We had seen the Sony Tablet S back in July, and today Sony is officially launching its Wi-Fi only 9.4-inch Android tablet, just before IFA. Sony is coming somewhat late in the game, albeit with a state-of-the-art design that delivers a very unique look, which is quite refreshing for this overcrowded market segment!
Personally, I (Eliane) love the elegant and different look of the Sony S, Hubert is a bit less enthusiastic, he finds the device slightly too thick, which does not bother me, since it provides room for a full-sized SD card slot and gives it a nice angle when it lays on a table.
On the hardware side, it packs some serious features including a crisp and vibrant 9.4-inch TruBlack display with 1280×800 resolution, and Tegra 2 SoC, great for the Playstation Certification that enables the device to run a few PSone and PSP games ported to Android- the S comes with the iconic title Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes. Additionally, Sony enabled the S to be an IR remote control for numerous home entertainment devices.
Processor: NVIDIA Tegra2
OS: Android 3.1
Display: 9.4″ 1280 x 800 multi-touch capacitive TruBlack display
Connectivity: 3.5mm jack, MicroUSB, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP Stereo Bluetooth
IR remote control function
Camera: Front – 0.3 Megapixel – Rear – 5.0 Megapixel with Exmor sensor (good low light performance)
Flash support: Adobe Flash Player 10.2 in web browser
External Memory : Full-size SD Card slot (for media exchange only)
Installed Memory : 16GB or 32 GB
Internal Memory (RAM): 1GB
Battery: Li-Ion 5000mAh
Dimensions (Approx.) 9.5” L x 6.8” W x 0.3”D – 24.13 cm L x 17.27 cm W x 0.76 cm D
Weight (Approx.) 1.33 lbs – 600 g
Thinness comparison: Xoom: 12.9 mm – iPad 2: 8.8 mm – Galaxy Tab 10.1: 8.6 mm
Weight comparison: Xoom 730g – 1.6 lbs – iPad 2: 600 g – 1.33 lbs – Galaxy Tab 10.1: 595 g – 1.31 lbs
Pricing and availability
The Sony Tablet S device is available for pre-sale today and will ship next month, the 16GB version costs $499 and the 32 GB version retails for $599. It will be sold at Sony Stores including online and other authorized retailers nationwide. For more information, visit www.sony.com/tablet or check out www.sony.com/tabletvideo.
External Design and Hardware (very good)
The Sony S features an elegantly designed chassis that offers a mix of glossy piano black, silver matte and white finishes, with a look reminiscent of a folded magazine.
The weight is purposely off centered to provide a comfortable feel while holding it in one hand. Consequently, the asymmetrical balance implies a difference in thickness of the sides that provides a nice angle, which is both aesthetically appealing and practical, for reading on a table and for making enough room for the full-sized SD card slot.
Except for the thickness, the device is slightly more compact than its competitors, namely the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the iPad 2, for a similar weight, while offering a quite large display (9.4”), it is one of the reasons why I like it so much: it fits better in a purse.
Unfortunately, the charging connector is proprietary (Sony still has this habit to love proprietary connectivity). The manufacturer explains its choice by the necessity of protecting the motherboard in case of an accidental and brutal disconnect, and to deliver faster charging compared to a standard micro USB port.
Display (very good)
According to Sony, the TruBlack panel provides more vibrant colors and deeper blacks, because it controls the refraction of light between the LCD and the screen. We saw a demo of the device and we were noticed the high quality of the display, with a great resolution (1280×800 @ 9.4”), vibrant colors, deep blacks and high contrasts.
Software – Android 3.1 and Sony Customizations
The Sony Tablet S comes with Android Honeycomb 3.1 and a few proprietary software customizations such as QuickTouch, QuickView, Sony Services, Remote control application using embedded IR. Check the video to have a feel of the user interface.
QuickTouch is the name of the algorithm that enhances the user interface’s responsiveness across all applications. The marketing team showed me a demo browsing the 5 home screens carousel, I did not have another Android tablet with Tegra 2 to compare, but having used it, I could perceive a more fluid motion – but, frankly, the difference is not that important.
According to Sony, the algorithm analyzes the finger movements and calibrates the system, offering more points to detect finger positioning.
Sony has optimized web page loading and labeled it “QuickView”. The company claims that web pages loads faster than in other Android tablets, and, unlike in the iPad 2, the entire content of a page is loaded while the Apple device displays it chunk by chunk starting from the top of the page. We need to test this against the tablets we still have at the office to check the claim.
Unlike the other mobile device manufacturers except Apple, Sony is also a content provider that creates and distributes a wide range of entertainment, such as movies, games, music and books.
Consequently, the tablet comes with the following Sony Services: Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited and access to the Sony bookstore, Reader Store.
A six month trial basic membership from Music Unlimited and a free movie download from Video Unlimited comes with the purchase of each device.
Favorites Home screen
Sony created its own custom home screen that looks better than the regular Android start screen for sure, with a compelling and highly visual interface. From there users can directly access their content and their favorite applications.
Additionally, the device is PlayStation Certified, which means, as Sony representative describes it, that “it runs a PlayStation emulator on top of Android operating system” allowing users to play ported PSone and PSP games on the S.
Out of the box, you will get iconic title Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes, and Sony admitted that gamers will not get access to the entire PSone and PSP game collection, a limited number of titles will be available, due to the resources required to port the games.
Delivering “Playstation inside” is a smart move from Sony, knowing that gaming is the number one category in mobile applications sales. We just need to see how well the company will be able to execute in porting its games to the Android platform.
Applications – Foursquare
In addition to its own applications and services and the regular Android apps like Google Maps, Gmail, Google Search with voice command, Sony has pre-loaded a number of popular applications including Foursquare, Ustream, Box and Skype. The Foursquare application is really well optimized for the tablet.
To help people discover the best applications available, Sony has created a dedicated website: Select App (photo).
Remote control application and DLNA
The Sony S can be used as a remote control for TVs and various other devices, thanks to the built-in infrared port. It is the first Android device to provide this capability and it is compatible with devices from other manufacturers. The user interface is really cool and seems very easy to use.
The Sony S is DLNA enabled which allows to stream content to any DLNA certified device such as a TV or a speaker. I got a demo of the feature, by simply dragging and dropping a song to the speaker thumbnail on the tablet, the music started to play, same thing for a video that was played on the Sony TV in the room (see pictures).
There is a range of optional accessories available for the Sony S including a cradle and a Bluetooth keyboard (photo).