Sony Tablet S Review
Is this just an iPad world that we're all living in or can Sony's ambitious S Tablet tilt the odds in the direction of the Japanese giants?
Two years after the iPad began to revitalise and ultimately dominate the tablet market, Sony finally decided to show off their rival this summer - the wedge-shaped Tablet S.
Boasting a 9.4" inch and weighing in at 1.33lbs, it is a sleek device that quickly captured the world's attention for altogether different reasons. Offering a surprising alternative to a sea of slimline, completely flat tablets, the Tablet S's wedge shape is intended for ergonomic comfort, in that it resembles and feels very similar to reading a folded newspaper or magazine.
Considering that the majority of tablets are used very specfically as portable leisure devices, not to mention the fact that most tablet users find that they read a lot more on their device than any laptop they carry, it's an ingenious design decision.
As you can see, there really is nothing quite like the Tablet S' design
The tablet itself is thicker at one side and graducally curves inwards, meaning that it also props up nicely when placed placed on a flat surface for typing and slinks right into your hand when turned vertically. The sheer improvement on typing on a tablet surface that isn't flat is huge, and we wouldn't be surprised if more forthcoming tablets adopt a wedge shape.
In comparison to an iPad 2, which can feel expensive and fragile, holding the Tablet S feels reassuring and comfortable for whichever use you have in mind. The textured design of the back of the tablet also renders it easy to grip at all times. To sum up, there are plenty of intuitive design decisions that showcase a Sony that is perfectly capable of forging its own path within the fierce tablet market.
Specs wise, the Tablet S has front and rear cameras, 1080p video capture and playback, a capacitive touchscreen, SD expansion slot and dual-core Tegra processor running at 1GHz. As you can imagine, it's a powerful device and bar a few apps crashing, we had an extremely smooth time having held it within our grasp for weeks.
Overall, the tablet is easy to use, becomes second nature within your hands and runs without any noticeable performance issues, yet there is one seemingly insurmountable issue that we can envisage for the future Sony products.
Android market issues
Sadly, it's not a flaw that just Sony has to contend with, and that is the relative paucity of tablet-specific content in the Android Market compared to the iPad's App Store.
Granted, shipping on the Honeycomb interface is a fantastic 'win' for the device, and indeed the operating system is a dream to browse. However, we found that when it came to occupying our time with meaningful tablet-only apps, the availability was sorely lacking.
To be fair, since the tablet is Playstation-certified, it has a greater lure to gamers, offering in-built games such as Crash Bandicoot and infrared controls of Sony devices (including a PS3), yet bar a few standout apps (The Sunday Times, USA Today), there was precious little to 'wow' us.
Thus, despite the obvious improvements that Sony has made over rival Android tablets (launching on Honeycomb, Playstation certification, wedge design), we found that our ultimate experience felt somewhat incomplete next to the line-up of apps, accessories and supported content right now for the iPad 2.
However, the Tablet S is still easily the finest tablet we've got our hands on and if you've never bought into the Apple hype and are hoping for a tech present under the tree this weekend, we think you'll be more than satifised than with Sony's bold tablet debut.