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Sony Tablet S review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 27 Sep 2011

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £333 (£399 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £170
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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/m2 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.

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User comments

Sony is always Sony

They do make decent hardware (not their TV's) but they cannot do software. The problem with every android product is the bloatware. Every android manufacturer does this and Sony are the worst with android devices.
Having purchased the asus transformer and galaxy tab 10.1 the only thing the Sony can do different is control a TV/Sky box.
All its other apps, DLNA etc.. can be found on the interwebs and there are actually better DLNA apps on the market out there.
I also think its too late to buy a dual core tablet when the quad cores are going to be out soon. So why this tablet now??

By r1sh12 on 27 Sep 2011

Something original finally

I usually hate Sony and their proprietary shaneningans, but I have to hand it to them and I am quite impressed with this tablet. The IR control is a touch of genius I haven't even thought I would need, but given these things generally hang in front of a TV it makes a lot of sense.

By TheMegamale on 28 Sep 2011

Nice hardware but...

The Sony Tablet S certainly looks nice, but I question the location of the power button... looks like it could be pressed accidentally, esp by left-handers.

I agree with @r1sh12's comments re the unnecessary add-ons that manufacturers insist on including.

I do like the inclusion of an IR emitter (something I wish all Android devices had from the start) but the Remote Control software! Call that a UI? How clunky can you get? I'm surprised Sony let that be seen on this otherwise attractive piece of kit.

By blueleaf on 29 Sep 2011

Only one gripe...

Have had one since Monday and the review is spot on. The IR function is brilliant and a doodle to set up, even learning an unlisted controller.
One major criticism, Sony should have include a 4-way accelerometer; the weighted/folded design is great for left or right handed portrait mode but for long stints of holding in landscape mode, being able to hold it with the "thick end"at the bottom would be a lot more comfortable.

By jmmaury on 29 Sep 2011

Always liked Sony products but they lost me after the data issues this summer.

Agree about the comment regarding awful Sony software, I have a Sony eReader and the hardware is good but the bundled software is dire, thank God for Calibre.

By Deano on 29 Sep 2011

Unique?

It looks like a great device, but it should be noted that contrary to what is said in the article, the wedge shape is far from unique, having been used in the Notion Ink 'Adam' for the eighteen months or so. Much as I appreciated the advantages that the wedge shape gave, it still left me feeling slightly emabarressed using it on the train when the guy opposite was using a (technically inferior but very sleek) ipad.

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By linaadd on 3 Oct 2011

SD Card Slot

Some reviews say that the SD Card slot isn't for storage per se, merely for allowing the transfer of items from PC to tablet.

Can you confirm:
1) if it's possible to put videos / music (in correct format) onto the SD card from a PC and play them directly from the SD card on the tablet?

2) if the SD card can be used as extra storage accessible to android (like the micro SD cards in the android phones).

Thanks.

By Nafod on 17 Oct 2011

sd card slot

you can play anything(in the right format)from the sd card. i have had my sony tablet s since release day and it is top quality, i am anti ipad-iphone because of the restriction to apple.if you want a better alternative to apple and you can break free then sony has cracked it with this tablet with android 3.2

By steve7512 on 31 Oct 2011

Docking Station

It had to be Android for me and so I got hold of a Galaxy and a Sony S. The big difference for me is the lack of accessories for the Sony. Samsung appear to have filled the shelves with accessories. The Sony feels safer in my large hands than the Samsung which feels like it will snap any minute. I love the remote control. Shame it didn't come with the 50 pence cost to make USB lead.

By mratkins on 14 Nov 2011

Dont Purchase this item

I brought the Sony tablet three weeks ago and since then i have already had to replace the item due to all the applications closing on its own, unfortunitly Sony support have no knowledge on the product. I now also have a new problem occuring that the tablet wont connect to wifi. I think the item is great without all the issues i would suggest waiting 6 months before you purchase

By Grantbaxter89 on 14 Dec 2011

No Car Charger !!!

Just found out I cant buy a Car charger for the Tablet S.
Sony dont do one and thanks to the silly Proprietary connector there are no 3rd party ones that I can find either.
Which ever idiot at Sony decided on this needs to be sacked!

By harry66 on 23 Mar 2012

Yes definitely no car charger

Sony customer service rep has confirmed that they definitely dont have any plans to produce a car charger for the Tablet S.
Unbelievable! A decision worthy of Homer Simpson - no that is an insult to Homer. He does occasionally make some common sense decisions.

By harry66 on 30 Mar 2012

re: Car charger - solution?

Out of interest, what's to stop people buying a 12V in-car inverter and using the bundled mains charger? Wouldn't that suffice?

I don't consider the lack of official after-market car charger a show-stopper for me, but I am in the market for a an Android 4.0 tablet with a good screen for a reasonable price, and I'm not exactly blown away by what's on offer so far in 2012. The Samsungs seem plasticky, the Asus Transformer Prime/Infinity either had bugs or are expensive. I know Sony are rumoured to be preparing a successor to the Tablet S, but for me, it might actually fit the bill - for the right price.

By steve_142 on 13 Apr 2012

Conforms to current sony performance - rubbish

At first my tablets s was fine but the recent software updates have renderred this device less than useless. It will not hold a wifi connection for more than a minute or two, a problem my wifes Asus does not suffer on the same connection at the same time. It is now little more than an expensive photo frame. This is the third sony device I have bought this year that performs pitifully. I have now changed all of them and will never buy sony again. My replacement Samsung Tab is a far superior product. If you've got any sense then you'll buy the Samsung or the Asus Transformer. Sony claims there is no issue; they should probably take a look at the internet and search "sony tablet s connectivity problems".

By mascalzone on 22 Nov 2012

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