Starting with the 5-megapixel camera, there isn't much out of the ordinary here. Users can toggle between still and video shooting. There is a flash available for dark settings and the capture speed is nearly instant. Definitely faster to focus than when using my iPhone 4. However, the quality isn't exactly on par.
One of the helpful features is that the touch screen controls do rotate with the screen when held in either landscape or portrait mode. Otherwise, don't chuck your point-and-shoot just yet.
The Xperia Play runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), and it sports a 4-inch multi-touch screen. The device felt a bit bulky in my hand compared to other smartphones, but that's not a surprise given the slide-out gaming controller. So we can forgive the slightly larger dimensions.
This is an Android phone, so there are plenty of live wallpapers available, along with the usual Google suite of apps preloaded. Sony Ericsson reps insisted that this is a regular, premium smartphone with gaming capabilities - not just a handheld console.
After testing out many of the Xperia Play's apps (at least within the span of 5-10 minutes), I'm inclined to agree with them. I did try out the gaming features, but all of the apps worked just like they would on another Android handheld running Gingerbread.
Overall, the Xperia Play is a beautiful smartphone with plenty of advanced specs, such as Bluetooth Stereo, DLNA connectivity, an autofocus camera with geo-tagging. But let's not forget where the heart of this phone is.
At the end of the day, the Xperia Play is about gaming. That's how it's marketed, and that's really the only reason why anyone would buy this device over another handheld running Gingerbread. The gaming functions alone are going to bump up the price considerably.
The slide out game pad sports two analogue touch pads, two shoulder buttons, a digital D pad, and the four traditional PlayStation icon buttons: circle, cross, square and triangle.
The Xperia Play hosts a 1Ghz CPU and an embedded Adreno GPU graphics processor with 60fps 3D mobile playback. And nowhere on the device are these features seen best than when gaming.
I admit I was taken aback when I first tried playing Crash Bandicoot - and not because I haven't played the game in years. The graphics and the response time felt so much faster and better than when playing on other handheld gaming consoles and almost on par with a regular stationary console. Even though I only played with the Xperia Play for a few minutes, it's obvious that Sony hasn't cut corners with this device - at least not when it comes to gaming.
The Xperia Play is slated to be released with Verizon Wireless. Unfortunately, Sony Ericsson reps remained mum about launch details. The closest I could get to getting a release date out of them was "spring." The big news that remains to be seen is really the price tag. That could make or break the first true gaming smartphone.