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The Sony PlayStation Meets The Smartphone -- Device Review

Posted Thursday, October 20, 2011, at 12:25 AM

The Xperia Play 4G from Sony/Ericsson. The first PlayStation certified smartphone.
With both smartphones and portable gaming at a peak in popularity, it was only a matter of time before the first certified PlayStation smartphone appeared. The folks over at AT&T let me spend a week with the new Xperia Play 4G from Sony/Ericsson. Simply put, the device is a modern Android touch screen smartphone with a slide-out PlayStation controller...yes slide-out PlayStation controller!

Some of you reading this blog are scratching your head right now trying to figure out why on earth this product exists, while others just had an increase in heart rate. If you are excited by this phone then chances are you are a gamer. I am personally not a hard core gamer (Pac-Man, Angry Birds, and Words with Friends don't count), so to properly review the gaming pros and cons of the Xperia Play 4G I enlisted the help of a gaming expert. That expert was my Jr High aged son. I knew that if anyone could tell me the real details of the devices playability it would be a teenager.

My young expert was instantly in-tune with the Xperia Play 4G's slide-out PlayStation controller, which features a directional keypad, dual analog touch joystick, dual shoulder buttons, and the four iconic PlayStation symbol keys: circle, X, square, and triangle. He thought the button response time was a little slow on some of the games but he said he could live with that.

The device comes preloaded with 7 full featured games including Madden NFL 11, The Sims 3, and Crash Bandicoot. AT&T customers have access to over 150 games that have been optimized for the Xperia Play 4G. Game play was quick and crisp thanks to the built in Snapdragon chipset that includes a 1GHz main processor and dedicated Adreno graphics processor. That's more power than many netbook computers that people own. An included game titled Star Battalion seemed to be the favorite of both my young expert and myself. His official rating was 9 out of 10 for game play, and he's the expert.

Now we certainly can't forget that the Xperia Play 4G a great smartphone as well. It comes with the Android Gingerbread 2.3.3 operating system, 4" LCD touch screen, stereo speakers, and dual cameras (5MP rear and VGA quality forward-facing). The unit also has a few "hard" buttons on the face and sides for various functions when not using the touch screen. A docking/charging station is included in the box along with a wired stereo headset. (The docking/charging station is great for watching videos at a desk or hooking the phone up to a home stereo system.) Popular apps like Facebook, Gmail, etc. come preloaded. It comes with an 8GB micro-SD card installed but can handle a card up to 32GB. The phone can achieve 4G speeds thanks to HSPA+ which AT&T offers in our Cape Girardeau area.

While the Xperia Play 4G is a superstar at gaming, its average at being a smartphone. Don't misread that as a bad thing...that's what Sony/Ericsson designed it to be. The phones hard buttons are a bit cheap feeling to me and the phone feels more sluggish doing tasks than other higher end Android phones. Voice call quality is great, along with smooth text message capabilities, quick internet browsing and easy email access. Connecting and downloading new apps from the Android Marketplace was simple and stress free as well. Picture quality from the rear 5MP camera is on par with other smartphones.

The HSPA+ data speeds are a standout worth mentioning. HSPA+ speeds from AT&T are the fastest available in our area. In the side by side testing I did, the Xperia Play 4G had over four times the download speeds of a 3G phone. I realize that there are fewer HSPA+ devices on the AT&T network right now than there are 3G devices, but still that's impressive!

This may be the perfect phone to consider if you are a gamer or maybe have a teen that is. While it may be average as an Android smartphone, it certainly excels as a mobile gaming device. It wouldn't be the first certified PlayStation phone if it didn't. My official Technosaurus rating for the Xperia Play 4G from Sony/Ericsson is 8 out 10 stars.

Note: for more info visit www.att.com

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Gregory has spent the last 20-plus years selling, installing, servicing and teaching others about consumer electronics and technology. He's the proud soccer dad of two kids and an avid musician and songwriter, with personal works available on six continents (working on Antarctica). He's also a huge photography buff. In his blog he writes about, what else, technology.