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Sony Tablet P review

Verdict

The clamshell design makes it neat and portable, but creates too many compatibility issues for a tablet at this sky-high price

Review Date: 21 Nov 2011

Reviewed By: David Bayon

Price when reviewed: £416 (£499 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £152
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
2 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Most manufacturers seem to be gradually morphing their tablet offerings into one barely distinguishable design, but Sony continues to be different. After the wedge-shaped, media-focused Tablet S comes something more radical: the Sony Tablet P is a dual-screened Android tablet that folds up like the Nintendo DS’s older, smarter brother.

Sony Tablet P

It’s 22mm thick when closed and weighs 368g, with a curvy shape – Sony can genuinely claim to have a tablet that will fit in your pocket. The only blemishes on its edges are a power socket, micro-USB and headphone ports, and a volume rocker button. It works over 802.11n Wi-Fi and 3G (you get a SIM with a month of free data from 3 in the box), and has GPS too.

The two 5.5in screens each boast a 1,024 x 480 resolution, so when opened flat they combine for a large, almost square display, closer to the 4 x 3 aspect ratio of an iPad than the usual widescreen Android tablets. Sony says the Tablet P’s TruBlack display will blow you away, but that’s only half right: we measured a good 448cd/m2 brightness and 800:1 contrast on the top screen, but only 370cd/m2 and 700:1 on the bottom screen. The discrepancy is only really noticeable on a white screen, though, and although colours aren’t as vibrant as Sony hopes, it’s pleasant to use for long periods.

Sony Tablet P

And although it’s more compact than most tablets, it still packs a bit of muscle inside. With a 1GHz Tegra 2 chip and 1GB of RAM, it scored 1,549 in the Android-only Quadrant test, took 2,203ms to complete the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, and loaded the BBC homepage in six seconds – right up there with the iPad 2 for speed. Our only issue with the internals is the paltry 4GB of storage, but there’s a microSD slot to add more – prise off the back and you’ll find it next to that rarest of things, a removable battery. In our rundown test it lasted 6hrs 32mins.

It has a few nice software features, too. Although it lacks the Tablet S’s ability to directly control your other home entertainment devices, the Tablet P can still be used to easily “throw” your media to those on your home network, which is a very good thing as the tablet’s own mono speaker is weak and tinny. You get access to Sony’s Video and Music Unlimited rental services, and Sony’s Reader app has been tweaked to flow text down the dual screens. The tall, thin pages take a bit of getting used to, and a proper page turn animation would have made it more immersive, but it isn't bad as tablet readers go.

Sony Tablet P

The calendar, contacts and a very nice music player app all take advantage of the dual screens, with menus on one and results on the other, as does the camera app. The main camera image appears on the lower screen, with the top turned into a film strip for the snaps you take. The icons are a bit small and fiddly for our liking, and the 5-megapixel camera itself is average – photos were grainy and a bit soft, although it handled different lighting reasonably well – but it’s good to see some thought going into the layout.

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User comments

Nice idea.What they are missing is the edge to edge screen.Put that in it and maybe make it a little larger.14" tablet folded in half to put in a pocket.
So as when vertically for reading books you get 2 pages to view (just like a paperback) and run of externally rechargeable batteries.(1 for the machine and a backup) and I think they may be onto a winner.

By Jaberwocky on 23 Nov 2011

Wait for version 2

I agree with Jaberwocky, some great ideas here and I love the look of it all folded up, but it needs a few tweaks.

To me it seems like a concept tablet which has been released just a little too early, i.e. before the tech is ready. Especially as it seems like the main 2 hardware issues are the bezel between the screens and the missing storage etc... The other issues are only software.

p.s. Is it just me or would it be great if the screens could separate and be used independently, or as 2 parts for multilayer games..?

By stevenutt on 23 Nov 2011

Convergence?

This would be a great way to converge the Smartphone and Tablet worlds again. Folded it would hold comfortably as a phone, if it had earphone and microphone on the outside.
And I'd think that it might be feasible to produce an OLED display that could be tiled without lost pixels, though doing this with an LCD is probably not possible.

By JohnAHind on 23 Nov 2011

@John - I agree!

A new take on Nokia's old Communicators! And also, yes, there must be a better screen technology available, to make it a proper one piece screen. Great concept, not optimally executed... Like a lot of tablets, I'm afraid!

By skooptech on 24 Nov 2011

Nah, it'll fold!

Not so long ago our forefathers used to read folding books and even colour magazines, and they got by with it. Maybe we could re-adapt to the ways of the ancients and accommodate this strange and wonderful new idea.

By martindaler on 24 Nov 2011

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