Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY

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 [This review originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Gadgets Magazine]

By Michelle Callanta-Toledo

If looks can be deceiving then the Xperia PLAY’s design is guilty as charged. This device doesn’t look any different from other Android smartphones despite its game pad duality. It has an impressively large 4-inch touchscreen encased in a glossy black finish with silver trim along its side and chicly curved edges for that nice comfortable grip. Below the screen are four Android hot keys for the Back, Home, Menu, and Search functions. On the left side, you’ll find a USB port for the charger while on the right, you’ll find the volume arrows and two buttons that have L and R on them (obviously, left and right shoulder buttons for the game pad). At the back, you’ll find a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash and encased behind a rather flimsy and fragile back cover is the battery, SIM, and microSD slot.

But though they say “it’s what’s inside that counts,” in the case of the Xperia PLAY, it’s not what’s inside, but what lies beneath as the Xperia PLAY has a slide-out game pad which pretty much is the reason for its bulk but just a wee bit lighter than your Nintendo DS and PSP.

The entire pad is matte silver and looks very much like your typical game pad with the D-pad on the left and the familiar face buttons (triangle, circle, cross, and square) on the right. The Select and Start buttons are located to the lower right while a menu button sits in the lower left, and the left and right shoulder buttons on the top (right side when seen as a smartphone). In the middle of the game pad is a long inset oval with two circles inside it. These two touch-sensitive circles essentially replace the two analog joysticks.

The Xperia PLAY runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread so you get the easy-to-maneuver five customizable home screens and the crawling main menu that fades to black. It also offers user a faster keyboard and download management. Other features include Facebook and Twitter, text and multimedia messaging, Gmail and other e-mail, Google Maps 5.0, voice navigation, search, YouTube, the WebKit browser, and basic tools like a calendar and a calculator. The phone also comes with Office Suite for reading and editing Office documents. The phone also supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, a speakerphone, and voice dialing but unfortunately, it doesn’t have and HDMI port and 4G. But that’s as a smartphone. To play games, you either access the Xperia PLAY app on the menu or slide open the game pad. It comes preloaded with Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, FIFA 10, Star Battalion, Sims 3 and Crash Bandicoot. There’s also Tetris which you can only play using the touchscreen.

Maybe it’s important to know that I was never all that great a gamer nor am I a “seasoned” smartphone user. So perhaps that’s why it took awhile to get used to the Xperia PLAY. It took three days for me to figure out where the Inbox was (after I had accidently deleted all of my messages) and how to adjust the settings of my phone from the volume to the vibrate mode. Sometimes, while I typed a message, it would simply crash and a message would appear:”Sorry! The application messaging (process com.sonyericsson.conversations) has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.”

The gaming part was fine. In fact, what made it so immersive were the brilliant 854×480-pixel FWVGA resolution display and 16 million colors that gave deep blacks, sharp graphics, and crisp text. It’s a great way to while away the time. And after a while of getting acquainted with the phone, the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY does grow on you. You really just need to play with it.

Specs:
Form factor: Touchscreen with slide-out game pad
OS: Android OS, v2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
LCD size and classification: 4-inch, LED-backlit LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Band: HSDPA 900 / 2100m, HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 / 800
Internal memory: 400 MB, 512 MB RAM; microSD, up to 32GB, 8GB included
Physical Dimensions: 119 x 62 x 16 mm
Weight: 175 g

What’s Hot:
Android OS, v2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
Slide-out game pad
Preloaded games

What’s Not:
No HDMI port and 4G
Not exactly easy to use at first
Occasional crash

Buy Meter:7.8

Bottomline:
For Php 19,990, you get a packed smartphone and videogame—a must appeal to true mobile gamers out there.