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Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Hands On

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After its official announcement last night, we've managed to get our hands on one of the most anticipated handsets in recent times, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. The PlayStation phone in all but name, it's a touchscreen Android smartphone equipped with a slideout gamepad that packs in a total of 14 physical controls for providing an easy gaming interface. The concept seems sound enough but how does it work in real life? Read on to find out.

First impressions of the Xperia Play are mixed: the design looks smart enough and it feels quite solid with a firm metal sliding action. However, the predominance of shiny plastic doesn't quite have the premium feel of some handsets and really does show off fingerprints with aplomb. It's also rather chunky, though no more than you would expect give it's a slider and includes shoulder buttons.

Otherwise the device gives up little to its competitors (dual-core superphones aside). The 4in, 854 x 480 pixel, LCD screen uses the same panel technology as the Xperia Arc, making it really bright, colourful, sharp and very viewing angle friendly. it also feels responsive and of course has multi-touch with all the usual gestures present.

Inside is a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, which as we say is not quite on the level of these new dual-core phones but combined with 512MB of RAM and the speed improvements of Android 2.3 Gingerbread, it feels very fast. Moving round the interface, switching between apps, zooming in and out of the web browser, all felt nice and snappy.

There's a 5-megapixel camera on the back with an LED flash, though with all the gaming buttons, Sony Ericsson has omitted a button for the shutter. Elsewhere you've got a headphone jack on the left edge - somewhat annoying as it will mean headphone cables get snagged in pockets - along with a microUSB socket, while the right is home to the left and right shoulder buttons and inbetween them is a volume rocker.

This image is of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo showing the same interface changes,

Thankfully Sony Ericsson hasn't tweaked the Android interface too much, though it has made a few subtle and worthwhile changes. Open the App Launcher and tap the icon in the bottom left and you can then select in what order the apps are shown - one of your choice, alphabetic, recently installed or most used. Pick your own choice and tap another icon and you can then move the icons around as you please.

Timescape, the company's social network integration, is also included with Facebook, Twitter and the like included in contact information and messaging apps. Otherwise, you're looking at a fairly typical modern Android handset.

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