Sony Tablet P (3G) - Clamshell Tablet

Launch SRP: S$848

Overview, Design and Features

Are Two Screens Better than One? 

Sony's second tablet offering, the Tablet P is no different from its earlier counterpart, the Tablet S - both are designed to stand out from the crowd. While the Tablet S catches attention with its unique folding design and 9.4-inch display, the Tablet P adopts a clamshell factor which sees two 5.5-inch screens squeezed into a single device. While being different does have its benefits in a market where Android tablets increasingly look similar to one another, is Sony pushing it too far with the Tablet P? Read on to find out.

The Sony Tablet P (left) and Tablet S (right) have unconventional designs which make them stand out from the rest.

 Sony Tablet P (3G)

  Key highlights of the Sony Tablet P (3G)

  • Google Android Honeycomb 3.2 (Upgradeable to Android 4.0)
  • NVIDIA Tegra 2 1.0GHz dual-core processor 
  • 2 x 5.5-inch wide TFT color LCD / 1024 x 480 pixels 
  • 1GB RAM
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth V2.1 + EDR
  • 5-megapixel rear HD camera powered by Exmor for mobile / 0.3-megapixel front camera 
  • 4GB internal storage (microSD expandability) 
  • 3080mAh battery
  • 372g
  • Opened: 180 x 158 x 14mm / Closed: 180 x 79 x 26mm
     
  • Price and Availability: Available now at all Sony stores and authorized outlets for S$848

 

Design

The clamshell form factor is a first for a tablet and Sony is certainly in the same league with ASUS when it comes to churning out unconventional designs. In fact, it's understandable if someone mistook the Tablet P for other similar looking gadget such as the Nintendo 3DS. 

Both the Nintendo 3DS (left) and Sony Tablet P (right) adopt a similar clamshell form factor.

It's a pity that the design of the Tablet P looks great but upon handling it, you realize that the material used for its chassis is mainly plastic. Perhaps we were spoilt by the excellent build quality of the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime which sets the benchmark for Android tablets. We had expected Sony to use more premium materials for the Tablet P.

Sony provides a nice cut out for you to open the clamshell design of the Tablet P. There is also a very thin strip of LED located at the cut out which flashes in green whenever notifications come in. This will come in handy especially when you leave the Tablet P in your bag.

Flipping open the clamshell design reveals two 5.5-inch LCDs. As you can see, the black bezel around the displays are rather thick, making it a tad tougher for people with smaller hands to interact with the middle section of the screens.

Handling-wise, the closed clamshell form factor and the tapered surface make the Tablet P easy to handle and carry around. The problem only arises when you pry open the Tablet P and the pointed corners at the bottom make it very uncomfortable to hold after a few minutes of use. The handling could have been better if the corners are rounded.

You will find the Power button, AC adaptor port, a microUSB port and volume controls on the right side of the Sony Tablet P. This is a good design call as all the buttons and ports are located on one side, hence avoiding the need to search around for them.

The Sony Tablet P comes with a microSD memory card slot (bottom) and a SIM card slot (top). To access these slots, you have to remove the silver covers. An extra step to remove the battery is needed for the microSD memory card slot.

 

 

Features

For now, you have to contend with Android 3.2.1 Honeycomb on the Sony Tablet P as the Android 4.0 update will only arrive sometime in Spring (between end March and June 2012). We have seen how Android 4.0 performed on the ASUS Transformer Pad Prime tablet and we are certainly looking forward to seeing it in action on the Tablet P.

While Sony has left the bulk of the Android user interface (UI) untouched on the Tablet S, the company made some major UI tweaks to fit the unique form factor of dual screens. Amongst the familiar Sony tweaks are the four shortcut icons on the top left corner of the screen, Favorites tab on the top right hand corner and the aesthetically appealing App list.

Some of the native apps are redesigned to fit the dual screen concept of the Sony Tablet P although you have to get used to moving apps or shortcuts across two screens. Having say that, actions like these flow smoothly between the two screens.

Email, one of the most commonly used apps on tablets, is also optimized for use on the Sony Tablet P. The virtual keyboard occupies the screen at the bottom while the main body of the email stays at the top. The experience is akin to typing on a laptop although 5.5-inch screens are too uncomfortable for long periods of typing.

Other than the seamless flow of apps across two screens, the aesthetics of the user interface is uniform between the Sony Tablet S anad Tablet P.

Despite Sony's optimization of some core apps to work properly on its dual-screen Tablet P, there are still hundreds if not thousands of apps which have yet to be tweaked for use on the device. That will remain one of the key challenges Sony will face. Developers may not want to create or modify apps just to be used on the Tablet P, hence users may end up with only a handful of apps that work on their devices.

At the moment, you are able to find several dual-screen optimized apps such as Reader and tweethunt on SelectApp site, which complements the Google Play Store (formerly known as Android Market).

7.0
Design
8
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
7.5
Performance
6.5
Value
7
The Good
Unique clamshell design
Portable
The Bad
Expensive
Sharp corners
Average overall performance