Price USD $499.
Battery life 8-10 hours.
Powered by NVIDIA’s dual-core Tegra 2 paired with 1GB of RAM.
9.4-inch capacitive touchscreen.
Runs at 1280 x 800.
Sony claims iPad 2 equaling battery life from the 5,000 mAh battery in the Tablet S, and our experience suggests that’s a reasonably fair estimate. With mixed use but a solid amount of browsing and business apps, together with multimedia playback, we saw approximately ten hours of runtime. Less ambitious use, like ereading, and more casual browsing should see that extend even further.
Starting at USD $499. Sony matches the iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 pricing.
Sony has packed the Tablet S with a higher resolution rear camera than that in the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and the custom apps are arguably more useful than Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, especially the universal remote; on the flip-side, it’s a chunkier tablet than the Samsung and the asymmetrical design forces compromises in terms of bulk that have to be balanced against the increased ease of holding it in portrait orientation. Performance and app selection are in the same ballpark, for the most part.
Sony will offer two models, one with 16GB of onboard storage for $499, and another with 32GB for $599. Connectivity on both includes the usual WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, together with USB and a headphone socket. There’s no 3G/4G option at this stage, unlike the AT&T 4G support the Tablet S’ clamshell sibling, the Tablet P, will arrive with. Up front is a 0.3-megapixel camera for video calls, while a 5-megapixel camera capable of 720p HD video recording is on the back.
The Tablet S will get a selection of homegrown and third-party titles, including Evernote, FourSquare and USTREAM though they weren’t present on our review unit, plus a Remote Control app. There’s also Sony’s Reader app for ebooks, the Reader Store, a File Transfer app, along with Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited. It’s also PlayStation Certified for mobile gaming, so you can load PSOne and PSP titles just as on the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play.
DLNA support on the tablet to handle media streaming. The audio and video apps have “Throw” buttons, which automatically scan for DLNA-compliant hardware – such as speakers or your network-connected HDTV – and then allow you to drag & drop the currently playing content to those outputs. It works just as you’d expect, and we were able to quickly get video recorded using the tablet streaming to our smart TV. For all Sony’s branding this is regular DLNA at its core, which means that other brands of TV and speaker system are supported (they’ll need to support MPEG4 rendering for video use, however).
Honeycomb still lags behind iOS for tablet-specific apps, and the Android Market doesn’t exactly help what with its filtering shortcomings. Sony has begun a new site, called Select App, to guide new users toward key software, split across various categories like home, lifestyle and entertainment. It’s sparse on information – just a short blurb about each app – and there’s no way for Tablet S owners to leave their own reviews or suggestions, but it’s better than nothing. What will make the difference is how often it’s updated, something Sony isn’t yet pinning down.
Sony has two key Tablet S accessories initially, a Bluetooth Keyboard ($79.99) and a Desk Cradle ($39.99). The former – which in fact works with any Bluetooth tablet – is a low-profile ‘board with a similar layout to the keys on Sony’s VAIO laptop range. It has a line of dedicated keys for Android tablets, such as Home, Search, the contextual menu, etc., which work with models from other companies.
The Desk Cradle, meanwhile, is a little less useful. It only charges the Tablet S, and has no ports or other connectivity. While it can be adjusted for angle, it only has two positions rather than free movement. Drop the slate in, and a menu offers a choice of displaying the gallery, a desk clock or the preloaded chumby app with its various widgets. With no HDMI output on either tablet or dock, there’s currently no way to hook the Tablet S up to a big-screen TV, Sony instead relying on the DLNA support.