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Hands on: Sony Tablet S

Seth Barton
3 Sep 2011
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We try out Sony's unusual tablet design for ourselves

While other manufacturers fight over who has the slimmest tablet, Sony has simply done its own thing. The Sony Tablet S has a bizarre-looking design, and when we first saw pictures we thought maybe the company had lost the plot completely. However, after just a few minutes use it all makes a lot more sense.

Rather than having one tablet for all, like the iPad-styled models that every other manufacturer is touting, Sony has come up with two unique-looking and bespoke designs for differing uses - the Sony Tablet S for relaxing at home, and the Sony Tablet P for life on the go. It's a brave strategy, but it's refreshing to find someone doing something different.

Sony Tablet S

Back to the Tablet S, the first thing you notice is that shape, its hard to describe in words, but in the hand it feels a lot like holding a magazine one-handed, where you've folded back the pages on themselves. The black gloss edge of the design, which doesn't wrap all the way around the rear side gives a visual motif to match this idea.

The chunky 'spine' sits comfortably in the palm of your hand. All the weight is concentrated there, too, so the opposing tapered edge feels weightless. Without doubt, this is the tablet we'd rather hold for long periods.

The design also means the tablet sits at a slight angle when put down. This makes it easier to type on using the touchscreen, as it's always propped up at a slight angle. The optional stand, and included app, turns it into a stylish alarm clock cum picture frame too.

Sony Tablet S left

Of course that chunky edge (20.6mm thick) makes it less convenient to carry about on a day-to-day basis. But it's not a huge difference, it tapers down just 10mm at the sharp end (so its easy to slide into a bag still) and it's only 598g - exactly 1g less than the Galaxy Tab 10.1 for anyone who's counting. Other dimensions are 241mm high and 174mm across (in portrait mode).

Sony Tablet S right

It uses Android 3.1 - probably due to Sony's own extensive UI customisations - but an update to 3.2 is coming soon. Some of the standout additions to vanilla android include a rather smart DLNA server, where you can flick pictures, movies or songs from the tablet screen to the playback device. Also for living room use is the built-in infrared emitter, so you can control TVs and other AV devices from the tablet.

There will also be PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games to play on the tablet. Though why Sony insists on demonstrating this using the PS1 Crash Bandicoot, rather than a genuine classic like the PS2 God of War, is beyond us.

Sony Tablet S crash ps1

In terms of specifications Sony are on far more traditional ground. it's a Tegra 2 based device running at a now fairly pedestrian 1GHz. The display is a little smaller than most at 9.4in, but the high-quality IPS panel still has the usual 1,280x800 resolution. Predictably, there will be 16GB and 32GB models, as well Wi-Fi only and 3G equipped ones, starting from around £399 and it should be available later this month.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Tablet S. By trying something different and succeeding, Sony has given anyone looking for an Android tablet a genuine alternative to the super-skinny look. We look forward to taking it for a lengthy test in the near future.

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