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Sony Tablet S (32GB) Hands On Review

When people think of tablets, the words Apple and Samsung are usually the two names that spring to mind, but now that Sony has (finally) entered the tablet ring, have they made an impact? Read on to find out.







The first thing that strikes you about the Sony Tablet S, is it's design. Away with the flat aesthetics of regular tablets, and in its place is this "folded magazine" shape. Beautifully crafted, with a number of advantages over its rivals. When it's popped 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 all aid to make the S a joy to hold and use, and sets a new beacon in the way tablets should be designed.

There's a micro USB socket on the left hand side 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 (sadly 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 the lack of an HDMI output.

It really does look the part, and a lot of thought has gone into the wedge shaped design, and whilst it is plastic, it still feels a very premium device.

A major feature found on the S, is the universal remote. Using a built in infrared emitter, you simply select the device you wish to control, select the correct settings, and voila! Within a few minutes, we'd set up the S to control an LG TV, Sky+ HD Box, a Sanyo HD TV another Sky Box and Windows Media PC. And if you're device isn't listed, the S can "learn" commands. The strange thing is how satisfying it is to use, it's a blast and every geek/techie is going to love this feature.

An odd omission is the lack of Playstation 3 support, although when we contacted Sony they said such feature may be implemented in the future, we felt a little miffed that it wasn't included from the word go.

The 1,280 x 800 resolution display is amazing, boasting superb brightness and contrast, at 379cd/m2 and the latter at 733:1 – on a level with the iPad 2. Movies, gaming 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.

Full flash web pages loaded very fast, Tech Beever loaded in three seconds, the BBC desktop homepage loaded in four seconds, the SunSpider JavaScript test finished in 2,191ms, with oddly, Sony's own Select App website loading the slowest at six seconds.

During our test, we got around 8 hours of play before it ran out of juice, which was web browsing, gaming, music and video.

The camera isn't up there with the best -- you certainly wont be ditching your smartphone to take the S on trips (although you'd need big pockets if you did), but it's ok for quick snaps, although the lack of a flash means low light conditions are a no-no, but in good lighting the S produces some nice pictures.

On the software side of things, the S is running Android 3.2 Honeycomb, with a few tweaks by Sony, who's added four small shortcut icons at the top of the desktop next to the Google Search and Voice Search options, for the browser, the remote app, the social networking app and email (although you can replace these with whatever you like).

In the top-right corner of the Android desktop is a shortcut to another frivolous extra – the Favourites screen, which groups recent apps and activities together in a sort of 3D video wall, and shows you things like recently played, added, web browser bookmarks etc.

The S is also PlayStation certified, meaning it can play old-school PS One games, with two titles included as tasters: Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes, and as the S runs on a NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2 Processor, it handles gaming with ease. The PS Store is a little empty at present, with only around 8 games, but more titles should be added soon.

Sony includes its own music and video apps, both of which come in addition to the existing standard Honeycomb offerings. The main appeal of these – (aside from a rather attractive cover art “coffee table”-style view, which allows you to rummage through albums as if they were strewn on a flat surface in front of you) – is the ability to “throw” music and video from the tablet to a suitable DLNA-compatible device. It's great when it works, but the S failed to recognize the number of devices we tried it with.

The S also comes with improved camera apps, Sony’s own ebook reader software, a social networking app that aggregates Twitter and Facebook feeds, a DLNA client for streaming music and video across the network to the tablet, plus links to the company’s (pay monthly) Music and Video Unlimited services.

Verdict.

Sony's Tablet S is a surprise win, mainly down to the genius design. But it's universal remote capabilities and intuitive take on the Android Honeycomb OS are very well done. Our only gripe is the duel-core processor -- sure it's fast, and handles everything very well, but as Sony is late hopping into the tablet world, we can't help but feel they should have kitted out the Tablet S with a quad-core, and left the duel-core in the Tablet P.

Is it better than an iPad 2? If it's apps you're after, then no, but if it's an attractive, clever tablet with great specs and loads of features, we'd highly recommend the Sony Tablet S. It may not be perfect, but it at least comes to the table with quirky ideas, and for the most part, does it's job tremendously well.





Performance
ProcessorNVIDIA® Tegra™ 2
Operating system3.1 Android Honeycomb
RAM1GB
Screen typeLED
Screen resolution1280x800
Screen size9.4"
TouchscreenYes
Screen featuresBacklit HD Display
Connectivity
Memory capacity32GB
Memory card slotSD
Device interfaceMicro USB
WirelessYes
Internet connectionWiFi
Video interfaceThrow - Wireless to TV
Audio interfaceBuilt-in Speaker
Features
CameraWebcam. 3 mp front facing. 5mp rear.
Adobe Flash PlayerYes
Additional featuresPlayStation Certified & Remote Control
Additional information
Accessories includedWrist Strap, AC Adapater
Software includedSkype, FourSquare, Sony Entertainment Network
Battery typeLithium-ion
Dimensions242 x 173 x 10 mm
Weight598g

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