There's no getting round the fact - this thing is heavy. It's the first thought that pops into my head when I'm handed an Xperia Play. This is my second time getting to grips with the device, but our first opportunity to really spend some quality time with the smartphone Sony Ericsson are hoping will become the default option for gamers on the move.
My second thought is a little more concerning - it's pretty clumsy to navigate. I initially had quite the time trying to locate where games could be found. But, thankfully that confusion eventually came coupled with an 'aah' moment. The second you push the touch screen and the d-pad/button combo slips from its cage, the games screen pops up, allowing you instant access to the games already installed on the device, and easy access to other games you can purchase.
I liked that. Even if it was a little fussy - working 50 percent of the time, yet stubbornly remaining on the previous screen at other times.
And speaking of games - the ones had on our Xperia play were a little lackluster, making it difficult to tell whether some of my frustrations were the result of shoddy software or the device itself. For some reason we had FIFA 10 and, having played a bit of FIFA 11 on the iPhone, I can honestly say that the d-pad controls on the Xperia play were equally as clumsy as the touch screen on the iPhone. A bit worrying considering the addition of a d-pad should be the point of difference that adds a layer of precision to smart phone gaming.
'Clumsy' was fast becoming a common theme. The d-pad, which sinks in a couple of millimeters for functional reasons, was clicky and responsive, but I often felt my thumb getting trapped in the gaps. The buttons also felt a little small. It looks and feels plenty like the PSP Go - a comparison you'd imagine most Sony peeps would rather avoid - and the same goes for the shoulder buttons, which I found a little tough to locate at first.
Of course, it's a case of function over form - the Xperia Play is, first and foremost, a phone - and I'm completely willing to accept that most of our complaints could be a result of the shonky games I've had the chance to play so far. Other folks I've spoken to, including our very own Seamus Byrne, are far more excited about the device - especially given the news that the Xperia Play will support d-pad play on many of the games already available.
We suspect another issue will be the integration of PSN IDs. Simply put - the Xperia Play will not support the use of PSN IDs, which is a huge missed opportunity in our opinion.
It's difficult at this stage to evaluate the Xperia Play as an overall handset, and that's not really our focus regardless, but as a gaming device I suspect the Xperia Play may get caught up in that middle ground between smartphone and handheld device. That may end up being a good thing in the long term as Sony kick the whole PlayStation suite thing into being, but for now I'm hedging my bets.