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Sony Tablet S review

Seth Barton
13 Oct 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
399
inc VAT

A clever shape and built-in IR control make the Tablet S a great coffee table tablet, but it can't outshine the competition overall

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Apple dominates the tablet market, and most competitors seem happy to go along with its ultra-skinny look - with Samsung even coming to legal blows with Apple over alleged design similarities. Sony, refreshingly, isn't following anyone's lead, and Apple's lawyers certainly won't have anything to say about the company's first tablet - the unique-looking Sony Tablet S.

We first saw it at the IFA trade show back in September and you can read our immediate impressions in this Hands on: Sony Tablet S. It impressed us then, and still does today.

Sony Tablet S right

Apple's lawyers can have no complaint with the Tablet S

The unusual wedge-like shape is reminiscent of a magazine that has had the front cover folded back on itself. Holding it upright, the thicker edge sits in the palm of your hand far more comfortably than the razor-like edges of most modern tablets. It also has a textured back to give your fingertips extra grip. Turn it horizontally and the rear is tapered inwards slightly, with recesses down either edge for the buttons and ports. Place it on a desktop and the screen sits up at a slight angle, making it easier to type on.

The screen itself measures 9.4in across, slightly smaller than most Android tablets, but has the same 1,280x800 resolution. Despite a slightly higher pixel count per inch, we couldn't say it looks any more detailed than the iPad 2's 1,024x768 screen; and Apple's tablet is certainly a little brighter, with more vibrant colours.

Its unique shape makes it a little chunkier than its competitors, ranging from 10mm to 20mm in depth. We can't say that we found it any harder to carry around day-to-day than the Apple iPad 2, though it may upset the aesthetic sensibilities of some. It weighs 598g, around the same as the iPad 2, which is a little disappointing given it has a smaller battery.

Battery life is respectable with just under 10 hours of continuous H264 video playback from its 4,400mAh battery. The iPad 2 managed a stunning 17 hours, though, thanks both to better power efficiency and a larger 6,930mAh battery. For use around the home, the shorter battery life isn't a huge deal, though less charging is always good. If your heart's set on an Android device, the Tablet S compares well to our current favourite the Asus Transformer, which lasted for 8h 37min in the same test.

Sony Tablet S front

There are two cameras, and while the front-mounted VGA camera was up to the job of video chat, the main 5-megapixel camera was a little disappointing. Images indoors exhibited all the usual noise and colour cast problems we're used to seeing from tablet and phone cameras. The key exception being Sony's own back-lit EXMOR R sensors, so it's a shame that one isn't used here. Things were better outdoors, but shots still weren't crisp enough to live up to the 5-megapixel rating.

Sony Tablet S example

We've seen far better pictures from Sony Ericsson's smartphones, click to zoom to pixel-to-pixel scale

If you are a keen photographer then the full-sized SDHC slot will be of far more use, letting you quickly transfer pictures from camera to tablet in the field. There's even a rather neat app for such file transfers, with thumbnails of your images provided.

Inside is the same Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset used in the majority of premium Android tablets. Running at 1GHz it completed the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in 2,160ms - a typical score given the specification.

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