Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play R800i

Review: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play R800i

Written by Strategist on the 5th of April 2011 at 21:17

The Xperia Play is in large part just a gimmick. But for gamers it might be the gimmick that will sell. My question is a simple one: Is it worth the bucks?

There's a saying that goes the best camera is the one you always bring along. As a gamer I would like to adapt that saying and claim the same goes for consoles. In which case Sony Ericssons formula of a hybrid between a smartphone and handheld console might be just about it.

Xperia Play is the very first phone to hit the shelves with big brother Sony's Playstation Suite certification. This is what Sony has called their platform for releasing old licenses to smartphones. In short it's a way to earn new bucks on old Playstation One titles. What Sony's up against is the not-entirely-legal Playtation One emulators that have popped up on the Android Market lately and has of course been around for other platforms for a while. Sony wants to profit from peoples nostalgia and that's of course fully understandable and entirely within their rights as it happens. Sony Ericsson claims there'll be 50 titles available for the Xperia Play come release (which was on Friday, 1st of April).

I've also tested the Xperia Arc, which is perhaps the real flagship model of Sony Ericsson's. However Xperia Play is certainly the most interesting to us gamers, and even clearly the one recieving the most attention from Sony Ericsson themselves. In the UK alone they reportedly sport a massive advertising budget of £4 million for their three new phones in the Xperia line, the Neo, the Arc and the Play with the Play getting clearly the most attention in ads, ads and even more ads. It's clear that Sony Ericsson is targeting gamers as a market. Considering it's ambitions as a tie-in between handheld console and smartphone it is obvious that the Xperia Play will be sporting some sparkling hardware under the hood.

Design and build quality
The Xperia Play is smaller than the Arc. In return it's a way thicker and heavier phone. 16 millimeters thick makes it almost twice as thick as the Arc is at it's thinnest. If we put them side by side the Arc is about the same thickness as the gamepad of Xperia Play alone.

It might be a bit bumpy and bulky in the pocket of your jeans, and it is in no way as discrete in the inner pocket of your jacket as the Arc. There's a very recognizable weight against your chest. However the rounded sides and the bi-convex shape of the phone glides easily down into your jeans' pockets. It also lies very good in the shape of your hand. While it has a distinct weight to it, it's almost as if I don't won't to put it aside.

The material covering the back and sides of the Play is distinctly plastic. On the sides there's metallish looking silver coloured stripes, but even this isn't anything but plastic. Sony Ericsson has obviously saved a couple of bucks by choosing simpler and cheaper materials for the outer parts of Xperia Play. By no means does this imply that the hardware packed inside the Play need to be taken from the same shelf, but it does not give the same premium feel that you get from phones the like of Nokias N8 with its durable aluminum cover. There's a bit too much squeaks and creaks from the plastic rear cover. Apart from this the rear cover of the phone is much closer attached to the phone than that of the Arc which only hangs by a couple of hinges. On the other hand the rear cover of the Xperia Play is almost attached at too many points. It's not that easy to pry it off, and as it is so clearly plastic I'm left worried that I'll break the cover in half if I pry too hard.

The Xperia Play has four buttons face-side bellow the screen. These are from the left; the back-button, a home-button, a menu-button and a search-button. These are distinct and marked and easy to use without having to actually look to find out what button you're pressing. There's just the right amount of pressure required to press them, and although they are of plastic as well and moving a bit around in their place, they seem durable enough.

The On/Off-button is far more distinctly placed and easy to use than that of Xperia Arc. Placing it too the right removes it from where you would naturally put pressure to hold the device while playing using the gamepad. However I sometimes accidentally press it as I try to press the L-button while using the gamepad. This of course pauses my game and prompts me if I want to shut off the device, which is irritating. Still, I don't see how Sony Ericsson could have made a better On/Off-button unless they made it tinier and harder to press, which would also have received my complaint. The best here is to not hold the gamepad in too tight a grasp, which will also be better for your thumbs and wrists as soon more UK children are injured from repetitive strain injuries than from falling from trees. I'll return to the quality and comfort of the gamepad, including the L- and R-buttons on the right hand side, later on in this review.

There's also a volume rocker on the left side of the phone which operates well, although it is placed a bit too low. It had to be as the L- and R-buttons take precedence and confine it to be placed at the centre between them.


The contents of the box that Xperia Play comes in are as follows:

-Xperia Play phone
-Micro SDHC memory card of 8 gigabytes

As with all never Sony Ericsson phones there's no paper manual. The user guide is placed as a digital copy on the phone memory card. There's also no CD with synchronization software. This is also placed on the memory card for installation with the connection of the phone. The software is simple to use, but has some advanced features. The only hiccup is that there's a lot of small programs in one, which is rather unintuitive and clumsy. Also the software is not for Mac.

That there's a memory card contained in the box is positive, but absolutely necessary, as there's not much internal memory in the phone. After downloading quite a few apps I was prompted to remove some of my apps to the SD-card to preserve the internal memory and the speed of the phone. There's only 380 megabyte user available internal storage. So you'll need the 8 GB that comes with the phone. Even that may be too little, considering you're supposed to load a bunch of games onto the phone eventually. I never got there during my time with the phone so far as there's not that many games available yet.

Also, while the cable of the charger that comes with the Xperia Arc is far too short for almost anything, the charger accompanying Play is, luckily, longer. Which means you'll be able to actually use the phone while charging, which you'll have to do a lot.

Newest Android
The Xperia Play comes loaded with the newest version of Android. Which is Android 2.3 called Gingerbread. Sony Ericsson are also promising that they'll be smarting in keeping their Android phones updated with Android updates in the future, as they have taken heavy criticism for being slow at releasing software updates.

Gingerbread is definitely a faster and smoother operating system, and Sony Ericsson has also had time to place on top their own user interface. It has five screens and Sony Ericsson has made a lot of smart, user friendly choices as well as keeping it from dragging the phone. There's no lag to speak of in the menus. It's also quite nice to look at. A nice function lets you use two fingers and press them together to show all the widgets on one screen.

Few apps and widgets preinstalled
The UI lets you organize the apps installed automatically after when they were installed, alphabetically, how often they are used, or you can drag them around in the order you prefer.

Sony Ericsson hasn't preinstalled many apps on the phone. There's no navigation software, other than Google Maps for instance. There's a few worth to mention though.

Twitter and Facebook is integrated even more seamlessly than ever with this Android phone through Sony Ericsson's Timescape widget, which basically shows you all the information from your social networking services and SMSes as well as incoming phone calls. The widget also lets you upload a status to one or both of the social networks (Twitter, Facebook). I loved the way the Timeshare app presents all the updates from my social networking profiles all in one batch and lets me flip through all the days statuses and posts in a minute. If you're addicted to your daily dose of social media then this will make your life a lot easier - and more "connected". Only issue is the widget quirking and being slow sometimes as it downloads data from the social networks to the phone.

Sony Ericsson's app TrackID for identifying songs has also been preinstalled, as well as an app called simply Postcard, which lets you take a picture with the phone camera and send physically as a postcard to an address. First postcard is free. There's also, of course, a couple of games and no less than three different apps for keeping track of your games for Xperia Play.

E-mail attachments
There's of course a nice and seamless integration of Google Mail, and also an Exchange mail application. If you receive an attachment containing an Office file, this can be viewed with the app Office Suite. It's the free version that comes preloaded, and the version that costs money can also edit and create documents.

Impressive hardware
The hardware under the hood of Xperia Play is naturally associated with high demands for performane. Sony wouldn't mind you buying a handheld console (the PSP of course) as well. But Sony Ericsson wants first to tempt you to buy the Xperia Play for muchs the same reasons.

The phone is equipped with a 1 GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno GPU and Snapdragon-chipset. That powerful components, though not quite as powerful as the dual core processor of LG's Optimus 2X for instance. There's also 512 megabyte of RAM. The hardware does the job well, with no
lag in the main user interface or when shifting through the widget-screens. There's usually no lag in any game unless you run another application at the same time, though there might be loading times. All games run usually smooth.

Small things that impressed me are such as the fact that the phone senses when you remove the rear cover and unmounts the SD-card which is also together with the SIM-car placed very easily accessible once you get the rear cover off. Once you replace the cover with the SD-card inside the phone mounts the card again automatically.

Nine years since '9/11'

Nine years since '9/11'

Written by Strategist on the 11th of September 2010 at 16:22

Today nine years has passed since the world was shocked by the attacks on World Trade Center in New York, September 11th 2001. Previously the world's tallest buildings, the two towers was hit by two planes and consequently collapsed completely into a pile of rubble and dust. Also the Pentagon and United Airlines' Flight 93 were attacked by the Al-Qaeda terrorists. In all four planes were hijacked that day nine years ago.
The attacks immediately attracted massive media attention and was met with disbelief and shocked panic. The attacks on the two towers was in part sent Live by CNN. The footage from CNN Live can still be watched on YouTube.

Both towers collapsed within two hours after impacted by the hijacked planes. It still stands as the only time in history that steel-framed buildings has completely and progressively collapsed. 2 977 people plus the 19 hijackers died in the terrorist attacks.

The terror shook the american public, as well as the world, and hence triggered George W. Bush's War on Terror. Subsequent to the 9/11 attacks as a consequence numerous more lives have been lost in the U.S invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The reprisal terror of the USA have led them into the stagnancy they still suffer from in Asia.

This year the anniversary for the event coincides with the muslim celebration of Eid. This has caused several controversial religious and ideological clashes. Most notably the planned burning of two hundred copies of the Qur'ān (no word on wether they are Holy - at least half in Arabic) by a Florida Church led by Pastor Terry Jones (not the Monty Python Terry Jones).

For my part '9/11' nearly passed me by without particular notice. Not until the evening that Tuesday nine years ago did I register the news and understand that this was more than just a curious minor event of local importance to New York. That this was a historic event with worldwide importance and consequences. I had of course registered mention of the news throughout the day at school. It had not, however, registered with me that this had anything to do with me, so I did not take notice of the content of the talks. Later I have however found much more understanding of and interest in this historic event.

Where were you when this catastrophic event happened?
When did you become aware of what had happened?



Written by Strategist on the 23rd of August 2010 at 01:47

My first week at the University is at an end. More precisely it ended a few hours ago.

We started Tuesday. Place: University of Oslo, Blindern. This week was dedicated to introduce us to life at the University. It seems to me it all revolves around booze.

We got joined into groups the first day, each group with a couple of "buddies" that were to take care of us and introduce us to the University. I was in a group with a few of the other 150 history-students.

The average age seems to be quite high, and the intake of alcohol is a prerequisite for social interaction to happen. Suits me just fine. I don't want to drink. I don't want to talk.

There was a few information lectures as well, but I hope next week will bring serious business.

Headed for home

Headed for home

Written by Strategist on the 12th of August 2010 at 21:23

Okay. So my final blog of this journey, the one about the return journey from England, is a bit late. But I blame jet-lag.

Our flight was scheduled from Gatwick Airport at 09:10, which translates into quite early in the morning for us...
We estimated for ourself a minimum of time and set the clock to ring at 0600 hours.

We had half an hour to pack up our stuff and get ready to leave. Then half an hour to get our asses from the hostel to Paddington station and take the Bakerloo line to Victoria Station, where the Gatwick Express left about about a quarter past seven. Half an hour later we entered Gatwick Airport and immediately found where to check-in, right next to the entrance. From there, everything went mostly smoothly, except that we decided to get ourself some breakfast, which left us with very little to no time at all to find our gate.

We landed pretty accurately three hours after takeoff, after two hours flight-time.
Then I: Came home, by train, to an empty house. Packed out. Checked if the Internet was still there. Packed out a bit more. Checked again that the Internet was really still there. Watched some TV while eating. Checked that nothing serious had happened to or on the Internet while I was away. Went to bed. End of visit. End of holiday. End of summer. End of story.

Day 35: Last Day

Day 35: Last Day

Written by Strategist on the 11th of August 2010 at 00:46

Our last day of the journey didn't start well at all. When it knocked on our door early in the morning (about noon) we the hostel personnel asked us wtf we were still doing there.

Turns out we hadn't booked until the 11th as was what we had thought. Luckily they had the room free for today as well allowing us to pay for another night (not at a particularly good rate though). A day built for fail in other words.

After getting off with a bad start we went out into the City of London, visiting the Victorinox Flagship Store once more, and then past the U.S embassy to Hyde Park and Speaker's Corner.

In the picture bellow you can see the empty Speaker's Corner, and in the background the Marble Arch.
Sadly our last day was marked by rain and we didn't get to enjoy it particularly well. A bit of a bad end on the trip with the accumulation of fail and all.

I'll probably give you an update when I'm home in Norway safe and sound tomorrow, so i won't completely cancel off the trip or my blog jet. Stay tuned!