Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Smartphone

The Xperia Play is the World’s First PlayStation® Certified Smartphone. The major question, is this a smartphone with a game pad or is it a gaming console with smartphone functionality? Read on to see which hat this device aims to fill…
Hardware/Design:

Our test device was the CDMA version of the Xperia Play on the Verizon Wireless network. A GSM version of this phone also exists for AT&T. The device is a little bigger than most smartphones mostly due to the slider. The back of the phone has a glossy, black finish which shows fingerprints. It is a “slider” phone but instead of having physical keypad, this phone has a game pad that resembles a PlayStation® controller.

Being a gaming phone, it naturally has a lot of buttons. On the slide-out panel, a variety of buttons imitate all of the usual functions of a PlayStation® controller. The top of the phone has a the power button with the notification LED integrated in it. Having the Notification LED on the top of the phone makes it difficult to see and we would like to see it on the face of the phone like most others. The left side of the phone has a 3.5mm headset jack and a micro USB for charging and the Right side has the volume rocker and the left/right bumpers for the game controller. The face of the phone also has the four Android functions (Home, Back, Menu, and Search.) We wish these four buttons were backlit to make finding them in the dark easier.

The device has many of the standard smartphone features such as GPS, Wi-Fi, bluetooth, etc. but it lacks some of the more high-end features on other entertainment phones such as HDMI out and 4G LTE. It does have two cameras, a rear-facing 5MP and a front facing VGA. The quality of the pictures is alright, but considering most smartphones now have 8MP+ cameras it could be a lot better.

 

Software/Interface:

The Xperia Play we received came with Android 2.2 (Froyo) as the factory OS but as soon as the phone was activated, it immediately updated to Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). The User Interface (UI) is fairly plain and in most cases that would be welcome over a “pretty” interface that just slows the phone down.

The only problem with this plain interface is the fact that the phone lacks proper facebook integration. During testing we were unable to get facebook to sync within the accounts menu on the phone. After some research, it seems that the CDMA version lacks the full Timescape UI which is supposedly available on the GSM that has superior media interfacing.

The Xperia Play gaming app is excellent as far as game launchers go. When the game pad slides out, the gaming app automatically starts for quick access to all the installed games. The Xperia Play comes with a variety of full-version games pre-installed including: Madden NFL 11, Star Battalion, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, The Sims 3, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Crash Bandicoot.

Performance:

The performance of the Xperia Play is about on par with other entry-level Android smartphones. Call quality was about average when compared to other phones on the market today. Calls were clear on our end and the parties on the other end said the same on their end. While we never lost signal on the Verizon Network here in the Greater Boston area, we had some issues with messages failing to send.

You aren’t going to set any data speed records with this phone seeing as it it still running on Verizon’s 3G/EV-DO network. With 4G LTE becoming the norm with many of Verizon’s latest smartphones, this phone lags behind.

One benefit to using 3G is the battery life is much better than the newer 4GLTE phones. During testing, we had no problems getting a full day out of the battery with moderate use. With light use, the phone only used 60% over the course of three and a half days.

With a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, we expected the phone to be quite responsive and have no trouble handling multiple applications. This was not always the case. While streaming music on several occasions using Slacker Radio, the music paused every time a message came in. On the other hand, playing games the phone did not have any issues.

Conclusion:

The Xperia Play’s intended audience is mobile gamers. Aside from the game pad, the Xperia Play is just a standard entry-level android smartphone. It doesn’t excel at being a phone by itself or as a standalone game system, but as a hybrid device it definitely has a niche. This would be a great replacement device for someone looking to combine their phone and game system into one device, just don’t expect to use facebook integration on the CDMA version.

Summary:

  • Price: $449.99-MSRP/$Free w/ 2-year Contract Renewal
  • Maker: Sony Ericsson
  • Service Provider: Verizon Wireless
  • OS: Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • Dimensions: 4.68″ x 2.44″  x .63″ — Weight: 6.17 oz
  • Display: 4.0″ (480×854 FWVGA) capacitive multi-touch screen
  • Camera: 5MP(back)/ VGA (front)
  • Processor: 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon II CPU

Pros:

  • Simple Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) interface
  • Game pad
  • Built-in games with  Xperia Play App

Cons:

  • Lack of Facebook integration (CDMA Version)
  • Lag with multiple applications running
  • Notification LED on the top of phone isn’t easily visible
  • Buttons aren’t backlit

t3chniq.com’s final verdict: Not for the Masses