Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Review


If you’ve been keeping up with Android news and release dates, you would know that the release of the Sony Xperia Play for Verizon is fast approaching us (May 26th to be exact). While attending Google I/O last week I was actually one of the lucky few who walked away with an Xperia Play. Since then, I’ve been getting loads of messages asking if the phone is worthy of a purchase and/or upgrade. After messing around with the device for about a week now, I am excited to finally bring you my review on Sony’s first gaming smartphone.

I have to say, I haven’t really heard too much buzz about the device other than the fabled PSP Phone that was rumored since before there was an actual PSP. But maybe it has something to do with the fact that the handset is not yet available in the U.S., or possibly because most of the uber-techie Android snobs already have their sights locked on some of the many dual-core options coming out later this year. I have to admit, I was on that boat as well. Don’t let the fact that the Xperia Play comes with a single-core processor dissuade you. I found it snappy and more than capable of handling all the 3D games from the Android Market I could throw at it. Not only that, in the UK version I’m reviewing, Sony’s Timescape UI thrown on top does nothing but enhance the user experience (note- the Verizon version delivers a stock, plain, vanilla Android Google experience). One thing you should know about me, I’ve always preferred the super, chunky monkey, rocky road, chocolate fudge brownie UI’s like that of HTC’s Sense with all the polish and added functionality that comes along with it.

Alright, before we jump into the video, lets start by listing off some quick specs of the phone for those that are curious (and for others to scoff at). It comes pretty much standard with what you expect from a mid-level-ish handset these days. A 4-inch, 800×480 Super LCD display is found on top along with a VGA front facing camera. On the back you have a 5MP camera that focuses and adjusts exposure during the LED flash and delivers perfectly exposed and clear photo snapping. Was very impressed.

Just underneath the handset’s “L and R” gaming buttons, there are 2 stereo speakers tucked away out of sight. Don’t forget the noise cancelling microphone on the back that lets you know Sony Ericsson didn’t cut any corners when it came to features on the device . Inside we find a 1GHz, 2nd generation Snapdragon processor that seems to be aging rather gracefully and a 1500mAh battery that delivers easily 9 hours+ of juice even with light gaming.

On the software side, we see that the handset is running the latest version of Android (for smartphones) 2.3.2 Gingerbread. Sony has also gone on the record as saying their Xperia line of phones will come with easily unlocked bootloaders and even provided links on their website for those that like to tinker around with that kind of stuff. I should also note that although generous of Sony Ericsson to include some free games pre-installed on the device, they CANNOT be uninstalled. This results in far less internal memory on the device for your own apps and games. Couple this with Verizon’s own bloatware and we’re talking maybe about 226MB of internal storage in the end making rooting of the device almost a necessity.

So, for the main event, lets just jump straight into my video review to see how I really felt about the world’s first Android gaming smartphone. Will it be another mid-level snoozer? Or will Sony’s latest offering turn out to be something truly unique in a world of smartphones not suitable for the gaming enthusiast?

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. I would’ve loved to see more of the UI elements of the phone (widgets and what else is part of their own skinned launcher). Also lady gaga in a review for a phone, priceless!

    1. I know! I actually had to edit out all the Timescape UI stuff for time and seeing how the Verizon version wont have it.. =(

      Will most likely upload the footage I shot of Timescape as a second video called “Timescape UI and Why I Love It.” =) 

      1. I paused the video because I HAD to comment……

        Bahahahahhahahahahahahahagaggagagagagahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahah @ the part when you touch the game pad and when your singing Lady Gaga. (Good song choice, one of the few gaga songs I like)

  2. Reviewer should point out the VZW bloat results in about 226 mb of app storage space. Rooters can squeeze another 300mb or so, but non-rooters will hit the app wall pretty soon, even with apps2sd.

    Dpad rocks, none the less.

    1. Sorry, “Reviewer” is impersonal. Chris! Please point this stuff out buddy!  ;) :)

      1. Okay NOW you got my attention.. Hahaha ;D

        But shoot- I think you’re right. The games installed on the phone can’t be uninstalled :ORight? Although generous of Sony Ericsson, this is DEFINITELY something to consider! Yikes =/

  3. How is the rest of the phone other than the gaming aspect? Battery, call quality, camera… 

    1.  Great points. I updated the post on battery life (around 9 hours with gaming). Even though battery and call quality are always subjective and I don’t know why reviewers ever comment on them (unless they’re above exceptional).

      Camera I actually included in the review vid but had to cutout for time. I was really impressed by it and will update my post. 

      Thanks for your feedback and questions! =)

  4.  Chris you are too cute :) Love your hair

    and i love timescape!!!
    Will be owning this phone come next week!

    1. Thank, you Miss Carmen ;D

      The phone is hot! :D

      1. Love connection? 

        1. HAHAH! Nooooo… XD 

    2. Sadly I don’t think the Verizon version will have timescape.  Of course, I’m jumping to the conclusion that you live in the US and are a customer of Vzn.

  5.  Please.Stop.With.The.Jump.Cuts.On.You.Tube.Videos.It’s.So.Played.Out.And.Extremely.Annoying.

    1.  yeah that stuff gets annoying really fast… how bout one 17 minute take straight through no stops?

      1. I tried that. The video ended up being 40 minutes o_O 

        1.  Talk faster

          1. Have you seen how fast I talk in this video!??! I’m only a man! 

          2. But a good man.

            Just some constructive feedback there. Jump cuts are all the rage on YouTube and they grow tiring quickly. Start a new trend called “Anti-Jump Cuts”.

            Other than than, your video was very insightful ;-)

  6. I like the jump cuts. Keep it up! :)

    1. That’s because you died last year and haven’t been victim to its plague on YouTube 

      1. I wish I didn’t have to use them! But its necessary to keep the flow moving and cut out awkward pauses and “uhhhs” and “ummms” =/ 

  7.  I would say my favourite part of the review was the rendition of Paparazzii. I thought I would dismiss the phone as just another gimmick, but I actually really like it. Wish it came to Bell!

  8.  FFVII FTW!!!

  9. anyone else notice the first letters of the name of the phone spell SEX. so SEX Play…hmmm…now i want the phone

    1.  I think you have Sony. Ericsson. Xperia. on the brain XD 

  10. Thanks for posting a review! It’s a bit surprising that the boot time was so long. Funny how you sped through it. xD 

    1. It was even longer than that! I would honestly say somewhere around the 7 minute mark. Word of advice…. never power down. 0_0 

      1. Holy hell, seven minutes!!!!! A bit ridiculous. Hope they get that fixed. 

      2. 7 minutes? That would definitely make me think twice.

        1. @Nlsme:disqus  Okay, I compared it with my Evo, and it took about 1 minute longer to bootup. I guess 2 to 3 minutes feels like eternity when you’re sitting there staring at the bootup screen.  Lol

          1. Trust me, I know the feeling. Great review, btw. 

          2. Thank you, Scott! I worked hard on it. =) 

  11.  Stop opening and closing the phone!  I think that is worse than the jump cuts, ha!

    Overall … very interesting phone.  I’m curious how it will hold up as a phone over time…

  12. 17 minute review of a gaming phone and you didn’t even touch on how emulators work with it or show any? Come an man.

    1. I can’t even get an emulator to work properly. Let alone show them off. But you bring up a good point for another videoooooooo :D 

  13.  awesome review. Great work!

  14. I can finally play Tecmo Bowl on a touch screen phone and not be frustrated!!! (Yea I know about the Game Gripper for my Droid 1 and Wiimote Controller for my DX1) I dont game enough to really want the phone with my upgrade but it might be a nice phone to grab off Ebay or somewhere off contract.

    All my NES, SNES, Sega Genesis games would be very happy with this phone.

    1. Have a look at different emulators and games you could install, including the Playstation 1 games !!! GREAT DEVICE

      1.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmjslGVrbh4

  15.  Looks awesome. I hope the other OEMs follow suit with Sony’s Android experience, in regards to updates.

    1. I hope so too! I feel like Sony Ericsson has a lot more to prove (being late to the game, so to speak) and since they’re the underdogs, they’re listening to a lot of feedback from users. I applaud them *claps*

  16. LMAO @ the Chimpmunk version of Paparazzi

  17. i love my xperia play i just couldnt wait for the verizon release so found one for a freat price havent rooted yet but the emulators still work perfect well most of them i should say a the battery life is great i seriously only charge every day and a half with light gaming 11 hrs easy with heavy gaming

    1. Yeah, I noticed the phone having above average battery life (which I’m not used to on HTC devices)

      1. That’s like saying my truck gets great gas mileage…… compared to a 747.

  18. sorry bout the spelling :-/ just noticed 

  19. I just wonder how you call yourself an Android fansite when you get the name of phone’s maker wrong so many times in one review. Sony and Sony Ericsson are not the same company.

    While Sony Ericsson promises unlockable bootloaders, Sony will more than likely lock theirs down with their Android products. Those Android products that have zero to do with Sony Ericsson’s phone division.

    1. Kind of splitting hairs, since the point is this is the Xperia Play, sanctioned, blessed and approved by Sony executives and they ARE in the same overall corporate hierarchy. People that read here are indifferent to corporate semantics. They just what companies to release good reliable products…. that do not have dim displays and low storage space that only rooters will be able to make better.

      SE wanted to release this product BEFORE the game division released the dead PSP Go. Just imagine how huge the Play would have been if SE got to release it and not Sony (well over a years ago). This device is over a year late to the party and the hardware shows. Heck, Sony would have left the 8250/8650 in the device had Qualcomm still produced the older chipset in volume.

      Xperia Play is a blast from the past- almost literally, in regards to display and storage design.

      1. Except that Sony and Sony Ericsson couldn’t be any more different when it comes to philosophy and how customers can use their products. This is a PlayStation licensed product, made with the blessing of Sony Computer Entertainment (another company, although fully under the Sony Corp. umbrella). This product came from Sony Ericsson, designed and made in Sweden, far from Sony Corp or Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan. Sure, they had to get approval for the name, but that’s all.

        You really think the same company that sued to keep the PlayStation 3 locked down would allow you to completely blow apart a phone?

        I also didn’t mention a single thing about this phone in particular, or its merits/lack thereof. Dunno who you’re replying to there. It would be great if you could post some proof to your claims though!

        1. This is a Play thread, so inherent to mentioning. If you recall the leaks of the Play were before the Go was released and the design and dpad from the leaks is the same, as well as the storage design. Over a year ago, most Android phones put the device space in the 512mb or 1gb flash rom that was being used for the OS as well.

          Sony is testing the waters with the Play and this device had minimum investment, since already designed. On the darker side, if Sony recently designed this and stuffed everything in the same flash chip, this would make Sony seem very stupid. I think they are opposite of stupid, but they are stubborn, which can sometimes result in stupid.

    2. In my review, Sony = Sony Ericsson. Sorry for the confusion.  

  20. I tried it for a fair bit of time at IO2011 Sony stand/sandbox. I wasn’t impressed, to be honest. Way too game oriented. At that point might as well get a PSP or 3DS. While gaming in mobile devices is great to have, I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing other features over.

    1. Other features like…?
      I thought they did pretty well with features. Only thing I can think of it missing is a dual-core processor.

      Not to mention, a PSP or 3DS can’t play games, or give you all the cool apps that Android has.  

      1. Sliding panels/keyboards/gamepads are always a liability on mobile devices and are rather annoying, IMO.  I rather have a nice big 4.3” screen with touch-based controllers that I can then use full real estate for other apps. The device will probably be a hit with the teen/gaming crowd. But can almost guarantee you it will have very little success with casual gamers/average users.

        The highlights the awesome thing about Android open platform tho. There can be a device for each niche group instead of being pigeon-holed to one device like the folks at Cupertino have done :)

        1. I am 43 and I love gaming!

  21. wooohh. nice one

  22. Cant you just use apps to sd to free up memory?

    1. 256MB of internal memory is still pretty bad. Not every app is apps-to-sd ready and when you factor in cache, etc.. Fills up quick. =/

      1. No rooters that buy the Play will be ticked, but will be “rats in a cage” since most will notice- after the return window. It seems highly doubtful that non app fans will buy the Play, so expect a high level of teeth gnashing in about a month.

        The space is truly the Achilles heal for this device and is no a subtle issue. I harped on it in the forums (but promised to stop- in the forums), because the space issue DESERVES to be harped on, before non-rooting folks get stuck.

        1. Yeah, I totally agree. I added it into my written review and will possibly add some **** to make it stand out more. Might also add some annotations to the video. Best I can do for now. Will also mention it in my follow up video for Timescape UI. 
          Thanks, again!

          1. Good job and straight to the point. Now folks know ahead of time and will not be surprised. Still, some will keep pushing the misnomer that apps2sd fixes the issue and then find out the hard way.

            I predict this device will have a huge second wave following as an old school gaming device. Nothing else compares. Sony nailed the game pad and works great.

      2. Chris, maybe you could do a follow-up of your review and point out the low storage issue in the US version? The non VZW version has about 380mb, which is low, but the VZW version is near fail-low at less than 250mb.

        Seems that since this is a factor, it is just as significant as the display, dpad or any other feature that may interest Phandroid readers to buy it- or not, based on the review.

        Be interesting to get an official view from SE or VZW.

    2. This will buy you some time, but apps still put anywhere from a few hundred KB to 30MB in the device app storage. Rooting and getting rid of the bloat will give you a more managble 550mb or so. Depends on what stock apps you want to keep. Plenty of great info at XDA about this.

      With root, the X-Play is still a good device. Without root, the US version should be avoided, unless you do not plan on many app installs.

  23. I like the way Chris does his reviews. He doesn’t belabor all the physical aspects and technical aspects of the phone. He gets in there and starts talking about what it does or does not does well, and actually shows off the phone. This phone has a gimmick (a very good one at that) and that’s what really sets it apart from anything else on the market, ie: a thing of focus. I like your style Chris, keep going!

    1. Thank you, sir! You nailed it right on the head! =D 

  24.  And let me think, It wouldn’t be a Verizon phone without CityID

  25. Hmmm couldn’t disagree more with this review, its one of the worst phones I’ve owned

    1.It literally takes 5 min plus to boot

    2.The location of the power button (constant accidental pressing during games) and headphone Jack are pure stupidity

    3.I’ve experienced horrible lag in anything from game playing to texting

    4.The screen is one of the most sensative and least accurate I’ve used, regularly registering either double taps or no input at all

    5.Several core functions seem to have bugs (keyboard canceling itself in Facebook )

    6.the light sensor/auto brightness can’t be turned off and is waaay overactive in every app and function

    7. For some reason none of the keys are illuminated, oh apart from the power/notification light which is located out of sight damn near on the back of the phone
    And with its light leaking on the gamepad which further demonstrates the poor quality

    8.the volume button is damn near impossible to activate correctly as its so small and smooth. So its hard to feel if your pressing up or down

    9. No camera button!…..seriously couldn’t they have set the shoulder buttons to do this in non game mode?

    I could go on but I’m typing this on the phone and its driving me crazy, will deffinitly be trading for a samsung or a htc

    1. I could refute almost every single one of these claims but I guess I’ll just say…. Agree to disagree. Thanks for your input, though =) 

    2. trade it for my iphone 4!! email me [email protected]

  26. I am glade that they are putting stock android and not a ton of there own bloatware like most companies do. I just hope that verizon does not put to much bloatware on it too. If it comes stock completely and just adds a few more things here and there I know for sure it will be a great phone. Sony is really do a great job with there android phones and wish more companies would start looking at what they are doing and start fallowing suit!

  27. I wonder if GTA Liberty City Stories will become available eventually. That or Vice City Stories. Would love to play those again.

  28. i found a site (www.newxperiaplay.com) that’s offering a pretty good pre-order deal. $99 for the xperia play. Clicked through the site and it offers free bluetooth and dock with the pre order.  Just want to let ppl who want it to know ^^

  29. In all seriousness, i was gonna watch the video until I realized it was that annoying dude.  WWHHHHYYYYYYYY?????  Phandroid c’mon he’s so freakin’ annoying and conceited I cannot watch his videos.

  30. Not to nit pick  but it a 854 X 480 display. Its  badass device and in the US the first Gingerbread device at verizon

  31. Please, this phone is NOT made by Sony! Sony Ericsson is not a division under Sony, it is it’s own company with headquarters in Sweden.

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