The Sony Tablet S may be a late arrival in the crowded Android tablet market, but it certainly stands out from the pack of rectangles that are virtually indistinguishable at a glance. With a design that can best be described as resembling a folded magazine, Sony is pushing ergonomics and hopes to appeal to users who find the iPad 2 and 10.1-inch Android tablets too unwieldy, especially when used with one hand.
Sony is definitely on base in regards to today's thin larger-screen tablets. Holding and using an iPad 2 or Xoom can be very awkward, especially with one hand or when used without a Smart Cover or case. But are the Sony Tablet S and its odd design the answer? And how does the Sony Tablet S perform as a tablet? Find out in this full review.
BUILD & DESIGN
Lay the Tablet S down on a table and it would make an ideal ramp for a Matchbox car. The fold, or rounded bulge comes along the long side, the tablet ranges from about .3-inches at its thinnest point, to .79 at its thickest.
The Sony Tablet S distinguishes itself again with a 9.4-inch display, and it's the only brand name tablet with that screen size. A .3-megapixel camera sits in the middle of the long side, just under the fold/bump.
The fold over to the back of the tablet features slightly textured plastic, which is preferable to the sheer plastic found on the Samsung Galaxy Tabs. Still, the team at TabletPCReview universally prefers a rubberized build, or aluminum. There are two rubber bumpers on the top of the back, with a 5-megapixel camera between them, opposite the front-facing shooter. The front-side fold ends about 4/5 for the way down the back, giving way to the rough plastic underbelly. A four-pin proprietary docking input, which is the only means of charging the Tablet S, sits on the thin front end of the device.
The thick ends of the Sony Tablet S are ideal for hiding ports and inputs, and Sony uses the space well with a full-sized SD card slot and microUSB input, both found underneath a latch, as well a 3.5mm audio jack on one side, along with a speaker and wrist latch on the thin end. Another speaker rests directly across on the other side, along with reset, volume, and power buttons.
The Tablet S ships with a bulky two-piece proprietary charging cable and a wrist strap.
We'd rather Sony went with a full-sized USB input and microSD card slot, and included an HDMI input given Sony's home theater chops, but we won't complain too loudly since many tablets lack any decent ports at all. We will however complain about the overly plastic build and the fact that the Tablet S only charges via the proprietary input, and not the microUSB. The power and volume buttons placement is troublesome as well, as they are just too close together, and difficult to discern via touch. Too often we accidentally tapped the power button and put the Tablet S to sleep when attempting to adjust the volume.
That said, there is so much to like about the Tablet S innovative design. It's ergonomic and functional, and it's a great example of what Android tablet manufacturers should do to distinguish Android tablets from the iPad.
Display & Speakers
The Sony Tablet S has a 9.4-inch display and a 1280 x 800 resolution, for a density of about 160 pixels per inch. That is slightly higher than the 132 PPI count on the 9.7-inch iPad 2 and approximately 150 PPI count featured on most 10.1-inch Android tablets. The Tablet S display is not especially bright when maxed out, meaning screen glare can be a real issue, and the whites tend to a warm, almost brown, tone. Rendered images and text suffer a bit, but streaming video looks excellent, and especially sharp with great detail.
Unfortunately, the Tablet S joins the long list of tablets with lousy on-board speakers. As with nearly every other tablet we reviewed in 2011, the Tablet S speakers are weak and produce tinny sound with no bass. In addition, the speaker placement on the sides of the device is poor as the speakers do not direct sound at the user. Thankfully, the sound is acceptable over headphones.
Sony Tablet S specs:
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