The Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play comes with the standard equipment that most mobile phones of this price range offer. The package contents comprised a 3.5mm, gold-plated headset, a microUSB cable, a British Standard charger, an 8GB microSD card, and various user guides and manuals. However, please note that the box contents may vary depending on the geographic region.
The spring-loaded, side-sliding form factor of the Play is akin to something straight out of a gamer’s dream. The mechanism of the slider is fluid yet sturdy; Sony seems to have worked hard to make sure that the set survives some intense gaming sessions. Anyone familiar with the PlayStation Controller or PSP will feel right at home, since the game-pad’s design is based on the tried-and-tested PlayStation formula — the D- pad on the right, the instantly-recognizable PlayStation keys (Square. Triangle, Cross and Circle) on the left, and the analogue touch-pads in the middle. The analogue touch-pads imitate their real-life counterparts relatively well; the indentations and the embossed dot in the center help in navigating without moving away one’s sight from the screen. Rounding off the interface of the game-pad are soft buttons for Start, Select and Menu.
The Play’s sturdy, yet bulky body, weighing around 175 grams, has a width broader than most side-sliders, which makes it slightly difficult to hold and operate with one hand. Since the back cover is made entirely out of smooth and glossy plastic, it comes as no surprise that the set feels slightly plasticky to touch, and is a fingerprint magnet. Fortunately, the quality of the plastic is decent enough and the handset doesn’t look tacky. The back cover extends from top to bottom in one solid colour, with Sony Ericsson’s emblem, the Xperia logo, the 5MP camera and an LED flash disrupting its uniformity. The handset is slightly rounded from the top and the bottom, with the top featuring a dynamic power button that changes colour based on the status of the handset. Side panels are chromed and curved like the rest of the handset. The left side hosts a 3.5mm jack, microUSB port and two small speakers on the shoulders. The right panel has a slick volume rocker in the center, with R1, L1 flipper buttons on either side, reminding us again of the Play’s PlayStation DNA.
Under the hood
The powerhouse running this set is a 1GHz Scorpion Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon single-core processor Adreno 205 GPU with a 512MB RAM and 1GB (400MB accessible) of ROM. This cocktail is enough to provide users with a smooth and lag-free experience for most part. The screen is an LED-backlit LCD, multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, which is not as vibrant as one would expect from a game-centric device. Also, it feels slightly unresponsive when compared to other handsets in this price range. However, these caveats aren’t exactly deal-breakers. The accelerometer, luminosity and proximity sensors, and digital compass are all integrated into the handset to improve the user experience.
User-interface and gaming
This is where the Play surpasses most Sony mobile phones in the market today. It’s preloaded with Android v2.3.2 Gingerbread, which works like a charm. Upon start, the user gets five home screens, which can be customized to one’s liking with some great apps and widgets. The Time-scape Ul of the handset is really simple and generally optimized for dual-use; thus the whole look of the interface is spacious and free flowing.
The gaming features of the handset are complimented by its hardware and software. Sliding the game-pad brings us to the Xperia Play application, which highlights all the Android games compatible with the game- pad. The phone is preloaded with Crash Bandicoots, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, The Sims 3 and Asphalt 6 but a lot more are available online via the PlayStation Pocket — a “game store” showcasing the emulated PS1 titles, as well as new optimized titles for Play. . The games optimized for the Play are a treat to play and the loading times are nothing to moan about either. However some ported games can conflict with the mobile resolution.
Connectivity and calling
Data transfer on the handset is achieved via a variety of technologies, namely 2G, 3G, GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi, DLNA, Bluetooth v2.1 and microUSB. Additionally, the Play has the ability to become a Wi-Fi Hotspot — a feature also found on the HTC Sensation we reviewed last month [August 2011]. Browsing the internet on the Play is a delight. Pages load up quickly and Flash content plays smoothly; it might skip a gesture or two but nothing significantly unsettling.
Call quality on the Play is clear and crisp. However, we would have preferred if the volume could have peaked a bit higher; it was quite tricky to decipher a conversation in a crowded place. Thankfully, the dual noise- cancelling microphones ensure that you (and not the noise around you) are heard over the other end. Contacts can be displayed with their pictures and social network updates; the only limiting factor being the size of memory card. Messaging is what one would expect from a basic Android phone. Though the on-screen keyboard is a bit pinched for space, you can always download an alternative from the Market.
The Play boasts a 5MP camera with auto- focus and an LED Flash. It also includes image stabilization (IS), Geo-tagging and flicker reduction algorithms among other basic features such as white balance, colour effects etc; the touch-focus feature is not included. Though we have seen cameras of other smartphones produce better results, the one on the Play produces decent pictures. It must, however, be added that the IS on the Play’s camera slightly under-performs, thereby producing somewhat blurry images. Also, if you are taking pictures indoors, and without flash, expect them to be dull. On a positive note, some of the gaming controls work in camera mode; X serves as the shutter key and 0 substitutes for Back.
Despite the fact that the hardware is capable of doing so, the Play can’t record Full HD (or even 720p) videos, which is a bit of a letdown. The recorded videos are smudgy and are recorded at a not-so-impressive 800×480 resolution (30fps). However, video playback is fluid and frames appear in-focus and sharp. A recent software update enables the camera to record stereo sound, along with video recording. That being said, the Play features one of the best stereo speakers we have ever reviewed. It plays loud, undistorted and clear sound, and listening to music on the Play (whether through the headset or speakers) is a pleasure.
Device category and verdict
Most of the recent Android phones are equipped with accelerometers, gyroscopes and powerful processors to ensure immersive user experience. And considering entertainment and gaming are supposed to be the Play’s key strengths, it has ventured into a challenging territory. The 37,000- rupees price tag pushes it right in the middle of HTC, Motorola and Samsung’s premium Android line-up. but Play makes its way by targeting a niche market. That being said, the Play would have been better if there was more juice in its GPU, if its touchscreen was more responsive and if its display had been more vibrant (AMOLED or Super AMOLED). The handset comes with good hardware, great software and in general, a well- balanced package in the price range. If, you happen to be a gamer, you are in luck; because the Sony Xperia Play is bound to put a smile on your face.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play price in Pakistan: Approximately 37,000 rupees.