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Sony Ericsson blends Android and Playstation with Xperia PLAY

16 Feb 2011
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Detailed video breakdown of exciting new hybrid handset

Today we got a full demonstration and a hands-on first look at the much-talked about PlayStation phone - now officially unveiled as the Xperia Play. You can get a really good feel for how the device works but watching our video above.

Playing games on the handset is very different from playing games on a touchscreen. That's not to say we don't like smartphone games, as there's lot of innovation there - thanks to the touch interface and low development budgets. Where those games usually fall down though, is when they try to recreate buttons and joypads onscreen - as they have no feedback and take up the already limited screen space.

By comparison the Xperia Play is a big step forward, but in some ways it's also a step back. The slick 3D graphics whoosh by at 60fps, all good there, but there's something remarkably retro feeling about playing games with the directional buttons. The analogue touch pads could add a more modern twist, but we found them fiddly and went back to driving on the directional buttons.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play open

This retro feeling is backed up by the five bundled games, which cover the expected console genres (fighting, driving etc), but didn't seem to shine with personality. Better news is that there will be 50 games from launch, with the PlayStation team (Sony Computer Entertainment) in charge of providing the content. The games will be downloadable directly from the Android Marketplace and should include PlayStation classics reowrked for the Play. Big name titles will include new versions of EA’s The Sims 3 and FIFA 10, Guitar Hero, Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell.

As an Android phone it's nothing to get too excited about, though it's certainly fast and has a lovely 4in, high resolution 480x854 display. Despite the slide out gaming controls, it's still reasonably svelte at 119x62x16mm and 175g in weight. Despite extensive customisatin to the Android interface, it will be shipping with 2.3 in March. And as a high-profile handset, you'll get neat extras on offer, such as this bedside dock with audio output, which when in use, automatically launches an alarm clock app.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play dock

We had a lengthy hands-on with the Xperia Play, and have to say we came away with mixed feelings. Admittedly no sliding design is going to match up to the slab-like build quality of more simple handsets; but we still felt it could have felt slicker and sturdier.

We wouldn't normally complain, but Sony Ericsson is pitching the Xperia Play as a high-end device, one that may well cost £550 SIM free, or around £35 upwards on contract. That's a lot of money and we'd need to see a far more persuasive software line-up before parting with that kind of money.

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