Sony Xperia Play Review: PlayStation Certified Phone (Video)

If you want to play console style games on the go, take a look at the Android powered Sony Xperia Play. The Xperia Play is a Playstation certified phone which plays a collection of PSP-like games and includes a slide out controller to deliver gaming on par with portable gaming consoles.

The Xperia Play is not going to blow your mind with graphics, even if they are pretty good, but it is able to deliver a fun mobile gaming experience. Thanks to the off-screen controls, you can use your whole display for viewing the game — which even touchscreen junkies will appreciate.

The Sony Xperia Play is available on Verizon Wireless for $99 with a two-year contract and for free at Wirefly.com. This is a 3G smartphone, which means you will need to connect to WiFi to download the Playstation games, so keep that in mind before buying a new game on a roadtrip.

Sony Xperia Play Hands-On Video

Xperia Play Gaming

If you are looking at the Xperia Play as your next smartphone, your mind must be on gaming. The Xperia Play has two defining features in terms of gaming — a slide out PlayStation controller, complete with shoulder buttons, and a selection of PlayStation games that beat out many Android market offerings.

Xperia Play Controller Review

Xperia Play Controller

Advertisement

The slide out controller is well executed and really makes this device shine. Responsive buttons and dual analog touchpads offer fine control over gaming, with some adjustments. The slide out controller delivers the following buttons:

  • Digital D-Pad
  • Dual Analog Touchpads
  • Sony PlayStation Buttons
  • Two Shoulder Bumpers
  • Touchscreen
Using the controller to Play Madden 2011 and Modern Combat 2 was way better than playing with the on-screen controls found on the iPhone, iPad and other Android smartphones. Instead of giving up in frustration after a set of downs or a level, I was able to complete a full game of football and several levels of Modern Combat 2. The controls do take some getting used to for Xbox players, but if you are already a PlayStation gamer you’ll adapt really quick.

Game selection is pretty good. There isn’t a massive catalog, but there are enough, in a variety of categories, to satisfy the desires of many gamers. Game prices are thankfully closer to smartphone apps than standalone portable gaming system prices. Most games were below $10, with several in the $3 price range. The games are purchased through the Verizon app store, and are billed to your cell phone instead of the card you have on file with Google.

Xperia Play WiFi Download

Xperia Play WiFi Download Dissapointment

The only issue we had with purchasing games is that the initial download is small and then you are required to connect to WiFi to download the rest of the game. This means you can’t buy and play a new game on the go. On at least one occasion I had to re-download the game files before the game would launch.

The most important metric for the PlayStation part of the Xperia is fun. The good news is that the Xperia Play performs well in this department. I had more fun gaming on the Xperia Play, with games like Madden, Soccer and Modern Combat 2 than I did while playing on touch screen only devices. Unlike on-screen keyboards, which are as good or better than a physical keyboard, touch screen only games still suffer in the control department.

Xperia Play Form Factor

The Play is a thick phone, but the curved edges help conceal the size and allow for a good fit in your hand both on calls and while gaming. Despite the size, thicker than the ThunderBolt, it is pocketable and quite portable.

Xperia Play back side

Xperia Play back side

The Xperia Play uses hard buttons on the front of the device, instead of the capacitive buttons on many new phones. This is a good thing for users who constantly find themselves hitting the wrong button on accident.

There is a power button on top with perhaps the brightest notification LED ever. If you sleep with your phone by the bed, you’ll want to turn this one off. Unless you like to feel like you are at a disco while you sleep.

Xperia Play ports

Xperia Play ports

The charging port and headphone port are at the bottom of the device, allowing you to play games with both plugged in. The shoulder buttons for the controller are tucked into the right side of the phone, and pretty unobtrusive.

The sliding mechanism for the keyboard is smooth and offers little resistance to opening or closing. It is spring-loaded, so when you get it halfway the spring will do the rest.

Xperia Play Display

The 4″ display is large enough to game on, though it would have been nice to have the extra space of a 4.3″ or 4.5″ display on more than one occasion. The brightness will suffice in most settings, but there were several occasions where I wished for a slightly higher brightness.

Xperia Play Screen

Xperia Play Screen

Touch was responsive in the basic Android experience and decent for typing with the on-screen keyboard. In games it was a different story. Instead of dead on accuracy, there is a bit of wiggle room in making selections. This isn’t a major problem, because the screen is most often used to select something in the menu, but enough of an issue that we looked for opportunities to avoid using the touch screen in games.

Xperia Play Performance and Software

Xperia Play head on

Xperia Play head on

As far as overall performance goes, the Xperia Play is quite snappy. There was no noticeable lag or waiting while using the device for gaming or in the standard Android operating system. App switching was fast and the web browser was also responsive.

The Xperia Play is running Android 2.3.2, more commonly known as Gingerbread. The installation is very stock, which is a good thing for many users, but a bit dull if you are used to a phone from HTC.

The Xperia Play supports USB tethering and WiFi hotspot functionality, which both work well as long as you have tethering added to your account. Unlike other phones which have a dedicated app, you need to go to the Wireless Settings to turn on the hotspot feature.

The on-screen keyboard performs well, though I still recommend switching to Swiftkey or your favorite keyboard replacement app for a better on-screen typing experience.

Xperia Play Camera

The 5MP rear facing camera in the Xperia Play was a disappointment. The biggest issue is the inability to focus before you take the picture, which is common on other Android devices. Many of the pics I took indoors were lacking the color of real life, or out of focus. When I ventured outdoors to capture some sunsets, the camera fared a bit better, but still is below what I expect on a new Android device.

Xperia Play Sample Image

Xperia Play Sample Image

The front facing camera is equally disappointing, not that I had high expectations. For stills and video you’ll have to settle for grainy dull images, especially indoors. Thankfully the phone is running Gingerbread, which means you can use Skype to video chat with the front facing camera.

Xperia Play Battery Life

While it is uncommon for smartphones to last a full day, the Xperia Play was able to last a full day easily with average use. This includes background syncing for email, occasional web browsing and a little bit of gaming.

If you play a lot of games, the battery will take a hit, but even if you play for an hour or so during your day you can make it home without the battery dying. Sony rates the gaming ability at 5.5 hours, which is believable, but you’d better be near a charger if you want to make a call or check email at the end of that gaming marathon.

On days with lighter use, I was able to go a full 2 days between charges, but I’m guessing this is an atypical use case.

Xperia Play shoulder buttons

Xperia Play shoulder buttons

Xperia Play Voice and Call Quality

I’m not normally on the phone a whole lot, which is why call quality comes in so close to the end in this review. That said, I was on the Xperia Play more than I was on my Thunderbolt this past month because the battery lasted longer.

Calls were clear and offered good quality on both ends. I was impressed with the clarity. The speakerphone worked well during several calls, though it was easy to tell that the caller was on speaker. When paired with a bluetooth headset, call quality and range was also more than adequate.

Conclusion

The Xperia Play is unlike any other phone Verizon, or other carriers offer. If you want to game on the go with a physical controller it is the only game in town. On top of gaming prowess, the phone offers a solid Android 2.3 Gingerbread experience. While there are no frills, like you’ll find on other phones from HTC, many users will appreciate the stock experience.

The need to have Wifi connectivity to download game files, which could have been avoided with a 4G radio, and the poor camera performance, take away from the overall value of the Xperia Play but don’t signal “Game Over” for the phone.

If you are a gamer who doesn’t want to lug around another device, the Xperia Play is an Android phone you should check out before you sign another contract.

Xperia Play Open Madden 11

Xperia Play Open Madden 11

Pros:

  • Fun to use
  • Affordable games
  • Good price
  • Gingerbread
  • Battery Life

Cons:

  • WiFi game downloads
  • Camera Performance
  • No 4G

Xperia Play Gallery

Xperia Play Specs

Networks: CDMA EvDO revA
Operating system: Android™ 2.3
Display: 4.0″ capacitive touch screen 480 x 854 pixels
Camera: 5MP autofocus camera
Memory: Phone memory up to 400MB, microSD™ (supported to 32GB)
WLAN: 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth: 2.1 with EDR
GPS: GPS/AGPS
Battery: Standard battery, Li-Ion 1500 mAh,
Special features: Compass, Proximity sensor, Light sensor, 3.5mm audio jack, MicroUSB,

Comments

    • Anonymous says

      I paid $23.88 for an i Pad 2 32-GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic

      Lumiix GF 1 Camera that we got for $ 38.41 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I

      will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I

      also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $ 635 which only cost me $ 61.74 to

      buy. Here is the website we use to get it al from,
      http://EgoWin.com

  1. Bubbles7088 says

    15 year old son is getting this for Christmas and I will make site I have 911 on speed dial cause I’m sure he is going to lose his little mind…

Leave a Reply