Sony Ericsson Xperia Play hands-on

Work, work, work... thanks to Sony Ericsson's new Xperia, mobiles are all about play again
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When Sony Ericsson outed the Xperia Arc at CES, we wondered why they hadn’t saved it for Mobile World Congress (on this week, in case it had escaped your notice). And this is the reason – the long-awaited Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, also known as the Zeus, PSP phone or any number of other aliases.

Put simply, it’s an Xperia Gingerbread smartphone with a PlayStation on the back. Well, a PSP really, but what’s important is that this is a seriously cool bit of gadgetry. Strange, then, that it should have such an unassuming face. Until you pop the control panel, there’s really nothing to suggest this is a hybrid gaming device. Slide back the touchscreen, though, and you’re in familiar territory. There’s no mistaking the PlayStation symbols and layout.

Let’s face it, the joy of getting involved in the Xperia Play’s phone antics pales in comparison to booting up Asphalt 6 and taking Sony Eric’s new model for a spin. So that’s what we did. We’ve played Asphalt on a few Android devices, and couldn’t discern any notable improvement in graphics quality or load time. But that’s before we get to the controls: the Xperia Play is made by its thumb-friendly gaming interface.

And it’s a notch above the PSP controls – or a Sixaxis PS3 controller – thanks to the touchpad controls found in the middle of the device. We found it easier to control our speeding ball of horsepower with the “hard” keys, but that’s probably a combination of early software and user inexperience.

Sony Ericsson says it’s based the control layout around the PS3. But there are only two shoulder buttons (L1 and R1) meaning you might find it harder to flit between the two media than SE’s making out.

Even so, next to prodding and swiping a touchscreen, the Xperia Play is a relative joy. The payoff is a comparatively bulky form that, combined with the Xperia Play’s plasticky build, will make it less alluring to style hounds. But for button mashers, those familiar symbols should prove a mighty temptation. We’ll be bringing you a full review soon enough.