The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play: Where Do You Want To Take Your Gaming Today?by Brian Dipert on August 8, 2011 1:26 PM EST
UBM TechInsights conducted a teardown of the Xperia Play in late May, based on a Canadian-sourced unit and slightly ahead of the gaming phone's U.S. production launch. The companion coverage by UBM sibling publication EE Times goes into more photographic detail than does TechInsight's web page (but then again, TechInsights wants to sell reports, so all is forgiven), and I commend EE Times' writeup to your inspection. In it, you'll garner an exhaustive parts list inside the Xperia Play, of which I want to focus on only a few key components.
First and foremost, consider the applications processor, Qualcomm's MSM8x55 1 GHz 'Snapdragon' SoC, which befitting its 'MSM' prefix contains an integrated cellular modem. In the GSM-tailored variant of the Xperia Play dissected by UBM TechInsights; that SoC was the MSM8255. My Verizon CDMA-targeted Xperia Play instead includes the MSM8655. Qualcomm's website neatly spells out the differences between them, also including the modem-less (and GPS-less) APQ8055, all S2-class SoCs per Qualcomm's recently unveiled rebranding campaign.
Also embedded on the MSM8x55 die is the Adreno 205 graphics core. A notable percentage of the negative feedback I've seen on the Xperia Play concerns the SoC; specifically, cellphone enthusiasts are disappointed in Sony Ericsson's seeming 'trailing-edge' component selection. They expected to see a dual-core processor from Qualcomm, Nvidia or another supplier, and/or a SoC based on Qualcomm's latest Krait microarchitecture (S4 SoC). Sorry, but I don't buy that argument for a second, no matter that the MSM8x55 archaically dates from last fall's HTC Desire HD.
I'm an engineer, by training and by trade. As such, I know that there's no such thing as a black-and-white decision, only shades-of-grey discernment, and that component selection made for a particular project will likely not apply to the next design in the pipeline. Absolute performance is not the sole criteria for picking an IC; cost, power consumption, board space, sourcing options and volume availability, and development tools maturity are often equal in importance...if not greater, as long as performance is 'good enough'. Take a look at the benchmarking section that follows, and I think you'll agree that the MSM8x55 is an adequate candidate partcularly given the system's target screen resolution, form factor (therefore battery size), price tag and other criteria.
I'm less sanguine about the internal memories' capacities. 512 MBytes of RAM seems scant, particularly given the memory-intensive games that the Xperia Play is chartered with tackling. However, RAM deficiences will largely only impact the handset's ability to simultaneously multitask-juggle multiple concurrently running applications. 1 GByte of embedded flash memory, on the other hand, is a far less acceptable allocation, particularly considering that only 400 MBytes' worth of it is user-accessible.
Theoretically, at least, the local nonvolatile storage capacity can be supplemented by a microSD card (up to 32 GBytes in size on the Xperia Play), an ability that came with Android 2.2 'Froyo' and its encrypted external-storage support. To wit, the Xperia Play bundles a 4 GByte microSD card. However, to date I remain unimpressed by both Google's and third party developers' embrace of the potential for installing and moving programs to external storage.
Insufficient local storage capacity is perhaps my biggest beef with my Nexus One (512 MBytes total, 190 MBytes user accessible, in that particular case). Through multiple upgrade iterations of both O/S and Google-branded and -included applications, local storage has been slowly whittled away to the point that I can only install a few third-party programs before available memory dips to 20 MBytes or less, the O/S starts complaining that 'phone storage space is getting low', the phone abruptly stops receiving new emails, etc. Although the Xperia Play has a bit more than twice the user-accessible local storage of the Nexus One, I fear that many Xperia Play owners will sooner-or-later suffer similar frustrations.