We were lucky enough to have good quality time with Sony’s Tablet S, an upcoming Android tablet featuring the Honeycomb 3.1 Android O/S. The 9.4 inch tablet will be available to the public in September 16, but currently, some software still weren’t quite ready, a few examples of this are the Crackle app which is used to watch streaming movies and TV shows and the Sony Reader application for reading eBooks downloaded from their own online store, the Sony Reader Store.
Sony is one of few companies that dare to be different when it comes to styling of their hardware and they are also quite known for their slick design. We just love the elegant design of this Android tablet with its own unique book/magazine-like design. Only downside was the plastic look and fingerprint-loving screen surface which might need a protective film to help solve this issue. There are no high end Sony materials here like carbon fiber but this also reflects on the competitive pricing Sony has in mind which is quite low. The backside of the android tablet is stippled to make it a lot less slippery which is good thinking considering the back side was made of gloss black plastic which would have been quite slippery. Sony had the great idea of hiding the volume, power controls, micro USB port and full size SD card slot under the side folds, to keep up with the slick and smooth design.
The micro USB port supports USB host, which means you can plug in external flash drives and hard drives. In fact, you can play 720P and even full HD 1080P videos right from these external drives with no major slow downs. One thing that it was lacking is the HDMI port but we hope that this feature might come later via some sort of external device like perhaps a dock. The screen wasn’t hugely bright, but it is colorful and uses Sony’s TruBlack for real deep blacks. Between the Tablet S display and other current android tablets, we prefer the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Asus Eee Pad Transformer and HTC Jetstream screens over Sonys.
The Sony Tablet S weighs in at a pretty low 1.3 lbs. which makes it feel pretty good in hand until you turn the android tablet in landscape mode which places the heavy thicker section up top making the tablet feel slightly out of balance compared to holding it in portrait mode. The Tablet S is powered by the common Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz CPU with a 1 gig of RAM, while testing on Quadrant it scored 1514, putting it slightly under the Transformer and Jetstream android tablets that managed a score above 2,000 in earlier testing.
We liked Sony’s android software customizations overall, in particular their enhancement of the application launcher. There is Chumby on board, so you can transform the Tablet S into a big Sony Dash, and a solid AV Remote with IR transmitter. We have no idea what to think of the battery life considering the tablet packs a lower 5,000 mAh battery compared to the 7,000 mAh competitors use in some of their other 10″ tablets.
The Sony Tablet S is WiFi only, unless they sell an external 3G module. The WiFi card is 802.11b/g/n compatible and is bundled with a Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. As far as pricing goes, the 16gig model should sell for around $499 while the the 32 gig model will be $599.