Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

Originally published on on July 11, 2011.

Comfortable Playstation Gamepad | Good Operating System | Decent preloaded games

Lack of blockbuster games | No Playstation Network integration | Thumb pads & shoulder buttons take some getting use to

Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play, also known as one of the worst-kept secrets in the whole world, was officially announced by the company all the way back in February. Since then, it was delayed several times - eventually making its way to European markets on April 1 and Canada on April 28.

For the US, it was delayed yet again, finally making its launch on Verizon’s network on May 26.

I’ve had the device for a little over a month now. Here’s what I think about this interesting gaming phone.


The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the phone is that it’s got some weight to it. Chalk it up to the slide-out, PSP Go-style gamepad it carries and its size at 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches.

As far as features go, the Xperia Play has many of the bells and whistles current Android smartphones have:

  • Nice, responsive 4-inch touchscreen (with a resolution of 854 x 480)
  • Accelerometer used with certain games and apps
  • Front and back-facing camera (non-HD, 5 megapixel)
  • Four Android buttons: Back, Home, Settings, and Search
  • Adreno 205 GPU
  • Qualcomm 1 GHz Scorpion (Snapdragon) CPU
  • 8 GB microSD card (included; can swap out for 4, 16 or 32 GB card)
  • 3.5mm audio jack (on the upper-left part of the phone)
  • microUSB 2.0 slot (on lower-left part of the phone)

The phone’s touchscreen is  responsive and feels great – just as good as any other Android phone’s. However, the screen is noticeably not as bright as other smartphones, so expect some glare when using it outside on a very sunny day. I found that with a case on, the power button can be a little tricky to use when trying to lock the phone. I felt that I needed to hit a certain sweet spot for mine to lock, and while I manage to successfully do that most of the time, there are moments where the button simply doesn’t want to lock on the first press.

While on the topic of the power button, I should mention that the actual device takes quite a long time to turn on and fully load. I do not have much experience with other Android phones but with the Xperia Play, I counted one minute and 15 seconds for it to fully boot to the home screen. I don’t usually have to turn my phone off, but I still find the long boot-up time annoying.

Battery-wise, the phone is pretty good. It can keep running for the entire day, needing a charge only late into the night. Extended gaming time can drain the battery considerably, however.

The phone lacks an HD camera, which might be a turn-off to some, considering there are other phones in its price-range that can do high-definition video. Nevertheless the image and video quality is passable.

Audio-wise, the speakers are decent and can be loud on the highest setting, but as is usually the case, headphones are the best when it comes to music and games.

Now, what sets this apart from every other phone out there is the aforementioned gamepad that slides out from the bottom. It features the familiar Playstation control layout: a d-pad, select, start, the four PS face buttons (square, triangle, circle, X), and L & R shoulder buttons, which are on the same side as the volume controls. Also noticeable is the settings button underneath the d-pad and two circular touchpads in place of analog sticks or nubs. Sliding out the control pad automatically launches the Xperia Play app, which lets you access all of your Xperia Play-enhanced games and allows you to purchase new ones.

The d-pad and face buttons are incredibly comfortable. They feel nice to the touch and work very well.  Select and Start are in an odd area but they work regardless, and the settings button underneath the d-pad is handy. The triggers work, however their positioning is a little awkward. Long-term use of the triggers might prove to be uncomfortable. It would have helped to either space them out more or make them larger. I’m still mixed on the analog pads. I have only been able to use them for some games. They take some getting used to, since they are more like touch pads than actual analog nubs (which would have been better). I feel that so long as you move your thumbs back to the center, neutral position after making a turn in a game like Asphalt 6, then it gets a little more manageable.

Operating System:

The Xperia Play uses the seven-month-old Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS. The OS is fairly nice, with a few hiccups (such as a ringtone playing for the wrong contact) that were solved by taking out the battery for a few moments. Updates via the 3G network are frequent. I have had certain apps that would stop responding or lag, but this is uncommon with most of them. Overall, it’s a very fluid system.


The Xperia Play comes preloaded with six games (Asphalt 6, Bruce Lee, Crash Bandicoot, Madden NFL 11, Star Battalion, The Sims 3) that take advantage of the device’s gamepad, and one game that doesn’t (Tetris).

Asphalt 6: A fun racing game with decent 3D graphics and a very satisfying turbo boost.

Bruce Lee: Somewhat of a Tekken ripoff with abysmal controls.

Crash Bandicoot: It’s the classic PS1 game. It hasn’t aged all that well, but it’s still fun, if not somewhat difficult. Having to find 3 icons in order to save your game is simply not intuitive for a mobile device.

Madden NFL 11: It’s Madden. You’ll love it or hate it.

Star Battalion: A 3D space shooter that reminds me of Star Fox. Lots of fun.

The Sims 3: A dumbed-down version of The Sims with poor controls.

Tetris: Standard Tetris affair, with the lack of gamepad support questionable.

All in all, there really aren’t any stellar titles out for the Xperia Play that make use of its control pad. Sony has announced the Playstation Suite, an app that allows Playstation-Certified games to be purchased and played on Android devices. This has been out in Europe for a few months now – a North America release date, however, has not been set.

Details on what games the Playstation Suite will provide are scarce; however we can probably see several PS1 classics released in the months to come. Europe already has titles likeSyphon Filter and MediEvil.

The lack of Playstation Network support is a glaring omission, as it would have been astounding to log into my PSN account and play my downloaded PS1 games on this device. Let’s hope Sony changes that in the future.

Emulators have been one thing that has been featured in several videos of the Xperia Play, however the legality of using an emulator depends on whether you are using it for homebrew material or for copyrighted games. In the homebrew case, an Xperia Play could be incredibly beneficial with its tried and true Playstation controller pad.

I would like to say that currently, though the Xperia Play has a slide-out gamepad, I still consider it more of an Android smartphone than a gaming device. An N-Gage this is not. The gaming pad is just a big bonus. I think there’s some great potential for this phone to flourish, but as of now it simply does not have any big, must-have titles nor does it have its centralized Playstation Suite in place yet.

If you’re looking for a gaming phone or you’re looking to get into smart phones for the first time, I’d recommend the Xperia Play wholeheartedly, but if the control pad does not interest you in the slightest, then I’d suggest to look for another, more advanced Android-capable phone.

Original Score: 8/10

Recommended games:

  • Age of Zombies
  • Angry Birds
  • Asphalt 6
  • Crash Bandicoot
  • Fieldrunners HD
  • Pac-Man
  • Peggle
  • Plants Vs. Zombies
  • Robot Unicorn Attack
  • Star Battalion
  • Tetris

Upcoming Xperia Play games/apps to look out for:

  • Minecraft
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6 Shadow Vanguard
  • Battlefield Bad Company 2
  • Lumines
  • Playstation Suite App

Recommended Apps:

  • Gmail
  • Google+
  • Google Music
  • Google Docs
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Skype
  • Youtube
  • eBuddy
  • GasBuddy
  • Shopkick
  • Barcode Scanner
  • Google Maps
  • Wunderlist
  • Nyan Cat