Sony Tablet S review
A top-quality tablet, with a thoughtful design and a host of useful software and extras
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Price ex VAT||£333|
|Price inc VAT||£399|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||6|
|Dimensions||241 x 9.8 x 173mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,280|
|Resolution screen vertical||800|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1,000MHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||5.0mp|
|Upstream USB ports||1|
|Mobile operating system||Android 3.2|