Sony Tablet P review

21 Nov 2011

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

Price when reviewed 
499
3

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/m[sup]2[/sup] brightness and 800:1 contrast on the top screen, but only 370cd/m[sup]2[/sup] 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.

Detail

Price ex VAT £416
Price inc VAT £499
Overall rating 3
Performance 5
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 2

Physical

Dimensions 179 x 22 x 84mm (WDH)
Weight 368g

Display

Primary keyboard On-screen
Screen size 5.5in
Resolution screen horizontal 1.000000000000000000000000
Resolution screen vertical 480
Display type 2 x colour touchscreen LCD
Panel technology LED TFT

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 1,000MHz
Integrated memory 4.0GB
RAM capacity 1.00GB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Focus type Autofocus
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11n
Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes
Upstream USB ports 1
HDMI output? no
Video/TV output? no

Software

Mobile operating system Android 3.2