Sunday 15 April 2012

Sony Tablet S review

Sony Tablet S review:

   Alright so the Tablet S is getting towards a year old now; it's still repping the Tegra 2, it's only got a normal resolution screen, it's 1280x800, which is about 161 ppi, so no Retina Display here. But it's also going a bit cheaper at the moment, selling for about £300 for the 16GB version in the UK. So, is it worth it? Or should you pony up the extra cash for the Asus Transformer Prime or the new iPad? (£500 and £400 for the 32 and 16GB versions, respectively).

   Let me start off by saying I love the Tablet S. It is strange and a bit plasticky, but it's great. From a design point of view, the wedge shape constantly keeps me engaged; puzzling at why it's not flat like I feel it should be.  The premise is that the tablet is meant to look like a folded over magazine and it does, so much so that one of my uni mates glossed over it because he thought it was a book, if you look to the right you can see what he means. But I can't take my eyes off it, it's strange but it needs to be held and twisted and deciphered. The 'fold' helps when you hold the tablet in portrait because it puts all the weight on the thicker side and makes it comfortable to hold, which is a plus, especially if you're one of them book readery types. The thin end, conversely, is decidedly uncomfortable to hold in any orientation so you will always resort to holding it either on the sides or on the thick end. The design does lend itself to portrait use though, which is something I'm yet to get used to. The plastic casing of the device only really helps to keep the weight down, which is a bit disappointing because it feels a bit hollow when you give it a tap, it's nice to hold but it's no aluminium unibody shell.

   One thing I must add though is that I have owned a 10.1" tablet and  had extensive time with a 7" tablet before and this 9.4" size is my favourite. First I was concerned it was too small but it's just comfortable; thinking back my old tablet was unwieldy and I couldn't hold it up for very long, I always had to rest it on something. This just seems to be comfortable and I think the design definitely helps on this front.
   One of the main questions about last years hardware is; does that Tegra 2 keep up with the modern apps? Well in my experience 100% yes. I haven't had much, if any, slow down at all, the scrolling is always smooth through menus, everything opens up easily as quick as it does on my Galaxy S2 and the processor keeps everything ticking over without any issues. Honeycomb is well known for being a bit more demanding on the processor but Sony have done a great job optimising the software here.  The version of Honeycomb on show here is the 3.2 variety, which is almost as good as it gets and Sony have promised an update to ICS is coming, but we'll have to wait and see when that materialises! Sony being an Android OEM, weren't content with stock Honeycomb and have chosen to add a few things; the first of which is a static bar on the top left of the screen, which has 4 customisable launch icons on it, for those apps you use frequently, which is a useful addition, although the buttons are quite hard to hit so simply adding the shortcut to the homescreen does the same job. The second 'enhancement' is a redesigned app tray which is white and in my opinion rather ugly and seems to be a complete departure from the rest of Sony's design. The stock home screen image is black to show off the tablets Bravia capabilities so I don't fully understand why they've chosen to do this. You can see what it looks like above.

   The only issues I have experienced with the software are infrequent crashes of the browser; both the stock one and Dolphin HD and there isn't any rhyme or reason that I can pinpoint for these mishaps. The second is a tad more annoying, which is that certain apps still aren't available for Tegra 2 devices; there were a few games which flat out refused to play and SkyGo is not supported, which is my biggest disappointment because it would be great on the tablet. The last issue is that for some reason my device doesn't like shutting down; I click shut down, it brings up the shutting down message and freezes, which means I have to power it off by holding down the off button for a while and then it makes a concerning clunk. I don't know if that's just my particular tablet or a software issue or what, about 75% of the time it doesn't shut down normally. When it it does this and i catch it in the act it kills off the battery like anything so it's a bit of an annoyance.

   Which leads me on beautifully to the battery; basically it's alright. The screen itself isn't hugely bright, it only becomes 'bright' at about 75%+ and this really affects the battery, this really isn't in the same league as an IPS+ or Retina display. I think if you browse the web, play a game here and there you can get through 2 days alright. However, if you really go to town, watching HD YouTube videos and a movie you might be pushed to get through the day.

   You might notice that all of the activities above are 'fun'. The device is pegged to be an entertainment hub, which is why it has remote functionality for controlling your tv and skybox via its infrared connection, which is a very welcome addition. Entertaining is something this device achieves, but productivity it doesn't really; there is no HDMI out, there is no dock connector in the same way Asus' Transformer line has and there is no need for you to take this into your office, it's not the device for that. If you try to use it for work, it will come up short.

   So what do I really think the Tablet S is good for and can it compete in 2012?
The Tablet S is a great tablet and if you love Android and you like ebook reading and home entertainment, give this serious consideration, but for everyone else there's the iPad2 which is £30 more. Because although I love this device unless you have spent a lot of money on the Market Google Play it seems hard to choose this over the iPad 2. That is the only reason I chose this over an iPad, I like customisation and freedom and widgets, maybe it's just a way of thinking. I don't mind tweaking until things work how I want and that is still the Android way. Unfortunately this review has boiled down to Android Vs iOS again and that is the deciding factor on whether this tablet is for you or not. I'll be keeping my Tablet S because it's fun and quirky and it stands out from the iCrowd and that's why I love it.



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