Sony Tablet S review

27 Sep 2011

A top-quality tablet, with a thoughtful design and a host of useful software and extras

Price when reviewed: 
399(£399 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
5

Sony has an enviable record of producing top-quality, high-end laptops, but its attempts to jump on the budget portable bandwagon have so far met with mixed success. It ignored netbooks until it was too late, and even tried to reinvent the genre with the ill-fated, pocket-sized P Series.

Its belated entry into the tablet race, the Tablet S, is a much more mainstream affair. Pricing is on a par with the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1: the 16GB Wi-Fi version costs £399, and the 32GB is £480, while the 16GB 3G model costs £500. It has a dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU and 1GB of RAM running Android Honeycomb 3.2.

Sony Tablet S

Sony being Sony, though, things aren’t left at that. In fact, in a market where it’s becoming increasingly tough to stand out, the Tablet S is something of a guiding light. It boasts a unique wedge-shaped profile, which has a number of advantages. When you pop it down on a desk, it sets the screen at a slight angle so you don’t have to hunch over to see the screen and type. The thick edge gives you a good chunk to grip onto, and most of the weight is at that edge, making it much more balanced to hold in one hand than its rivals. The 586g weight, smaller 9.4in screen and grippy, textured rear panel also help.

Other practical additions include a micro USB socket that can be used not only as a means of transferring files from PC/laptop to tablet, but also as a USB host, allowing you to connect extra storage, a keyboard, mouse or game controller via a converter cable (not included). There’s also a full-sized SD card slot, so supplementing the 16GB or 32GB of storage is simple. The one major omission is an HDMI output.

Sony Tablet S

The best part is that although the textured plastics don’t feel as expensive as those in the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Tablet S looks every bit the premium device. Its thin edge tapers down to 9.8mm, the sides are shaped so the tablet looks like a folded-over sheaf of paper, and the gloss black contrasts satisfyingly with matte silver plastic. It’s a very handsome piece of kit.

Remote control

Sony’s other main innovation focuses on home entertainment, with the Tablet S featuring an infrared emitter, allowing it to be used as a universal remote control. As you’d expect, setting up new devices is straightforward: select the manufacturer from a list, then the product type, and cycle through the options provided until you hit upon something that works.

In a few minutes, we had a Samsung TV and Windows Media Center PC up and running, then took it to another house and set up a Sky HD box and Panasonic Viera TV. We struggled when it came to more esoteric AV components: stereo amplifiers are limited to seven manufacturers, and we couldn’t find ours on the list; and there was no sign of the Virgin Media TiVo DVR.

Sony Tablet S

But the good news is the tablet can also “learn” commands, so if you can’t find your device in the tablet’s very long list, you’ll be able to program it in. And once set up, it all works beautifully.

Performance

There’s no point in innovating if you don’t do the basics right, and we’re happy to report that Sony has got it spot on. The 1,280 x 800 resolution display is top class, boasting superb brightness and contrast. We measured the former at 379cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and the latter at 733:1 – on a level with the iPad 2. Suffice it to say, movies and pictures look outstanding, and good viewing angles mean it’s just at home acting as a shared photo album as a personal movie and music player.

Menu scrolling and the like feel immediate and smooth, as do web page panning, zooming and scrolling actions. And when pushed through our set of benchmarks, the Sony produced the sorts of figures we’ve come to expect from a top tablet: the BBC desktop homepage loaded in four seconds, the SunSpider JavaScript test finished in 2,191ms, and it scored 1,805 points in the Android Quadrant benchmark. Battery life is acceptable: it played our low-resolution video continuously for 8hrs 41mins before running out of juice.

Detail

Price ex VAT £333
Price inc VAT £399
Warranty 1 yr return to base
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 6

Physical

Dimensions 241 x 9.8 x 173mm (WDH)
Weight 586g

Display

Primary keyboard On-screen
Screen size 9.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Panel technology TFT

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 1,000MHz
Integrated memory 16.0GB
RAM capacity 1,000MB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Focus type Autofocus
Built-in flash? no
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11n
Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes
Accessories supplied None
Upstream USB ports 1
HDMI output? no
Video/TV output? no

Software

Mobile operating system Android 3.2

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