To make up for its late entry into the tablet market, Sony knows that it has to differentiate its tablet offerings from the Honeycomb herd. Sony claims that the Tablet S (along with its sibling the Tablet P) represents the best of everything Sony has to offer from the hardware to software and services aspects. What makes the Sony Tablet S so special? We had our hands-on with the Sony Tablet S at the event this afternoon and here are our initial impressions:
Sony redefines the way we hold a tablet by giving the Tablet S an asymmetrical form factor - a tapered design that takes after the curve of a folded-back magazine. The company claims that it is an ergonomic design that shifts the weight of the tablet closer to your palm, making it feel lighter (though in reality, it weighs 598g) and more comfortable to handle.
During our hands-on with the Tablet S, we found Sony's claims to be valid. The device felt very comfortable to hold as the thicker side provides a very comfortable grip with its curved edges and dotted texture. Sony took a bet with this unconventional design and we felt it paid off pretty well. In addition, the Tablet S has a slight incline when you place it on a flat surface, making it easier and more natural to type and view content.
The Sony Tablet S has a 9.4-inch display, which is slightly smaller than Apple's iPad 2 and its 9.7-inch or the wide range of 10.1-inch Android Honeycomb tablets. Although the screen resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels is similar to its Honeycomb counterparts, Sony leverages on its BRAVIA TruBlack technology to give the Tablet S a competitive edge. It is supposed to reduce reflection and glare from sunlight or fluorescent light for high-contrast visibility in outdoors and indoors environments.
We were duly impressed with the vibrant and warm colors returned by the display on the Tablet S. Text looked crisp and sharp on the display too. The display also provided generous viewing angles. In fact, the viewing experience is one of the best we have seen so far. However, the screen is a magnet for fingerprints and smudges. Reflection is still an issue although it is common among tablets today.
Athough the body of the Tablet S is mainly made up of textured plastics, it does not look cheap. On the contrary, it looks like a beautifully crafted device with the premium look that Sony devices are well-known for.
It is good to see the Sony Tablet S shipping with Google's tablet-centric Android 3.2 Honeycomb. Although Android 3.2 is more relevant for 7-inch tablets with the compatibility zoom mode, we feel that it adds a bonus point for the Tablet S when consumers consider their options. Sony has left the Android user interface largely untouched except for a few minor additions.
Sony also provides a range of optional accessories for the Tablet S. They will be available for purchase together with the Tablet S.
The Sony Tablet S comes across as a refreshing Android tablet. Its asymmetrical design alone is sufficient to differentiate itself from the rest. It not only stands out in terms of design, it is also functional in terms of providing a rather comfortable grip and handling.
While it comes with an unusual screen size of 9.4-inches, we had no problems using the Sony Tablet S. Sony also backs the tablet with its renowned BRAVIA TruBlack technology to make the viewing experience an exceptionally pleasant one.
The support for PlayStation games will more likely appeal to those who demand a better gaming experience on their tablets. However, the Sony Tablet S is limited to two pre-installed games at the moment and there is no specific time line given as to when more games will be available.
The Sony Tablet S will be available in stores from end October 2011 onwards. It will come in 16GB and 32GB versions which is priced at S$668 and S$798 respectively. According to Sony, the company plans to introduce the 3G version in Singapore, though its availability and pricing hasn't been finalized just yet.
Key highlights of the Sony Tablet S