The debate over the potential (or not, depending on your perspective) for cellular handsets to supplant dedicated portable gaming consoles was already at the 'dull roar' stage when Steve Jobs unveiled the first-generation iPhone in January 2007. Successive iPhone iterations, along with iOS ecosystem expansion to the iPod touch and iPad, have upped the argument amplification a notch or few, as have competitive offerings based on the Android, RIM, WebOS and Windows Mobile (now Windows Phone) operating systems.

Sony's approach to addressing the standalone-versus-cellphone debate is, if nothing else, intriguing. The multi-subsidiary company includes the game console division, of course, which is determined to do its utmost to maintain a lucrative dedicated-function portable hardware business. Yet Sony Computer Entertainment is also responsible for a plethora of game software titles, whose developers are likely challenged to sell as much content as possible, ideally but not necessarily exclusively running on Sony-branded hardware. And then there's Sony Ericsson, a joint venture company chartered with maintaining and expanding its status as a top-tier cellular handset manufacturer.

On one end of the strategy spectrum, Sony has to date produced four different models in its PlayStation Portable line; the original PSP-1000, PSP-2000, PSP-3000 and PSP Go. The upcoming PlayStation Vita successor, formally unveiled at June's E3 Conference with availability (beginning in Japan) slated for later this year, aspires to one-up even the most powerful current-generation smartphone with features such as a SoC containing a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU (clock speed currently unknown) and quad-core 200 MHz Imagination Technologies SGX543MP4+GPU, not to mention PS Vita's 5" OLED display. On the other end of the spectrum is Sony's PlayStation Certified program, unveiled in late January, which conceptually enables generic Android-based hardware to run PlayStation Suite content.

And in-between these two extremes is the subject of this particular writeup, Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play gaming cellphone:

The mythical 'PlayStation Phone' had been rumored for several years, but when it finally appeared in late March in 11 countries (not then including the United States), it was curiously absent any explicit 'PlayStation' branding. Sony Ericsson's initial U.S. carrier partner was Verizon, who began selling the handset in late May subsequent to its first official U.S. unveiling, a commercial which ran during February's Super Bowl. More recently, AT&T picked up the handset in mid-July. One week later, Verizon dropped the Xperia Play's contract-subsidized price to $99.99, from $199.99 at introduction. Was Verizon's action a competitive response to AT&T's entry, a reaction to poor Xperia Play sales, or some combination of these and/or other factors? Verizon's not saying, but let's see how well (or not) the handset performs to get a sense of its degree of market appeal.

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  • RoninX - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    Maybe they should just release a 3G/4G version of the Vita that makes calls.

    Then you would get by far the best portable gaming experience without having to carry two devices.
  • SimKill - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    But then battery life would go to the dogs.
  • etobare - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    There you make it sound as if xperia play didn't have access to android non-xperia play optimized games... i concur with much of the review but that may lead to confusion
  • Mike1111 - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    A gaming smartphone with fewer, more expensive and worse looking games compared to iOS devices? Why even bother. It's a niche market at best. To have a chance in the mainstream market the successor must have PS Vita-like hardware, graphics and kick-ass games. And should Apple ever decide to make an adequate Bluetooth profile available for (analog) gamepads then the dedicated gaming smartphone market is dead anyway.
  • lowlymarine - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    I just finished a run of BrowserMark on my Captivate (AT&T Galaxy S) and got a score of over 71,000. Admittedly I'm running at a fairly modest overclock of 1.2 GHz, but unless each one of those 200 MHz are imbued with pure magic, there's no way the likes of the Droid 3 and the Atrix should be doing worse. Similar with Sunspider - my 3193ms result (yes, on 0.9) beats out even the fastest device you've tested. I'm not using Firefox Mobile or something either; this is all with the stock AOSP browser.

    I'm just curious as to why there's the massive discrepancy in browser performance. My Linpack scores are, while still nearly 3 times what you've got for the SGS (largely attributable to the difference between Gingerbread and Eclair, I'm sure), no where near those of the dual-core powerhouses. I know the second core won't really help them on Sunspider et al., but certainly it shouldn't be hurting them?
  • Death666Angel - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Are you using other/newer kernels and roms? They usually add nice boosts to those benchmarks by either having better drivers, better optimizations or just fewer active programs. :-)
  • Vepsa - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    I considered getting a Xperia Play, but I decided against since I kinda like having more than 512MB of RAM on my phone. The bulk doesn't bother me and nor does the SoC since I have the same one in my Droid Incredible 2. If the phone had had 1GB of RAM & 2GB+ of app storage I would have probably gotten it. The only thing that will get more games made for them is if more are sold since its an open API.
  • StormyParis - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Did someone just receive a new digital camera ? Is there an epidemic of photographic logorrhea I'm not aware of ? Are Ars writers paid a lot more for each picture ? Or is it about the page views ?

    One could easily cut half the pictures in the article (first page), redo some (you can put 3 phones in a single picture for comparison, yessir....).

    This article is giving me a feeling akin to PCmag's infamous "slideshows"
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Fixed :)

    We have no internal mandates for picture or page count, sometimes it's easier just to string a bunch of images together rather than toss them in a gallery but I've done the latter here at your request :)

    Take care,
  • StormyParis - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Thanks. Am I the only one bothered when there are so many pics in an article ? because, frankly, the numerous screenshots and charts on the following pages also bother me. With Anandtech's already narrow, heavily paginated format, there's lots of scrolling involved already... I find more than 1 pic/page a pain, except when the pics are *really* needed... which they are not, for example, to report a *one-number* test result. It gets even worse when reading the article on my phone or tablet.

    Personally, I simply jumped to the conclusion after a few pages. I find the galleries you put in the first coupl of pages the best trade off: really motivated readers can see all the pictures, the rest of us can read the article without kilometers of scrolling. <ripoff source="Arrested Development ">It's a nice way to satisfy the "buy" crowd and the "curious" crowd, and we're all buy/curious </ripoff>

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