When photos of a PlayStation Phone prototype surfaced at the back end of last year, there was no telling if they were the real deal or just another great, but unrealistic, concept. Little did we know that after nearly four years of speculation, there was one ready and waiting at Sony Ericsson HQ to make its public debut.
The rumours finally came true at Mobile World Congress 2011 as the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the world’s first PlayStation certified smartphone took to the stage. We took it for some long overdue playtime…
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play continues the new and improved Xperia design with the glossy plastic cover and curved styling. We would have preferred metallic casing, if only because we’d want it to remain intact over the course of an 18 month contract, but we suppose the PSP fairs well so we’ll trust Sony’s judgement. The Play is considerably chunkier than other handsets that we’ve come across of late, although when you think that there’s an entire Playstation keypad under the bonnet, you can forgive the 16mm girth. With a solid pull out keyboard, which is made to withstand no end of abuse from the avid gamer, the Play is naturally going to be a bit weighty, Sony Ericsson have called it 175 grams, which is about 50g heavier than your average smartphone. Despite its big boned nature, the Xperia Play fits comfortably into one hand thanks to the slightly curved back and rounded edges. It’s all fronted by a 4 inch LCD display, which doesn’t have the benefit of Sony’s Bravia Engine, but still produces sharp pictures with deep colours.
Pocket consumption is down to the slide-out gaming pad. The slide-out hinge feels built to last and the game controller flaunts all the familiar PlayStation bits and pieces, including two touchpads (which are an alternative to analogue playsticks), the generic square-circle-triangle-cross buttons and a standard D-Pad. You’ll also find two shoulder buttons, for your R1 L1 action, placed at the back of the screen on top of the slide out board. All the keys are made out of robust feeling plastic and the D-Pad can also be used to navigate on the handset.
Power and Operating System
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is fired up by Qualcomm’s optimised 1GHz Snapdragon processor, coupled with an Adreno GPU graphics processor that delivers 60fps playback. It may not be a dual-core job but Sony Ericsson boast that the Play uses less battery power than before allowing you to get your game on for longer.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread was the obvious OS of choice for the Xperia Play and brings some favourable features with it. Support for a 9-axis gyroscope that will detect exact handset movements is one of them, which is perfect for those games that don’t necessarily require a game pad to control. Another thing that people were shouting about in the Google update was minimised application pauses, this ensures that you get a smooth ride across the entire user interface and in this case, games as well. The Xperia Play scored top marks in this department with no stutters or glitches getting in the way of our fun.
Sony Ericsson has teamed its Xperia user interface with Gingerbread which is layered on top of the operating system meaning that the manufacturer can get the latest software updates out a lot quicker than they have done before. Timescape and Mediascape appear in the form of widgets giving Android 2.3 a chance to make its presence known.
The Xperia Play comes with five pre-loaded games: Star Battalion, Fifa 10, Bruce Lee Fighting, Asphalt Racing and The Sims. More are on the way though, including Guitar Hero and Assassin’s Creed.
We only had Bruce Lee Fighting pre-installed on our bit of kit so weren’t able to give the touchpad’s a whirl, however, we did find the Play to be very responsive with our button prodding and accelerometer shaking and the graphics were nothing short of excellent. There are loads more games available from the PlayStation Pocket games store, which also comes pre-installed on the handset. The Sony head honchos announced they would be building their inventory in the coming weeks.
Internet: The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play comes with an Android WebKit browser with Flash support. 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity are also included as is Wi-Fi hotspot functionality.
Camera: The Xperia Play boasts a 5.1 megapixel camera with auto focus, LED flash and video recording capabilities.
Other tech specs:
- Music player – supports MP3, eAAC, WMA and WAV files
- Video player – supports MP4, H.263, H.264 and WMV files
- DLNA Certified
- 400MB Internal memory
- MicroSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB (8GB microSD card included in the box)
- Android Market
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- MicroUSB port
- 6 hours 25 minutes talk time
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play’s design may hold it back within the smartphone market. We’re almost certain that hardcore gamers and loyal Playstationer’s will be more than happy to compromise on size, but can the same be said for the fickle consumers that Sony Ericsson must target for this handset? Our only other grip was the pathetic amount of storage Sony has given to the Xperia Play, there’s not a lot you can do with 400MB of internal memory and we’re pretty shocked that no-one brought this up in the boardroom. In a vain attempt to appease this situation an 8GB card will be supplied with every handset, but with minuscule memory to begin with, you’re limited to a maximum of 32GB memory to hold all your media bits. And you say you’re going to revolutionise smartphone gaming, not if people can’t download the games you won’t.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play has proven that it was worth the wait and is the gaming phone for 2011. Is it worth getting if you’re a gaming fan? Absolutely, it’s also one heck of a smartphone so you casual mobilers can enjoy it too. It may have been a long time coming but now that it’s out in the open, playtime isn’t likely to stop for a while.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play will be released worldwide from March 2011.