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).
The phone weighs a hefty 175 grams, but they’re not a burden in two-handed gameplay. The back of the PLAY is curved and quite comfortable to hold, plus, the curves do manage to conceal some of the thickness. But make no mistake, it is a big and heavy phone – even too much for single-hand everyday use.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA PLAY has a 4” 16M-color LCD screen of FWVGA (480 x 854) resolution. It’s not what Sony Ericsson calls a Reality display and there’s no Bravia Engine there either.
Nevertheless, the screen is good when you’re looking at it head on. It’s not very bright even at the brightest setting but the contrast and color rendering are very good. Things deteriorate when you tilt the screen at an angle but not too much.
Text on the screen remains visible but contrast degrades rather fast (gradients appear as a solid color) and colors get vastly distorted. Make not it’s an unpleasant effect that you don’t get with the IPS matrix of the iPhone 4 or with currently the best AMOLED technologies (ClearBlack and SuperAMOLED).
The gaming control deck pulls out smoothly thanks to the spring-assisted slider. There’s no sign of wobble even when the slider is fully open.
The deck hosts 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 on the right (marked with a triangle, circle, X and a square). They are placed inside an inset circle and are very tactile.
The L and R trigger keys are on the right-hand side of the phone: they fall right under your forefingers behind the screen in game mode. They are big, perfectly positioned and overall very comfortable to use.
The third type of control is the analog touch pad – there are two of them and they replace 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.
And finally, there are the standard game control keys – Start and Select, along with a handy Menu key (which is shortcut to the game settings). These keys are small and out of the way, so you won’t hit them accidentally during play.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA PLAY is not a small phone, or especially thin but when it comes to playing games this bulk is actually a good thing. It allows you to get a stable grip on the phone, which gets pretty big when slid open.
A solid grip is vital to a 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.
Overall, the XPERIA PLAY is not too comfortable to hold in one hand and use as a phone but it’s got an excellent feel when held in both hands.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA PLAY shares some common design elements with the Neo and the Pro – sloping top and bottom and human curvature shape at the back. The PLAY will be available in Black or White – we have the black version to preview.
Under the screen we have the standard set of Android keys: Back, Home, Menu and Search. The controls are rather narrow but solid to press. Telling them apart may be difficult though and you might occasionally hit the wrong one.
It’s pretty crowded above the screen: you’ll find a proximity sensor, the earpiece and the video-call camera. Unfortunately, there’s no ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the screen brightness.
The right side of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA PLAY is busier that usual. There’s the volume rocker in the middle, which is pretty tiny and not all that comfortable to use. The two shoulder trigger keys are there too.
On the left side of the PLAY, there’s the 3.5mm audio jack and the microUSB port, both of which are exposed.
The Power/Lock key is on top with a charging LED on the key itself. The key is pretty small as usual and accidental key presses are impossible. The bottom features just the lanyard eyelet.
The 5MP camera is at the back of the Sony Ericsson XPERIA PLAY with the LED flash right next to it. The secondary microphone is here too.
The stereo speakers are at the back as well – right on the slanting edge to make sure the sound doesn’t get muffled.
The microSD card slot is under the battery cover, though not beneath the battery itself and is therefore hot-swappable. The Sony Ericsson XPERIA PLAY supports 32GB cards and comes with an 8GB microSD card in the box. A clever system detects the back cover being open and automatically unmounts the microSD card. How about that?
The SIM card compartment is under the 1500mAh battery.