I’ve been a fan of the PSP for a long time and although I’ve been following the latest developments in that arena – considering the NGP – I’ve been looking forward to the PSP phone aka the Xperia Play a lot more. I’ve been covering this device since it was but a rumour so naturally, I just had to be there when Sony Ericsson launched both the Xperia Play and the Arc into the Indian market. Since I had already reviewed the Xperia Arc I was eager to see just what the Xperia Play had to offer. Grabbing the opportunity to ‘play’ around with the device here’s what I thought.

Form Factor
It’s a bit of a bulky handset which is in stark contrast to the Arc that I had been using for the last week. It’s bulkier and heavier, obviously, considering it’s pretty much a PSP Go with a phone thrown in. The Play has taken on the more traditional Human Curvature form that Sony Ericsson concocted last year. Irrespective of the size or the weight, the handset felt very comfortable to use both as a phone and as a gaming device.

 

The gaming keypad slid out smoothly and the buttons are well spaced to make for comfortable gameplay even at long intervals. The gaming keys at the top, however, accessible from behind the display (when opened) will take a little getting used to for access. Those with slim or long fingers won’t have an issue. But after about 10 minutes of thrashing around with the device it was quite evident that this was designed to be exactly what one would look for if they wanted a slightly better mobile phone gaming experience.

Gaming keys galore

Gaming keys galore

I’m certainly glad Sony Ericsson decided to retain the large high resolution display but was a little disappointed with the lack of an HDMI port. Imagine being able to hook up the handset to an HDTV (like the Arc) and playing games on a large screen. Then again Sony’s own NGP doesn’t seem to feature HDMI out support either.

On the whole, I believe the Xperia Play to be a rather robust handset that’s quite well designed for comfortable use on both of its major USPs.

Features
Loaded up with a Qualcomm Scorpion processor of the 1Ghz variety, the Play is designed to offer quite a bit of functionality and power management to users. With the added support of Google’s Gingerbread version of the Android OS, things have the potential to be quite fluid and controlled. The test units that were available at the launch proved to be quite smooth with virtually no lag whatsoever while scrolling through menus, accessing apps or any other functions. I doubt there’ll be an issue with speed when the handset finally makes it to my review lab. Here’s hoping.

Android 2.2 on a Scorpion Processor

Android 2.2 on a Scorpion Processor

The Play is the first and so far only mobile handset that’s PlayStation certified. The PlayStation Suite for downloading excusive Xperia Play games will be out anytime now and pre-loaded onto the device. There will also be a recommendation feature for the frequent gamers. Games will be priced at about Rs. 250 give or take but with the Play you’ll get a total of six free games bundled. Users will also be able to host an arena and play wirelessly with others. So far we were told that only one game has been designed to be used with the touch sensitive controls, the rest you’ll have to use with the buttons.

PlayStation Pocket for all your gaming needs

PlayStation Pocket for all your gaming needs

Amongst the handset’s feature list is active noise cancellation just like in the Arc with a dedicated microphone for cutting out ambient sounds.

Media
A 5 megapixel autofocus camera is also on board and from what I saw; image quality was not too shabby. Again, it’s an aspect that I’ll need to test properly. Audio quality was on par with the Arc thanks to the EQ presets and Sony Ericsson’s Infinite button provided for access to corresponding YouTube videos. Unfortunately, the Play is also sans codec support for DivX and XviD formats. I also got a chance to test the FM radio.

8Gb microSD card (hot swap) provided

8Gb microSD card (hot swap) provided

Gameplay
The few games that were available for us to test at the launch included Crash Bandicoot and Bruce Lee. I’ve played these games on other mobile handset and the iPad but this was a much better experience. The controls, like I said were comfortable. With support for 3D, gesture based and motion based gaming the Xperia Play is a full house. Handling was fluid and I found nothing to really complain about. The keys are quite soft so they don’t start feeling awkward after awhile.

Compared to the Arc

Compared to the Arc

Price
The Xperia Play will be priced at Rs. 35,000 which is the MRP. Taking into account the handset's USP, I think it’s still a tad over priced. However, the MOP would be much cheaper and would be in the range of Rs. 30,000 which would significantly boost it’s overall worth.

This is about all I can tell you for now, but do stay tuned for the full review where I’ll go into a little bit more detail after being able to use the handset for more than just a few minutes.

If any of you readers happen to be using the handset already, do let us know, via our comments section or the Discussion board, just what your experience has been.

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