Brilliant as these displays may be it is impossible to escape the feeling Sony could have fitted 6/6.5in panels given the thickness of their bezels. The width of the Sony Tablet P also means there is considerable space to both the left and right of the screens giving it a somewhat retro Nintendo DS-like appearance. Quibbles aside it is hard not to be impressed.
Under the hood things are more mundane. The Tablet P runs on Nvidia’s ubiquitous Tegra 2 platform with its dual core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. Internal storage is only 4GB, but the aforementioned microSD means this can be boosted by up to 32GB and all the usual connectivity is present and correct including WiFi, Bluetooth with EDR and GPS, as well as 3G (no SIM supplied). Meanwhile a five megapixel camera can be found on the rear and a VGA webcam in the massive bezel of the top screen.
On the software front the Tablet P has Android 3.2 at its core (the tablet edition of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is still some way off), and Sony has used the same subtle skin seen on the Tablet S. Again any performance impact seems minimal and additional transition animations make the navigational experience far more fluid than stock Android 3.x. On top of this Sony has cashed in on its multimedia prowess building in its ‘Music Unlimited’ and ‘Video Unlimited’ portals which are part of its Qriocity download and streaming service. Content still hasn’t expanded vastly since we reviewed the Tablet S in October, but with content exclusives promised and a vast library at the company’s disposal they should both grow quickly next year.
So how does a radical design, dual screens, routine specifications and subtle software all combine? That’s the interesting part…
To its credit Sony has made a great deal of effort to make Android 3.2 run smoothly across both screens. By default the homescreen, web browser and mapping are spread across both screens creating a single display with a diagonal area of almost 7in that is also significantly wider than a standard 7in tablet’s aspect ratio. In addition Sony has been clever enough to make multitouch work across both screens, for example, one finger on the bottom screen and one on the top can still pinch to zoom or rotate.
It gets better too as Sony has customised a number of core applications to run in a split screen mode. This means many of Sony’s Android PlayStation titles can run in the top screen while controls are sat in the bottom screen and the clamshell form factor means it can bend into a far more comfortable natural gaming position.
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Another good example is Sony’s mail client which opens messages in the top screen while locating folders in the bottom screen, while multimedia files are shown on the bottom and content on the top (video can expand across both screens but the screen layout isn’t really optimised for this). Perhaps best of all is the Sony Reader app which can operate in portrait, putting a page on each screen creating the most natural reading experience on any digital device.