Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

Sony Ericsson finds it hard to get itself on the radar these days with the likes of HTC, Apple, LG Samsung and even a below par Nokia grabbing the headlines. It must be hard to try and make your mark especially when your worldwide marketshare has dropped from fourth to sixth.

What other companies have tried to do – and Nokia is one struggling to do so – is try and give their handsets a point of difference – something that makes it stand out from the crowd. With Apple it has been innovations, design and functionality, while the likes of Samsung and LG have hitched their wagon to the open-source Android platform.

And Sony Ericsson? Well, to be honest they have a bit of catching up to do. Which brings me to the Sony Xperia Play – a mobile phone with a gaming platform.

First – note to PR agencies and vendors: When you want somebody to review/test mobile, send a SIM card. A reviewer finds it a pain the butt to have to use their own SIM card for a couple of reasons. First, it’s annoying having to take your SIM card out of your own phone and put it in the new one. Sure, it doesn’t take much time, but still can be annoying if you have huge mitts like I do. Second, if you’re a prepay customer like me, you don’t have access to the Internet on my plan, nor do I like having to pay in order to play with the device.

Out of the box the Xperia looks like a hybrid of the PSP and a smartphone, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be. It’s a slider, but unlike other handsets that have this function, there is no keypad under the hood. Instead it is gaming controls that are very much like (but not exactly) a PSP. As you would expect the gaming experience is almost a replica of the real thing – in this case I had a crack at Crash Bandicoot, which not only brought back memories, but performed excellently, as well as Bruce Lee, which also played very well. Other games preloaded are FIFA 10, Star Battalion HD and the Sims 3. It has two analogue touch pads, a digital D pad and its snapdragon processor with a 1GHz CPU certainly works a treat. The blurb that came with the unit claimed the “Adreno GPU graphics processor deliver smooth 60fps play-back 3D mobile gaming”, but as no 3D games were preloaded, there was no way of testing this.

It utilises the Android 2.3.2 (Gingerbread) operating system, while the menu/interface is very easy to follow, although be aware to you have to scroll across the touchscreen to see all the available icons.

One little design quirk that I liked was that you don’t have to remove the battery to access the Micro SD card or SIM card. In fact, it threw me a little when I was hunting for the slot of the SIM card because I didn’t think it would be in such an obvious place.

As you would expect it has a camera, which offers 5-megapixels. The pics I took were pretty clean, as was the video – although the video could be better being recorded at a max of 800 x 480, not the 720p that seems standard with most Android phones. Not too sure if it would be my favourite feature, because really the gaming aspect is the one that most people will be interested in.

Calling on it was clear. I made a few phone calls and found, compared to my own handset, a lack of drop out and the sound clear and consistent (mind you, this is probably  more to do with me using a TPG SIM as opposed to my own, which is with Vodafone).

Of course, with something as graphic-intensive as gaming, there is bound to be downsides and there are a couple. One is that it tends to chew through the battery in gaming mode. Nothing unusual there – my own HTC Desire does the same when playing Angry Birds. And another expected downside is the weight. It is noticeably heavier than other smartphones, which is probably due to the amount of gear under its hood.

Overall, this is a tidy handset that does all it claims to, but one has to wonder if this is the way Sony Ericsson want to go if it wants to recapture part of its marketshare. To be fair, this is only one piece of equipment in its arsenal of mobile phones, but one they appear to be hanging their hopes on to get them back in the game.

Pros: Great graphics, easy to navigate and set up, clear sound, easy access to micro SD card and SIM card.
Cons: Pretty chunky/heavy, battery usage could be better

3.9 Shacks out of 5