Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Review

It is always a fun day around here when we get our hands on a phone that isn’t just a phone but a true mobile gaming device. Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is a Playstation phone in a nutshell. It runs Playstation games has a complete game pad underneath it’s phone exterior. How will this phone hold up as a normal phone or will it fail as a complete package? Let’s get down to the business shall we? For a video review as well check out my YouTube page here.

Hardware

The gamepad

There really is only one way to start this review and it is by talking about the main element of this phone and that is the gaming device underneath the phone’s exterior. To access the gamepad you simply have to slide up the phone as if it were to be a typical slider keyboard, however where you are used to seeing a full QWERTY keyboard you get a complete gamepad that resembles the good ‘ol Playstation controller you are used too. The Circle, X, Triangle, and Square buttons welcome you, a directional pad is there as well and instead of two thumb sticks you have two analog pads that act like a capactive touchscreen. The two shoulder buttons are also there to make their appearance.

The thing that really impressed a lot of people was the sliding mechanism. Absolutely flawless, you don’t even have to force it all the way up. As soon as it hits the halfway point it finishes the job. The screen doesn’t tilt at an angle it stays perfectly parallel. You can tell Sony Ericsson spent a lot of time and a lot of effort into making this mechanism perfect.

 

Construction

Exterior

Here is where it takes a sad turn. Due to Sony Ericsson using some poor quality plastics in constructing the Play we often ran into creaks and squeaks. For all the great they did with the sliding mechanism they failed to follow through with the housing of the phone. One thing we did notice was just how bulky the device was. Being an Android phone they usually pride themselves on their slim physique. However bulky it is the one thing it has going for you is that it does fit nicely in your hand.

Internals

Ok so once you get past the plasticy rear cover you will be so pleasantly surprised that both the SIM and MicroSD card are very easily accessible WITHOUT removing the battery. It also has stereo speakers, something not many other phones can boast. Now while they aren’t Beats Audio they are slightly better quality than you get in other smartphones.

Running the show under the hood is a 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon chip, also comes along with Adreno 205 GPU while neither is a slouch in any term however you could have gotten more for your money. Looking around at similarly priced phones you can get a lot more to offer especially when it comes to the RAM department. You only get 512MB of it on the Play. You just have to keep reminding yourself that the Play is all about playing the games. Every game will make use of every drop of RAM that is available. However it just doesn’t seem powerful enough for our tastes

Another thing knocking against the Play is it’s battery life. Light usage can get you pretty far but as far as the heavy phone user (surfing, Twitter, Gmail, gaming) will do best to keep the charger near by.

Display

Now the display for me was hit or miss. I crank up the brightness and still found it to be dim. I couldn’t believe it. In the afternoon I would take the Play out to have a little FIFA 12 fun and the screen was hard to view. The players were atleast three shades darker. Making afternoon gaming outside near impossible. The better part is the wide viewing angles and the resolution is adequate however we have seen better. 

Camera

You got a 5 megapixel camera around back able to capture relatively decent quality photos. On the video aspect you get 800 x. 480 isn’t all that great but we thought you should be getting 720p video standard on most Android phones. I took one video with the Play and saw just how awful it was pointless for me to use this for video capturing. Back to the photos which were surprisingly decent quality, the only downside was the focusing in low light. The lack of a dedicated shutter key (though the shoulder key would have been PERFECT for it) really took just a little off from the camera aspect.

Software

Much like before we will jump right to the big features. The games, you get seven preloaded games with the phone and they are Asphalt 6 Navigator, Crash Bandicoot, Dungeon Defenders: Second Wave, Madden NFL 11, Star Battalion, Tower Bloxx: My City, and The Sims 3. Plus you can download even more through various Apps including FIFA 12 and Madden 12. Both of which I found quite enjoyable to play. However this is where the gamepad showed its flaws.

With FIFA 12 I would regularly see my player run off in the wrong direction. Making it very hard to control the game a lot of times. Other games I would see the touchpad fail me as well. Drifitng my car into the wall at times and various other problems. The hard directional pad worked great along with the usual button mashing games. However I did notice the shoulder buttons at time would not function properly when pressed. So in that aspect it wasn’t a total loss just a little something that takes away from the gaming experience.

Accessing the games is quite easy as you open the slider and boom you are presented with a list of games you have access to. If you see a game you would like to get tap the screen and if you can download it and install it the game will then load up. The loading time varies from little to a slightly longer. Nothing that would make you throw the phone down in disgust.

Graphically the games look dated. Madden looked like it was stuck in the Madden 02 series. Blocky players and movements. The graphics for Madden looked somewhat better on the Motorola Droid but still seemed blocky. So maybe it isn’t all the phones fault. FIFA was much better as it was able to handle it’s limitations on screen and power behind the graphics much better. When the action came to a close up shot the players were smooth around the edges.

With this phone being a Playstation Certified phone you are limited in Playstation games. You can’t download the vast array of Sony games instead you are stuck with what is available. Plus even if you own a game on the Playstation network you can’t automatically download it either you have to repurchase the game for the phone. A bit of a drawback.

Wrap-up

Overall I can applaud what Sony was attempting to do with this phone. Give the consumer a unique device that can double as a gaming device and a phone. Yes it can handle surfing the net relatively well though some pages load slower than others. Gaming wise the device is capable of handling those duties however we would like to see, in the future editions if there are any, more attention paid to the controls and graphics.

Call quality was passable with little to no static during calls. The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play can be a great gaming device and an adequate phone but it isn’t great. There are improvements to be made and that will come in time. If Sony is to continue making the Xperia Play they can see where they did right and where they need to improve and continue putting out quality products.

Pros

  • Unique phone design with gaming and browsing in mind
  • Decent Speakers
  • Passable Call Quality

Cons

  • No HDMI output
  • Control pad at times unresponsive
  • More downloadable games
  • More features

Finally it comes down to the the judges call and we turn to the Kyle Scientific Scale-o-Rama. We gave this phone a good once over and a few more looks and decided its fate. Using the Buy It, Flip It, or Skip It badges we are going to sadly give this one a Skip It. Mostly due to its lack of being a complete system on either end. As a phone it works like it should however being a smartphone it falls short and as a gaming device it came up lacking.

I will say this for the phone. If you are looking for a cheap gaming device that is able to hand simple duties of a smartphone without having to overtax itself than this phone is right up your alley. For the heavy smartphone users this device will just not due for you.  

Article first published as Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Review on Technorati.
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