Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play Android phone

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play review: The smartphone has excellent controls and a smooth gaming experience, but the XPERIA Play will ultimately live or die by its exclusive games content

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Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play

Pros

  • Great gaming controls
  • Excellent speakers
  • Sony Ericsson UI overlay

Cons

  • Unremarkable display
  • Questionable build quality
  • Limited internal memory

Bottom Line

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play possesses excellent gaming controls and offers a relatively smooth user experience for both communications and gaming. However, it will ultimately live or die by its exclusive games content, and it has a few faults that prevent it from being a great device.

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Dubbed the 'PlayStation phone' due to its dedicated gaming controls, Sony Ericsson's XPERIA Play Android phone is an attempt to combine a top-quality smartphone with a portable gaming device. Although it succeeds in many areas, the XPERIA Play isn't without its flaws, and will need a wealth of exclusive gaming content to justify its existence.

Read our Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play vs. Apple iPhone 4 Smartphone showdown and check out our guide to the best upcoming smartphones in 2011.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play: Design, controls and display

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play slides open to reveal dedicated gaming controls. It has two touch-sensitive 'joysticks', a D-pad and four of the PlayStation's famous control buttons (triangle, square, circle and X). The XPERIA Play also has two shoulder buttons (L and R), along with select and start keys in a bid to recreate the full PlayStation experience. The flat, touch-sensitive joysticks do take some time to adjust to, but the indented dot in the centre of each helps you align your thumbs correctly without needing to look at them. Both the D-pad and the PlayStation buttons offer plenty of tactility and click comfortingly when pressed.

The XPERIA Play's PlayStation–style controls makes this handset a chunky one — although it still fits into a pocket, you're left with a rather large bulge when doing so. (Is that an XPERIA Play in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?) [I can't believe you just wrote that — Ed.] We would have appreciated a slimmer design, but if there had to be a compromise struck between excellent gaming controls and the handset's dimensions then Sony Ericsson has made the right decision. The XPERIA Play also has an ergonomic, curved design that makes it comfortable to hold — it's a very similar feeling to holding a PSP Go.

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play's build quality is hit and miss. We loved the feel of the smooth sliding mechanism, but the L and R buttons feel flimsy and can easily be accidentally pressed, the Android shortcut buttons on the front of the handset (back, home, menu and search) are thin and spongy, and the rear cover creaks and rattles. The glossy front and sides of the XPERIA Play also attract a wealth of fingerprints.

The presence of two touch-sensitive 'joysticks', a D-pad and four of the PlayStation's famous control buttons means the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play is a chunky device.

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play's screen is largely unremarkable. It's a 4in LED-backlit LCD that has a respectable resolution of 480x854, but it lacks the vibrancy of competing displays like Apple's IPS "retina" screen on the iPhone 4, and Samsung's Super AMOLED displays seen on the Galaxy S Android phone. The XPERIA Play is very difficult to see in direct sunlight — a big oversight on a device that's been designed primarily for portable gaming — and lacks an automatic brightness setting.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play: Gaming

Games on the XPERIA Play are downloaded and accessed through the 'XPERIA Play' and the 'PlayStation Pocket' apps, both preloaded on the device. The XPERIA Play app features a library of standard Android games that are compatible with the XPERIA Play's controls, while the PlayStation Pocket provides exclusive PS One games. The XPERIA Play comes with one preloaded PS One game (Crash Bandicoot), and four regular Android games (Bruce Lee, FIFA 10, Star Battalion and Sims 3). At the time of review Crash Bandicoot was the one and only PS One game available, and the regular Android games aren't XPERIA Play exclusives, even though they work with the PlayStation controls.

Sliding open the XPERIA Play automatically launches the XPERIA Play app, displaying a list of the current games on the device, along with a list of games available to buy. Depending on the games developer, tapping a game available for purchase takes you either to the browser for a direct download option, or the Android Market. Although we would like to see a standardised format for game purchases, downloading games is a relatively hassle-free experience.

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