Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

If you love gaming on your phone already, the Xperia Play's controller will take this to the next level. There's stacks of games and a great smartphone experience, but a few trade offs to consider as well.


8.0
CNET Rating
7.4
User Rating

View more from Sony Ericsson »

About The Author

CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


The Xperia Play is the end-result of possibly the longest-running rumours in the history of mobile phones. For years, eager gamers cried out to Sony to deliver its PlayStation gaming experience on a phone, and many of these fans went to the trouble of creating concepts of what they thought this phone should look like. The Xperia Play resembles those early mock-ups, although it takes quite a bit from its Xperia heritage, as well.

Design

Unless you've been living in a cave, you'll know that the Xperia Play is the first phone to include a fully featured PlayStation-style gaming control pad. This controller resides below the screen and is accessed by sliding the top half forward. This physical design is an excellent metaphor for the phone as a whole; on top you have Sony Ericsson's latest Android smartphone experience and below you have its gaming side. It also highlights the great sacrifice with the Play; to accommodate the controller, the handset is twice as thick and 50 per cent heavier than Sony Ericsson's companion release, the Xperia Arc.

Gamers will appreciate the 3.7-inch WVGA display, even though it lacks the crispness and deep contrast of the Reality display in the Xperia Arc and Neo. The Play features all the usual knobs and ports you'd expect to find on a smartphone, though Sony Ericsson are wise to position in places where they won't get in the way while you're using the gamepad.

Xperia Play

The PlayStation style controller is well designed and easy to use.
(Credit: CBSi)

The PlayStation controller itself is also well-designed. It features a D-Pad, the famous four PlayStation buttons, plus two extra paddles or triggers on the edge of the handset. Rather than using twin analog controller sticks like a PS3 controller, Sony Ericsson opts for two touch-sensitive track-pads, a move that is great on paper but which ultimately hinders gameplay. The sensitivity of these pads is crucial, but there is no standard method for adjusting this sensitivity and most of the games we played didn't include this setting either.

Got game?

The quality and quantity of games optimised for use with the Play's controller was always going to be the make-or-break of this smartphone concept. Measuring the success of Sony Ericsson's efforts is also completely subjective, but we happen to think it has managed to pull together a great list of titles. We managed to play about a third of the games on offer at launch, and most of them are great mobile games. Included in this list and pre-installed on a new Play is Crash Bandicoot, the first of what we hope will be many classic PlayStation game ports. Crash is one of the real standouts, too, with smooth gameplay, exactly as it was when we played it on out PSOne all those years ago.

Xperia Play games Xperia Play games Xperia Play games Xperia Play games Xperia Play games Xperia Play games Xperia Play games Xperia Play games Xperia Play games

Click through for all our Xperia game reviews.
(Credit: CBSi)

Also great is Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play launcher, a catch-all for the games you've downloaded and installed, with links to download-compatible games through the Android Market or directly through developer's stores like Gameloft. The menu in this launcher is clean, colourful and so easy to use, borrowing heavily from the PlayStaion XMB menu structure on a PS3.

Our only frustrations with the gaming implementation on the Play both concern storage. By default all new game titles are installed to the phone storage rather than the included 8GB microSD card. After installing a dozen games or so we were alerted that the phone had low memory and then spent ten minutes or so manually moving the app's data across to the memory card. Alerted to the problem we went hunting for an option to save directly to the SD card being installing more games, but to no avail. The 8GB microSD card is also on the stingy side; after installing the games and transferring some music and videos across we filled this space in no time.

Handy Andy

Sony Ericsson's first Android excursion — last year's X10 — was a bit of a dud. With a focus on form over function, the heavily customised Android firmware used by Sony Ericsson resulted in an extremely poor user experience, and because this customisation was built so deep into the system it took way too long for Sony Ericsson to release updates. In 2011, it's a different ballgame; Sony Ericsson's approach to Android is current and lightweight, using the latest Gingerbread build with a simple, fast Sony Ericsson overlay. The result is a smartphone experience on-par with the other big names.

Android also means that the Xperia Play is as business-friendly as most other smartphones — not that we expect to see too many Plays on the boardroom table. Users have access to a first-class browser, decent media playback and great email and messaging.

The Xperia Play also features a media sharing app allowing users to share videos, pictures and music over a Wi-Fi network. We tested this tool by pairing the Play with a PlayStation 3 and it worked exactly as we expected it to.

Sony Ericsson pack a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash into this smartphone, though we weren't overly impressed with the results. The photos we took looked washed out, especially when using the flash, and the sensor was extremely noisy.

Performance

For the most part of time with the Xperia Play was fantastic, though we did come across a bit of bugginess in the firmware. We had two review units in the office, one crashed a few times and the other experienced a few software crashes in games. Both units, however, experienced problems with the Wi-Fi network adapter, losing connection mid-session, switching access points without instruction and struggling to hand-off to 3G data once it had lost communication with a LAN. Keep in mind that Sony Ericsson was kind enough to let us review the Xperia Play two months in advance of its release, so there's every chance that these bugs could be squashed before its launch at the end of May.

These issues aside, the Play managed most other tasks with ease. Calling, messaging and push email all worked flawlessly during our review. Access to the Android Market and app downloads was also fine. Battery life was also reasonably good, considering our heavy use. We managed to play games for about five hours on a full charge, and on most work days we came home with power to spare.

Overall

Built on the solid Android platform and with a huge list of games to download at launch, the Xperia Play will resonate well with its target audience. There is a trade-off, though; the gaming controller makes this phone thick and heavy, and while some will bear this burden easily, others may shy away. We also can't forget the buggy firmware we stumbled across in this review process, though hopefully the Sony Ericsson boffins are already hard at work ironing these issues out.

Previous Story

First look: Windows Phone 7 Mango

Mobile Phones
Next Story

BlackBerry PlayBook: up close



Add Your Review 12


* Below fields optional


Post comment as
RobbieB Facebook
7
Rating
 

"Every phones have its greats and bads, yeah?"

RobbieB posted a review   

The Good:PlayStation Store, Android Markets and the PlayStation Phone design

The Bad:Freezes for a lot of times and it is not even 5/6 months old yet.

As an Android-loving user who had a Xperia Play for 5 or 6 months, I am starting to lose my temper to be honest. The system (Android) is excellent, yes, and will be upgraded to Android 4.0.3 by Sony Ecrisson by May/June. However the Sony Ecrisson's phone data system is a horrid.

It is not even 5 or 6 months old yet, it freezes a lot. I haven't even used up the memory yet. I was forced to remove the pre-installed games so it would lessen the "freeze spikes".

I would be lucky if it freezes less than 5 times a day. Sometimes the touch screen freezes itself and I can't just touch anything - I had to shut the phone down and restart. Sometimes the phone restarting process freezes. Agh!

But overall, the idea of a PlayStation Phone is excellent and I had a great times with it ... when I got it.

Lets stop talking negatively about the phone. The battery life is FANTASTIC! I was blown by its excellent quality of battery. I would play Crash Bandicoot, Temple Run, listen to Coldplay or even facebook all day ... and it is still 50% by the time I get home at 4pm. Well done Sony!

Xperia Play is an excellent designed phone, with no design flaws or whatever. But only the problem has been incurred is the Sony Ecrisson's data system. I would be over the moon if the Android upgrade >might< assist the bugs and problems somehow.

The reason why I rated it 7, is that it is the first PlayStation Phone and I have never expected that it would be that great. Well done Sony, for breaking through the barriers... but you still have to fix the bugs and problems.

 

"better then the iphone 4(white) while people are still getting ther iphones"

JakeL1 posted a comment   

The Good:everything

The Bad:just one bug i found is the reponse to the slider game menu and need to actually need to install the games on to your sd card before playing.

just the battery runs out of juice if you have the ram full

Randommate
5
Rating
 

Randommate posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Initiative

The Bad:Sony Ericsson Development history

SE build both excitement and appalling technology.

for a real user review see:

http://talk.sonyericsson.com/message/71097#71097

TharakaW Facebook
10
Rating
 

TharakaW posted a review   

i luv this phone this phone is awesome look at it it is just awesome the problem with iphone is its the same thing but sony are making new things iphones are good but this is just awesome

StolenIdentity Facebook
7
Rating
 

StolenIdentity posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Stylish. Android 2.3. Awesome gaming experience for a mobile device.

The Bad:Could do with a better display and higher resolution camera.

A Sony rep brought one of these in to work the other day. I was surprised to find that it is a massive improvement over last year's Xperia X10. Will definitely be a popular seller when it launches.

 

EdipB posted a comment   
Australia

Well, shouldn't t be chunky?
It is a gaming phone. You want a good steady hold on it.
The iPhone seems really delicate like you could drop it any time, so people go out and buy covers that make it fat anyway.

SargeJohnson
8
Rating
 

SargeJohnson posted a review   

It doesn't seem too chunky. Certainly not more chunky than the Nokia N97... But, if you remember the ancient Nokia N-Gage, which offered once-cool (and even at its release) retro/legacy titles... It didn't do so well... I certainly won't be hopping on the pre-order bandwagon of the Xperia Play. But a fun Android device might just win me over... Good luck Sony!

 

Matt posted a comment   

How will it go for PS3 owners? Can we get some info about connectivity and such in the review? I have play TV and would love to be able to watch TV in bed or something like that on my phone.

 

Nahbuts posted a reply   

buy a TV, put it in your bedroom.
BOOM! TV in bed...


Sponsored Links
CNET's latest

User Reviews / Comments  Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

  • RobbieB

    RobbieB

    Rating7

    "As an Android-loving user who had a Xperia Play for 5 or 6 months, I am starting to lose my temper to be honest. The system (Android) is excellent, yes, and will be upgraded to Android 4.0.3 by Son..."

  • JakeL1

    JakeL1

    "just the battery runs out of juice if you have the ram full"

  • Randommate

    Randommate

    Rating5

    "SE build both excitement and appalling technology.

    for a real user review see:

    http://talk.sonyericsson.com/message/71097#71097"

CNET Speedtest

Recently Viewed Products