Review: Sony Xperia Tablet S

This 9.4-inch Android tablet improves upon the original Tablet S, which PC World reviewed early in 2012.

NameTablet: Sony Xperia Tablet S
At a glance:1280 x 800 IPS screen is great indoors and copes with sunlight,Sony-customised apps overlay on Android Ice Cream Sandwich,Battery life is quite short for a tablet
Summary:A well-performing tablet with a few hiccups, but no fatal flaws.
Rating:4/5
RRP:$699
Contact:sony.co.nz

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Sony developed an iconic look with the original Tablet S, which PC World reviewed early this year. At IFA this year, it returned with a revised design which, on the surface at least, tackled all the aspects that we felt weren’t quite as awesome as they could have been.

The good looks of this 9.4-inch Android tablet have never been in doubt – with its unusual fold-over look top, and slimline styling, it’s definitely a head-turner. Also worth a double-take is the bright, 1280 x 800 IPS screen. The large bezel may be off-putting for some, but it’s no bigger than, say, that of the iPad, and here its black-on-black helps keep the focus on the screen.

The Tablet S is robust, with no flex or give, and few spots where crumbs, dirt and other gunk can get caught (though the recessed headphone jack is one of them).

The IPS screen is a vivid, colour accurate display, indoors at least. Outside it suffers from glare a little, though tilting the screen was enough to make it viewable no matter how bright things got.

Sunlight-capable screens are tough to create, and Sony has made a decent stab at it.

Inside the Tablet S is an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, which gave great results on the benchmarks we ran, and for the most part delivered snappy and responsive apps. Popular game Monsters Ate My Condo ran slickly and was ultra-responsive. Waking the tablet from sleep is slow, however, and it can sometimes be unclear whether you pressed an app firmly enough but it didn’t respond, or you didn’t press firmly enough.

There’s a full-sized SD card slot for storage on top of the 10GB in our review model, cunningly hidden in the foldover portion of the design. Our model had some 6GB of that 10GB already consumed, so we were glad it was possible to expand on that.

The rear camera is 8MP, and there’s a front facing camera, too, which was perfectly acceptable for Skype. The app for the 8MP camera isn’t as responsive as we’d have liked, but the photos are clear and crisp. Most people aren’t really going to shoot much video with a tablet, but for those enterprising videographers who want to do so, it’s not a bad option.

Sony offers many proprietary widgets and applications on the Tablet S.

There’s a remote control app, Walkman, Music Unlimited, Reader by Sony and more. There’s not a Sony skin, as such, but as with the Xperia phones, there are overlays that add customisation over and above Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. While they gave me a few moments of confusion, wondering exactly what I should press, most are fairly unobtrusive and useful. The quick access to settings was one I returned to again and again. I tested out the remote control app on my Sony TV and found it worked just fine.

Our model had a lot of preinstalled apps, though it’s not clear how many of these will be on the retail version.

I found that typing on the Xperia Tablet S was easy and straightforward, and the keyboard is accurate. However, when it came to entering information on web forms and the like I ran into some problems. Pressing on the screen to select an area to type in seemed to either work too fast, or too slow – I’d mis-press, type in the wrong section, or wait, then press again, to no avail. This wasn’t an issue when selecting items in a game, even for detailed games where precise touch was needed, so I’m not entirely sure what the cause is.

The other issue for me was the battery life. I play games a fair bit on a tablet, and it chews through battery life quite rapidly. The poor Xperia Tablet S couldn’t make half a day. Even on relatively light use, I got no more than two days use from it – I get three or four on an iPad 2. The situation was even worse if I used the combined keyboard/cover that Sony provided along with the review sample, which drained the battery dry in two days even if the tablet was off.

I feel as though the Tablet S is a bit of a mixed bag. It has a great screen and good processor, but both are marred by the poor battery life and occasional frustrating unresponsiveness. It’s a good tablet, no mistake, but it’s not great, and for a ten-inch tablet, ostensibly competing with the iPad, I fear that’s a killer blow. If you’ve invested in other Sony ecosystem products, such as TV, Xperia phone and Reader, I’d seriously consider it, however.

I feel as though the Tablet S is a very good tablet that just stops short of being truly amazing. It has a great screen and good processor, but both are marred by the lower-than-expected battery life and occasional frustrating unresponsiveness. For a ten-inch tablet competing with the iPad, I fear it’s not going to gain traction. If you’ve invested in other Sony ecosystem products, such as TV, Xperia phone and Reader, I’d seriously consider it, however.

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Zara Baxter

Unknown Publication
Topics: Android, nvidia, tegra, Walkman
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