The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play needs no introduction if you've been following the mobile news like a bloodhound. Being the first PlayStation-certified device, this Android smartphone has to set the standards for devices aspiring to be the future of mobile gaming. While we got some hands-on time with the Xperia Play during its announcement at Mobile World Congress 2011, nothing beats the real deal, with full functionality and game content being made available on the unit.
Unlike the thinner Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, the Xperia Play is far from being a svelte and thin model. Measuring in at 16mm, the Xperia Play is nearly twice the thickness of its Arc sibling. The accompanying 175g weight is apparent the minute we held it in our hands. The Xperia Play has a mostly plastic exterior, which gave it a less than premium feel in terms of build quality.
Unlike the earlier Xperia phones, the Play comes with four physical buttons instead of the usual three - Back, Home and Menu. An additional Search button, which is often seen on other Android devices, has been added into the lineup. Right above the buttons is the 4-inch screen.
Fingerprints are definitely unavoidable on the Xperia Play, be it on the display, sides or rear of the device. Its 3.5mm audio and microUSB ports are located on the left profile, leaving the right profile for something that is quite familiar - shoulder buttons, otherwise known as the L and R buttons found on the PlayStation controller. As such, the volume button is now nestled between these shoulder buttons, which is a departure from the smartphone norm.
Once we slid the display to the right, we realized that the volume buttons sitting on the right profile isn't exactly easy to access in that position. Fortunately, the shoulder buttons don't share that predicament, since it is positioned slightly lower than the volume controls.
That aside, the Xperia Play's main attraction is found right under the display – the PlayStation control buttons. These buttons are responsive, but our thumbs just did not play too well with the flat and small controls. Touch-sensitive analog controls are positioned in the middle, with a start and Select button just below the distinctive PlayStation buttons. As we found out while play-testing the analog controls, they aren't always the best options.
An interesting point to note comes from the battery cover of the Xperia Play. Removing the said cover will trigger the device to unmount the microSD card. According to Sony Ericsson, a small switch is held down by the cover. Once removed, the switch is promptly lifted, which automatically unmounts the microSD card. Considering how the microSD card is hot-swappable, i.e. easily removed without removing the battery and shutting the device down, this is a very practical approach to prevent data corruption on your portable storage.