• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Sony has had a go at pretty much all the techie markets out there – stereos, TVs, games – and now it is taking on the might of Apple in the tablet market. So, how has it done with its first attempt at an iPad beater – the Sony Tablet S?

Hey good looking

 
At first glance the Tablet S certainly looks classy – it has a wedge shape – rather like a piece of pastry that has been rolled flat and then folded back. Of course, this piece of ‘pastry’ is silver and black and can’t be eaten!

The Tablet S is nice to hold, thanks to the textured reverse side. The whole body is constructed from plastic and doesn’t actually feel that solid. It has grooves running along it, which make it easy to hold, especially in landscape mode, where your little finger sits in a fold on the reverse of the tablet. It makes you feel like you’re more in control.

In portrait mode, the device doesn’t feel quite so easy to hold – in fact because of its shape it is easier to hold in one rather than two hands.

The display is smaller than that on the iPad 2, Asus Transformer Prime and Galaxy Tab 10.1 – it measures 9.4 inches. Nevertheless it is colourful and pin sharp. You’ll find web pages load speedily – and they look good thanks to the 161 pixels per inch resolution – which is actually a higher res than the iPad 2 – especially noticeable if you’re playing video or rendering text.

Where’s the ice cream?


The operating system is Android 3.2 Honeycomb – which has been designed especially for tablets – the latest version Ice Cream Sandwich may well be an upgrade at some stage in the near future. There are plenty of specs you’d expect to find on a high-end tablet – including 1GB of RAM and a speedy Cortex A9 Tegra 2 processor.

The tablet proves responsive and quick in use, although it doesn’t quite equal the smoothness that you experience with an iPad 2 – especially if your home screen is crammed with widgets or icons.

A five-megapixel snapper is included but it’s unimpressive. However, we really don’t think tablets are made for taking snaps anyway. We were impressed with battery life though – especially for a tablet running Android, which is a juice drainer. We got a good day’s use out of a full battery before having to charge again.

Elegant design

That wedge-shaped design we mentioned earlier is really useful when you have it sitting on a desk or want to type. You can lay it down and not have to bend over the tablet, and it doesn’t rock like the iPad 2 does when you’re trying to type. It’s a really nifty piece of design that tackles a common problem with tablets.

However, there is a payoff for this clever design – the wedge makes the tablet more than 2cm thick at its widest point, so it’s not quite as slim as some other tablets on the market. However, we think it’s worth it for the added usability.


A touch of Sony

Sony has added its own touches to the Honeycomb OS with its own user interface. Most changes are an improvement – for instance the app menus are easier to find your way around and you can introduce your own categories and filter apps.

The ‘Favourites’ app is a bit pointless – the app menu already does what it can do. Sony has skinned the basic icons – there’s lots of purple, black and white – bringing together a uniform style that is better designed than those of iOS.


Next to the Google search icon in the top left corner, you’ll see a line of custom icons – these are for email and adding shortcuts to the web, as well as accessing a couple of custom Sony apps – one is a social feed reader, the other rather surprisingly, is a remote control app.


TV remote


That’s right – the remote control. The tablet features an inbuilt infrared transmitter – use this in combination with the remote control app and your tablet becomes a universal remote. Once the app is loaded, choose your Blu-ray player, TV, iPod dock and so on from the drop-down menu – you’ll be able to control your TV without finding the remote. You can even use gesture controls – allowing you to sweep across the screen to switch from watching Antiques Roadshow to Bargain Hunt. It’s fun to use and works really well.

There are music and streaming services on offer – Sony’s own Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited – access them via the new Android apps. It’s a nice extra bit of integration. You’ll notice from the small icon on the reverse of the device that this tablet is PlayStation Certified, so you can get PlayStation games from the PlayStation Store.


It’s a shame that the speakers are a letdown – weak and tinny – so you’re better off using headphones to listen to sounds, Transferring files from a camera is easy as there is an SD card in the slot of the tablet. Mind you, we were disgruntled to discover you can’t expand the memory this way.

Mac owners will also find the Tablet S’s hard disk won’t mount on their desktop. Instead you have to download Android File Transfer if you want to move your files around, It’s also a pity there’s no HDMI-out – having said that, the Tablet S has DLNA ability, which we found allowed us to watch pretty much anything we wanted on our TV with no problem.

 
The verdict


The Sony Tablet S looks good and feels great to hold thanks to its clever wedge shape. It runs smoothly and has the added benefit of that TV remote and access to games, video and music. However, at £399, it should be in direct competition with the iPad 2 – but with its small display, slower speed and apps that are not completely implemented, it can’t be classed as an iPad beater.

Specifications

Specifications

Type of phone:

N/A

Style:

candy bar

Size:

241.2x174.3x10.1-20.6mm

Weight:

598g

Display:

16 million colours

Resolution:

480x800

Camera:

5 and 0.3 megapixels

Special Camera features:

auto focus

Video recording:

Yes

Video playback:

Yes

Video calling:

No

Video streaming:

Yes

Music formats played:

eAAC, WAV, MP3

3.5mm jack port:

Yes

Handsfree speakerphone:

No

Voice Control:

No

Voice Dialling:

No

Call records:

N/A

Phonebook:

N/A

Ringtones customization:

No

Display description:

TFT capacitive touch-screen

Website:

www.sony.co.uk

SAR:

N/A

Portfolio:

N/A

Standard color:

Black

Launch Status:

Available

Ringtones:

N/A

Radio:

N/A

Operating system:

Android

Connectivity:

MicroUSB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Announced date:

September 2011

What's in the Box:

N/A

RAM:

1GB RAM

International launch date:

December 2011

Battery life when playing multimedia:

N/A

CPU:

Dual-core 1GHz Cortex-A9

FM Radio Description:

No

Internal memory:

32GB

Memory Card Slot:

microSD

Messaging:

Email

Internet Browser:

HTML

E-mail client:

Attachments, Push email

GPS:

GPS

Java:

Yes

Games:

Yes and downloadable

Data speed:

HSDPA

Frequency:

Quad-band

Talktime:

N/A

Standby:

Up to 430 hours

Display size:

9.4 inches

Keypad:

QWERTY

Audio recording:

Yes

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