Review: Sony Tablet S


13 Oct 2011

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The Sony Tablet S definitely has a unique form factor and some interesting media apps, but does it stand up against other tablet competitors?

Look and feel

In a sea of iPad-lookalikes, the design of the Sony Tablet S is rather refreshing. Early descriptions of the device said it looked like a folded-over magazine and it really does. Its black facade curves at the top and continues around the back of the device, ending about an inch and a half from the bottom of the tablet. Underneath this “fold” is a silver finish.

The point of this was to shift the balance of the tablet to the top to make it easier to hold, and I believe it does. It feels a bit more substantial and it helps that the back is gripped to keep it from sliding from your hands.

Tech specs:

Android 3.2

9.4-inch 1,200 x 800 TFT display

1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor

5-megapixel rear-facing camera, 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera

720p HD recording

While I admire the look, I can see how it could be hit or miss for some. The tablet’s materials feel a bit plasticy and are prone to showing a lot of fingerprints.

Its thinnest point is 0.3 inches and 0.8 inches at its thickest point, making it a bit chunkier than many tablets today. However, at 598 grams, it’s actually slightly lighter than an iPad.

Hardware

The Sony Tablet S runs on a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor. Games and apps load up quickly and the interface is very responsive.

It has a 1,200 x 800 TFT display, which is quite bright, and includes ports for a USB cable, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an SD Card.

The tablet has a 5-megapixel camera at the back and a 0.3-megapixel camera at the front, which is quite decent for a tablet.

OS

For the most part, the Sony Tablet S’ usability doesn’t deviate too far from other recent Honeycomb tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The Chrome app is still a great web browser for tablets and Google’s other built-in apps, such as YouTube and Maps, work well, too.

The tablet updated to Android 3.2 when I turned it on first. It’s not a huge leap from Android 3.1 – it brings media syncing from SD cards and a zooming functionality for apps.

Sony customised the interface slightly for its own style. The apps menu is bright white rather than dark blue and there are shortcuts to features, such as the remote control and Social Feed Reader at the top left corner.

Apps

Some of the Sony Tablet S’ distinguishing apps – such as Reader, Video Unlimited and Select App – were not active while I was reviewing the tablet, so unfortunately, I couldn’t try them out. However, I could test the tablet’s other unique apps.

Like the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the Sony Tablet S is PlayStation Certified and comes with the PSOne classic Crash Bandicoot. It looks well on the larger screen but unlike the Xperia Play with its slide-out controller, the Tablet S has to rely on touchscreen controls.

The controls are located at the top of the screen and while they’re positioned as well as they can be, the fact remains Crash Bandicoot wasn’t made for a touchscreen interface. Because you can’t feel the buttons, it’s easy to lose their positioning or miscalculate jumps when absorbed in the game, meaning you should expect to die a lot when playing this game.

The tablet has its own social networking feed reader, allowing you to input your Twitter and Facebook accounts so all updates appear in one stream. You can also add filters if you want to see updates for specific accounts. It’s not as in-depth as other social networking clients, such as TweetDeck, but it still works well for organising different accounts.

The Sony Tablet S offers a remote control app, which can sync to a TV, DVD player, home theatre system and iPod dock. You can manage a list of devices synced to the tablet, can access a full remote control panel and even use gesture control to turn up the volume or change the channel. It’s a pretty useful app, making your tablet a central hub to control all your media devices.

The device also has DLNA connectivity, letting you share media with compatible devices.

Overall

The Sony Tablet S is definitely among the top Honeycomb tablets. It’s a great device for media use, and its unique design helps it stand out, too. It is a pity that many of its built-in apps, such as the Reader app and Video Unlimited, aren’t available right now as they’ll certainly help make the Sony Tablet S a more attractive tablet purchase when they arrive.

The Wi-Fi-only version of the Sony Tablet S is out now in Currys and Sony Centres, costing €489. Other stores will get it in the coming months. A Wi-Fi and 3G version of the Sony Tablet S will be out from November 2011.