User Interface & Software
Armed with an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor clocked at 1GHz and 1GB of RAM, it takes about 38 seconds to boot to the lock screen and 11 seconds to fully shut down. The home screen isn't cluttered with a ton of bloat, just a few Sony-specific programs and your standard fare icons, like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, and the Android Market.
Navigating the five home screens is mostly smooth and responsive, though it's not as tight as iOS on the iPad 2. If you rapidly wiggle your finger back and forth, for example, you'll outrun the UI as it tries to keep up. This is largely a non-issue and will only be noticeable when skipping through menus at breakneck speeds. During normal usage, the screens scroll just fine.
Less forgivable is the overall performance. Even though the Tablet S wields a dual-core processor and a 1GB of RAM, it feels underpowered at times. We noticed a bit of lag in between pressing an on-screen button and hearing an audible click to let us know our finger tap registered with the device, and on rare occasions our finger taps would go unnoticed. The amount of lag varies, seemingly without rhyme or reason, and this sluggishness extends over to loading apps, which fire up a little slower than we'd like. It also plagues the virtual keyboard, but again, sometimes it's worse than others, and there doesn't seem to be a common denominator that would explain why it is or isn't being laggy at any particular time. Several times, however, typing would become an exercise in frustration, whether it was tapping out an Internet address or searching for an app in the App Market.
While Sony did a good job with the physical design, the virtual side needs work. Sony is a media behemoth and so it makes sense that it would try to integrate services like Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, Sony Reader, and PlayStation gaming onto its device. But what's missing is cohesion between these different services. Instead of one account to rule them all, these service require their own individual logins. Even worse, registering is a headache, or at least that was our experience. It would sometimes take us multiple attempts to register one of the services, and were even blocked at one point because the device's time zone was wrong -- that's just weird. A forced account manager update helped with this somewhat, but even after jumping through several hoops (installing the account manager, updating apps), we still ran into issues with Sony's Video Unlimited (force closes) and Music Unlimited (eligibility errors) services. Grind it out and you'll get everything setup correctly, but hopefully Sony smooths this out in a future update.
Also of interest is baked-in DLNA support, giving the Tablet S further flexibility in the living room, provided you own a DLNA-compatible TV set. This is a great feature, though one that has us even more confuzzled at the lack of an HDMI output. If there's a natural habitat for the Tablet S, it's the living room (or man cave).
- Cool Boarders (Free)
- Destruction Derby (Free)
- Hot Shots golf 2 (Free)
- Jet Moto (Free)
- MediEvil (Free)
- Jet Moto 2 ($5.99)
- Jumping Flash ($5.99)
- Motor Toon Grand Prix ($5.99)
- Rally Cross ($5.99)
- Wild Arms ($5.99)
The games we tried all ran well enough with Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor pushing pixels around, though these aren't cutting-edge titles by any stretch.