Wednesday

Sony Xperia Tablet S review

Sony has used its mobile Xperia branding on a tablet for the first time - in the shape of the new Sony Xperia Tablet S, announced at IFA in Berlin.

Launced alongside the Sony VAIO Duo 11, the new model replaces the originalSony Tablet S and sports a 9.4-inch screen along with a handy splashproof finish. What's more, the new Guest Mode means that you could set up separate user profiles for visitors or different family members.





Design
much as with the Xperia T, we're not particularly wowed by the design of the Xperia Tablet S as it looks and feels a bit plasticky. Also, despite relying on the thick end to house the tablet's guts, Sony hasn't managed to make the 'thin' edge eye-catchingly slim. But, we definitely applaud Sony's attempt to do something a bit different with its folded over book vibe, and it's by no means ugly. 


   

Just as with the original, the thick side is nicely rounded and chunky so it fits more comfortably and securely in the hand than most slender tablets, something that is also helped by the tablet's low weight. The folded back 'page' on the back has shrunk to only cover about a third of the tablet, creating a convenient lip that lets you rest the tablet on various compatible stands and accessories, or whatever object you have lying around.

Display




The 9.4-inch LCD screen sports a respectable 1280 x 800 resolution. It was a little difficult to get a good idea of how the screen looked under the club-like lighting at Sony's stand, but it appeared to be pretty clear and bright.



Software features



The Xperia Tablet S ships with Android 4.0, but Sony says to look for a 4.1 upgrade before the end of the year. The interface is filled with plenty of the same app shortcuts the original Tablet S enjoyed, sans the oppressive Sony visual theme. Sony takes a page from Samsung’s TouchWiz interface by including an embedded mini-apps and widgets shortcut array on the bottom of the screen.
Guest Mode lets you make multiple personalized user accounts with customizable app and widgets accessibility. Creating the new account is a simple and clear process that ultimately does what it intends: allow for an ironclad lockdown of any software feature of your choosing. For parents, this could be a great tool for limiting Junior's access to apps on your tablet, while still allowing him to play around with it.

Performance
The Xperia Tablet S is powered by a Nvidia Tegra 3 quadcore processor, a boost from the Tablet S, which used a Tegra 2 chipset.

We found operation to be very zippy when navigating around the menu screens, while the Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich interface was also seamless, although it would've been nice to see the newer Jelly Bean on board.

The tablet also features Sony's ClearAudio+ mode for top-notch sonics. We didn't get a chance to try out the sound at Sony's busy press conference, but that's something we'll be looking at in more detail in our full review.

The tablet will be available as 16, 32 and 64GB models, in Wi-Fi-only or 3G models.

Features

Sony seems to have a thing at the moment for covering the ports on its devices with crummy plastic flaps and so it is here. Hidden here you'll find an SD card slot alongside a headphone port, and on the opposite side are the volume and power buttons.

One thing we definitely like is the presence of stereo speakers mounted on the bottom edge.

Sony hasn't upgraded the screen, sadly, though it's still a decent enough panel. It spans 9.4in and has a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, making it reasonably sharp, and viewing angles seemed good too.

What has been upgraded are the internals. You now get a quad-core Tegra3 chip, up from the dual-core of the original Tablet S. You only get 1GB of RAM, though, and no 3G option. Storage options are 16GB, 32GB an 64GB.

The tablet will ship with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, though Sony is at pains to point out a Jelly Bean upgrade will be coming soon.



Conclusion
Sony definitely gets the design right here. The Xperia is one of the most comfortable large form-factor tablets I’ve ever held and while its remote control feature can't compare to a true universal remote, it's thoughtfully implemented and will please those willing to delve deeply into its customization options. Guest mode is a neat feature for families and its full-size expandable storage option is comforting to have.
However, the Wi-Fi policy issue, lag when returning from sleep, and intermittent screen flickering need to be addressed ASAP as they seriously adversely affect the tablet's value.
With its current issues, I can't recommend it for any price. If Sony hammers those issues out, then the Xperia would stand as a quality tablet, but those looking for a full Android tablet should think twice before buying. The Asus Transformer Pad TF300 offers much of the same options and is currently sitting pretty at $340. Also, if you're strictly looking for a media consumption tablet, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch is coming in November for $300, and if its 7-inch version is any indication, it should be well-worth the money. Then of course, there's the iPad 2's current $400 price with its incredible app and ecosystem support.
The Xperia Tablet S isn't necessarily a bad deal at $400, but there are just too many tablets out there providing very similar (and in the case of the iPad 2 better) experiences at the same price or lower. Regardless, make sure Sony addresses the Xperia's performance issues before you buy.
Specification

DESIGN

  • Device type:
    • Tablet
  • OS:
    • Android (4.0.3)
  • Dimensions:
    • 9.44 x 6.87 x 0.47 (239.8 x 174.4 x 11.85 mm)
  • Weight:
    • 20.64 oz (585 g)
      the average is 19 oz (544 g)
  • Rugged:
      • Water proof (Splash)

DISPLAY

  • Physical size:
    • 9.4 inches
  • Resolution:
    • 1280 x 800 pixels
  • Pixel density:
    • 161 ppi
  • Technology:
    • TFT
  • Touchscreen:
      • Capacitive, Multi-touch
  • Features:
    • Light sensor

HARDWARE

  • System chip:
    • NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L
  • Processor:
    • Quad core, 1200 MHz, ARM Cortex-A9
  • Graphics processor:
      • ULP GeForce @ 416MHz
  • System memory:
    • 1024 MB RAM
  • Built-in storage:
    • 16 GB
  • Storage expansion:
    • SD, SDHC

CAMERA

  • Camera:
      • 8 megapixels
    • Features:
      • Back-illuminated sensor (BSI), Auto focus, Geo tagging
  • Camcorder:
      • Yes
    • Features:
      • Video calling
  • Front-facing camera:
      • Other

MULTIMEDIA

  • Music player:
    • Filter by:
      • Album, Artist, Playlists
    • Features:
      • Album art cover, Background playback
  • Speakers:
    • Stereo speakers
  • YouTube player:
    • Yes

INTERNET BROWSING

  • Browser:
      • Yes
    • Supports:
      • HTML, HTML5
  • Built-in online services support:
    • YouTube (upload), Picasa

TECHNOLOGY

  • Positioning:
    • GPS
  • Navigation:
    • Yes

PHONE FEATURES

  • Phonebook:
    • Unlimited entries
  • Organizer:
    • Calendar, Alarm, Document viewer, Calculator
  • Messaging:
    • SMS, MMS, Threaded view, Predictive text input
  • E-mail:
      • IMAP, POP3, SMTP, Microsoft Exchange

CONNECTIVITY

  • Bluetooth:
      • 3.0
  • Wi-Fi:
      • 802.11 b, g, n
  • USB:
      • Yes
    • Features:
      • Mass storage device, USB Host
  • HDMI:
      • Yes
  • Other:
    • DLNA, Computer sync, OTA sync, Infrared

OTHER FEATURES

  • Notifications:
    • Flight mode, Silent mode, Speakerphone
  • Sensors:
      • Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass
    • Voice commands, Voice recording

AVAILABILITY

  • Officially announced:
    • 29 Aug 2012
  • Scheduled release:
    • 07 Sep 2012 (Official)

SHOPPING INFORMATION

  • MSRP price:
      • $ 400