Sony is weird. This isn't an insult, but objective fact. Daring to be different, challenging convention and stubbornly standing its ground has resulted in numerous industry changing products and created a multinational conglomerate with over $150bn in assets and nearly 170,000 staff. On the other hand it can be really weird…
The Tablet P is a perfect example of Sony at its most creative and most infuriating. The smaller brother of the more conventional Sony Tablet S, the Sony Tablet P takes what we know about tablets and rips up the rule book. Consequently we have a tablet which has two screens, folds in the middle and adopts a landscape clamshell form factor more associated with older smartphones like the Nokia Communicator. However bizarre the Tablet P make look, however, the methodology is simple: maximum mobility.
At 180 x 158 x 22mm this means the Sony Tablet P, while still too big for a trouser pocket, can just about be carried in a jacket or coat. That said at 372g the Tablet P isn't the lightest tablet around as the more conventional Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus weighs a mere 345g. As such we don't completely buy Sony's claims about revolutionary portability, but that makes it no less interesting.
The Tablet P gets even more interesting up close. The company has opted for a sandblasted aluminium look for the P's curved exterior and while the build materials are actually plastic it feels hard wearing and well built. The rear also comes off to reveal a welcome removable battery and a microSD slot and the hinge is extremely sturdy, opens and closes with a gentle magnetic pull and should last well beyond the device's lifetime.
Sticking to the exterior the second obvious point is the minimal number of ports and buttons. Sony has opted for a clean aesthetic with just a headphone jack, micro USB port, power and volume buttons. To keep the ports clean Sony has stuck to its usual tactic of fitting flaps, but these do feel fragile and fiddly and it is something it really should stop - if you're getting your device grubby enough that you might muck up the ports, then the rest of it needs protecting just as much. A further downside is the use of a proprietary charge port rather than microUSB and the surprising need for a power brick on the charger cable – 'maximum portability' indeed. The Tablet S suffered from these same drawbacks and we hope Sony will do away with them in future generations.
Despite this the Tablet P makes a promising first impression, but it is only once flipped open that the magic/weirdness truly begins…
The Tablet P is fitted with two incredibly high quality 5.5in screens, each packing in a whopping 1,024 x 600 pixels. As is often the case with Sony screens, the displays are wonderfully bright, the colours rich and, thanks to the pixel density, text is clear and razor sharp. The effect isn't quite as eye-deceivingly perfect as the Retina Displays on the iPhone 4/4S and current iPod touch, but they set a new standard in tablets – at least until the tablet pixel wars which are expected to take place throughout 2012.