Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY Smartphone Overview

The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is the first PlayStation certified mobile device to hit the market. This means that in addition to the growing number of games available for the Android platform, it also has access to dedicated game ports from Sony's legacy PlayStation titles. To make the most of PlayStation certification, the PLAY has a unique pull-out gaming pad with controls that mimic a PlayStation controller, including two touch-sensitive pads instead of the usual analog sticks.

As far as the telephone functions are concerned, the PLAY is no problem. It's fast and responsive, and the version for Verizon Wireless in the US includes a basic version of the Android 2.3 Gingerbread user interface instead of the modified version Sony Ericsson installs on the versions of the PLAY for the rest of the world.

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Is the Xperia PLAY the mobile gaming fan’s dream phone? Maybe thanks to the gaming pad to some extent, but for the rest of us it's just your average Android phone, both good and bad. Read on for more information, and watch MobileBurn's videos for hands-on actions with the Xperia PLAY.

hardware

The first thing you will notice when purchasing the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is its size and weight. At 119mm x 62mm x 16mm (4.68 in x 2.44 in x 0.63 in) and 175 g (6.17 ounce), the PLAY isn't a small phone in your hands. The real problem for me was the thickness of the device. While I understand that the gamepad makes it easier, the Motorola DROID or DROID 2, both of which have pull-out physical keyboards, feel anorexic in comparison.

The tapered edges of the back cover help the PLAY fit comfortably in the hand, but when I used it like any other smartphone (read: no game) it just felt bigger than it needed to be for the task.

On the front of the PLAY there is a 4-inch FWVGA touchscreen (480 x 854 pixels) over four physical buttons for standard Android functions for back, home, menu and search. The screen itself isn't bad, although it definitely doesn't have the punch or wow factor of a Super AMOLED Plus or even a Super LCD display. It could also be a bit more responsive to my touch, as it would sometimes take multiple presses or swipes for the screen to register my input.

The display is also positioned off-center from the bottom of the phone, which makes it an awkward handling position when used in portrait orientation.

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The buttons themselves are small and a bit fiddly, although they worked when I needed them too. The cheap chrome finish has to go, however; it looks bad now and I can imagine it won't wear out well over time. The rest of the phone is made of shiny plastic, which not only gives the PLAY a cheap feel, but is also a serious fingerprint magnet.

The back cover kept looking dirty with stains and fingerprints, so I kept wiping it with my t-shirt. A textured or soft-touch back would have added a lot to the feel you'd expect from a $ 200 smartphone. The power button, located in the top right corner of the phone, is very small and difficult to access. It has a built-in notification light which is cool, although I found it a little hard to notice as the button is behind the display.

As for the gaming pad, certain features worked fine while others missed the mark. The four-way D-pad and the Square, Triangle, Circle, and X buttons worked well and responded throughout the game. The touchpads designed to mimic analog sticks were a different story. I found it difficult to use them to control objects in games and found that they did different things than I expected quite often. With the thickness of the Xperia PLAY, Sony Ericsson could have used the analog stick of the PSP gaming handheld without any problems.

The shoulder buttons, which you can access with your index fingers while playing, weren't very responsive either. There have been multiple times that I hit the buttons and got no response in games. Fortunately, the gamepad's actual sliding mechanism feels solid and sturdy, and should withstand good use.

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