Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play review: Bring your 'A' game

GSMArena team, 20 April 2011.
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Unboxing the XPERIA Play

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play packs a compact charger, which couples with the microUSB cable (a long, solid-looking cable). You also get a one-piece headset and some manuals, plus the 8GB microSD card.


Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play box and leather pouch

We also had a carrying pouch in the box – it’s sturdy and thick to protect your precious XPERIA Play. It’s not a luxury leather pouch but it’s pretty nice nonetheless (keep in mind that it might be a region specific accessory).

Sony Ericsson XPERIA PLAY 360-degree spin

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA PLAY stands at 119 x 62 x 16mm – smaller than its PSP Go counterpart despite the bigger screen (the PLAY has a 4” screen vs. the 3.8 inches of the Go) but bigger than most phones, even those that come with a full hardware QWERTY keyboard.

Display and dedicated gaming controls

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play was made with comfortable two-handed use in mind. It’s thick and heavy as a phone. The back and the corners are tapered – when you hold it landscape with both hands, it fits like a glove but otherwise it’s quite big to handle.

The XPERIA Play weighs in at 175 grams, which certainly is heavy for single-handed use. All that weight is well balanced though for a firm and comfortable grip when held in both hands during play.

Let’s first look at the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play as a gaming device – examining the screen and game controls.

Sony Ericsson decided against using their Bravia Engine based Reality display. Instead, they put a 4” 16M-color FWVGA (480 x 854) LCD screen on the XPERIA Play.

The screen is quite good to view straight on, with good contrast and color rendering. It’s not very bright though even at the brightest setting.

Viewing angles are not that great – at an angle high-contrast things (like black text on a light background) remain visible but colors get washed out and contrast degrades pretty fast, making gradients appear as a solid color. IPS LCD or AMOLED displays don’t have this viewing angle issue.

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The XPERIA Play display has its ups and downs

Moving on to the game control deck, the slider mechanism is spring-assisted and quite smooth. It locks firmly in place, keeping both halves of the phone very stable in fully open position.

The deck has a set of dedicated gaming buttons modeled after the DualShock controller for the PlayStation console.

There are four types of controls. The directional keys are on the left and the action keys are on the right. They are placed into two recessed circles – that means the keys don’t catch against the slider, but they bulge out enough and have a good solid click. Those keys are very easy to locate by touch.

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The dedicated gaming controls • The action keys up close

There are two analog touch pads, which stand in for the analog sticks of a DualShock controller. Those aren’t all that big and you might not get all the precision you want out of them, especially if you have big fingers.

The L and R trigger keys are on the top side of the phone (when held horizontally). They are big, perfectly positioned under your forefingers and overall very comfortable to use.

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L and R trigger keys

There’s a standard set of game controls too – Start and Select, along with a handy Menu key (which is a shortcut to the game settings). These keys are small and out of the way, so you won’t hit them accidentally during play.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Review
The Start and Select keys

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play isn't the smallest phone around but, again, comfortable hold during gaming was the designers’ top objective. A solid grip is essential to good gaming experience, especially since you have your index fingers and thumbs moving around quickly on the control deck and behind the screen on the shoulder keys.

We only wish the back was made of something grippier than glossy black plastic.

Anyway, the phone is more comfortable to hold horizontally in two hands than with one hand up to your ear. One-handed use isn't hard by any means, it just takes some getting used to.

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Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play held in the hand

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