As has been expected; sooner or later Sony Ericsson will bring its Playstation brand into the mobile phone industry. Although the Xperia PLAY isn’t exactly a combination of PSP and smartphone, but still, the device makes gaming on a smartphone more convenient. Once upon a time, Nokia tried and failed miserably with the N-Gage and now eight years later we’ve got the PLAY, a proper gaming phone. It is nothing more than an Android smartphone that is optimized for dedicated gamers, with an integrated physical gamepad, instead of a QWERTY keyboard. The concept is so simple, it may make you wonder why nobody has thought about it earlier.
The Xperia PLAY is thicker than most Android phones, but luckily it remains very lightweight and sits nicely in our hand. The phone is powered by a 1,500 mAh battery to ensure hours of gaming and phone calls. The phone has a fast single-core CPU (1 GHz) and other common features of Android smartphone, Wi-Fi, GPS, camera (5 Mp) with flash, spacious touch-screen display (854 X 480 pixels) and memory slot. You get the latest Android smartphone version, the Gingerbread (2.3.2). It’s so versatile that even common users will still comfortable using it for casual purposes. The success of the PLAY largely depends on developer participation, although many current Android games are playable with the PLAY. Gameloft is among the first to grab the opportunity by releasing BackStab, a game designed exclusively for the PLAY. Although many standard Android games can be played comfortably without gamepad, the PLAY still holds an obvious advantage by offering physical buttons for better gaming experience.
Even if you’re not a gamer, for you money, you’ll get more than a decent smartphone loaded with the latest Android OS version and an exceptional performance from a fast Snapdragon processor. Although it isn’t a dual-core, the phone can still display wonderful graphics using the Adreno 205 GPU and DDR2 RAM in dual-channel configuration, allowing a fluid display at 60 frame-per-second. Although the omission of Mobile BRAVIA Engine is still a big disappointment, you can still have a fulfilling gaming experience. Also, unlike the Xperia Arc, the 5 Mp rear camera of the PLAY doesn’t use Exmor R for better shots in dimmer environment. Sony Ericsson’s camera application is also a little bland (no video HD recording and barely any camera options) and you should get better camera app available in the Android market. It is a little frustrating to know that the native camera app leaves out the HD recording feature, when both the camera and processor are fully HD capable. The front-camera on the PLAY can be used for taking self-portraits or video calling. In the PLAY, you get two live wallpapers with Sony PSP theme and a launcher that allows you to put applications in folders.
The pre-loaded titles are The Sims 3, Star Battalion HD, FIFA 2010, Bruce Lee, Adrenaline HD, Asphalt 6 and Crash Bandicoot, an original PSX game that is playable through the emulator. For more casual gaming, you also get a Tetris clone. Sony has waged war on unofficial Playstation emulator for Android and asserts that the PLAY is the only legal way of playing classic PSX titles on an Android device. Playing hundreds of classic PSX games on the PLAY is, without doubt exhilarating, but unfortunately, because many of the games were created more than 12 years ago, the graphics look a little dated and because the screen resolution on the PLAY is high, these old games should be scaled up.
There are currently more than 50 games available for the PLAY and some look a little rushed out. Some games don’t give clear instruction on how to use the gamepad, while other still rely more on the touchscreen display instead of the gamepad. It seems that Sony Ericsson still doesn’t have a clear definition about what games that should be showcased in the Xperia PLAY game store. It would be beneficial for the consumers if Sony Ericsson and game developers can establish a firm standard to ensure acceptable and more even quality. If these issues seem trivial to you and you are still keen to purchase the device, you’ll still be pleased with the device. Once a game is launched, you’ll find how wonderful it is to have a gamepad under the display. Tilting the device all over the place or fiddling around with on-screen virtual keypad, just can’t compare. For some games like FIFA 2010 and Bruce Lee, gamepad is a must.
In many ways, the PLAY still looks much like a high-end, standard smartphone with stock Android version, i.e. Google Nexus S. If you buy an Android device from a manufacturer other than Google, it is unavoidable, you’ll get built-in apps. For example, the PLAY has a stripped-down version of Timescape app, which offers quick access to the gallery and media player. The media player can search contents from a specific artist and have an acceptable equalizer options. If the Xperia Arc has weak internal speakers, the PLAY boast two powerful ones, that can emit louder sounds for better gaming experience. Although Sony Ericsson has designed a good device, the PLAY is still at the mercy of the gaming developer community. Luckily, modifying current Android games to accept the PLAY’s gamepad shouldn’t be too difficult.
The PLAY is an obvious milestone for a giant electronic manufacturer that is also a major gaming console producer. The real challenge for Sony Ericsson is whether there will be enough games for the PLAY to ensure at least a decent success.