Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

£430
Price when reviewed

In these days of app stores, every phone offers a library of games; but for most of us, the dream of a true hybrid of handheld games console and smartphone has never been fully realised (a few loyal Nokia N-Gage owners notwithstanding). The standard touchscreen interface is simply no substitute for proper joypad controls.

Now Sony Ericsson has launched the PlayStation-certified Xperia Play which, like Sony’s PSP Go, hides PlayStation controls behind the screen. Slide the large 4in display up and you’ll find the familiar D-pad and four action buttons, plus two circular touchpads which act as analogue thumbsticks. On the back, your fingers naturally fall onto a single pair of L and R shoulder buttons, giving something very close to a full PlayStation controller experience.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

Fire up a game and the controls work brilliantly. The D-pad and action buttons are shallow but have a solid, positive action, and a small indent in the centre of each thumbstick somewhat makes up for the lack of any tactile feedback. It’s not going to challenge your PS3 controller for comfort, but it’s perfectly usable.

Games divide into two categories: existing Android titles optimised for physical controls, and PlayStation classics converted for mobile gaming. Sliding the phone open automatically takes you to the former – four games come preinstalled, including FIFA 10 and The Sims 3, both of which work well. Available to download are close to a hundred more, at prices from free to several pounds. Among the tacky cash-ins are at least a few big names such as Avatar, and more are promised, but it’s hardly a compelling collection just yet.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

We had higher hopes for the classics, which are found in a separate PlayStation Pocket app, but here you’ll find only the 15-year old Crash Bandicoot preinstalled. Other games can be downloaded – old favourites Destruction Derby and Syphon Filter are among the titles already out, and Sony plans to keep building up the library over time. Sadly, at £3.99 a pop, it’ll cost you a fair bit to gather a collection to match your PlayStation roster of old.

There is a third gaming option that Sony won’t be advertising. Like any other Android phone, the Xperia Play is perfectly capable of running a range of console emulators – Google banned the popular PSX4Droid app from the Market just in time for the Play’s launch, but it can still be downloaded from other sites. Go via this route and the Xperia Play can support not only PlayStation originals but also games for MegaDrive, SNES, GameBoy and N64. We can see it proving very popular for precisely this reason, though it’s hardly the sort of success Sony will have hoped for.

Details

Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £30.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider Vodafone

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 8hrs
Standby, quoted 18 days

Physical

Dimensions 62 x 16 x 119mm (WDH)
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 512MB
ROM size 400MB
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.0in
Resolution 480 x 854
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android

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