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Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

 Review: April 2011  

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The Sony Ericsson Play is the first ever Playstation phone, with Playstation-like controls, plus motion control and gesture control using the phone's front-facing video camera!



Is it a phone? Is it a PlayStation? No, it's the PlayStation phone, properly known as the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play.

At first, it seems to be just another touchscreen smartphone. A rather heavy one, and a little thicker than most. But slide it open and it turns into a PlayStation game controller, with access to a range of 3D games. It was a concept just waiting to happen - all it needed was a processor fast enough to power 3D games (1GHz Snapdragon processor and Adreno 205 GPU) and a big 4 inch screen and voila!

The Sony Xperia Play is built on the Android operating system and uses the latest version of Android, called Gingerbread. This means that you get a fast, powerful and user friendly operating system, with power features and access to over 100,000 downloadable apps. Sony Ericsson have been releasing Android phones for over a year and have brought a number of novel concept phones to the market, including the tiny Xperia X10 Mini and the futuristic-looking Xperia Arc, but the Xperia Play is probably the most original concept phone so far. The implementation of Android on the Play is similar to that on the Arc, with five home screens plus Sony Ericsson's Timescape enhancement providing seamless integration of facebook, twitter, email, calendars and contacts.

To transform your phone into a games console, you simply turn it into landscape mode, flip open the slide and a genuine PlayStation game controller is unveiled, complete with D-pad and face buttons (circle, square, triangle and cross). The buttons work well although the touch-sensitive thumbpads in the centre are perhaps less responsive. There's an accelerometer to sense which way up you're holding the device, and you can touch the screen to make things happen too. Does this tactile "in your hands" experience compensate for the fact that you've only got 4 inches of screen and less than HD resolution? Well, the success of other portable games consoles indicates a clear "yes" answer to that, so the question really should be, "how does the Xperia Play experience measure up to the 3DS experience?" The truth has to be that a dedicated portable games console will give you a better experience, as it's built to do just that one job. But there's still plenty of enjoyment to be had from the Xperia Play.

In addition to the gaming features, the Xperia Play comes with a 5 megapixel camera with flash and autofocus. At this price point we might have expected an 8 megapixel camera, but we can't have everything. The Play also has a front-mounted VGA video camera.

The Play has assisted GPS of course, with Google Maps pre-installed. This is the very latest version of Google Maps, with plenty of extra features to play with, such as Street View and Latitude (share your location with your friends). It's remarkable how polished the system is and how well it works on a mobile device.

The Play is a fully-featured media machine too, with a media player capable of handling playlists and album art, plus an FM radio with RDS. Sound quality from the stereo speakers is really quite good for a phone, and you can plug in a proper set of headphones with the 3.5mm headphone jack.

A feature first seen on the Arc and also present on the Play is the Noise Shield. This uses a secondary microphone at the back of the phone to pick up and cancel ambient noise, so the person you're talking to can hear you better.

Connectivity is outstanding, with 3G HSPA and Wi-Fi for fast internet access, Bluetooth wireless access and USB. There's also an HDMI port, so you can plug your phone into a HD Ready TV and play your games large! Web browsing on the Play is a good experience, with pages loading quickly and rendered well. The browser responds well to the touch, whether you're scrolling with your finger or using two fingers to pinch-and-zoom. Flash video is supported and you can watch youtube clips.

The built-in memory of 400MB is less than we'd have liked, with many other high-end phones having 8GB or more, but you can augment this with a microSD memory card up to 32GB. An 8GB card is included in the sales package.

Battery life. Hmmm. The Xperia Play has a 1500mAh battery, which is the largest you'll find on a mobile phone at present. But it needs it! Sony Ericsson are claiming 5.5 hours of game play, but if you plan to make calls and do other stuff you'll have less time playing games. But it's only a mobile device, so this is perhaps the best anyone could realistically expect. Just remember to charge your phone every night and you should be OK.

Finally, let's talk money. The Xperia Play is one of the most expensive phones on the market, more expensive than the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc or the Google Nexus S for instance. For this kind of money you could get a less expensive Android phone plus a Nintendo 3DS. You'd have a better phone and a better games console. Sure, you'd have to carry two devices instead of one, but that's the way life is sometimes. It's perhaps inevitable that combining two devices in one leads to compromise. There are certainly compromises here. The games controller isn't as polished as a dedicated one (3DS for instance) and as a phone the Xperia Play is rather large and very heavy. It's very expensive too. We'd recommend it, but with reservations.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play features include:

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Sony Ericsson Xperia Play user reviews

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Average rating from 21 reviews:

Reviewed by Em from UK on 12th Jun 2012
All my friends who have Xperias are getting the ICS update- but my Xperia Play isnt. Still, not too bad of a phone, but ive had to remove the battery a few times when things have slowed to a crawl

Reviewed by Drury from Uk on 5th Jun 2012
Brought this for my son in september its now frozen hard to turn on and all i get is the front screen saying make of phone i cant seem to get this resolved anywhere anyone any ideas brought new unlocked but ebay but seller not about now pooooo

Reviewed by Hotcheese from Ireland on 1st May 2012
Worked great until the internet stopped working. It says i am connected to my wi-fi but when i use anything to do with the internet it says there is no internet connection and then force closes

Reviewed by paw from england on 6th Mar 2012
the phone is outstanding bought it 2 months ago in o2 (payg) i had about 70quid discount in o2 so actually paid 79.99 - bargain - u can`t go wrong

Reviewed by MINANTRA from UK on 6th Mar 2012
I paid 100 for this phone (150 from 02 - 50 for a Xmas gift = 100), so it's a bargain for what you get regardless of pro or con ;)

Pro big clear screen, great battery life (at least 2 days if using a launcher), camera, Timescape, Android 4.0 OS (ice cream sandwich) coming this month, Xperia Play games variety, D-pad and game buttons work very well playing games, the majority of games games run smoothly, looks great in white!

Con the phone is heavy and bulky (yes I know its because of the slide out joy pad but it could be more streamlined), internal memory is low (I would have liked at least 16GB internal memory because using external memory not all apps can be moved to the MicroSD card for some reason), the music player is basic, Sony Ericisson Bridge for Mac is slow and a bit clunky but does the job, the touch-sensitive thumb pads are rubbish, Android Market is expensive and not as slick as Apple's App store.

THE BIG CON is that Sony seem to have given up on the PlayStation part of the Xperia Play as Playstation Pocket is rubbish and there are still only 10 games available since launch 1 year ago, and all are overpriced at 3.99! Where are all the PlayStation games Sony promised? I guess now the PlayStation Vita is out there is no hope for the Xperia Play, Shame!

Reply by MINANTRA from UK on 8th Mar 2012
I forgot to mention a couple of things in my previous post - the build quality and price. The build quality is a bit ropey, it feels lose, it creaks and flexes a bit and there is a noticeable gap when the phone is closed between the screen and the game pad. I also feel that if I dropped the Xperia Play it wouldn't survive! Lastly, the phone is not available for 150 anymore from O2 who have stopped selling it, and in fact I cant find it for that price anywhere (unless you buy secondhand), however it is available elsewhere - Play and Amazon sell it for 290 and some places sell it for 400! I have to say at a price more than 150 this phone is really not worth buying.

Reviewed by zhao from liverpool on 15th Dec 2011
good phone

Reviewed by alex from england on 14th Dec 2011
the phone works well as a phone but he gaming aspect is apsolutally fantastic,the controles are perfectly pesitioned and you can getit for 149.99 which is realy good value for money and is a fantastic christmas or birthday presants.

Reviewed by Jake from England on 12th Dec 2011
I think this phone should be upgraded to a 5 star review, given it's new 150 price! Completely obliterates the competition (Wildfire S, Galaxy Ace etc.) as just a phone. But add to that the fact it's a gaming device- simply put it's an unbelievable bargain.

Reviewed by Gabriel from England on 30th Nov 2011
Pro- Price dropped to under 150 in the UK, makes this a compelling proposition against other Android such as the Wildfire S or the Samsung Galaxy Ace. The Play has a bigger screen (with corresponding increase in pixel count) & faster processor then the two mention before. The recent software upgrade has now enabled 720 HD recording. SE has committed to upgrading all their 11' range to the next Android 4.0 ice cream sandwich in early 2012, which is reassuring. The included 8gb card and games are also a bonus for those on a budget. Con The phone is kinda bulky even taking into account of the slide out joy pad. The D-Pad works great but touch-sensitive thumbpads is rubbish, not the most accurate and generally inferior to the D-Pad next to it. The limited onboard memory is a bit disappointing when it comes to installing apps as not all apps can be moved to the MicroSD card. No HDMI but you can install Vscreens, a program that lets you share images and video onto your computer or Tv if that's any compensation. Other observation- Battery last about just about a day with a 2 hours commute throw into it. The music playing side is slightly inferior to iOS products when it comes to usability but sound quality is comparable in everyday listening when I paired it with my Westone UM2 dual-driver in-ear headphones. Games generally runs smoothly, but occasional frame drop does occur when I was playing NFS Shift.

Reviewed by danny from america on 14th Nov 2011
Not that good of aphone. It looks cool at first but then my phone was not even a foot off the ground a nd I dropped then leaving behind a huge crack. Sometimes it says sd card is not mounted in. And I have to take off my back case take the sd card out and put it back and sometimes that doesn't evenn work I recomend getting a diffrent phone.

Reviewed by omar from luton on 1st Sep 2011
awesome phone does everything i need better than iphone

Reviewed by kym from Australia on 1st Sep 2011
Well I went and got a xperia play and has been a grate phone until my touch screen went salute after 24 days had it sent off to be fixed now my screen is fixed but the phone itself has slowed down so bad that it takes about ten min to do anything wont load games its turning me right off the idea of a playstation phone think ive got

Reviewed by Peter from England on 20th Aug 2011
I think this phone is great. Sure there isnt that many games optimised for it at the moment, but gradually little gems are starting to pop up- i just recently downloaded Dead Space and it plays really well with the slide out controller and has fantastic visuals too. Got a new update with SE and its given me new apps, boosted the sound of the mp3 player & other little tweaks. The only minor letdowns are the camera being 'only' 5mp and the video sadly doesnt record in hd (though it will play hd videos!). Overall though, its not let me down, plays games well, mp3 is top, internet (with flash player) works a treat and hey, i can phone and text people with it! Recommended

Reviewed by qasim from england on 15th Aug 2011
dont listen to aziz who says best phone ever get HTC INCREDIBLE S BEST PHONE IN THE WORLD BETTR THAN XPIRIEA PLAY

Reviewed by Aziz from England on 22nd May 2011
Best phone ever, beats the iphone

Reviewed by john from england on 7th May 2011
What a phone! The xperia play is an amazing phone. The gaming experience us wonderful with a 4 inch screen and dedicated controls is excellent. But there are a few problems. The phone sometimes doesnt read the sim or the memory card at times. There is no hdmi port for the model i have. I cant find any 3d games. Apart from that grest phone!

Reviewed by tom from london on 30th Apr 2011
Hay guys I wrote a review on here the 22nd April praising this phone when actually after a few days you begin to realize that its rubbish or maybe its just a bad batch that I have revived my phones work antenna is zoo weak it barely picks a signal up yet I can connect m mac book and everything is ok zoo its got to be the phone also not all apps in the app market work with this phone nearly 6/10th apps I have downloaded have had to be force closed as the phone does not support them Sony get me wrong the hard ware of this device is impeccable but the software on this phone is ridicularse in actually now battling Vodafone to return this phone as I am not happy in not sure as to go for the xperia arc or an I phone again hmm if I was I would stay clear if your a new android user as you will not be impressed I would wait till all bugs are fixed in another firmware fix your upset me SE :-(

Reviewed by tom from london on 22nd Apr 2011
This phone is probably the best phone on the market at the moment . Its not a replacement for my psp go because i cant put my psp games on this device although that being said the android system on this phone 2.3.2 is very smooth abd polished its fast not as fast as some o the dual core phones but nothing you would notice in day to day use i love this phone as i am a playstation phanatic anyway and got to grips with the physical gamepad as soon as i got it out the box akthough the touch analog sticks are a bit sensitive but usable . If your thinking between this and an i phone i would recomend this as just touch screen phones j feek will soon

Reviewed by John from Scotland on 14th Apr 2011
I got this last week, nothing but trouble, screen freezes then have to remove battery to make it work again, the touch screen is not as good as my old phone when browsing, ringer not loud enough, I put it in the rubbish.

Reply by Mobile Phones UK from UK on 14th Apr 2011
This is a spoof review, right?

Reply by John from Scotland on 14th Apr 2011
Sir, I really did put the phone in the rubbish, I was so dissapointed with it, gone back to my Nokia x6!

Reviewed by ahmad from uk on 10th Apr 2011
this is a sickk phone and when i play games on it i can connect it to my 50inch tv and the graphics are amazing sony has done a good job on this one.

Reviewed by Paul from England on 10th Apr 2011
I've had this phone for two weeks now, and I feel in a position to know most of the ins and outs. I'll start with battery life. For an Android handset (and I have experience with 5 other models) it is really very good. I do a lot of gaming and browsing during the course of a day, and I find it tends to last without the need for a recharge. I won't comment on the OS itself, other than to mention it runs 2.3.2, so almost completely up to date. It also means Flash support and tethering. The camera is useable and quality is not too bad, even if the LED flash leaves things a little washed out. There are better phone cameras, but that isn't the reason you're buying this phone, is it? Video recording is a little disappointing, not being 720i hd, but again, not the main reason to get this phone anyway. The gaming experience, on the other hand, is exactly why you want this phone. The slide out gaming pad is a joy to use. The difference it makes on dedicated games (or those that you set the controls up) is unbelievable. In the two weeks I have had it I have become hooked on Asphalt 6 and Crash Bandicoot (ahh the memories!). These both use the keypad, and are a great example of getting it right. Of course, all the old Android games work, and still utilise the touchscreen, so all the old favourites are still there. The sound quality is very good, as you would expect from a phone designed to play games, and this means that your music sounds better too. The SE interface is not too bad, but of course there are a lot of alternatives, such as ADP (although this tended to crash on my handset) and Launcher Pro (no problems with this). The only real problem I have so far come across is during calls. As with all touch screen phones, the screen goes off during a call, but unfortunately with the Play, when you press the Home button (as per hand book), the screen does not always come back on. I have found this worse for incoming calls, but it is not l imited to them. There are currently only two methods to get the screen back on, and that is either put the phone on charge or reboot the phone by taking out the battery. It appears that there are a couple of people who have suffered this (read up about it on XDA Developers forum) and it looks like a software update will be required to sort it out. This issue is the reason the phone only gets 4 stars. Once this issue is solved (if SE ever fix it) it does everything I want from a phone.

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