A tablet that stands out from the crowd.
Probably the feature that got me the most excited about the Sony Tablet S was the Remote Control app, which does exactly that. Sony have smartly included an IR blaster in their tablet, which allows you to fire up the app and control various devices that you may have in your living room. You can control TVs, home theatres, projectors – there is a large selection of gadgets on the tablet that you can tinker with, and you can even create a new device and map an existing remote control to the commands on the tablet. The tablet worked instantly with my 4 year old BRAVIA TV, and it took me just under 10 minutes to program my Harmon Kardon remote controller into the Tablet S. You can even enable gestures on the tablet when using the Remote Control app, so swiping up and down could control the volume, while swiping left and right can change channels. It’s a universal remote at the end of the day, but a much sleeker and attention-grabbing one. I’ve never seen a tablet do this before, and I admit that I had a lot of evil fun standing in the corridor and switching off my roommate’s Sony TV every couple of minutes.
One of the things that Sony has been adamant about when marketing the Tablet S is how it contains all of Sony’s innovations found in one place. To support that, Sony have tapped into their breath of experience in the gaming industry to bring Playstation certification to this tablet. What this means is that you will be able to play a variety of PS One games on the tablet, with more games being released via the Playstation Store. My tablet came bundled with Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes, and while the PS Store is not immediately available, you will get a prompt to download and install it after you get the tablet online. Sony have promised that post-launch there will be a variety of games available, but for now I’m stuck with Crash and Pinball. It was awkward for me to play Crash Bandicoot at first, given that I don’t necessarily have a good track record with gaming on a tablet. But after a while I was able to calm my fears and actually play a half-decent game of Crash Bandicoot. Pinball was another story with me swinging the tablet around like an idiot trying to get the pinball in the right zones. The Playstation games at the moment aren’t too impressive, but I’m going to cut Sony some slack here and wait for the PS Store to be officially available to see what kind of games come out. I believe that Sony will also allow you to connect a PS3 controller to your Tablet S in a future update, which I think would make the gaming much more enjoyable at the cost of having to carry around a separate controller.
Screen and Camera
At 9.4”, the screen is quite capable of displaying some rather vivid colors, no doubt thanks in part to Sony’s lifetime experience with TVs and high quality displays. The tablet features Sony’s TruBlack technology to produce deeper blacks and more vivid colors, and this is wholly evident when viewing photos and other media. Like most other tablets though, the screen is a cruel fingerprint magnet, and when switched off the glossy display tends to showcase your grubby smudges a little too clearly, so it’s wise to secretly have a cloth handy. The main interface is clean and thankfully widget-free, unlike other tablets I’ve tested. Moving around and exiting apps was no problem, with the tablet responding fairly quickly to my frantic swipes. Web browsing on the Tablet S was generally smooth and hassle-free with the native Android Honeycomb web browser.
I tend to not expect much when it comes to tablet cameras, but I was pleasantly surprised with the camera in the Tablet S. While it didn’t take breathtaking photos, it was still able to capture a decent amount of lighting in outdoor scenes, but didn’t do so well with indoor shots. The front camera is fine for quick video chats though you will need to be in a properly lit area as the light detection on it isn’t the greatest.
Being a media tablet, audio was another crucial thing I wanted to test. Loading up some movies and music, I was able to get an acceptable level of audio quality from the tablet’s speaker, which of course improved when I plugged in a pair of headphones.
Sony claims that the Tablet S can run for eight hours, so in true form I charged up the tablet and put it to the acid test. Two HD movies, web browsing, Wi-fi on and streaming to a Sony TV and I was able to squeeze about six and a half hours before the device finally shut down. That’s not too shabby considering I didn’t bother to monitor what apps were running in the background.
But all this glitz and glamor does have its downsides. For one thing, the tablet has its own proprietary power connector, which means yet another cable to add to my growing collection at home. I’m surprised at this as most Android tablets can charge via micro-USB, so if you run out of juice you’re going to need to carry a spare charger. Even when plugged in the connection doesn’t feel very secure, so there is a risk of the tablet flying onto the floor if the chord gets snagged somewhere. I also wish that Sony had moved the power and volume controls to another location or changed their design a bit – I often found myself hitting the volume button instead of pressing the power switch.
I’ve seen my fair share of tablets, and I have to say that overall I was impressed by Sony’s little baby. The company clearly has taken its time in launching the device, and it shows both in the design as well as the tablet’s features. And should Sony upgrade the OS to ICS, the user experience will become even more fluid that it already is. While I have to nitpick that it was disappointing that none of my video files would play, for the most part features like the DLNA streaming and Remote control certainly push the Tablet S ahead of the barrage of Android tablets in the market. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense Android tablet that can control your gadgets with a flick of your wrist, then this is the one for you.