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My first couple of hours with the Xperia PLAY

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#1
PaulOBrien

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As I posted on Twitter, my Xperia PLAY arrived today! :D

I thought i'd post my thoughts after a first hour or so here... enjoy! If you have any questions, feel free to ask

Packaging

The Play comes in a box that conforms to Sony Ericsson's usual design, with a photos of the device on the front in both open and closed positions. The 'Playstation Certified' logo is proudly displayed, as well as logos for Quicktime, WiFi b/g/n certification, 5MP camera, 4" 480x854 screen and 3G HSPA.

Inside the box is the device itself, it's 1500mAh battery, a greenheart certified mains to USB adaptor, a microUSB cable, a fairly decent looking 3.5mm headset, a 16GB microSD and a leaflet entitled 'my first hour'. I must confess, i've not read it yet. :-D

Hardware

On first taking the deivce out of the box, there's no missing it's size and weight. It's chunky and hefty (tipping my scales at 174g), but it feels quite nice in the hand actually.

The front and the back of the device are fingerprint-magnet black plastic (to be honest I like the look of the white button better) with silver accents on each side and silver hardware buttons on the front.

The back of the device comes off in it's entirety to reveal the battery, SIM and microSD slots (both of which are accessible without removing the battery). I was caught out by the fact that removing the back unmounts the microSD in the OS. The back panel has the Sony Ericsson logo, Xperia Logo, the 5 Megapixel camera, a single LED flash and a hole for the secondary mic (it appears the Play has noice cancellation technology).

The front of the device has the speaker, the front camera, light / proximity sensors (strangely, since the software has no auto-brightness functionality), the 4" LCD screen and 4 hardware buttons. It's good to see hardware buttons rather than capacitive buttons (I prefer them), although in my limited use thus far I have pressed on the bottom of the screen a few times accidentally due to the keys' proximity to the screen. The case curves around at the top and the bottom.

The left hand side of the device has the microUSB port (at the bottom) and the 3.5mm headphone socket (at the top). This means the top and bottom of the device are free of connectors. The right hand side has the 'L and R' shoulder buttons for use when the joypad is slid open and the volume rocker in the middle.

Sliding open the joypad is something of a joy due to the beautifully sprung mechanism. Doing so opens the 'Xperia Play' application. The joypad consists of a 4 way d-pad, 2 analogue 'touch circles', the usual playstation triangle, square, circle and cross buttons, a menu button and select / start keys. Coupled with the shoulder buttons the joypad feels fabulous, which is useful since it is the real USP of this device. The buttons have a lovely positive click.

Under the skin, the Play packs a MSM7230 CPU (a-la-Desire Z) which performs pretty well, albeit lagging behind the latest dual core beasts such as the Optimus 2X. There's no internal storage per se, although the 16GB microSD bundled in box is a nice addition. Onboard storage in the /data partition is limited (reporting a total of 380M). RAM is showing as a shade over 400MB, again a reasonable amount but not market leading.

I'd quite like to see the right hand shoulder button mapped to camera functionality when the joypad is closed, that would be cool.

Lots of people have asked me what the screen is like. It's a good res, 480x854 and a good size, 4". Is the brightness OK? It's JUST about acceptable on maximum brightness (default). Just. It's certainly not up there with the best.

Software

The Xperia Play (aka the R800i, codenamed Zeus) is running Android Gingerbread 2.3.2. My device is running build 3.0.A.2.184, with kernel version 2.6.32.9.

The device is skinned with a Sony Ericsson skin that, thankfully, has evolved a fair amount since it's appearance on the X10. It moves about swiftly and appears at first look pretty well featured without hindering too much the strengths of the Android experience. The device software on the whole is 'grey and blue' in colour which looks pretty good, although checkboxes aren't overly clear at first glance as to whether they are checked or not.

Preloaded software out of the box includes the usual Android fare, Facebook, PlayNow (Sony Ericsson's Music portal), a sync application, TrackID, WhatsApp (a BBM type application), PlaystationPocket, Crash Bandicoot, Postcard, Bruce Lee, Star Battalion, Office Suite, Xperia Play, Media Server, BBC iPlayer, Get Games, FIFA 10, The Sims 3, LiveWare Manager and Tetris.

That's a decent complement of games off the bat, but unfortunately, the games experience feels somewhat disjointed. I expected to have 1 place to go to to see / get games, but that's not the case. PlaystationPocket shows the PS1 games that are installed / available, of which there is 1 preinstalled (Crash Bandicoot) and 5 available for download via the Android Market - Cool Boarders 2, Destruction Derby, Jumping Flash, MediEvil and Syphon Filter at £3.99 each!. Xperia Play is the application that launches when you open the joypad, and it seems to show installed games on one tab (except PlaystationPocket games) and a selection of 'approved' games on a second tab... but they just link to the market when you click them. It doesn't seem to show ALL installed games which makes me wonder exactly where it is building it's catalogue from. So that's two places to find games... next we have 'Get Games'. Which shows more games, I think the same ones as the 'Xperia Play' application... and again links to the Market. Confused? I'm not surprised...

For a device that is 100% targeted at being a games focused machine Sony Ericsson should have done much better in this regard, it is very confusing. I can run games from 3 apps + the launcher, install games from 3 apps + the market... ugh.

I haven't really as yet torture tested most of the apps on the Play, so I'll just talk about a few things i've noticed thus far...
  • The screen is set to 100% brightness by default and has no auto-brightness functionality, despite having a light sensor
  • The homescreen / launcher has no landscape support
  • The Sony Ericsson input keyboard is a little fiddly and has no press-to-hold functionality for inputting numbers. The vibrate on keypress is far too weak too... just install the stock Gingerbread keyboard.
  • My device includes a Chinese keyboard (it is definitely UK software though, iPlayer is in ROM)
  • There appear to be no APN settings for T-Mobile UK, although it can connect to the Internet and download them (duh!)
  • The camera application is the stock Android camera app - UGH, very disappointing. No 720P recording. It does let you switch to taking photos from
    the front camera though.
  • The play has MTP support

With regards to third party software, all i've installed so far is Gensoid and N64oid, with Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario Kart. Both play well (albeit not as well as on my Tegra equipped Optimus 2X) and benefit hugely from the joypad. As you'd expect!

Tech talk / Hackability

Obviously, in the brief time i've had the device i've done some digging too!

First stop was attempting root using the two most popular exploits, RATC and psneuter, both of which fail on the Play (so no super-straightforward root at this time).

The device sticks with Sony Ericssons usual architecture, so no recovery partition, boot partition etc. in the normal sense that's seen on the bulk of other devices. X10 hackers will be pretty familiar with the device layout.

'adb reboot recovery' therefore does nothing, 'adb reboot bootloader' reboots to a black screen (which merits further investigation).

Although Sony Ericsson have announced they are to provide bootloader unlock via fastboot, the information and required 'code generation' to do this are not online yet, so this needs checking out at a later date.

A look at the space available / used on the device...

$ /data/local/busybox df -h
Filesystem				Size	  Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/block/mtdblock0	312.5M	224.9M	 87.6M  72% /system
/dev/block/mtdblock3	380.0M	119.5M	260.5M  31% /data
/dev/block/mtdblock2	225.0M	  1.1M	223.9M   1% /cache
/dev/block/mtdblock1	 10.0M	  1.2M	  8.8M  12% /data/idd
And the RAM...

$ /data/local/busybox free
			 total		 used		 free	   shared	  buffers
Mem:		408852	   398960		 9892			0			0
-/+ buffers:			 398960		 9892
Swap:			0			0			0
And the mounts...
$ /data/local/busybox mount
rootfs on / type rootfs (ro,relatime)
tmpfs on /dev type tmpfs (rw,relatime,mode=755)
devpts on /dev/pts type devpts (rw,relatime,mode=600)
proc on /proc type proc (rw,relatime)
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw,relatime)
tmpfs on /mnt/asec type tmpfs (rw,relatime,mode=755,gid=1000)
tmpfs on /mnt/obb type tmpfs (rw,relatime,mode=755,gid=1000)
/dev/block/mtdblock0 on /system type yaffs2 (ro,relatime)
/dev/block/mtdblock3 on /data type yaffs2 (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime)
/dev/block/mtdblock2 on /cache type yaffs2 (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime)
/sys/kernel/debug on /sys/kernel/debug type debugfs (rw,relatime)
/dev/block/mtdblock1 on /data/idd type yaffs2 (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime)
$
And the MTD partitions...
$ cat /proc/mtd
dev:	size   erasesize  name
mtd0: 13880000 00020000 "system"
mtd1: 00a00000 00020000 "appslog"
mtd2: 0e100000 00020000 "cache"
mtd3: 17c00000 00020000 "userdata"
$

The Quadrant benchmark score for the device can be found here (apologies for the redness, DDMS weirdness!)

More to follow on the hacking side obviously. ;)

Wrap-up

So, there's my first thoughts after a couple of hours with the Xperia PLAY. How would I describe it in one sentence so far?

I'd probably say highs and lows with potential. The joypad is great, which is a real important factor on a device like this. The screen is somewhat disappointing and from a general use factor, i'll reserve judgement until i've got all my apps installed and really customised the device in line with my normal usage.

I guess what you really want to know is 'Should I buy this device?'

One COULD argue that in order to choose this device over the other offerings on the market (given it's bulk and weight) you would really have to want the joypad pretty bad. But that said, the joypad is rather good. There's no denying that the specs are not on the very leading edge, but at the same time, there's nothing that is particularly horribly out of date. In addition I've not checked out the planned carrier pricing as yet.

My advice to potential users would be to think about your likely usage (how much are you going to game?), try-before-you-buy if possible and my advice to Sony Ericsson would be to fill out the games catalogue quick smart together with sharpening up the cohesion of the whole games experience.

:D

P

I'll post more thoughts when i've had more of a play (groan) and explored a bit more. :(

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#2
Rhysd2

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sounds like a "maybe if you game a lot" sort of recommendation. I'll be checking it out in the shops along side the 2x but it'll have to do something verrrry impressive to convince me the game pad is of more benefit than the dual core. thanks for sharing your thoughts

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#3
artesea

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In addition I've not checked out the planned carrier pricing as yet.

Vodafone UK are doing the Play free on a 24m contract at £35/m (or £40/m for 18 months)

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#4
hecatae

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Vodafone UK are doing the Play free on a 24m contract at £35/m (or £40/m for 18 months)


if that's from Vodafone directly, chances are the bootloader will not be unlockable, sony ericsson have hinted that only unbranded will be bootloader unlockable

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#5
PaulOBrien

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Yeah, that could be an issue...

P

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#6
wicksta

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On the Playstation app, if you click on the magnifying glass icon there should be some more games available I think? 5 of them.

Edited by wicksta, 30 March 2011 - 11:49 AM.

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#7
bewA

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I think the device is ok but would it not make sense to get a better spec phone e.g. LG Optimus 2X or Galaxy S2 and use some Wii-motes and this... https://market.andro...e=search_result

and then plug one of those phones into a TV using HDMI

ok forget the second link I posted! (removed btw).

Edited by bewA, 30 March 2011 - 11:52 AM.

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#8
wicksta

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I think the device is ok but would it not make sense to get a better spec phone e.g. LG Optimus 2X or Galaxy S2 and use some Wii-motes and this... https://market.andro...e=search_result

and then plug one of those phones into a TV using HDMI

I think that kind of defeats the point really, this is a phone designed for mobile gaming. If I'm off on the train to watch football or something I don't want to be carrying a Wii-mote, and certainly not a TV. :D

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#9
bewA

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lol point taken! :D

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#10
PaulOBrien

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On the Playstation app, if you click on the magnifying glass icon there should be some more games available I think? 5 of them.

So there is! Cool Boarders 2, Destruction Derby, Jumping Flash, MediEvil and Syphon Filter...

£3.99 each?!? WTF!

P

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#11
wicksta

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So there is! Cool Boarders 2, Destruction Derby, Jumping Flash, MediEvil and Syphon Filter...

£3.99 each?!? WTF!

P

I got caught out the same way and didn't think there were any PS games, I had expected them to be in the 'Get Games' app! They really need to sort out the number of different processes for buying games don't they.

I was expecting more around £1.99 for the PSX games too. :D

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#12
PaulOBrien

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Yeah, agreed on both counts!

P

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#13
BMW 835

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What about Xperia PLAY games launcher?
https://market.andro...e=search_result

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#14
Sylar2010

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So Paul you are waiting that SE let us unlock bootloader or you are still trying to decypher it?
Í hope it will be lot easier than X10 and get your Modaco roms like any other HTC or Optimus 2x
I miss SE after a whole year with N1

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#15
starbearer

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im loving this fone, tho 1 flaw, every screen doesnt rotate, just the fixed one's....mayb im missing sumthin out or i would need to check a rotate option for this fone like there was 1 available for my omnia 2.

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#16
FearTheDroid

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sounds like a "maybe if you game a lot" sort of recommendation. I'll be checking it out in the shops along side the 2x but it'll have to do something verrrry impressive to convince me the game pad is of more benefit than the dual core. thanks for sharing your thoughts


I've had my PLAY for about 2 weeks now and agree totally with the "gamers recommendation" statement here. I'm a big gamer, especially portable gaming (have a PSP and 3DS and love them both) and I have to say thats what I'd say to anyone asking me.

Having said that, I've yet to find any lag in the system whatsover - it flies along at a brisk pace and I'm never waiting for it to do anything (net connection-dependant, of course). My thoughts are, if you ain't a big gamer then the extra money you end up paying through your contract would be better spent on the dual core goodness than the game pad.

For me, its my perfect phone, until its too slow to cope with whatever games/apps are out there (6-12 months probably?).

Just my 2 cents.

Edit: I should probably add that I'm using emulators for PS1, Genesis, and SNES on top of the PLAY-specific games. This probably helps raise my overall experience of the phone, as it means I'm not waiting for SCEE and publishers to release my old favourites :-)

Edited by FearTheDroid, 13 May 2011 - 02:51 PM.

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#17
AnDroiDMobSFreaK

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I've had my PLAY for about 2 weeks now and agree totally with the "gamers recommendation" statement here. I'm a big gamer, especially portable gaming (have a PSP and 3DS and love them both) and I have to say thats what I'd say to anyone asking me.

Having said that, I've yet to find any lag in the system whatsover - it flies along at a brisk pace and I'm never waiting for it to do anything (net connection-dependant, of course). My thoughts are, if you ain't a big gamer then the extra money you end up paying through your contract would be better spent on the dual core goodness than the game pad.

For me, its my perfect phone, until its too slow to cope with whatever games/apps are out there (6-12 months probably?).

Just my 2 cents.

Edit: I should probably add that I'm using emulators for PS1, Genesis, and SNES on top of the PLAY-specific games. This probably helps raise my overall experience of the phone, as it means I'm not waiting for SCEE and publishers to release my old favourites :-)


Hmm just got my play and it does have auto brightness :unsure:

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#18
PrakashDavid

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I'm planning to switch from HTC Desire Z to the Xperia PLAY which in fact was my first choice but had to let go due to it's high launch price. Now it's available on Amazon for £343. Are there any better offers than this? I also have a big doubt: does this device have the internet pass-through facility like the HTC Desire Z? Is it possible to download and install games through media go software at least? I just don't want to overshoot my data plan. I tend to use the internet pass through a lot on my HTC Desire Z so it would be great if the PLAY has it too.

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#19
Christian Edwards

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I'm thinking of upgrading from an Orange Monte Carlo, now you can get the Play for £180 (Argos Unlocked).
I'm not really a likely to play games on it but it seems like a better spec than my OMC with only a slightly smaller screen.
Is there any thing else I should consider? (I have £200 max for a NEW phone)

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#20
de_shepherd

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I'm thinking of upgrading from an Orange Monte Carlo, now you can get the Play for £180 (Argos Unlocked).
I'm not really a likely to play games on it but it seems like a better spec than my OMC with only a slightly smaller screen.
Is there any thing else I should consider? (I have £200 max for a NEW phone)


I've just moved to the play from a TMobile pulse ... OMC is a newer than the Pulse so has faster processor and a bit more RAM but fundamentally is the same "generation". Difference from Pulse to Play is amazing ... so much faster, browser has pinch to zoom, its a ARMv7 processor so flash etc plays (iPlayer works, videos play from news website pages etc). Sound quality (calls and music) feels better. Camera is much better (think its at last answered the question as to whether I ought to buy a cheap and small digital camera to carry around when I don't want to carry my main camera ... photos from the Play seem more than adeqaute for that sort of purpose)

For me having the game pad + the free games (Asphalt, FIFA, 2 versions of Need for Speed, Deadspace, Battlefield 2 etc) is a positive - not played a great deal but spending 5-10 minutes spare time on one of these is more interesting than Angry Birds.

Only caveat is that if you really don't intend to play games then you would have extra bulk from a feature you don't use (though its not excessive + for me I just don't seem to like small ultralight phones!) and, perhaps more importantly, the back of the phone is not solid as its a slider.

After using the Pulse for ~2 years I was on the look out for a new phone at the £150-£200 mark with a ~1GHZ ARMv7 as a min requirement ... had been thinking about the Huawei U8800 or an Acer Liquid MT which seemed to fit the bill but for me when the Play suddenly dropped into this price range it ticked all the boxes and the games were an added bonus which tipped the balance for me!

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