Sony Ericsson is looking to take mobile gaming to the next level with the Xperia Play Android smartphone ($200 with a new two-year contract on Verizon; price as of May 20, 2011). The Xperia Play features a slide-out gamepad for gamers who want more than touchscreen-only controls.
Bulky but unique design
I have to hand it to Sony for trying to add some class to the Play. The piano black finish and chrome trim make the phone shine—until you pick it up and get fingerprints all over it. The phone’s look and feel are very reminiscent of the PSP Go, and the Play’s 4-inch capacitive touchscreen does a good job of displaying colors and text. At 4.7 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.6 inch, the Play is a bit bulky, though no more so than other phones we’ve seen that come with slide-out full QWERTY keyboards. The Play weighs 6.2 ounces, so it feels heavy but sturdy in hand.
The phone’s power button and notification light sit at the top of the device; along the left spine are the headphone and charging ports. The volume rocker and gamepad shoulder buttons occupy the right spine, and on the back of the Play is a 5-megapixel camera. On the face of the device you’ll find the four standard Android buttons (Back, Home, Menu, and Search), as well as a VGA front-facing camera for video chat.
The slide-out gamepad on the Xperia Play is definitely the phone’s coolest feature. Though not as good as gamepads on dedicated portable gaming systems, the Play’s worked reasonably well with several games I downloaded from the Android Market. The gamepad is set up much like Sony’s DualShock controllers, albeit with a few differences. For starters, two touchpads are set up in the place where you’d find the analog sticks on the DualShock. I couldn’t find many games in the Android Market that use touchpads, which in any case were not sensitive enough for most twitch-based first-person shooters. Both the D-pad and the face buttons (X, Square, Triangle, and O) were very responsive, but they felt stiff and a bit too sunken in, making them hard to press. The Start and Select buttons are awkwardly placed below the face buttons, and there’s a Menu button under the D-pad as well. More often than not, when I tried to quickly pause the game I was playing, I ended up pressing the Select button instead. Also, the shoulder buttons were too spongy and flimsy for my taste; I wish that they had had a little more resistance.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.