Sony Tablet S Android Slate Review

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Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: We know Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor has enough wheels to run a modern day tablet, but for whatever reason, Sony's Tablet S doesn't seem to take full advantage of the hardware. That's disappointing for a device with a respectable processor and 1GB of memory. It's not that the Tablet S is slow, it just doesn't live up to its potential, and the intermittent keyboard delay is particularly puzzling.  Perhaps Sony can wring this out in a future firmware update though.

So the Tablet S isn't going to win any benchmarking bragging rights, and there are some quirks to deal with. But in terms of usability, the Tablet S isn't a wash. Web browsing is excellent with pinch-to-zoom performance that's smooth and fast, which is something not all tablets manage to get right. Navigating Honeycomb generally feels fast, and we didn't experience any issues watching full screen videos, streaming or otherwise. This isn't a tablet for tots, it's a $500 slate that will run circles against all those low priced generic Android tablets coming out of China.

With so many Android tablets staring you in the face, it's easy to go cross-eyed trying to discern between product A and products B, C, and D. But once you get to S -- Sony's Tablet S, that is -- you're in a for a new experience, both visually and ergonomically. Sony rolled the dice on a unique design hoping to win over tablet buyers with a roll-back frame that mimics what it feels like to hold a magazine or paperback book, but with all the benefits of a modern day Honeycomb tablet. It seems gimmicky at first glance, and the trend is towards thinner tablets, not thicker ones, but there are some upshots that go with Sony's design. For one, the outer wedge provides a solid gripping point that's comfortable for extended one-handed sessions.  So if you want to read War and Peace or sit through Legends of the Fall, you'll fall asleep long before your arm fatigues. It also allows the Tablet S to sit on a flat surface slightly raised like a real keyboard.

Internally, the Tablet S is rocking an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, 1GB of RAM, and a healthy assortment of inputs and expansion ports. If you read through the review and didn't skip straight to the conclusion, you'll notice we were critical of the overall experience. That's because performance didn't always jibe with the hardware. For the most part, the Tablet S trailed other similarly equipped slates, and in real-world tests, performance bounced back and forth between snappy (navigation, UI, streaming, Web browsing) to laggy (keyboard input, not registering taps on occasion, and app load time). We're also disappointed with all the hoops you have to jump through to use Sony's different services, many of which require separate logins and don't tie into each other in a cohesive manner.

Our other issue with the Tablet S is timing. At the time of this publication, Sony is selling the 16GB model for $450 and the 32GB model for $550, both of which are $50 off their regular price. Even after the markdowns, this is a premium priced tablet in an Android market that has seen two low-cost alternatives storm the castle: Amazon's Kindle Fire ($199) and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet ($249). And if it's a full-sized Android slate you're after, the just-released Transformer Prime is better equipped with a planned Ice Cream Sandwich update, something Sony has been mum on.

Getting back to the bright side, Web browsing performance is really good with exceptional pinch-to-zoom responsiveness and smooth scrolling. The Tablet S is the only PlayStation Certified slate, which has the potential to be really awesome, and we absolutely are in love with the universal IR remote application, that worked wonderfully with our home theater setup, including our finicky Onkyo receiver that's managed to stump some other universal remotes. In fact, if you're considering the Tablet S, this should be one of the reasons why. Take away the IR remote (and, to an extent, DLNA support), you're left with an average tablet that struggles to compete with better equipped full-size and lower price three-quarter size tablets.

  • Unique design is comfortable to hold, looks snazzy
  • Bright and vibrant screen
  • Universal remote is awesome
  • PlayStation Certification has the potential to be awesome
  • Expensive for what you're getting
  • Keyboard didn't always keep up with our keystrokes, particularly when typing in a Web address
  • Below average performance
  • Sony services don't mesh well together

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