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Sony Tablet S review

Gordon Kelly



Our Score


User Score


  • Practical wedge design separates it from rivals
  • Android skin is practical and stylish
  • Strong camera
  • Good battery life


  • Sony exclusive content not ready for launch
  • Proprietary charging an unwelcome throwback
  • As expensive as an iPad 2

Review Price £400.00

Key Features: 9.4in, 1,280 x 800 screen; Front and rear cameras; SD and microUSB slots; Android operating system; Nvidia tegra 2 processor; Sony music and video streaming apps

Manufacturer: Sony

The relentless advance of touchscreen technology has brought many advantages to the tech world, but the increasingly generic look of slab-like devices is a noticeable downside. So praise be to Sony for deciding thin definitely is not in.

The Sony Tablet S (previously known as the Sony S1) is Sony's long awaited first Android tablet and its primary defining feature is to snub its nose at the aesthetically pleasing but impractical race to be thinnest. Instead Sony has thought along more practical lines producing a tablet whose side profile is reminiscent of its wedge shaped Vaio laptops.

This gives the Tablet S a more natural typing and viewing angle when laid flat and the curved edge is noticeably more comfortable when holding the device one handed in portrait orientation - the natural way for reading books, magazines and other nicely formatted content. What's more, at 598g it has little practical detriment, weighing less than an iPad 2 (601g). Clearly its maximum thickness (20.3mm) is greater by some margin than most of the competition (circa 10mm) but in everyday use this hasn't proved at all problematic. Perhaps the only criticism we would made of this wedge shape is that it doesn't taper enough - the thin end feels chunkier that it perhaps needs to be.

What also lets the side down is the mediocre build quality. Aside from its glass screen, the Tablet S is all plastic, and mostly glossy plastic at that. This gives it a slightly hollow feel that just doesn't quite have the premium feel of most rivals - the pathetic plastic flap that covers the ports is particularly unimpressive. As ever, it isn't the case that the Tablet S will fall apart, its just about the feel of the thing.

Sony Tablet S 4

Shape isn't the only place the Tablet S dares to be different. It may be a subtle point but Sony has eschewed both the usual 10.1in and 7in screen sizes for Android tablets and also ignored the 9.7in frame of the iPad. Instead it has opted for a 9.4in display. While 7in devices are clearly made to be used in a different way, this 9.4 form factor is still meant to compete directly with the other larger formats, and though it may sound like the start of a bad joke, giving up 0.3in does make a difference. That said Sony has a fondness for high resolutions and in fitting a 1280 x 800 panel the trade off results in additional pixel density and text looks razor sharp. It's also a high quality (IPS) panel so has great viewing angles and it produces strong colours with deep blacks as well, making it a good choice for movie watching and other multimedia activities.


The rest of the Tablet S is equally unconventional. There are familiar specifications such as the dual core 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, micro USB and choice of WiFi/WiFi 3G and 16GB/32GB sizes, but everything else raises an eyebrow.

Sony Tablet S 7

Most obvious of these is Sony's decision to fit a proprietary charge port. The benefit is it uses a MagSafe-inspired magnetic connection which disconnects if the cable is pulled. The downside is it means carrying the charger with you and this is no small burden given it is linked into a 105g power brick. You can at least get a nice dock for the system for a yet to be confirmed extra cost.

Sony Tablet S 3

In addition Sony has opted for an SD card slot rather than the more typical microSD. Again there are pros and cons. SD cards are available in larger sizes and allow easy access to digital camera and video recorder content, but then microSD has become more of a standard for removable storage on these devices. Then again, unlike some other tablets the Tablet S can only use SD card space to store media files rather than to extend the main memory. Lastly Sony has omitted HDMI, but countered that with integrated DLNA network streaming. Should you have DLNA compatible devices like the PS3, or in fact may new TVs, this is a godsend. For others the lack of a more widely adopted connection will prove an irritant.


Thankfully what is less contentious is the software. Sony has gone down the well worn path of customising Android, but where many have failed it has produced a subtle and stylish upgrade which smoothes out the rough edges of Honeycomb 3.2. Critics are justified in saying such skins further fragment Android (which long term is self defeating for manufacturers), but Sony has unified the look with its PlayStation and Xperia Play devices. The result is a darker, more adult appearance than the defacto Honeycomb and a number of welcome extra animations make it run more smoothly.

Beyond these superficialities Sony has used its massive multimedia resources to equip the tablet with a wealth of potential market differentiators…

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September 1, 2011, 2:22 am

Guys, I hope you'll also be taking a look at Sony's new e-reader. No matter how good a display is, eInk is still far easier on the eyes when it comes to reading on it for extended periods.

David Gilbert

September 1, 2011, 2:55 am

We have managed to get our hands on the new e-reader and will be putting up a hands-on review very soon.


September 8, 2011, 6:59 am

Regarding the memory card, can you confirm that you can play videos and music from the memory card? I'm contemplating getting the 32GB or 16GB, but if I can play videos (films etc) direct from the memory card, then I think I'll go for the 16GB.


October 5, 2011, 6:04 pm

Erm, I think you managed to put in every pro and con into the Pros '+' category.

Rupert Hollom

October 5, 2011, 6:05 pm

Sony really need to take a leaf out of Amazon's book and price this table significantly lower than the competition and then make the money back on the unique content that they can provide. If they did that they would have a winner on their hands.


October 5, 2011, 8:03 pm

"The relentless advance of touchscreen technology has brought many advantages to the tech world" ... well ..., sorry, but i don't see any advance in touchscreens, just companies fooling customers and earning big money by giving them bad and lagging behind technology.


October 5, 2011, 8:39 pm

And the Barnes & Noble Simple Touch Reader too while your at it?


October 5, 2011, 9:04 pm

Good spot. Fixed now.


October 5, 2011, 9:06 pm

Advance OF touchscreens, not IN. Besides which, I'm not really sure quite what your issue is.


October 5, 2011, 10:10 pm

Chaps, no mention at all of the S's abilities as a universal remote. Surely one of it's most appealing/stand-out built in features? Plus, I'd really like to know (and can't seem to find out anywhere online) if the S can control a PS3 using it's remote software.


October 6, 2011, 6:33 am

Unfortunately we didn't have a room full of Sony equipment to try. Much as we'd love to horde vast collections of equipment, it gets returned after review.

We can confirm however that the Tablet S doesn't act as a huge PS3 remote. Though firmware updates to both in future may make this possible.


October 6, 2011, 6:35 am

As Ed mentions. I don't see your point. Other than the minimalist qualities it imposes on design, touchscreen technology has radically influenced technology for the better.

If you can't see that, we despair.


October 6, 2011, 9:21 am

I meant in touchscreens area. Anyway, english is not my native language, i don't even have any certificate, i learned it by myself.
My issue is that touchscreens today are garbage. It's pretty obvious that they influence technology, but not for the better. I wouldn't bet my life on them. They are completely unreliable.


October 6, 2011, 1:13 pm

I have had a look at these a couple of times and I cant help thinking that it both looks and feels cheap and nasty compared to other tablets.

Needs to be priced sub £200 to sell IMO.


October 6, 2011, 4:31 pm

>> My issue is that touchscreens today are garbage

Did they used to be better?. Or do you mean that Touchscreen's are worse than say a keyboard?, I personally think it depends on what your doing, eg. I'm a programmer and I can't see me ditching my keyboard & mouse for a while yet.


October 6, 2011, 7:00 pm

The whole point of a touchscreen centric device like a tablet or smartphone is that the entire OS and user interface have been designed for touchscreens from the ground up. All of the interface elements are designed with large, finger-friendly controls to make touchscreen interaction as easy as possible. In this way, any inaccuracy in operating the touchscreen has less of an effect on usability.

I'm not about to pretend that touchscreens will replace keyboards and mice everywhere. As Keith points out, keyboards will always dominate certain applications. However, the application of touchscreens to smartphones and tablets is now mature, well established and has proven benefit (as well as a few negatives).

Surely you're not suggesting that anyone who spends their money on such devices does so simply because they've been fooled by marketing propaganda? Or perhaps they're mindless drones who've given into their desire to fondle the latest shiny gadget? There are a fair few readers and contributors to this site who would disagree with that assessment.


October 8, 2011, 1:02 am

The great thing is you DON'T need Sony hardware.
We have a big screen LG TV, Onkyo surround sound and Humax Freesat HD recorder with an LG Blueray player...and this tablet handles them all with aplomb, including a sweep of the screen increasing volume... Oh, it will also dim the lights :-).

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