Sony Ericsson Xperia Play – an initial thoughts review

Sony Ericsson has finally unleashed their widely anticipated handset, the ‘Xperia Play’, also known as the ‘PSP’ or ‘PlayStation’ mobile phone – which now has a launch date set for April. This is the first Android phone to feature Sony’s PlayStation suite, which will run on Android ‘Gingerbread’ 2.3 OS and deliver console quality games to this very handset.

The Xperia Play boasts a high-end set of specifications, including 720p video recording and Qualcomm’s second generation 1GHz Snapdragon chip. SE’s gaming phone harbours 512MB of RAM and 1GB of ROM, in addition to the landscape slide-out PlayStation controls. Sony claims that game playback will run at 60 frames per second, thanks to the Adreno GPU graphics processor. The Sony Marketplace will also be introduced for the first time on the phone, where users can buy games made for the new operating system from the outset.

The Play is supposedly geared towards a lot more than gaming, with its 4-inch 480×854 TFT capacitive multi-touch display that’s capable of displaying 16.8 million colours whilst facilitating almost any media you wish to throw at it.

On paper the Play shines bright, but this isn’t the whole story. When you slide open the controls and hold it as you would a normal PSP, you soon realise what is really missing. Many will know the pain commonly known as ‘Nintendo thumb’, but you don’t need to spend a great deal of time holding the Play to experience this affliction. The shoulder buttons are particularly poorly positioned, along with feeling badly weighted. This top-heavy feel only contributes further to the anti-ergonomic design, which begs the question about the massive stop-gap between hand-held gaming devices.

Only time will tell if the Play really makes a dent in the mobile-gaming market; a sector which is currently undergoing a major reform. The danger is that the Play will become frustratingly under-supported, in much the same way as the Nokia N-Gage and this can ultimately lead to its demise – if SE isn’t too careful.

As a phone, the Play feels more like the original Xperia only better looking, with sharper images and a little more attention to detail. The 5 megapixel camera is similar to that of the Xperia mini, unfortunately this offers nothing new. Furthermore, whilst handling the phone in the upright position with the slider hidden, it does feel incredibly bulky and somehow doesn’t quite work as a decent phone. The smarter man will probably wait for the Sony Ericsson Xperia ‘Neo’ later this year which promises an 8.1MP camera with LED flash, an ‘Exmor R’ sensor with much sharper images from its mobile ‘Bravia’ engine technology. Otherwise, the Xperia Play will  seem more of an extravagant purchase for the privilege of playing games on a Smartphone.

– B

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