The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is probably the most intriguing Android device on the market today. Being an Android phone, it has all the great features of that operating system, but it also has something else that no other Android device has: a slideout, hardware PlayStation gamepad.
It also has a dedicated way of getting game titles to the phone that will fully utilize that gamepad. But is it even worth it? After all, it's a phone first. It has to be able to function as a phone, above everything else. Read on down below to find out.
The Xperia Play sports some moderate specs, but nothing too amazing. It's got a 1GHz single-core Scorpion CPU, 512MB of RAM, an Adreno GPU, and a 4-inch 480 x 854 display. In terms of storage, you've got a 8GB microSD card slot. You can use that for your games and pictures, the latter being taken by the 5MP camera on the back. And of course, it's got a slideout PlayStation gamepad, with which you can play fun games.
As you know, the Xperia Play currently runs on Verizon's 3G network. No 4G here, but even without it, call quality was really great on my end. On the other person's end, however, things sounded quite loud. It sounded like I was shouting into the phone, even if I wasn't. Still, as loud as it was, it was still always crystal clear.
Design and Quality
Alright, let's talk about the quality and design of the Xperia Play. I've been a fan of Sony Ericsson's designs, and the Play, in the front, is no exception. A simple Sony Ericsson branding is up top, as well as proximity sensors and your earpiece. Down below, there's the standard array of the four Android keys, all in the physical variety. I love physical buttons so much more than capacitive buttons. You never accidently press them while you're doing something important.
There's also the 4-inch screen, which takes up the rest of the space on the front of the device.
When you slide the device open, you're greeted with a very familiar piece of hardware for many people: the PlayStation gamepad. In typical PS fashion, you've got your D-pad, two "analog sticks," the triangle, square, x, circle buttons, and select and start buttons. The analog sticks are actually touch sensitive, but I found that they work very well, even if my fingers did stick to the plastic a bit. Down below, you'll see the L and R buttons are visible from the back, and they're on the top of the device. Very much like a real PSP or PS controller.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, things turn sour for the Play on the back. I've been very vocal about my hatred for shiny plastic backings in the past, and there is absolutely no exception here. It's so slippery and when you're playing games, the last thing that you want to happen is losing control of whatever you're holding to play the game. That can result in death!
But really, the back is stylish. The camera and flash aren't hideous and the Xperia branding is something that I think looks really nice. I just wish it could've been matte.
On the left side of the device, there are two ports: a weird, proprietary headphone jack and a microUSB to USB port. If you can remember all the way back to my unboxing, you'll remember that the Play includes an adapter for "non-Sony Ericsson headsets." Your regular old 3.5mm headphones will work, but you get an insane popping noise every time you touch the device and you can hardly hear anything that you may be listening to.
On the right, a volume rocker and your L and R buttons reside. Luckily, the L and R buttons don't do anything when you aren't playing a game. You don't have to worry about going backwards or fowards while surfing the web or anything along those lines.
The Xperia Play has a 4-inch screen with a resolution of 480 x 854. Unfortunately, unlike the other Xperias, the Play doesn't utilize Sony Ericsson's BRAVIA Engine. However, the display is still incredible. In fact, it might just be the best smartphone screen I've ever had the pleasure of viewing.
Text is incredibly sharp, as well as pictures and the icons throughout Android. The complaint I do have with this screen, however, is kind of a big one. It's that the refresh rates are absolutely horrible! Seriously, I have never seen a worse refresh rate on a mobile screen ever.
It's really unfortunate that it has to be that way, because this screen would be perfect otherwise. It's just the right size, resolution, and brightness to go easy on the eyes yet, at the same time, providing the best picture you'll ever see. Since it's hard to translate just how good this display is into words, you should seriously try this out at your local Verizon store sometime.
Surprisingly enough, the Xperia Play achieves great battery life. I can get through a whole day of usage, including playing some intense sessions of games, and still have about half of my battery left. That's quite the feat for any phone, gamepad included or not. It's even more imp ressive when you consider that a 1500mAh battery isn't that big. Very nicely done, Sony Ericsson.
On Wednesday, I wrote a post about playing games on the Xperia Play and the experience that comes from that. In that post, I praised the fluid gameplay and the overall experience that the Xperia Play offers its players. Unfortunately, that doesn't always translate into using the rest of the phone.
I found that simple things that normally take less than a second on other Android devices would take four to five times longer on the Play, like switching from portrait to landscape or turning the ringing volume up or down.
One of the questions I presented to you guys when I wrote the piece about playing games was if you should buy this phone, even if you aren't a gamer. The answer is yes. The Play is really a great Android device, no matter how you look at it. It runs stock Gingerbread and is fast in most things. There are a few quirks, of course; there isn't a device without them. But if you want one of the best Android devices out there, in one of the most fun form factors ever, then the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is for you.