Review: Sony Xperia Tablet S Android tablet computer

4 Jan 2013

The Sony Xperia Tablet S

John Kennedy took the Sony Xperia Tablet S for a spin. At its heart, this machine exemplifies Android’s potential as a leading OS for the tablet computing space.

Let me begin by saying I think not enough is said about how great Android actually performs as a tablet operating system. The operating system really comes into its own and on the right device it is a slick experience complete with easy navigation and access to apps.

The success of Android in the smartphone market is well documented but I have to be honest about my conviction that Apple’s steely grip on the tablet market with its iPad is about to be weakened as more and more tablets based on Android are adopted by consumers and Microsoft finally regains its swagger in the personal computing space with tablets running Windows 8 RT.

That’s not to say Apple won’t enjoy leadership for the foreseeable future with its third- and fourth-generation iPads, the iPad mini and subsequent generations of the iPad. I’m merely suggesting its market share won’t be quite as total as it has been for the last three years. Most analysts believe it will be at least 2016 before an alternative tablet OS will overtake Apple.

Thanks to tablet computers and smartphones, the computing landscape has changed to be almost unrecognisable from three years ago when desktops and laptops reigned supreme.

We are now in the era of computing for the masses, where individuals can affordably access any type or shape of computing device they want. Heck, most contemporary TVs are computers in their own right. The toy of choice for most kids this Christmas was a tablet computer and many of those that arrived Christmas morning were Android devices that could be bought for as little as €99.

The Xperia Tablet S from Sony, which was unveiled at the IFA in Berlin in August (don’t ask me why it takes forever for Sony to get a review system out) is at the high end of the Android tablet spectrum, retailing for a recommended price of €419.

Sony is highly respected for the quality of its hardware, from TVs to cameras and home entertainment systems, and I have to say the Xperia Tablet S definitely continues this tradition.

Sony Experia Tablet S specs

The device has a 9.4-inch screen – smaller than the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen – and comes with Android 4.0.03 (Ice Cream Sandwich). It is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor and in terms of wireless, communicates by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G.

It comes with a number of useful ports, including SD card, microphone, headphone out and stereo speaker, and comes with all the sensors you would expect on a high-end tablet, including ambient light sensor, a gyroscope, a compass, GPS and an accelerometer.

One of the most pleasant first impressions of the device is its weight. It is very light at just 570 grams for Wi-Fi models (585 grams for 3G models). It also comes with a pretty decent battery (6000 mAh) and provides 12 hours of video playback and 10 hours of non-stop internet browsing.

The NVIDIA chip provides a blisteringly fast computing experience and I really have to say Android shines brighter on tablet devices than it does on smartphone devices. You can really delve into apps and as computing experiences go, it’s pretty decent.

A hidden gem on the tablet is, of course, its 8-megapixel rear camera, ideal for recording in HD. The front camera is a 1-megapixel HD camera, which is sufficient for decent videoconferencing experiences on Google or Skype.

Screen quality is ultimately the differentiator here – this tablet features Sony IPS OptiContrast technology with 1,280 x 800 resolution.

It comes with some cool extras, such as a Walkman application that compiles a list of your Facebook friends’ liked music, ClearAudio+ sound and works seamlessly with DLNA compatible large-screen TVs. A Reader application lets users purchase and read digital books.


The one area where I felt the tablet let me down was in terms of Wi-Fi and I couldn’t maintain a consistent Wi-Fi signal at home – but this has been a problem I’ve also had on a number of Android tablets. This, I suspect, is where Apple will continue to lead as it views its Wi-Fi and LTE capabilities as core features of its iOS device range and where Android will flounder as different manufacturers employ a panoply of different Wi-Fi radios on a multitude of machines.

Another area in which Sony could really have done better is the cover it uses for the device. I found the cover (in this case a pink one) kept sliding off the machine, even though Sony had gone to the trouble of adding grooves to attach the cover and didn’t have any technology function other than to protect the device.

It just felt a little shabby and incomplete and invited the inevitable comparison with Apple’s smart cover technology, with its neat magnetic clip-on system. The only time it felt like the Sony cover was doing its job was when I had the computer snug within the embrace of the elastic cord attached to the cover.

Despite these exterior superficial issues, at its core the Xperia Tablet S is a serious machine that exemplifies just how great the Android operating system performs on tablet devices. The device is ideal for both the professional world and for consumer entertainment (games from Google Play work well on the big screen).

The Xperia Tablet S is available in Sony-affiliated stores for the recommended retail price of €419.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years