Lately Sony Ericsson has been leveraging their parent Sonyís brands and technologies. For example the Xperia Arc which I reviewed recently has a Sonyís Bravia engine powered LCD plus a backlit EXMOR-R sensor. Today Iím looking at the Xperia Play which is the worldís first Playstation certified phone.
Itís a little confusing but the Playstation certified phone means it has extra button for gaming. It does not mean that it can play PSP or Playstation games. PSP and Playstation games would have to be ported to the Play.
The way I see it the Play can play three kinds of games: Xperia Play exclusive games, regular Android games which are optimized for the Xperia and regular Android games that any Android device can play.
There are special APIís that developers can to enable their game can use all the extra buttons on the Play. Those types of games will not work with a regular Android phone.
So Sony Ericsson isnít being as ambitious in that their gaming ecosystem overlaps with regular Android games. I think itís a smart idea as it makes it easier to find games for the Play. The downside is that not all games may be the quality you normally expect from a dedicated gaming platform. Then again, there are a lot of terrible games regardless of what platform itís on.
The other consideration is that PSP games normally cost 30 dollars while most Android phones usually cost a couple of dollars.
The Play has a 4Ē 854x480 LCD display. It also comes with a screen protector reinstalled. Thatís a good thing but the screen protector attracts dust like crazy. Itís a fine looking display but it has an auto dim feature that you canít turn off. While itís not a ridiculously bright the auto dim feature is why most of my pictures of the Playís display are quite dim. I never found myself wishing the Playís screen was brighter - I only noticed itís not as bright as some other phones when I was comparing them side by side.
The screen slides up to reveal gaming buttons including a D-pad, 2 analog like controllers, the trademark Playstation triangle, square, circle and x buttons along with menu, start and select buttons. There are also 2 shoulder buttons on the side of the phone.
The analog like controllers are quite similar to the on screen controllers youíd get on games like Age of Zombies. I must say, the Playís controllers are much easier to use than on screen ones. Theyíre much more tactile; thereís a bump in the center along with edges around the sides. My only complaint was that I wish they were a bit bigger.
Besides the gaming buttons there are also volume buttons, a power button and 4 Android menu buttons (back, home, menu and search). Like the Arc the Playís back and menu buttons donít light up and are flip around when compared to all the other Android phones on the market including the Xperia X10 and X10 mini.
You can actually use the D pad along with the x, circle and menu buttons to move around the Android menus. ďxĒ is the equivalent to pressing in a navigation pad while the circle button is a back button. The problem is that menus donít support landscape mode. So besides gaming theyíre used mostly for the browser, gallery and other apps that support landscape. You can use the x button to take pictures too.
Thereís a 3.5mm headphone jack plus a micro USB port for charging and connecting to your computer. Included in the box are a ear canal style headset, a AC adapter with USB connector and a micro USB cable.
The Play is a fairly thick device. It reminds me of an old HTC Windows Mobile phone with a slide out keyboard (time to dig up my old HTC Tytn).
On the back is a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash. I was a little surprised that the Play uses the default Android 2.3 camera app instead of the SE one you get with the Arc. The camera app isnít bad but it doesnít record video in HD. It takes respectable pictures but the autofocus is quite slow.
At the bottom of the game pad are stereo speakers. Theyíre quite good.
There are a couple of different ways to get new games on the Play. I found that a little confusing. If you slide the Play open it launches The Xperia Play menu. Itís basically a program with links to download Xperia Play games. Some of the links will take you to a software publisherís website while some will take you to the Android marketplace. It also can launch some games on the device plus it also has a shortcut to the Android Marketplace with the search string ĎXperia Play Optimizedí along with a list of games that are Xperia Play optimized.
One problem is that when you download these games they donít always automatically install. You have to pull the window shade and install them (or use the download app). The programs still show up on the list even after youíve installed them. I was very confused that some apps say they cost money to download but are actually free. You go press the buy app button and then it turns out itís free. Itís a nice surprise but confusing none-the-less.
Iím not a huge gamer but I thought some of the Xperia Play games were fun.
My favourite Xperia Play exclusive game would probably be Backstab. Itís a 3rd person game thatís similar to Assassinís Creed or Uncharted thatís set in colonial times. Iíd say that style of game along with racing games and shooters benefit most from the Xperia Playís extra buttons.
Sony will also be bringing some older Playstation games to the Xperia. Right now the only one is Crash Bandicoot. I have to admit that Iíve never played Crash before but I wasnít impressed. Iím guessing the older games are basically running on an emulator.
Given that the Xperia Play is for gaming I was a little disappointed that it only ships with a 1500mAh battery. That said, I gamed on the Play for 2 hrs and found the battery had drained about ⅓ so you can expect up to 6hrs of game play which isnít bad.
The rest of the Play is quite similar to the Xperia Arc. You have Timescape which is Sony Ericssonís social network aggregator. Thereís a Timescape widget which appears to only work with one source per widget (you can have multiple widgets) along with a Timescape program which can aggregate all your sources and sort them by date.
The keyboard is a custom Sony Ericsson one. Itís not as good as the HTC or Samsung Android keyboards but Iíd say itís adequate.
One neat trick is that you can pinch zoom the main screen. Zooming out will list all your widget in a compact view. This way you donít have to scroll left and right to see all your widgets.
The rest of the Play is very similar to other Gingerbread powered phones. You can use the Play as a portable mobile hotspot (a feature added in FroYo) plus itís a very snappy device. Compared to the Xperai X1 which is also powered by a different 1Ghz processor the difference in the speed of the UI is very noticeable.
RF performance and sound quality are both average.
Between the Xperia Arc and Play itís a tough choice. While neither has a fast focusing camera the Arcís generally takes more usable pictures plus it can record video in HD. The Arc has a bigger display brighter display but I have to stress that I found the Playís perfectly adequate plus both have the same resolution so the Arcís advantage is smaller here. The Play is much thicker device so that may be an issue depending on where you carry it. Itís also a more solid device - the Arc feels like itís going to break in half at times.
When I first got the Play I had just finished my Arc review. At that time Iíd say I prefer the Arc over the Play if I had to choose one. However, after using the Play for a while Iíd actually pick it over the Arc because of the gaming buttons.
Iím tempted to say that if you enjoy playing games on Android then the Xperia Play is a must buy (or is it a must play). However, the fact of the matter is that certain genres of games donít need a game pad. Angry birds doesnít require it, tower defense type games donít need it, building games donít really need it. That said, driving games, shooters, just to name a few benefit hugely from the Playís extra gaming buttons. Another thing is that games donít necessarily need to be optimized for the Play - they they just need to be able to utilize a navigation pad.
New Infinity Blade character
My iPhone 5 ringtone: Bah, Bah, Black Sheep.
Sony Xperia ZL | Nokia Lumia 620 | Samsung ATIV-S | Blackberry Z10 | Samsung Galaxy Camera | Reflections on 2012 | HTC Windows Phone 8s | Samsung Rugby LTE | Huawei D Quad XL | Google Nexus 4 | Apple iPad Mini | HTC One X+ | HTC Windows Phone 8X | Nokia Lumia 920 | Sony Xperia T | Parrot Zik | LG Optimus G | Samsung Galaxy Note II | Motorola DEFY PRO | Motorola RAZR HD LTE | From iOS to Android | Apple iPhone 5 | HoFo at the CWTS coverage | Rogers LTE Rocket Hub ZTE MF28B | Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 launch | Motorola RAZR V | Motorola ATRIX HD LTE | Back to School Guide | HTC One V | Huawei Ascend P1 | Sony Xperia ION | Nokia Lumia 610 | Nexus 7 | LG Optimus L7 | HTC Titan II | Sony Xperia U | OtterBox Commuter for HTC One X | Samsung Galaxy S III | HTC One S | Samsung Galaxy S II HD LTE | Nokia Lumia 900 | HTC One X | Apple iPad 3 | Sony Xperia S | Samsung Galaxy Note | Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 | Nokia Lumia 710 | Blackberry Playbook OS 2.0 | Casemate Pop for Galaxy Nexus | Otterbox Commuter for Galaxy Nexus | Otterbox Defender for Galaxy Nexus | Nokia Lumia 800 | Motorola Pro+ | Blackberry Curve 9360 | Asus Transformer Prime | Galaxy S Glide | Blackberry Bold 9790 | Nokia N9 | 2011 Gift Guide | HTC Amaze 4G | Acer ICONIA Tab A501 | LG Optimus LTE | Case Mate TANK | Samsung Galaxy S II LTE | Motorola RAZR | Samsung Galaxy Nexus