The first thing about the Tablet S that grabs your attention is the asymmetrical form factor. Sony creatively designs the Tablet S with a tapered form factor that looks like the curve of a magazine’s folded back. From an ergonomic point of view, there is little to criticize, as the thicker side has a nice rounded edge with dotted texturing for an assuring grip, while the wedge-shaped design makes it comfortable for one-handed operation as it shifts the weight of the tablet closer to your palm.
Dominating the front of the Tablet S is a 9.4-inch display, which is powered by Sony’s BRAVIA TruBlack technology. Sony claims that the display offers higher contrast and visibility for usage in both indoor and outdoor environments while minimizing glare and reflection from sunlight or fluorescent lights. While it was a joy viewing multimedia content on the Tablet S due to the better clarity, lively colors and excellent viewing angles, we were slightly disappointed by the glossy display which attracts fingerprints and smudges easily. And as always, a glossy display also means having to constantly see one’s own face reflected.
The Sony Tablet S ships with Android 3.2 software and left much of the stock user interface untouched except for some minor tweaks. The first is the inclusion of four shortcut icons on the top left hand corner of the screen.The shortcut icons on the top left hand corner of the screen. The shortcut icons give you one-touch access to Browser, Email, Remote Control and Social Feed Reader. The second tweak is the addition of a Favorite tab on the top right hand corner of the screen, for easier access to multimedia needs such as games, music and bookmarks. We like how Sony made use of the empty space on the screen to include handy shortcuts like these. The third tweak is a redesigned virtual keyboard. Sony also designed the numeric keypad to pop up on the right whenever you need to enter passwords. It certainly saved us the trouble of pressing an extra key to switch to the number pad layout. The fourth tweak is found in the Music Player on the Tablet S. It is one of the most beautify interfaces we have seen so far as songs and albums are represented by cover art tiles, which can be moved around the screen.
It is a blessing that the tweaks to the Android UI did not degrade the user experience. However, we are a bit disappointed that the ability to close apps from the multitasking tab is missing on the Tablet S. In comparison, tablets from both Lenovo and Samsung have this feature enabled.
You have access to Sony’s SelectApp site on the Tablet S along with Google's Android Market. SelectApp highlights new and unique apps from various categories that are recommended for use on Sony Tablet devices. Sony reassured us that the more apps will be made available in the future.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Sony tablet S is also the first PlayStation-certified tablet in the market on which you can play original PlayStation (PS) games. Although the Tablet S is only pre-installed with Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes, Sony also says that more PS game titles will be available in the future.
With the NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHZ processor and 1GB of RAM running the show, the Tablet S felt smooth and fluid in use. Sideways swipes were snappy too. Gaming performance on the Tablet S was pleasant with hardly any noticeable lag. The web browsing experience was also consistent with other Honeycomb-powered tablets tested so far.
Staying true to its multimedia prowess, the Sony Tablet S provides cross-device connectivity. It can wirelessly connect to DLNA compatible devices such as Sony BRAVIA TVs where photos and videos can be viewed on the big screen. The built-in infrared sensor of the Tablet S allows it to function as a remote control for devices such as stereos. The Tablet S also has an SD card reader which makes it easy for data transfer between devices.
The Sony Tablet S is equipped with two camera a VGA front facing camera for video conferencing and a 5.0 megapixel rear HD camera that is powered by Exmor for mobile. The “Exmor for mobile” feature promises better image quality especially in low light conditions. Our camera test revealed that the image quality is indeed quite good for a tablet. The noise levels are within tolerable levels and a fair amount of detail was captured.
It is a shame that the Sony Tablet S didn’t do so well in our battery test, registering a rather average battery life of 4 hours and 12 minutes. We had expected better battery stamina from the Tablet S and this might be the most aggravating issue for potential buyers who are looking for a tablet to use on –the-go.