is undoubtedly a PlayStation experience, it's a really, really old one. The upcoming NGP will boast PS3-quality games, while the PSP already does a good impression of PS2 titles – a focus on PS1 titles, as Sony’s PlayStation Suite intends to do, feels very regressive, especially when both Apple and Android are doing such a good job of bringing new and dedicated games to market.

    Funnily enough, there's a video output that lets you play your games on a big screen if you so wish, effectively turning it into a portable PlayStation One, but you can pick the original PS1 and a bundle of games up off eBay for less than a tenner, so this seems of little consequence. It also puts the £5-£7 retail price for Play games into perspective.

    The Play retails at £460 off-contract but if you shop around online, you can get the handset for free on a £25 a month contract from several providers if you're prepared to put faith in the slide mechanism lasting 24 months, though some companies, including O2, Vodafone and 3, have delayed its release for a variety of reasons, from stock delivery issues to software bugs. T3 was sent and reviewed a final boxed version of the Play, but in the light of three of the biggest operators postponing release, possible future updates may change user experience.

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play: Verdict

    Despite it being rumoured for nigh-on half a decade, the 'PlayStation Phone' actually feels like it's been rush-released, and as such its compromises mean it falls between two stools. There are better and cheaper handsets for everything other than gaming, and at present there just aren't enough dedicated, optimised games worthy of people's attention for it to survive as a handheld that happens to make calls. If you’re someone who just wants to play Android games with a proper control pad, this is the best there is, but bear in mind the current crop of games weren’t designed with this configuration in mind and play as such. We'd like to reassess the Xperia Play once the PlayStation Suite service is properly up and running, and there are a range of purpose-made games to test, but right now we'd struggle to recommend it for either of the fronts it’s fighting on, although we’re sure this won’t prevent it from finding an audience.

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play launch date: Out now, link Sony Ericsson

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play price: £460-£599 online

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Specifications

    • OS: Android 2.3
    • Storage: 400MB int, 8GB or 16GB card supplied Micro SD
    • Screen: 4-inch 854x480
    • Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n Bluetooth 2.1, microUSB, A-GPS
    • Camera: 5MP main, VGA front
    • Video: 720p 30fps
    • 385 minutes
    • Dimensions: 119 x 62 x 16 mm
    • Weight: 175g

     


  • Now that the hotly anticipated PlayStation Phone has been made official, the build turns out to be similar to the PSP Go - a compact device with a slide out gamepad tucked away beneath the screen.

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

    Love

    • Looks pretty stylish
    • PlayStation controls

    Hate

    • Feels like it's going to break
    • Lack of proper PlayStation titles
    • Jack of all trades

    The game pad will look familiar to PlayStation and PSP gamers, sporting the four-button D-pad on the left and the trademark triangle, square, cross and circle buttons on the right. Instead of the analogue sticks found on the PlayStation controller, Sony Ericsson has gone with touch sensitive circles for controlling in-game movement and camera. Shoulder buttons are atop the game pad section of the phone, so obscured from view when the screen has been slid up. The obvious downside of this slide-out setup is the inherent chunkiness - we wouldn't call it fat, but we couldn't call it svelte, either.

    Related links


    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Android

    Unlike the slew of handsets that are skulking their way into the hands of consumers with Android 2.2, the Xperia Play runs the bang up-to-date 2.3 Gingerbread right out of the gate.


    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Screen

    Obviously on a handset centred around gaming, the screen is something of a big deal. Putting the game pad part of the phone underneath the display saves on screen real estate, leaving an unobstructed four inches of screen to play with, which packs in a 854x480 pixel resolution. According to Sony Ericsson it can run games at 60fps, although from our experience at MWC the games we played left us skeptical of that figure. Gaming aside the screen is exactly what you'd expect from modern day smartphone - bright, responsive and with multi-touch.


    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Camera

    The Xperia Play comes packing a 5.1MP camera with auto-focus, image stabilization, flash and a video record mode.

    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Battery

    Obviously a killer issue for a handheld gaming device. Fortunately, the claims from Sony Ericsson are that the battery will last you for over five hours of gameplay before needing a recharge, which is exactly the same as the most recent PSP, the PSP Go, and  enough to wile away a chunk of even the longest car journey. Once the good people of Sony Ericsson pop one over to us we'll let you know a real-time number.


    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Price

    The Xperia Play handset is available for pre-order from a number of online gadget retailers from between £500 and £550. Assuming that price doesn't come down on launch, the question is: given the choice, would you rather have an HTC Desire S (£420, amazon.co.uk) and a PSP-3000 (£130, also from amazon), or the hybrid Xperia Play for the same price? At £550,  the Xperia Play is going to have excel at the phone and gaming elements, matching a the standalone devices to be worth the punt.


    Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Launch Date

    The release date for the Xperia Play hasn't been set, with retailers offering it for pre-order putting the release at various speculative dates in March.

    • http://media.t3.com/img/resized/so/xs_SonyEricsson_XperiaPlay_624.jpg
    • http://media.t3.com/img/resized/so/xs_SonyEricsson_XperiaPlay_blu.jpg
    • http://media.t3.com/img/resized/so/xs_SonyEricsson_XperiaPlay_clo.jpg
    • http://media.t3.com/img/resized/so/xs_SonyEricsson_XperiaPlay_mai.jpg

Comments

Be the first to comment…

Back to top
Close
T3 Newsletter
Sign up to recieve the T3 newsletters by entering your details below

Your Details

As you're registering with us. we'd like to think that you'd enjoy receiving the following emails; if you'd rather not receive them, please untick the boxes:

I would like to receive other emails from T3, Future Publishing Limited and it's group companies containing news, special offers and product information
I agree to the terms of use and privacy policy and confirm that I am over 16 years of age *
Close
Log in or Join

By clicking below you agree to our terms and conditions and our privacy policy

Log in to T3.com with your preferred social network

Log in with your T3.com account

CloseJoinPlease complete these additional details

Join T3.com with your preferred social network

OR

Join T3.com

Please tick this box to confirm you are 16 years old or over

Just so we know you're human

Newsletters

I would like to receive T3 email newsletters, packed full of the latest tech news, competitions and exclusive offers.

I would like to receive other emails from T3, Future Publishing Limited and its group companies containing news, special offers and product information.

I would like to receive offers from carefully selected third Parties. We will not share your data with the third party.

Close Edit your profile

Change your password

Newsletters

I would like to receive T3 email newsletters, packed full of the latest tech news, competitions and exclusive offers.

I would like to receive other emails from T3, Future Publishing Limited and its group companies containing news, special offers and product information.

I would like to receive offers from carefully selected third Parties. We will not share your data with the third party.

Social networks

You have authorised these social networks to interact with your T3.com account.

Please ensure you deactivate or revoke access to this website from within your social networks settings to ensure all permissions are removed.

Close Forgotten your password

Forgotten your password?

Please enter the email address that you used to sign up and we'll send you a new password

Close
Forgotten password
Don't have a T3 Account? Join now