Gadget of the Week – Sony Ericson Xperia Play

Today’s most of the top-of-the-line Sony devices like the Xperia Z4, Xperia Z3, etc. come integrated with PlayStation features which make them excellent gaming devices, and the developers at XDA have also found a way to port these gaming features into other devices.

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But the smartphone landscape was not always like this and there were days in the past where gaming on an Android device seemed a little cumbersome, mainly due to the smaller screen sizes and the resolutions, which limited device makers from making bigger screens.

In 2011, Sony took its first shot at making a device that didn’t just attempt to bring in console quality gaming to Android Handhelds, but also looked like a joystick itself (at least when the slider was pulled out). The Sony Ericson Xperia Play was a “one-of-its-kind” device, and it seemed to resemble a PSP device in a mobile phone form factor.

The Sony Ericson Xperia Play had very good specifications for its time. It rocked a 4 inch LED-backlit display with a resolution of 400×854 pixels, making a pixel density of 245 ppi (which was great by 2011 standards). Under the hood was a 1 GHz single core Qualcomm Scorpion processor paired to an Adreno 205 GPU. It had 512 MB of RAM and 400 MB internal memory which can be expanded up to 32 GB by adding a MicroSD card.

While the chipset and RAM powering the smartphone may seem highly inferior today, it should be mentioned that a 1 GHz single core Qualcomm Scorpion was regarded as a high mid-end chipset at the time. The 512 MB of RAM was also plenty at the time when Androids were still running on Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread. It is hard not to feel astonished of the fact that we have come such a long way in just 4 years, octa-core processors and 3 GB of RAM have become the norm of the day, we even have 16 core GPUs floating here and there.

The Sony Ericson Xperia Play was also famous for its ingenious design which incorporated PSP style keys in a mobile form factor. Slide the Xperia Play and you’ll soon find the gaming controls hidden wonderfully behind the 4-inch screen. The slider has a spring mechanism which ensures that you don’t put in a lot of effort to slide in and slide out and it also produces a reassuring clicking sound to ensure that the device is locked into place. The handset does suffer from squeaking since Sony opted for average quality plastics, but the build quality is nevertheless sturdy.

The gaming controls includes a D-pad on the left and 4 PlayStation style buttons on the right, with two circular controls on the center which resemble the dual shock analog sticks on the PlayStation controllers.

These circular controllers are actually made out of touch sensors which act like a capacitive screen, but the fact that it is away from the screen is the added bonus, since it wouldn’t block your view while playing the game. The circular controllers have a marking in the center to help the user find the controls without looking at them. The device also has L and R style buttons at the back, which feels more like flappers rather than buttons and weren’t much reliable since they were either too sensitive or nonfunctional.

The Sony Ericson Xperia Play is a unique device in its own rights and it deserved to be treated specially, and that’s where game developers released unique titles which could make use of the added controls. Initially, the games library was barren, but many game developers started optimizing their existing games to support the Xperia Play controls, and there were even mods for certain games which allowed the usage these controls.

There is one feature that Sony has always been touted to be experts in and that is the camera. The Sony Ericson Xperia Play has a decent camera, in fact, it was really good in terms of 2011 standards. Initially, Sony offered a below average WVGA resolution for video recording, but after an update from Sony, the handset started recording videos in 720p at 30 fps, which is again very good by 2011 standards. The front camera is a VGA unit which was actually pretty much useless, since Android at that time didn’t support video recording, and people weren’t really into selfies either.

Except for the build quality issues and a couple of performance instabilities occasionally during the long course of time, the Sony Ericson Xperia Play was a wonderful device which offered handheld gaming and a very good smartphone in one single package.

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