The Xperia PLAY 4G from Sony Ericsson (soon to be just Sony) is AT&T’s version of the worldwide Xperia PLAY, and is the first specialized Android gaming device as it carries the label of being PlayStation Certified. It’s slide-out gamepad and 4” LCD screen make it an interesting hybrid device. Carrying Android 2.3.3 and HSPA+ on AT&T it offers all the amenities a typical smartphone would with the added bonus of also being a portable gaming system. But not being a “gamer” myself, I was a bit skeptical about it’s function and whether or not I would ever use it seeing as it’s target audience would seem to be more the teenager and college-aged user than the business professional.
- 4-inch 480×854 TFT capacitive touchscreen with 16.7mil colors
- 2nd-gen 1GHz single-core Qualcomm Scorpion processor
- Adreno GPU graphics processor
- 512MB RAM
- 5 MP LED flash rear-facing camera with LED flash and 720p HD video capture, and front-facing VGA camera
- Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread)
- 400MB internal storage with up to 32GB microSD expandable
- 1500 mAh battery with up to 7.4 hrs talk time, 14.5 days standby
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
- Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
- GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), 3G UMTS/HSDPA (850/1900/2100 MHz) and 4G (HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul)
- Dimensions: 119 x 62 x 16 mm; 175 grams
I thought the screen was absolutely brilliant when brightness was turned all the way up, but of course that eats battery life. When on auto-brightness, it didn’t seem to auto-adjust very well to changing light conditions, thus making it difficult to see at times. It wasn’t as responsive as I would expect, requiring at times a re-press in order to select which became annoying when attempting to use the onscreen keyboard.
The 1GHz Qualcomm in here is definitely a nice touch and handles extremely well, especially when playing a game, thanks a large part to the Adreno GPU. It also performed pretty well in the benchmarks as well. In it’s AnTuTu benchmark it placed right in line with the Samsung Galaxy S and the Google Nexus S; Quadrant results were 1659, putting it faster than the Nexus One; and Linpack came in with a respectable 38.089 MFLOPS.
Honestly the camera wasn’t anything to get all excited about, though I don’t think you’re going to buy this for it’s camera-taking abilities. Having said that, the pictures it took were more than adequate for social networking and photos to remember key events with. The front-facing VGA camera is just that – a VGA camera. It doesn’t take great photos and when used with Skype and Google Talk it just didn’t seem worth it.
I can say I was pleasantly surprised at how well the battery life went. I left it connected to 4G HSPA+, and it took it 5 1/2 days to run out of juice while just sitting there. Now that is a little lower than the specs, but I was connected to 4G and if I had been in Airplane Mode there’s no doubt that it would have lasted twice that time. And being connected to Wi-Fi would have also extended the battery life longer than being connected to 4G. Of course once I started playing games and surfing it lost it’s juice in just over 6 hours of relative heavy use.
I am impressed by how well this device is built. It’s sturdy while providing the smooth feel of hard plastic. The slider for the gamepad works well and is spring-loaded, but doesn’t have a lot of play in it (pun intended) so as to make you think you might just tear it off of it’s hinges. As is the case with just about every Android device out there, the physical buttons on the front are arranged just a bit different from all the rest. Not to go off on a rant, but this is one area that I feel manufacturers needlessly try and differentiate themselves from the other manufacturers. How hard is it to agree to keep the button layout the same? We could all agree on the microUSB port as the standard charging and PC connection port – why not the hardware buttons. I guess it’s a moot point now, given that Android 4.0 renders all hardware buttons useless. But I digress.
Nothing special here – it’s Gingerbread 2.3.3 with Sony’s Xperia UI. As much as I prefer a vanilla Android UI, this one is pretty nice. Kind of a cross between the stock Android (AOSP) and TouchWiz without all the bloat that TouchWiz brings. It’s smooth, clean and pretty lightweight in the power consumption area. Sony also stated that the Play will be getting the Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) update in late April / early May timeframe.
Ok. So like I stated earlier, I am not a gamer. I just am not. If I ever do play a game it’s usually for a quick game of Madden or Sudoku. That being said – this phone must have some sort of addiction-giving outer shell or something. I couldn’t stop playing the wealth of preloaded games (Asphalt 6, Crash Bandicoot, Dungeon Defenders, Madden NFL 11, Star Battalion, The Sims 3, and Tower Bloxx). The only two I didn’t play all that often was The Sims 3 and Crash Bandicoot. Other than that, I was constantly grabbing the Play to play (pun intended again) a game – didn’t matter how long I had, I made the most of that time. So much so that I got the shakes if I wasn’t messing with the Play. Ok – maybe not that bad. But I am telling you… being able to play many of the most addictive games available on the PlayStation, and many others available in Sony Ericsson’s special Android Market area – can’t beat that.
IN THE BOX
When you get this device from AT&T you receive a number of really cool accessories in addition to the normal stuff:
- Wall travel charger with USB port
- USB cable for charging and PC connection
- DK300 Multimedia Dock
- 2GB microSD card
- earbud headphones
The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY 4G is not for everyone. But it is for someone that wants the combined functionality of an Android smartphone with the leisurely activity of playing some arcade games on that same phone. The fact that this is going to be getting Android 4.0 makes it even more of an attractive mid-range smartphone option.
RATING: 4 droids (out of 5)