Monday, April 11, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

By Nimish Dubey, ET Bureau

Price: Rs 35,000

NEW DELHI: Almost eight years ago, Nokia attempted to merge a smartphone with a gaming console with the N-Gage. More recently, Sony Ericsson attempted to merge motion-sensing gaming with telephony in the Yari. But these never did very well, so a certain amount of cynicism was inevitable when Sony Ericsson announced the Xperia Play, a smartphone that ran Android 2.3 with a slideout gamepad featuring controls similar to those seen on Sony's legendary PlayStation consoles.

Features: 4.0-inch, 480x854 capacitive touch screen, Android 2.3, 1Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 5MP camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, FM, 1500mAh battery, 175 grams

It is admittedly difficult to be impressed when you see the Xperia Play. In this era of uber-sleek, subcentimetre width devices, the Xperia Play comes across as chunky (16mm thick) with rounded, oval edges rather than sharp ones. The front is dominated by a 4-inch touchscreen, but the real star is the slide out gamepad, complete with direction keys (the triangle-square-circle-cross control buttons that are the trademark of PlayStation controllers), a touchpad, and buttons for menu, select and start.

Pros: Android 2.3, excellent touchscreen, dedicated gaming keypad

The volume rocker of the phone is unusually in the middle of the right side of the phone, a placement necessitated by the left and right gamepad buttons. The back is plastic and you'll see a 5MP camera with a flash. But if the looks of the Xperia Play are about ordinary, its innards are not. The phone packs in a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, graphics based on the Adreno 205 GPU, 512 MB RAM, a 8GB memory card (memory expandable to 32 GB), and every connectivity option you can think of.

Cons: Limited PlayStation games available, disappointing camera

And all of them perform very well too. Used just as a smartphone, the Xperia Play turns in a sterling performance, the large display, although a bit on the dim side, is great for browsing the Web and the specs allow Android to flex its mail and social networking muscleMind you, Sony Ericsson's Android layer is not in the same league as HTC Sense in terms of ease of use. The Timescape tool for accessing social networks, messages and calendars might look cool with updates appearing in the form of flickable cards, but can get to be a pain if you are the type that gets frequent updates (there is only so much flicking one can do)

The handset comes preloaded with some very decent games such as FIFA 10, Star Battalion, The Sims 3, Tetris, Bruce Lee and Crash Bandicoot. The graphics for the most part look good and the sound quality is excellent. Best of all, you do not need to touch the screen, allowing you so much more viewing space! Games pause when you get calls and let you resume from where they left off once you have finished talking.

A big disappointment was the relative lack of titles at the moment in the PlayStation Pocket (which links to supported games on the Android Market and publisher sites) and the fact that most of the games on offer also seemed targeted more at the hardcore gamer than the casual one, we downloaded Angry Birds from the Android Market but could not use the controller to play it, alas. But that should change in the coming days.

The Xperia Play will appeal to hardcore gaming fans who have a soft corner for the PlayStation, and want an Android phone too. The price, alas, will prove to be a massive deterrent for those looking to buy it as a smartphone that can also entertain. You can get a PS3, PS2 and a PSP for the same amount as a Play!

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