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

GSMArena team, 20 April 2011.
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Gingerbread with custom touches

This year the Sony Ericsson droids are finally up to speed with the current crop of Android smartphones, software-wise, at least.

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play is the third Gingerbread-powered smartphone in the Sony Ericsson lineup along with the Arc and the Neo.

The Mediascape add-on, used in last year’s lineup is gone and in comes the customized Gingerbread UI. The Timescape UI is still here though.

Here’s a video of the XPERIA Play UI in action.

Sony Ericsson has added its own tweaks and customizations to the Gingerbread interface. There’re no drastic changes though, the user interface just got a little polished.

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The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play homescreen and menu

You get up to five homescreen panes to populate with widgets. If you pinch to zoom out on any of them you get an overview of all your widgets currently in use. It’s a neat feature many manufacturers use. The difference here is you don’t get a number of mini homescreens but a single screen bringing all widgets together.

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Widget overview

Sony Ericsson has added a custom PlayStation Pocket widget that leads to your PlayStation games and lets you buy more. But more on this in the relevant chapter of the review.

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PlayStation pocket widget

The pull-down notification area is a trademark Android feature. The Sony Ericsson version displays recent events, running apps, active connections and downloads, but doesn’t offer quick toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and the likes. Truth be told though, there’re dedicated widgets for that.

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Notification area

On either side of the launcher key there are two docked icons visible across all homescreen panes. They can be edited to either display a single icon or a folder containing multiple items.

Creating folders on the XPERIA Play is easy and intuitive, quite iPhone-esque really. Just drag one icon over another and a popup will appear with the folder options.

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Creating a folder • Media tab

Inside the launcher (main menu) you will see shortcuts in the bottom corners. They let you sort your icons within the grid – you can either go for the automatic options (alphabetical, most used or recently installed) or you can manually move the icons.

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There are different sorting options for the app launcher

As most droids out there, the XPERIA Play offers live wallpapers, along with the regular ones. The live wallpaper gallery features the usual selection, with one special exclusive to the Play.

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Setting wallpaper on the XPERIA Play

Text selection is a lot user friendlier with Android Gingerbread. You get two large pointers which can be dragged to make a selection. After this you’re good to go with copy, paste and cut.

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Text selection in action

Benchmarks and performance

In terms of benchmarks, the XPERIA Play is in no way a revelation. It does okay and would’ve been great a year ago. But on the ever-evolving smartphone market it’s dual-core or bust if you want to look good in synthetic benchmarks.

The XPERIA Play runs on a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 processor with Adreno 205 graphics chip. The amount of RAM is 512 MB, out of which 380 MB available are user-available, while the rest are reserved by the OS, most probably for the GPU.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread does help the overall speed and fluidity of the UI.

We reran every benchmark we did previously for our pre-production preview and our retail unit used for this review did just slightly better.

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Quadrant • BenchmarkPi • Linpack

Compared to the meanest of droids that came by our office lately, the XPERIA Play fails to impress. But there isn’t much point comparing it to them.

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Neocore • Smartbench 2011

Synthetic benchmarks aside, the XPERIA Play is a decent performer in real life. The UI runs smooth and there aren’t any lags even with multiple running applications.

The Play is slower than a dual-core device but you won’t notice this in daily use.

As for the most important part of the XPERIA Play’s performance – it does pretty well at gaming too. There wasn’t a single game out of the preinstalled bunch that the phone seemed to struggle with.

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