Sony made a debut in the flourishing tablet market with two distinctly designed devices – Tablet S and the Tablet P. The Tablet S sports a stylish and sophisticated look, while the Tablet P turns heads over its dual screen, clutch form factor. We’ve seen manufacturers testing waters in this device category and we weren’t surprised when Sony declared its new tablets. Interestingly, Sony’s claim to fame in portable devices has been its PSP, while the PlayStation phone didn’t take too much time to lose the fizz after its launch. We managed to lay our hands on the latter, the Sony Tablet S, which was released in India, earlier this month. It takes cues from gaming segment with some exclusive content and a design that sets it apart from other tablets. Let’s unfold its attributes one by one to find out if it can keep up with the performance exhibited by some of the key players.

Distinct looks

Distinct looks

Design and Build
Sony devices are known for spewing stylish looks, for instance the VAIO range. The Sony tablet S isn’t an exception and sports a sophisticated look in black and silver. Crafted in a wedge shape, it offers an angle for better typing, the curvy upper edge with a grid pattern (plastic material covering more than half of the backside) stretches on to the rear side, making it look like a folded paper sheet. About 1.5cm at its thickest part, the rear grid-like design ensures a firm grip, even while holding it in one hand. Besides the front and plastic that extends from the upper edge, the rest of the device along with its slanting side edges is maintained in silver. A reset, volume and main power buttons run along the left edge, while you’ll find a compartment for SD card and micro USB port on the right edge. The backside shows a 5MP camera and it also has a 0.3MP front facing camera. The power port is on the lower edge.

Book-like folded raer side

Book-like folded raer side

The front is glossy with a 9.4-inch TFT capacitive touchscreen display featuring 800 x 1280 pixels resolution. At 625 grams, it is heavier than the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy 750. The tablet has a thick side, which is made of a silver plastic panel – it feels a little cheap. The location of the volume rocker compelled us to accidentally hit the main switch of the device, as it’s hidden within the right edge and too close to the main switch. The in-box contents, include a main power cable, quick manual and a lanyard.

 

On Video: Sony Tablet S

Features
Interface
The Tablet S runs on Android Honeycomb 3.2, which we’ve seen earlier on the Samsung 750 (layered with the Samsung Touch UI) and the Motorola Xoom. This version of the Android OS has been specifically crafted to suit the need of tablet users. Sony has enhanced the UI with several tweaks exclusive to its tablet like the favorites icon has been added on the top left next to the Apps icon. Moreover, a row of quick launch buttons are placed on the right upper corner – Browser, e-mail, remote control and news feeds. On hitting the icons, all apps appear in a neat, large matrix, which can be instantly added to the home screen. Likewise, just long press on the main screen and you notice all screens appear in a low on the upper side. You can simply drag and drop widgets the home screen.

Honeycomb UI

Honeycomb UI

The screen offers fairly good touch response, but it can't match up to the iPad. There are several instances when the device came across as sluggish and laggy, while responding. Navigation is just about fine, with specs like Nvidia Tegra 2, dual-core Cortex processor and 1GB RAM, which are pretty similar to most of the tablets in its class. Using the AnTuTu benchmark, an overall score of 4831 was achieved. The Linpack test resulted into 27.24 MFLOPS for single-threaded run and for multi-threaded run it is 47.63. The scores show that the Sony Tablet S is indeed a bit faster, than the Samsung Tab 750.

Sony had added its touch in the form its own app store called selectApp, apart from the access to the vast Android Market. We received the 16GB unit that supports an SD card up to 32GB. Now, once you pop in the SD card, the device asks you to transfer data to the internal memory , also giving an option transfer it to the SD card back. This is awkward as seemingly you can't use the data directly from the SD card. Then on, the device storage has been partitioned for media (Downloads, Audio, Video, Pictures) and system files – 8.92GB and 3.49GB, respectively. Why couldn't Sony keep it simple.

Tablet optimized UI

Tablet optimized UI


Media
The Sony tablet supports MP4/H.264/H.263 video files and MP3/WAV/eAAC+/OGG audio files. It is disappointing to see the device not support AVI or DivX files. The music player is neat, displaying large album art on the left side while the status bar and other functions on the right. The song, artist name and album name are displayed in a considerably large font and a search icon is placed next to each one of them, which allows searching for the information on the Music apps downloaded, YouTube and Google.The audio output of speaker is loud enough for private listening. You’ll have to use your own earphones, as Sony decided not to bundle them with the tablet. It lets you add lyrics manually and also by adding file. xLoud and ClearPhase are features that Sony claims enhances the loudness of the internal speakers. The equalizer comes with limited tweaks. The display quality is good; be it browsing the web, playing games or watching HD videos. Viewing angles are good and the screen is pretty decent overall, although you can see fine pixels, if you view it closely.

Music Player

Music Player

Connectivity
The Sony tablet supports HSDPA and HSUPA, alongside Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, v2.1 with A2DP, microUSB and Internet apps. It also features Infra red port, not seen in many tablets. However, you won’t find support for NFC or HDMI. Sony offers a host of Internet apps, apart from the various Google services like Google Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Calendar and Google Talk. Astonishingly, the Sony tablet does not bundle a USB cable. The device does not support call functionality, giving a miss to EDGE and GPRS functions.

Apps respond quickly with a single tap

Apps icon takes you to this…

Misc Features
Sony had included a dash of its gaming bit in the tablet. Firstly, the tablet is PlayStation certified. Secondly, it comes with built-in games like Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes. The interface allows you to hold the device just like a controller (of course, not literally) as the physical buttons appear as touch buttons. It also includes a remote control feature, which allows you to control your other devices with the tablet, owing to the built-in infrared port. Besides, you can reap benefits of Sony’s apps and music store.

Sony adds play to the tablet

Sony adds play to the tablet


Camera
Sony has been excelling on the camera front, otherwise, so we did expect something better than other tablets on this front. However, to our disappointment it was nothing exceptional. The rear 5MP camera was satisfactory, while the front facing VGA was grainy and noisy. The camera settings allow 5 scenes to choose from, adjusting white balance and storing location. The video recording at 720p@30fps was just about decent. The lack of flash was evident in the poor quality of pictures taken in low light conditions. The pictures taken outdoors seemed slightly washed out.

Sophisticated looks

Sophisticated looks

Battery life
The device could squeeze through a 2 hour movie (low res), 2 hours of music listening and 2 hours of Wi-Fi streaming battery. With moderate usage, it wouldn't even require charging on a daily basis.

Verdict
The Sony Tablet S is a very good first attempt by Sony. There are however, a few issues. Priced at an MRP of Rs.29,990, it's almost the same as the cheapest iPad 2. There's a good amount of firepower. Except for a few complaints – primarily not being able to use the external memory card as expandable storage. But considering the price, it's well worth the money if you're in the market, looking specifically for an Android tablet.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,