Sony Tablet S (32GB)

Sony took its time with Tablet S, and it shows. The industrial design is smart, and the software refinements are both practical and restrained.


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Sony's track record in industrial design, hardware engineering, gaming and media makes it the best possible candidate to challenge Apple's iPad. A year and a half after Apple's tablet debut, Sony is striking back with an Android 3.2 slate that is bound to turn heads and win some fans.

Priced at AU$579 (16GB) and AU$689 (32GB) for Wi-Fi models with no 3G in sight, the Sony Tablet S isn't looking to be an inexpensive iPad alternative. It represents an elevation in the art of making Android tablets, and offers a genuinely fresh take on tablet design.

Design

Sony's tablet is easy to spot in a line-up. Its unique wedge shape gives it a futuristic look and provides improved balance in your hand compared with the flat competition. As seen when placed on a table, the screen's forward slant minimises glare and makes it more comfortable to type. The trade-off is that the Tablet S doesn't achieve the same thinness as an iPad 2, though the Tablet S is just as light at 598 grams and feels more solid than the Android slate that Australia will never see, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Sony's charging adapter is as unique as its tablet, but its proprietary design makes it tough to replace.
(Credit: CBSi)

Around the sides you'll find buttons for power and volume, speakers, a headphone jack, and a tethered cover protecting a micro-USB sync connection and a full-size SD card reader. A built-in app handles moving files back and forth from your card. It's worth noting that unlike other Honeycomb tablets, the SD card reader here functions just for media transfer and isn't meant to act as a memory expansion port.

Sony also made an interesting choice by going with a 9.4-inch screen instead of the 10.1-inch panel used on nearly every other Honeycomb tablet out there. Its TruBlack technology tips up from its Bravia TV line too to make the screen contrast really pop. Though the screen is slightly smaller than those found on most of its Honeycomb cousins, you really don't feel the pinch while using it and it actually helps to bring the overall form factor closer to the iPad's dimensions.

Features

You get Google's full Android 3.1 experience; everything from Gmail to Google Talk (with video chat) comes ready to go right out of the box. On top of that you get access to Sony's Entertainment Network, as well as the PlayStation Network. The Tablet S runs emulator software allowing it to play select PS One and PSP game titles. The original PS One hit Crash Bandicoot comes pre-installed, along with a version of Pinball Heroes.

Sony has also included some interesting options for pushing media content from these tablets onto DLNA-compatible speakers, PCs or TVs (and not just Sony's). You can think of it as Sony's answer to Apple's AirPlay media streaming, only more broadly compatible with third-party technology.

Also playing into Sony's focus on the tablet as a living-room entertainment device is the inclusion of an IR blaster and universal remote app on the S tablet. Having tried a demo of this feature personally, we can safely say that it makes the remote functionality of the Vizio tablet look like amateur hour. Essentially, Sony cannibalised its own HomeShare premium universal remote and slapped the same software inside the S tablet. The result is a graphically rich remote that you might actually want to use.

Sony's Tablet S includes a universal IR remote capability for controlling your home electronics.
(Credit: Sony)

In that same spirit of borrowing from its best technology to make a compelling tablet, Sony has borrowed the Exmor image technology from its digital cameras to make a tablet camera that's actually worth a damn. The touchscreen panels on both tablets take advantage of the TruBlack technology used on its Bravia HDTV sets, as we mentioned, providing richer contrast and minimising reflections between the LCD and the glass above it. Sony even threw in the Dash's Chumby widgets, transforming the tablet into a high-tech photo frame/widget display when the device is placed in an optional dock.

Performance

Sony's tablet is a mixed bag in terms of performance. For example, its beautiful TruBlack screen falls a little short in terms of overall screen brightness.

Another example is the optimised web browser, which prioritises image downloads so that pages appear to load faster, even if overall page download time isn't necessarily improved. Like the TruBlack screen, it's a feature we're glad to have, but doesn't come across as an improvement when measured objectively.

One standout feature that performed undeniably well was the 5-megapixel rear camera. Photos came to life with a vibrancy we hadn't seen on other competing tablets. Little extras, such as a digital macro, manual exposure adjustments and preset scene modes, offer the kind of flexibility you'd expect at this price.

In terms of battery life, Sony rates the Tablet S at around eight hours of mixed use. Full recharge takes around five hours of charge time using the included power adapter. The adapter uses a proprietary contact-only connection, which has the advantage of not wrecking the tablet if it becomes yanked. Unfortunately, the unique design means that you'll need to go to Sony for a replacement if your adapter goes missing.

Conclusion

Sony's tablet is uniquely its own. Beyond the eye-catching design, you can't help but see Sony's hard work in the attention to detail running throughout the subtle Android optimisations, software selections and feature refinements.

Now, Sony's timing isn't great. It's making the case for a premium Honeycomb tablet 10 months after the operating system made its debut. But you have to give it credit for really making something on its own terms that showcases the best of what it has to offer. Sony has the media content, the gaming legacy, an eye for elegant design and some solid technological advantages. Whether it can get us to open our pocketbooks remains to be seen.

Via CNET



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cg5344 Facebook
8
Rating
 

"Great product, good competition to the tablet market."

cg5344 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Design, specs, features

The Bad:OS a little bit buggy, doesnt feel as sturdy as the ipad

The Sony Tablet S is a curvaceous, wedge-shaped tablet, which looks as if it has been folded out of a single piece of textured black plastic. It's thicker at one side, with a rounded edge, as if you'd taken a thin paper back, and folded the cover back on itself to really get stuck into the story.

Aside from making it look different to every other tablet on the market, the Sony Tablet S's unique appearance isn't purely aesthetic. The design means that typing is comfortable when laid flat on a table or desk, which is a flaw in most flat tablets. The book-like design makes it easy to grip with one hand, making it perfect for browsing the web or reading eBooks.

The Tablet S comes with Google's full Android 3.1 experience; everything from Gmail to Google Talk (with video chat) comes ready to go right out of the box. There are front and rear cameras, 1080p video capture and playback, PlayStation certification, which enables users to access a range of exclusive titles, and a host of Sony created apps, including a universal remote for controlling other Sony products. A small but growing array of PlayStation 1 and PSP games are also available including old titles like Crash Bandicoot and Destruction Derby. Even on the touchscreen the controls work well but still no match for a physical controller.

Battery life is solid and you can expect around four hours of heavy use, nine hours of light-moderate use and multiple days of occasional use.

The Tablet S weighs just 600g, which makes it identical in weight to the iPad 2. There's a plastic finish, which doesn't feel cheap, and it has a textured back which offers grip for your hand.

Overall the Sony Tablet S is another example of Sony%u2019s great quality products; I would highly recommend it to all.

IsaacR Facebook
8
Rating
 

"Design, it's in the design"

IsaacR posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Physical design, unique software

The Bad:Unique power input

The design of the tablet is fantastic. Since my wife and I use it mainly for reading, one side being curved around makes it feel as if you are actually reading a real book and folding one side for easy reading. To be honest, the tactile feeling of reading is a sure seller for me.

Apart from that, the unique software that it comes with is great, especially the universal controller for your entertainment systems (no matter the company that made your equipment).

The only negative I could find was that if for some reason you lose or require two power adaptors, you will have to purchase it through sony as the connection to the tablet is unique. This is slightly annoying in this day and age, but the chance of needing two power adaptors is small.

 

trancedictive posted a comment   
Australia

Another bad for the tablet is that there is no car charger or anyway to charge the tablet on the go, only from a wall socket.
Very disappointing especially with other tablets offering this simple tool.

matanboukous
8
Rating
 

"Worthy Tablet to Stifle the Competition"

matanboukous posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Unique apps and design, PlayStation Store

The Bad:Price

I entered the Sony (X) trial promotion for the Tablet S, as I wished to get the %u201Ctablet experience%u201D in an attempt to understand the current fascination with them. I have always been a gadget geek, and usually have to restrain myself from purchasing the latest and greatest gadget available, but frankly, I have always been a little sceptical of the %u201Ctablet medium%u201D. I was hoping this trial with Sony%u2019s offering would convince me the tablet had a place in the scheme of portable devices.

I must say, I can now more fully understand the broad appeal of the tablet, and Sony%u2019s version doesn%u2019t disappoint in this domain. The appearance is all %u201Cminimalist gloss black%u201D like other tablets, but Sony%u2019s Tablet S seems to combine fashion with function with its novel and ergonomic %u201Cwedge design%u201D. It really does feel good in your hand, in both landscape and portrait layout, and makes it that much better to view on a flat surface, without having to fork out extra cash on stands and the like. The Android operating system is fantastic, but most people looking at this will not need convincing in that department. Worth pointing out however, is the way the device smoothly handles the firmware. I did not note any consistent lagging or freezing, everything was seamless even with multiple apps open, and the responsiveness of the beautiful 9.4%u201D capacitive touch screen was among the best I%u2019ve experienced.

Web browsing is an absolute pleasure, particularly with the built-in voice recognition browsing, which was surprisingly accurate. I can say with some confidence that the tablet is certainly the most enjoyable way to browse the net on the go, and makes viewing websites on a %u201Ctiny%u201D smartphone screen seem archaic. The music and video players do their job well, and the gaming potential of the device is also to be noted, particularly for PlayStation users, who can reminisce over classics such as Crash Bandicoot. This is a welcome change over the addictive but ultra-repetitive games you normally find in this medium (move over Angry Birds!). Needless to say, the graphic capabilities of this device are up to the quality you would expect from Sony. Other built in apps such as the %u201Cuniversal remote%u201D are gimmicky but kind of cool (you can control any infrared operated device from the tablet), and the two app stores (Sony branded %u201CselectApp and the massive Android Market) make for potentially limitless fun and functionality. The eReader aspect to this and all tablets is a nice feature, but I feel a dedicated reader device is ultimately kinder on both your eyes (another backlit screen is probably the last thing your eyes need) and your wrist (even with ergonomic design, your wrist will eventually get fatigued after a couple hours of reading).

Other hardware features have been well thought out, such as dual cameras for video chat and on-the-go photography; USB and memory card expansion slots; and DNLA technology, which allows the user to %u201Cthrow%u201D video, images and music to compatible devices. Indeed, the longer I spent with Tablet S, the more I liked it.

However, it also reinvigorated and reinforced my earlier scepticism surrounding the actual practicality of the tablet medium as a whole. Yes, as a tablet, Sony%u2019s offering is a very worthy alternative to the competition, and in fact surpasses the rest in many ways on the basis of both its hardware and firmware. Yet, I still struggle to find a happy place for it between the %u201Cold school%u201D portability of a decent laptop and the %u201Cultra portability%u201D of a decent smartphone. The laptop runs rings around the functionality of any current tablet (I wouldn%u2019t even think to write this review on the Tablet S) and a smartphone (even my chunky N900!) is so much more portable than a tablet (you can%u2019t fit a tablet in your pocket now can you).

As awesome as the Tablet S is, it essentially is an excellent smartphone with a bigger screen, which is as much a blessing (for web browsing/video streaming) as it is a curse (comparatively limited portability). This makes it a little hard to justify the near $600 price tag. If the price were half this figure it would be a different story, but as it stands I feel it is a little bit too much to pay for what is ultimately a glorified smartphone.

In sum, the Sony Tablet S is an amazing device and probably the best money can buy at the current time, so I wouldn%u2019t hesitate to get one. However, if you already have a wicked smartphone (and don%u2019t own reading glasses or have fingers the size of your bigtoe), I would wait for the Tablet to come down a little in price before purchasing.

 

dhenning posted a comment   
Australia

Hi, Yesterday my wife purchased a 32Gb after following the link on the "Where to buy" tab above to Simply Electronics. Judging by the model number this looks like it's a US version, do you think this will create any problems with Australian warranties or region protection issues?

Kimulles1981
9
Rating
 

"Best Tablet on the market"

Kimulles1981 posted a review   
Australia

After having the Samsung 10.1 V for about 12 months I was intrigued by the new Sony Tablet . After recently upgrading to the Sony 32 gig version I was very impressed it easly surpassed the Samsung . I have also used my girlfriends Ipad 2 for the last year and the Sony tablet easily surpassed it
The design for one is great easy to hold compared to any other tablet on the market even the ipad . Reading books magazine and comics on it requires less strain on the wrist .
The advantages of the product are design easy to hold non slip , power , weight ,size , usb , SD card slot , Android ois , Sony support for apps and games , blue tooth PS3 controller integrated .
The other hardware doesn’t interest me really hand for quick snaps but all phone camera or tablets cameras are toys . They can boost they have 6mp or 8mp etc but the optics are sub stand due to the design , as a professional photographer if I want to take a photo will use either a high end compact camera or a DSLR . Any camera on an iphone , ipad , tablet or mobile phone can not even come close to a entry level DSLR with a decent lens on it . The cameras on it do a fine job for web chats and quick reference snaps which is all any one really uses the cameras on tablets for anyway .
With in the next few years I say will be very interesting for Apple as the only positive they have for them self at the moment is there larger app store but more and more electronic companies are taking on the Android operating system and with low cost of the software development kit I say the android system app will quickly catch up .

Conclusion this is the best tablet I have used and would not hesitate in buying it again .

macccca
10
Rating
 

"Great Fun and Actually Useful"

macccca posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Unique Design which works

The Bad:Not much

I was lucky enough to get a chance to play around with the Sony Tablet S for a week in order to collect my thoughts about not only the device itself, but the whole idea of the Tablet Computer.

I’m quite a busy technologically minded guy and I am already equipped with a 4inch Smartphone, a 15inch Laptop and a Home Desktop PC so I’ve always wondered if a Tablet would be of any use to me, do I need another device in order to get through my day?

Well it turns out I don’t but it’s damn fun to have.


The Sony Tablet S runs Android 3.2 so it was automatically compatible with all my Google Products; my calendar, emails, apps and photos were all synced over instantly after connecting my Google account. As I already have an Android phone I was quite familiar with the operating system but I have always found it to be very intuitive and simple to use. The software works well with the device but I’ve always thought that 3.2 (Honeycomb) was a bit of a rush job stretching android out from the smaller phone screens to larger devices. It definitely does its job and performs quite well but the promise of an upgrade to Android 4.0 (Ice-Cream Sandwich) squashes any worries as it is already looking like a much more complete operating system for all devices.

As this tablet comes from Sony, there was a promise of a lot of Sony Specific Software such as access to the Sony Entertainment Network (http://www.sonyentertainmentnetwork.com/au/) and this is where the tablet really shines. The ability to access the Playstation Suite and play a collection of Playstation 1 and PSP Games gives it an edge of the other tablets out there and access to their video and music streaming services is one of the biggest thing the tablet has going for it. The games are hit and miss as to weather or not they work well enough with the touchscreen controls but I managed to have quite a bit of fun playing some old school Crash Bandicoot and could see myself buying a few games when the catalog expands (This would benefit greatly with the ability of use a Bluetooth PS3 controller so I hope this being worked on)

I signed up for the 30 day Music Unlimited trial and managed to easy set up the tablet, my Samsung GSII and PS3 to all stream music from the apparent 7million song collection (there are warnings of country specific tracks so I’m not exactly sure how many are available to us in Australia). Access to all this music is a great feature as it was so easy to flick through the tunes and fine many artists I loved to listen to both on the go and at home through my PS3. Video Unlimited was quite similar, I rented Fast

HendryKhouw
7
Rating
 

"Sony Tablet S1"

HendryKhouw posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Good design

The Bad:Price

Sony Tablet offer great tablet design. It's definitely a strong contender for other tablet products. After testing this product, here is my review:

Likes:
- Nice design, easy to hold. It has like a non-slip texture.
- Power on less than 1 minute.
- The built-in remote control function is pretty cool.
- 2 cameras are pretty handy for video chat.
- SD Card slot and USB are very handy for business use.

Dislike:
- The volume button location is too close to the power button. I accidentally switch off the tablet a few times.
- YouTube video reloads every time I switch the tablet from portrait to landscape and vice versa.
- I can%u2019t remove list of recently used apps. To kill running apps, you have to go to settings and look for running services.
- Camera quality isn%u2019t great.
- PlayStation game pixelated, not very pretty.




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User Reviews / Comments  Sony Tablet S (32GB)

  • cg5344

    cg5344

    Rating8

    "The Sony Tablet S is a curvaceous, wedge-shaped tablet, which looks as if it has been folded out of a single piece of textured black plastic. It's thicker at one side, with a rounded edge, as if yo..."

  • IsaacR

    IsaacR

    Rating8

    "The design of the tablet is fantastic. Since my wife and I use it mainly for reading, one side being curved around makes it feel as if you are actually reading a real book and folding one side for ..."

  • trancedictive

    trancedictive

    "Another bad for the tablet is that there is no car charger or anyway to charge the tablet on the go, only from a wall socket.
    Very disappointing especially with other tablets offering this si..."

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