While the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play (aka the PlayStation Phone) has been snapped, videoed and detailed already, you never really feel a device is imminent until the first in-depth preview arrives.

That has now occurred for Sony Ericsson’s curious halfway house between Android phone and PSP, Courtesy of Engadget. The tech website has its hands on a near-final build of the device which, as expected, runs on Android 2.3 from the off.

There’s not much there that we didn’t already know from the device’s jaunt around China, but it does serve to confirm that we can look forward to a 4-inch screen, a snappy 1GHz processor and an Adreno 205 GPU. It won’t be troubling the recently announced NGP for gaming performance, that’s for sure, but it should sit amongst the current high-end Android phone set.

Let’s not mention the imminent dual-core invasion again, eh?

Benchmark of portable gaming

The site carried out some benchmark tests of its own, which revealed “a chart-topping 1,689 on Quadrant and an impressive 59fps on Neocore,” not to mention “about 35 MFLOPS on Linpack, and around 43fps on NenaMark” (which is the same as the dual-core LG Star, interestingly).

The other interesting point is a handling comparison with the PSPgo, which the Xperia Play takes a number of stylistic cues from. The article notes that the new handset is “less well balanced than the bottom-heavy PSPgo,” and that the two shoulder buttons feel a little shallow by comparison. However, the overall build quality is said to be superior to Sony’s ill-conceived handheld revision.

The previewer tested the phone’s gaming credentials by running a few emulators, which all mapped well to the Xperia Play’s slide-out controls. Performance on the PS1 emu was adequate rather than stunning, but fans of the emulation scene will just be glad to have a device with proper controls.

It’s expected that the Xperia Play will be officially revealed at MWC next month. Stay tuned for more details.