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First View: Xperia Play

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If you happened to be passing by the Old Sorting Office on Tottenham Court Road on 31st March you could have been forgiven for wondering why there were at least 200 people queuing outside of what, to all intents and purposes, looks like a disused warehouse.

Looks can be deceiving, of course, and this was in fact the launch party for the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play smartphone.

As one of the queuing masses, I must say I was there with very few expectations. As an iPhone convert, I don’t pick up new smartphones expecting to find an “iPhone killer”, I’m not foolish enough to assume it’s that simple. But if I had to pick one thing that I was hoping for I guess it was for some form of Playstation Network syncing, similar to the Xbox Live integration of the Windows phone.

But could the Xperia Play really deliver the Playstation experience that I am sure so many of us were hoping for?

Overall my first impressions were very good, certainly better than I was expecting. The phone looked very nice, the screen was sharp and bright (although it was very dark in the room we were in), it has a good weight about it and as a phone its size is ideal.

The highlight for me, though, was most definitely the 5MP camera, in fact it is probably the best I’ve seen on a phone. I would love to have had a real chance to test it while the musical entertainment was on stage was on, as its ability to cope with low light suggested that it would be superb at a concert camera.

The phone interface is refreshingly non-iPhone too, which is always nice to see. It’s quick and smooth, and has a fancy ripple effect when you drop ‘widgets’ onto it. The phone itself has an internal 16gb memory, but it can be upgraded to 32gb.

Apparently it has a few cool features as a phone too, like noise cancellation, to cut out background sounds in busy environments. But fancy though it sounded, I obviously couldn’t test the phone on the night (even the best of noise cancelling devices would have struggled to drown out 500 people mumbling and a Nextmen DJ set).

So, to the “Play” part of the Xperia Play. That, after all, is why we would want to buy this ‘Playstation Approved’ smartphone right? Well actually…

I’ll be upfront and honest here, I wasn’t that impressed. I was promised greatness before I got my mitts on it. A frame rate “twice that of all other smartphones” and a game catalogue to “rival any handheld”. Maybe that should be back-catalogue, seeing as one of the six games it comes bundled with is Fifa 10 (yes TEN).

The frame rate may have been better, but the graphics were a let down. All told, I saw no real improvement from my 59p iPhone version of FIFA10 and that’s where the kicker lies. These games are going to be £7/£11 each and this was a real selling point for the evening too. “A great price, when you consider Playstation3 games cost anything up to £40” I was told.
Let’s not kid ourselves here, this is not a PSP phone, this is a Sony Ericsson phone, which is endorsed by Playstation. There is no PSN syncing, as far as my ‘expert’ could remember anyway, which immediately loses any points from me.

The control system itself does look good once you slide the phone open (much like the PSP Go), especially the touch pad analogue ‘sticks’, but there’s no escaping the fact that the touch pads, and the blade-thin triggers on the back, are very small, which makes the Xperia Play quite tricky to get to grips with.

I do feel as though I should point out that I only had my hands on the Xperia Play for all of 5 minutes, as there were so many party goers keen to get a proper look. But one question bugged me from the very beginning, why does the Xperia Play not come emblazoned with the Playstation logo. In fact, I didn’t hear the word Playstation mentioned once all evening. To me, that speaks volumes as to Sony’s own opinions on the ‘Play’ as a gaming device.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 at 10:57 am and is filed under General Gaming. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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