When Sony finally announced that they were launching their tablet, I had high hopes. Although the specs didn’t exactly blow me out of the water, I thought that Sony releasing a tablet had to be a pretty good product. So I bought one.
The S tablet (aside: I think Sony could have thought of a better name than just a letter) is a unique looking tablet. Instead of following the traditional rectangular shape, Sony has opted for more rounded corners. The main distinction though is the design of the tablet where Sony has created an angled screen that when placed on a flat surface, allows the screen to lie at an angle. Sony says this makes typing easier and that’s arguably true.
Sony says the unique design allows for a more comfortable feel while holding. I completely see what they were trying to do, but I haven’t necessarily found that it was more comfortable because of the form. I would argue thought, it’s more comfortable because it’s light (especially compared to an iPad). The S tablet does fit in one hand comfortably – so reading is actually possible on this device with just one hand.
One of the best things about the S tablet’s form is its light weight. This has both positive and negatives. A lightweight tablet is fantastic from a portability standpoint. But at the same time, it does feel a little too “plastic” and doesn’t have that “solid” built like other devices. Unfortunately, tablets will always be measured against the iPad and as a result, many may argue this isn’t as well built. If you can get past the plastic, you actually begin to appreciate that this device is really light – especially when you use the tablet for hours.
The S tablet has a 9.4” screen which is just marginally smaller than the iPad’s 9.7”, but the difference in the real estate is apparent – I do note that it looks smaller and I feel the difference. I’m a huge fan of the ~10” screens as I think the smaller ~7” screens are too small for tablet use (like reading). Having said that, the screen size on the S tablet is adequate. But, what detracts from this otherwise good screen is the frame surrounding the screen which feels just a little too thick. I would have preferred the frame to be significantly thinner, or else a larger screen. An ultra-thin bezel would have been perfect.
The On/Off buttons are on the right side of the device and honestly – these are pretty flimsy. It takes some effort sometimes to actually turn on the device. These were not well designed.
theVooner says: Form Rating
3 out of 5 – While I actually like that its light, I think the frame around the screen is just too big and takes away from what would otherwise be a solid design. Getting used to the thickness is also a big hurdle.
So after the iPad, all other tablets have a pretty high benchmark to follow. The S tablet uses Android 3.2 which is perfectly fine. Using Android is a solid start, but I do feel it is somewhat of slight let down. The problem I have isn’t necessarily with Android (those of you that read my other reviews/blogs know I’m a huge Android fan) but with much of the software for Android. I haven’t found enough software that is designed for the Android tablet OS, and importantly, the larger screen. Worse, many can’t take advantage of the tablet’s screen size. Many of the apps were designed for Android handsets and when they appear on the tablet, are just magnified to a larger screen with poor resolution. While there are more and more applications each day, Apple has done a great job of having apps for the iPad from the beginning (and developers are also doing a good job of having both a phone and tablet app for the iPhone/iPad respectively). Sometimes, I do feel that this does too much of the same functions as my phone, especially when I have a giant phone (the Samsung Galaxy Note) and most of the software is shared between the two devices.
Of course, all of this is moot if the hardware can’t support the software and this is where the S table fails miserably. Even with a dual core CPU, my S tablet is horribly slow. Slow to react, slow to render images, slow to open programs/files/images. It is especially lethargic when compared to an iPad where everything just seems to flow relatively smoothly. I managed to get my hands on a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and while it has the same Android OS and I believe the same processor, it felt faster and worked better. I don’t really understand this but I really have to fault Sony for making a tablet that doesn’t perform well. I’m hoping that the Android 4.0 upgrade can resolve this, but I’m not holding my breath.
The S tablet comes with two cameras (front and back) which works perfectly fine. I don’t really take many photos with a tablet and not sure how many people do. It also has a SD card slot on the side which is a very good option as I like to store my files on external cards which makes them easier to transfer around.
The best feature of the S tablet is the built in IR remote function which allows it to become a universal remote controller. I have managed to get everything hooked up to the tablet, including my air-conditioning, which makes it very cool to have. I can turn on/off almost everything in my house from the tablet. This is definitely the S tablets best feature and probably what keeps reaching for the device more often than I otherwise would.
Sony has added a bunch of their software which gives you access to their music, video and games library. While this is great, there are a lot of limitations. As I travel a lot, much of this doesn’t work when you travel and go to an overseas IP address. It didn’t for me and I sort of gave up after the first few times.
Going back to the screen for a second, it’s actually better than I expected. Resolution is sharp and clear and images are bright. The only downside is that once you’ve seen the AMOLED screens in other devices, you feel that this is somewhat inadequate.
All of this is run off a Li-Ion 5000 mAh battery. While the battery does last a reasonable amount of time, there are two things that annoy me about the S tablet: 1) The battery continues to drain, sometimes quite aggressively, even when the device is not turned on. I left the device for a few days and the battery went dead. While I know devices drain battery on idle, this was a little too fast. There is something strange going on in the background that I don’t like. This is really poor especially compared to an iPad. 2) The worst thing though, is that the S tablet has some weird proprietary plug/connection to charge the device. I don’t see why they couldn’t just use micro-USB plugs or at least something that isn’t so big. I have too many chargers and this just makes travelling with the S tablet so much harder.
theVooner says: Function Rating
2 out of 5 – A slow interface and weak battery life doesn’t make up for the cool IR remote control function.
Overall, the Sony Tablet S is a huge disappointment. I expected so much more from Sony and they missed the mark. Things they could have done/need to do to improve the S include: a bigger screen, an interactive/reactive back like that on the PS Vita, faster processor, improved battery life, and a better charger. Perhaps Sony will think about all of this on their next generation of the device. The iPad is the clear leader in the tablet space and that isn’t going to change, especially if this is the kind of competition Apple faces.
theVooner says: Factor Rating
2 out of 5 – This turned out just to be a very expensive remote control with some tablet functions. There are too many better options out there, many for less money.