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Sony Ericsson Xperia Play review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £460
inc VAT

A good idea, but we're not sure the execution is great enough to bear the weight of a whole new gaming format.


Android 2.3, 4.0in 480×854 display

The screen’s 480×854 resolution is large, even for a 4in screen, and with such tightly-packed pixels we found images to be pin-sharp. Colours were vibrant too, and contrast excellent. The Adreno graphics chip is certainly impressive too, holding down rock-solid frame rates, though it must be said that graphical detail isn’t a big step up from what smartphone users will be used to. Its capacitive touch interface was smooth and responsive, and our only complaint would be the lack of an oleophobic coating to keep greasy fingerprint smudges to a minimum.

As a smartphone, the Play is impressive, mainly thanks to the 2.3 update which adds some much-needed polish to Android. Text editing operations are vastly easier; when you tap in a text box, a large cursor tab appears that you can drag around. There are numerous improvements to the user interface, with a switch to white text and icons on a black background and green highlighting, which makes them more visible. Under the hood, you now get native support for the SIP protocol, which allows VoIP calls, and support for SyncML, a long-standing open standard for data synchronisation. Downloads from the browser, email or other apps are now stored in one location, so you can manage your files easier.

Sony xperia editing

Some of the user interface improvements have been overwritten by Sony Ericsson’s own customisation however. There’s no link to Manage Applications from the Home screen menu, for example. You do get a clever feature that improves on HTC’s helicopter view – when you pinch any home screen, you get a view of all the widgets on all home screens tiled into one screen, so you quickly jump to a specific widget. The app tray, which scrolls side-to-side, can be sorted and re-ordered, so you can collect your apps into themed groups.

Sony Xperia Play back

The Xperia Play was a joy to use as a phone, then, though much of this is down to the high-resolution screen and the latest version of Android. Take a step back and it feels very much like a dollied up version of last year’s handsets, partly due to its single-core processor. We expect to see an army of super-slender phones with dual-core chips from every manufacturer over the coming couple of months. In short, we’d hold off if you’re just looking for a nice new Android handset, at least until handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S2, with its 4.3in AMOLED display and super-slim 8.5mm thickness, are launched.

Its game controls make it a serious quandary for dedicated mobile gamers, though. They certainly provide a better experience in traditional console-style games; but then the hardware isn’t an innovative as Nintendo’s 3DS and pales against the upcoming next-gen PSP. Publisher support appears to be good, but quality may be an issue with a line-up of rejigged mobile titles and aging PS1 games. We’re always wary of any device that splits an established format (in this case Android gaming), and if the Play isn’t successful then dedicated titles could dry up very quickly.

This is the best smartphone for playing games on, but that in itself suggests a compromise between two functions and it’s not the best device for either. It’s a little pricey at £30 per month on contract, when compared to standard phones with similar specifications, but if you really like mobile games, and don’t want to carry two devices, then the Xperia Play should be right up your street.

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Price £460
Rating ****
Award N/A


Main display size 4.0in
Native resolution 480×854
Second Display No
CCD effective megapixels 5-megapixel
Video recording format 3GP
Connectivity Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB
GPS yes
Internal memory 400MB
Memory card support microSDHC
Memory card included 16384MB
Operating frequencies GSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 850/900/1900/2100
Wireless data EDGE, HSPA
Size 192x62x16mm
Weight 175g


Operating system Android 2.3
Microsoft Office compatibility Word/Excel/PowerPoint/PDF viewers
Email client POP3/IMAP/Exchange
Audio format support MP3, AAC, OGG, WAV
Video playback formats MP4, H.264, XviD
FM Radio no
Web Browser Webkit
Accessories USB cable, charger
Talk time 6.5 hours
Standby time 17.2 days

Buying Information

SIM-free price £460
Price on contract £30-per-month, 18-month contract
Prepay price £430
SIM-free supplier
Contract/prepay supplier

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