A tablet that stands out from the crowd.
Every other day at the office there’s a new tablet waiting to be explored. Big ones, small ones, some that glow in the dark, some that claim to be bigger, brighter, and faster than anything out in the market. But more often that not, these end up being empty promises, and with the market now flooded with tablets of nearly every kind it’s getting harder and harder for manufacturers to come out with a truly unique tablet.
Sony are the latest big guns to enter into the tablet market, surprisingly at a later time than other manufacturers. While the company certainly has taken its time crafting what they have now dubbed the Sony Tablet S, is there enough stock in this tablet to really win you over? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.
Build quality & design
Right off the bat, the first thing that you notice about the Sony Tablet S is the design. Its teardrop/wedge appearance immediately makes it stand out from other similar tablets, and Sony state that this design element also makes the tablet easier to hold and operate. Modeled after a folded magazine, the unit sports a glossy finish and is generally quite sturdy to hold with one or both hands. The angled design also makes it easier to view the tablet and type when placed on a flat surface.
There are a minimal number of ports and buttons on the Tablet S – on the right side is the power and volume buttons, and on the left is the headphone jack and a hidden slot for an SD reader and micro-USB. Powering the tablet is a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor running Android 3.2. You either get a 16 or 32GB version as there’s no microSD available for expanding storage, though there is an SD card slot for reading data. Weighing in at just under 600g, the tablet feels fairly weighty at the top of the ‘wedge’ design, but still remains quite comfortable to hold.
Applications and Interface
Sony bills the Tablet S as the ultimate media tablet to have in your home, so I was eager to see just how it measured up to this claim. In addition to the regular Android apps, Sony has bundled some rather interesting programs that really show off some of the tablet’s finer features. Firstly, Sony has included a handy DLNA app which allows you to stream media to your tablet from nearby compatible servers and devices. It was able to detect my NAS and display all of my media, however I wasn’t able to play a single video file from my drive, which is very odd considering my PS3 has no problems reading video content from that drive. Even when I tried loading a simple video file to the tablet it refused to run, pointing to possible restrictions on the types of file formats the tablet natively supports. However when I did get the video working on the device, it was crystal clear and looked beautiful. Everything from YouTube to HD clips played well, so if only Sony could sort out a patch to expand the supported file types for videos, this tablet would be going places.
One of the more exciting media features of the Tablet S was the ability to ‘throw’ media to other DLNA compatible devices, especially the newer range of Sony TVs. While you are watching a video or listening to audio on your tablet, you can search for nearby players or TVs and then swipe upward to ‘throw’ the content towards that device and resume streaming. You can still control playback using the tablet, but you can watch or listen to the media on the other device. It’s a gimmick not unlike Apple’s Airplay, but there are very few tablets on the market that do this and do it well. Scrubbing through video while streaming to a Sony TV was executed perfectly, with just a minute delay in the video resuming from the new position.
There’s also a “Select App” program which points you via the web browser to a Sony site where you can download apps designed for your Tablet S, similar to those found in the Android store. There’s also a Reader app for eBooks, as well as a Social Feed Reader to aggregate feeds from various social networks on one place. Sony have also touched up on the actual App launcher screen, opting for a crisp white background that contrasts smartly with the colorful Android icons. Sony also provides a Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited apps to purchase and stream video and music to your tablet, but this wasn’t working on my model as I suspect it isn’t supported in the region.