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Revisiting the Xperia Play

CNET had some more time to play with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play at Mobile World Congress. It's promising, but we're not wowed yet.

Kent German/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--Sony Ericsson got the ball rolling at Mobile World Congress when it announced its long-rumored and it-was-hardly-a-secret Xperia Play. As the "PlayStation phone," the Xperia Play combines a cell phone and a gaming device like few other handsets have.

Though we posted out initial hands-on impression shortly after the unveiling, it was difficult to get serious time with the device at the company's crowded press conference. So to take a second look, I trekked up the hill in Barcelona to Sony Ericsson's massive booth that it shared with Ericsson.

I'll warn you that I'm not a gamer--I left that specific analysis to my colleague Scott Stein--but I can critique it as a phone. On the whole, I liked the hardware, but I didn't love it. The Xperia Play is relatively slim considering everything that's inside and the slider mechanism is neither stiff nor too loose.

On the other hand, I was hoping for a slightly sharper resolution on the display. It's bright and vibrant, and I won't complain about the 60fps playback, but it also could feel a bit flat. Sony Ericsson also boasted of the 3D-gaming capabilities, but it can't quite compare with the LG Optimus 3D. Finally, I'll have to agree with Scott that when the handset is open it looks a bit, well, weird.

Thankfully, the Xperia Play runs Gingerbread out of the box, so you won't get stuck on old Android OS. Sony Ericsson kept its interface tweaks with Timescape and Mediascape, but the former is a little less busy than on other devices. The Mediascape experience is about the same, and I prefer it over the standard Android player in any case. The handset is responsive thanks to the 1Ghz processor.

I played a few games and was pleased with how the device felt in the hand. It wasn't top heavy as I expected and the controls were comfortable. Sure, I'd prefer a joystick over a touch pad, but it would be difficult to add a joystick and keep a thin profile. The touch pads did take some getting used to, though, especially in regard to their sensitivity.

So, yes, the Xperia Play is cool, but I'm not blown away yet. These are only my initial thoughts so I could feel differently when the Xperia Play lands as promised at Verizon Wireless. Honestly, the carrier choice is the bigger story given that Sony Ericsson has avoided CDMA in the United States for several years. And to be fair, Sony Ericsson had its work cut out for it going into the announcement. After so many leaks about the device over the past few months, we all pretty much knew what was coming.