Sony Tablet S Review

A few months ago, I sold my Motorola Xoom to a friend as I determined that I really don’t use the tablet enough to keep it around (it was sitting locked up in my fire safe for months on end).  Last week, I was trying for find a decent way to view comics on my iPad- and realized that it just cannot display a readable page unless I zoom in; I think it is a combination of the aspect ratio and lower resolution that makes it just uncomfortable to read full screen (perhaps that will change with the iPad 3?)- so I decided that I ‘need’ another Android tablet to do this and other things…

3478046 LeftMy three choices were the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Transformer Prime and the Sony Tablet S.  The Sony Tablet S won out due to it’s form factor and features, such as:  IR transmitter for remote control, ability to pair with a Sony PS3 Sixaxis controller and the very nice way it acts like a big-ass Chumby when docked (there is an included Chumby app).

I used the Sony for about a week and I have been fairly happy with the performance- but not so happy with the ‘portability’ options.

The system is fairly responsive and battery life is very good- I would estimate I can get 4-5 days of normal casual use out of the tablet; checking gReader a few times a day, checking email, surfing the web, and occasional Netflix movie, etc. Leaving the unit in standby doesn’t seem to drain the battery life at all. Granted, it doesn’t have iPad battery longevity, but it lasts a hell of a lot longer than my Motorola Xoom did.

The screen is very nice; sharp and clear, nice color, and the perfect format for reading comics or magazines. Resolution is the typical 1280x800 found on most tablets and the viewing angles are pretty good.  With ComicRack for Android I was catching up on my comics and a few magazines I have neglected for the past few months.

The remote control is pretty nice but lacks several devices (or at least ways to find such devices- such a the Popcorn Hour C200 and the Sony NSZ-GT1 Google TV/Blu-ray player) but it can learn them one button at a time form the old remote.  I also had more than one occasion where the remote would stop working for one device (my C200) and would not return control until I killed the app and restarted.

The form factor is very comfortable to hold; it is like a rolled over magazine providing a good grip and always giving the proper orientation to find the power & volume buttons (on top if holding thick part in left hand). This can however cause some issues with generic cases designed for flat tablets.

The included Crash Bandicoot game is pretty fun when using a Sixaxis controller.  Gameplay is decent (dual core Tegra 2 CPU) albeit it felt a little laggy at times.  NES/SNES emulators are also enjoyable (once you get the controls configured for the Sixaxis).  To pair the Sixaxis, you will need to purchase a microUSB to USB A female cable (such as the Sony SGP-UC1 for $14) to pair the controller; the cable can also be used to connect other USB devices (keyboard, storage, etc.).

Memory is one down-side of the tablet; the 16GB version has 8.92GB available for storage (music, movies, etc.) and 3.94GB allocated to Android application space -leaving about 3GB dedicated to system use.  It does have a SD card slot (yes- full sized SD Card- not microSD), but this can only be used as storage for transferring music/videos/eBooks/etc. into the internal memory; When a SD card is inserted a ‘File Transfer’ program pops up.  This behavior is also true if a USB storage device is attached to the ISB host port. Looks like I won’t be putting much of my FLAC music collection on the device…

The main issues I have with this tablet are the accessories options:

I was able to find only a single slipcover specifically designed for the Tablet S; it is made by Sony and it is $100.  Let me say that again- there is a slipcover case (i.e. it doesn't even hinge to hold the tablet) and it costs one hundred fucking dollars…  I expect to see these on closeout for $30 in the next few months.   There are other 3rd party cases can be used (such as a generic neoprene slipcase for $15) but I am astounded that Sony would only provide one $100 option for protection of their tablet.

EDIT: looking at Sony’s accessory website, there does appear to be a new offering for ‘STM Skinny’ case for the Tablet S- along with two offering from Targus.

Sony managed to create an extreme proprietary (*surprise*) power connector for the tablet and it utilizes an in-line power brick for power- making it pretty much useless for travel.  A spare/replacement power brick costs $40.  The optional dock for the Tablet S provides charging via this odd connector, but the dock does not come bundled with a power supply -and also costs another $40.  These prices are somewhat on the high end with similar offerings for other tablet devices, but the connector choice makes the only charger option very bulky when compared to the ‘wall wart’ charging common to other tablets (and makes a generic or USB powered option impossible).

The power connector is very reminiscent of the old power connector used on the Sony Clie line of Palm PDA devices from about a decade ago.

I have not seen an automotive charger option for this tablet; a power inverter could be used, but this adds additional bulk for a portable device.


All said, the Sony Tablet S is a very good Android tablet; it has several features that others do not and its unique shape is comfortable to hold for reading.  However, the charging options make this device much less attractive for use when travelling- so my tablet is going back to the store tomorrow. 

I will likely try out one of the Samsung Galaxy tab options and see how they fare for portability.  I would prefer an Asus Transformer Prime option, but these devices are sold out in almost every store (Frys, BestBuy and MicroCenter) and as well as Online (including a vendor that is charging $50 over MSRP).

Some pics of the Tablet S:

Tablet in dock running the ‘Cassandra’ application

Sample page from ComicRack

Sony Custom application drawer.

View of gReader for Android (but nothing is quite as nice as Flipboard- when is this coming to Android!?!)