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Sony Tablet S (16GB) Wi-Fi - The First PlayStation Certified Tablet
By Sidney Wong - 18 Oct 2011
Launch SRP: S$668


Sony's Honeycomb 

Just like every other Android tablet that hit the market this year, the Sony Tablet S ships with the Honeycomb OS. While some tablets come with Android 3.1 OS, you will be glad to know that the Sony Tablet S is powered by Android 3.2 out of the box. While Android 3.2 is not a significant upgrade, it does brings some improvements and new features such as app zooming. To find out more about what Android 3.2 can do, you can check out Android Developers website here.

Android 3.2 is an incremental upgrade from Android 3.1. It brings about bug fixes, boosts in performance, compatibility zoom and media sync from SD card.

Sony left much of the Android UI untouched, which is a blessing in disguise. When we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the user experience was tainted by the slight lags we encountered. We attributed it to the customized user interface (UI), Samsung TouchWiz for consuming unnecessary system resources. Nevertheless, Sony has added some minor tweaks to the UI that did not degrade the user experience. 

The first tweak to the Android UI will be the addition of four shortcut icons on the top left corner of the screen. They are Browser, Email, Remote Control and Social Feed Reader. (left to right). We like how Sony made use of the empty space on the screen to include handy shortcuts like these. 

On the top right hand corner of the screen is the Favorites tab, the second tweak by Sony on the Android UI. It gives you easier access to your multimedia needs.

What you see over here is the main screen of the Favorites tab. You have nine tiles on the right depicting the items you choose and a preview panel on the left.

You can customize what to place in the nine tiles on the Favorite main page.There are seven categories of items to choose from: Social Feed Reader, Browser (bookmarks, history, most visited), PlayStation games, Reader (bookmarks, highlights, recently added, recently read), Video Player, Music and Gallery.

 The third tweak to the Android UI is seen in the App list. On the left is the usual app list seen on other Honeycomb tablets. On the right is the app list on the Sony Tablet S. We find the white background and app separator on the Tablet S to be slightly more aesthetically appealing.

The virtual keyboard on the Sony Tablet S (right) looks different from the stock Honeycomb keyboard (left). During our time with the Tablet S, we had no problem typing on the redesigned keyboard.

We like how Sony designed the numeric keypad to pop up whenever we input passwords. It is more convenient than switching between the different keyboard layouts.

The music player interface is one of the best we have seen so far. The album art tiles are scattered in the center of the screen. You are free to arrange them in any way you like them to be.

Sony adds its own SelectApp site to complement the Android Market. The SelectApp site highlights new and unique apps from a wide range of categories that are recommended for the Sony Tablet S. At the point of writing, there are only two apps available - Your Digital Life and Zinio Magazine Reader (which you can use the latter to read your digital HWM subscriptions if you've already signed up for it). More apps will be coming in the future.

Sony has its SelectApp site, which is a similar concept to Samsung Apps and Lenovo App Shop. The apps featured in SelectApp are recommended specifically for use on Sony Tablet devices.

It is common among brands to feature their own social feed congregator. For example, we have seen Lenovo's implementation of the SocialTouch app on the IdeaPad Tablet K1. Sony has its own Social Feed Reader, which is considered simple. While Samsung's Social Hub allows you to combine email, instant messaging and social networking sites into one central location, you can only add Twitter and Facebook accounts on Sony's Social Feed Reader.

The Social Feed Reader provides a basic overview of your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

One aggravating issue with Honeycomb OS is its inability to close apps from the multitasking menu. While Lenovo and Samsung thoughtfully added this feature to their tablets, Sony apparently omitted it on the Tablet S. Since Sony was one of the last brands to enter the tablet market and could have possibly taken an extra step in adding this feature, we're a bit disappointed that its missing on the Tablet S. This not only put the Sony Tablet S at a disadvantage against some of its Android counterparts (Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1), it also lost a chance to be on par with the Apple iPad 2 in terms of app management.

Given the luxury of time to observe the competition, we would have preferred that Sony took the extra effort to integrate a task killing function into the multitasking menu.

Overall, we felt that Sony's limited tweaking of the Android UI benefits the user experience on the Tablet S. The tablet felt smooth and fluid in its operation. Sideway swipes were snappy too. This is mainly due to Sony's inclusion of the Quick Touch feature, which allows the tablet to respond instantly and accurately to every touch, drag, zoom or twist of the fingers. The minor tweaks improved the user experience slightly, but we guess that they are merely simple ways that Sony came up with to differentiate itself from the rest of the Android tablets.

The Good
Unique form factor
Brilliant display
Good image quality
The Bad
Below average battery life
Poor design of power and volume control buttons
Display is a fingerprint magnet
Not enough PS game titles at launch
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