Sony Ericsson Xperia Play hands-on and initial review

The long-awaited Xperia Play from Sony Ericsson -- often referred to as the "PlayStation Phone" -- is finally hitting store shelves and some mailboxes, too. This phone has been rumored by the gaming community for the past few years, but really started getting some buzz Fall of 2010. From rumors, to leaks, devices in the wild, and weird Super Bowl commercials, this guy has been on a wild trip. But after all the hype and buzz around this gaming-phone, does it all finally come together and make the ultimate portable gaming-phone? You'll have to find out in our full review, but for now, hit the jump to read some initial hands-on impressions.

The Xperia Play is the first Xperia branded smartphone to join Verizon's lineups. There is no doubt that Verizon's "Droid" branding has helped Android get to where it is today. And it was a smart decision on Ericsson's behalf to bring their gaming device to Big Red. While it does not carry the "Droid" branding anywhere on the device, the Xperia Play offers a pure vanilla Android experience. That means no custom UIs, just plain ol' Android -- Gingerbread (2.3.2) to be exact. Well, don't forget your typical Verizon bloatware, though. That's inevitable.

Speaking of the Android experience, this guy packs a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU and Adreno 205 GPU, so moving in and out of apps was quite smooth. At this point in the game, anything running a 1GHz processor holds up with daily email, social networking, etc. They're nothing new. But I wonder why Sony Ericsson opted not to put in a dual-core processor, especially in today's marketplace. It makes you wonder if this thing was suppose to be out earlier. But enough about the software for now, let me jump into the feel of the hardware. I'll talk more software and gaming later on in our full review.

Immediately when picking up the Xperia Play you notice its heft. But not to scare anyone off, it's a good solid feel. It gives you that expensive electronics feel. While picking it up, you automatically want to slide it open and get a feel for the controls. The slide out controller setup has a really, really nice spring to it. It doesn't have that flimsy, "it's gonna break feel." Nice job, Ericsson. This is important for gamers who will be sliding this thing open left and right -- well, up and down.

Moving onto the buttons of the controller interface. The iconic PlayStation Square, Triangle, Circle, and X have a great clicky feel. The same goes for the directional buttons. Gamers who have held a 

PSP Go will feel right at home. Looking at the two side-by-side, it's very clear where the design came from. Next is the two analog touchpads. Both work very well. In the center of the two pads, is a little bump to help guide your fingers so you don't have to keep on looking down while playing.

On the front of the phone is a 4-inch, 854 x 480 FWVGA display. It's a decent enough resolution, but what really bothers me is the screen brightness. I feel like the screen is lacking that "pop," even on high brightness I wasn't phased by the display. Which is a bummer because most of the Xperia Play games are optimized in HD.

Going back to what I said earlier about the weight and expensive feel of the device, the battery door does not live up to that feel. It's rather light and flimsy. It kind of feel likes it would crack if was dropped. Also along the back, resides the shoulder buttons up on top. PlayStation gamers will reconize the "L" and "R" logos from other PlayStation devices. Both felt great -- with adequate spacing between the two.

All my life I've been a gamer, and whenever a new console or portable comes out, I get it. In the case of the Xperia Play, I've never been more excited to have gaming and Android collide. But, as much as I am excited, I'm afraid that this Sony Ericsson device will fizzle for many reasons. Look for more in my full review in the next few days. I'll also be covering gaming on the go.

Andrew Melnizek