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Xperia Play review – PlayStation games on an Android smartphone

July 15, 2011

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews,Games

Post image for Xperia Play review – PlayStation games on an Android smartphone

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play – which from here on out we’ll call the “Xperia” – is a cellphone well-designed for one thing, gaming. More specifically, it’s a Playstation / PSP emulator that does a great job in bringing Sony Playstation ports to an Android smartphone.

When the Xperia is closed it’s in stealth mode, looking like a normal Android smartphone (albeit with a couple extra side buttons). It’s small and elegant, all black and chrome.

The magic happens when you open the phone. When you do so, the “Xperia Play” application automatically loads, presenting you with a list of games to play. The Xperia comes preloaded with seven of them: Madden NFL 11, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, The Sims 3, Star Battalion, Crash Bandicoot and Tetris.  If you want more games, get them from Verizion’s V CAST Apps store.

(Speaking of more games: If you are a developer and would like to design applications for the Xperia, Verizon wants you! Visit for info on Xperia game development.)

Whereas in some other phones you might get a slide-out physical keyboard, here you get a Sony game pad: There is a directional keypad, two analog touch-sensitive joysticks, two shoulder buttons and the four PlayStation symbol keys, a circle, X, square and triangle.

When rating a phone like this, one focused so heavily on the gaming experience, I’ll review those aspects most crucial to gaming itself:

Game performance and graphics

The Xperia has “only” a 1GHz processor, but that’s just fine, because it also has a dedicated GPU! This means gaming performance was excellent. When I played games, there was no lag at any time. Performance – particularly on a phone like this – is critical. Performance was just as I expected it to be. In-game performance, screen rendering, graphics updating, and everything else related to good gameplay – met or exceeded my expectations. (Note that I did not perform CPU stress-testing – when I played games, I made sure I wasn’t doing anything else on the phone.)

Control and playability

I have annoyingly thick fingers, but had no problem using the Xperia’s joystick buttons. All were nicely tactile and performed as they should. The gaming experience was as normal as if I were playing on a gaming console like, well, a PlayStation.

I found myself using the directional keypad most often. The analog touch-sensitive equivalents worked, but either are a little off in terms of sensitivity or take a longer learning curve than what I was willing to commit to. They’re designed to respond as you slide your fingers over them, which (even with adjustments to their sensitivity) caused them to sometimes work as expected, and other times to not detect my touch that well, requiring me to perform a second swipe. Not good for action games.

These analog joysticks also seem to be single-touch, which means in some games you must use the up/down/left/right buttons instead. An example is in the preloaded game “Star Battalion”, where you have to press left and right at the same time in order to perform a special move. The analog sticks do not support this.

The short story: Analog controls are really handy in gaming, but as designed here they didn’t work well for me. The regular PlayStation keypads work just fine, and are what I prefer to use.

Battery life

The Xperia Play application – the app that runs and manages gameplay – is an Android system application, which makes it very hard to tell how much battery the phone is eating while you’re playing games. Therefore, I couldn’t get a good measurement on expected battery life while playing games.  However, the Xperia’s battery is larger than normal. At 1500mAh, it will last longer than most similarly-sized smartphones.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play stats and functionality

CPU: 1 GHz Qualcomm® Snapdragon® II processor with Adreno 205 GPU
Memory: 384MB internal (estimated), 8GB external (microSD)
Screen size: 4″ multi-touch, 480 x 854
Network: 3G CDMA
Wireless: Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth.
OS: Android 2.3 “Gingerbread”
Camera: 5MP rear-facing, VGA front-facing
Size: 119 x 62 x 16 mm
Battery: 1500 mAh
Other cool things
: Adobe Flash Player, Mobile hotspot capability to share a 3G connection with up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices.


The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is a smartphone focused primarily on gaming in the PlayStation environment. As such, it’s not for everyone – while the phone supports all the Verizon features and apps we’re used to, and can sync and work with Enterprise office environments, the user who purchases the Xperia will be a gamer. And those gamers will not be disappointed. The Xperia is a well-designed combination of smartphone and PlayStation emulator.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is available from Verizon Wireless for $200.

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