The arrival of a PlayStation phone has been rumoured for years and finally Sony Ericsson has obliged with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. However, rather than being a PSP with a few phone features bolted on, it's actually a fully fledged touchscreen Android smartphone with slideout game controls. With so many new and very capable smatphones now available, can it possibly find its niche, or is it a compromise too far? Read on to find out.
Sadly the first impression one has of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is not good. It's theoretically stylish enough with its standard black and silver livery and gently curved design, and given the bonus of slideout gaming controls we can forgive any extra bulk (119 x 62 x 16 mm) and weight (175g). However, the whole thing just reeks of plastic. There's discernible flex in the body and screen when squeezed and fingerprints love every surface of this phone.
It's the screen that is the biggest disappointment. It just doesn't compare to the smooth solid feeling glass ones used in most high-end smartphones. It also comes with some sort of non-removable protective layer on the screen that looks like the after market screen protectors you can get, in that there's a clear gap around its edge below which is the screen itself. This just adds to the sense of cheapness and lack of style. It's also very reflective, with a much more silver finish than the deep black of many alternatives.
Further irritations include the tiny buttons and lack of bezel below the screen. The buttons themselves aren't actually too difficult to use but the lack of space to simply rest your thumb without having it touch the screen is a bit annoying (though admittedly not that much of a problem once you're used to it).
A headphone jack is a welcome addition, as is the standard microUSB socket for charging the phone and transferring data to it, but having the former on the side of the device means it's likely to cause headphone jacks to snag on pockets.
A smaller slip up is that we would've liked to see a shutter button for the camera but instead there are shoulder buttons for the game controller – in between which sits the little volume rocker – so we can forgive that omission.
The camera itself is a 5 megapixel unit that has both autofocus and an LED flash. It will also shoot HD video. It's simple enough to use and produces reasonable results for general moment capturing but it's definitely not a patch on the best available.
Up top, meanwhile, sits the small and rather awkwardly positioned power button.
Middling, is how we'd describe the 4in display. It's an SLCD panel with a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels, which is ever so slightly higher than most smartphones, so is nice and sharp. Colours look accurate and viewing angles are good as well. However, it does lack a little bit of punch to its colours, while blacks do tend to look a little grey. Overall brightness is also quite low, and there isn't an automatic setting for keeping the screen at an appropriate brightness level in different conditions. It's not appalling by any means but it's definitely not the best.