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Sony Tablet S Review: The Media Enthusiast's Dream Tablet

Sony's Tablet S: The Multimedia Enthusiast's Best Bet

In our view, tablets continue to be a luxury, and the Tablet S is no exception to that rule. Sony, like Samsung, did not see fit to launch with a lower price. Both companies seem determined to match Apple's pricing. As such, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Tablet S are expensive relative to the other Android-based contenders.

Tablet Pricing8 GB16 GB32 GB64 GB
Apple iPad 2 (Wi-Fi)-$499$599$699
Apple iPad 2 (AT&T 3G/Verizon 3G)-$629$729$829
Acer Iconia Tab A500 (Wi-Fi)-$399$499-
Asus Eee Pad Transformer (Wi-Fi)-$399$469-
Motorola Xoom (Wi-Fi)--$499-
Motorola Xoom Family Edition (Wi-Fi)-$379--
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (Wi-Fi)-$499$599-
Sony Tablet S-$499$599-
Toshiba Thrive (Wi-Fi)$379$399$479-

We still think that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the closest thing to a clear iPad 2 competitor. Its design is clean and sexy, while its Super PLS display looks great.

As it jumps into the tablet market alongside several other prominent brands, Sony's approach differs. It's not trying to do everything that Apple or Samsung do well. Instead, it's delivering a more media-oriented approach, folding the Tablet S into an existing ecosystem of hardware where it can simply coexist and complement.

In that context, the Tablet S is an attractive device. You get the functionality of a universal remote in a tablet form factor, first off. That can be a $200 value right off the bat. And though the DLNA app isn't exclusive to Sony's tablet, it's guaranteed to work with any DLNA certified TV, Blu-ray player, stereo receiver, speaker set, and so on. A relevant combination of features makes Sony's tablet a cool living room companion.

It's not locked in there, either. Let's say there's someone who isn't interested in what's on TV. Even with the Tablet S operating as the room's control center, that person can still pick it up and surf the Web, too.

Although, at its widest, it's thicker than any other tablet, the Tablet S defies the idea that a daintier design is better. In fact, the product's dimensions especially make it comfortable to hold over longer intervals. If it weren't for the LCD display, we might even say that reading on the Tablet S works better than on a Kindle.

While much can be said about its ergonomics, the Tablet S doesn't fare as well outside of the connected home concept, making it less desirable for traveling. To begin, the form factor isn't as easy to drop into a laptop bag's side pocket. Also, the power adapter is a little less convenient to pack away.

Especially in a more mature market, each tablet is going to lose points in one category as it seeks to differentiate in another one. We're learning that the best tablet for one person won't fit the needs of another, and our hope of finding one tablet that does everything right is waning. To that end, Sony comes up short in some categories where other models excel. When it comes to the multimedia enthusiast, specifically, though, Sony unquestionably sells the best tablet you can buy.

Enter to win a Sony Tablet S of your own. Our grand prize also includes a $25 AMEX gift card and Jambox! Simply read the rules and then fill out our SurveyGizmo contest form.

  • tanjo
    Can't they think of a better name? S? What's next Sony Tablet S II?
  • acku
    tanjoCan't they think of a better name? S? What's next Sony Tablet S II?
    Yeah, admittedly the name isn't catchy or memorable.

    Andrew Ku
  • lashabane
    At least they didn't name it the "i".
  • belardo
    Great review... The Sony Tablet S is a nice looking device. I agree on the thinness issues that some companies do... my older Sony phone is still easier to hold than my new Samsung Galaxy which is half as thin.

    I think SONY should have included an HDMI port, but wireless works too. HDMI has a limited life anyway as the video industry is moving to CAT6 instead. Its cheaper and can be far LONGER cable than HDMI.

    There are both good and bad things about the SONY, its problems are rooted in Android in general and reminds me WHY I'm glad we went with an iPad(1), even compared to todays modern designs.

    - Connectivity. The USB is for debug mode? How easy it is to share your data between a desktop and the tablet? My Samsung Android experience in this area is just as crappy today as it was a year ago. I doubt I'll ever buy another Samsung phone ever again, much less another Android. I'm looking to MS's WP8 next year.

    - Performance: All these new tablets (I'm eying the Lenovo ThinkPad tablet - why they didn't name it ThinkTab? or Simply ThinkPad) have the same low Nvidia Tegra2 performance compared to the OLD iPad2. Same shorter battery life. Why would a typical person pay $500 when the iPad2 does it faster?

    - Love the shape and remote control aspect of the SONY. Looks comfortable. When I went to Android (from a basic phone) I had a choice between the Samsung Galaxy and Sony's Android. Sony still had some quality issues to work out. Samsung had the better OMLED display and a cover for the USB port - rather than a stupid rubber cover to fight. Sony had a much nicer weight and feel. But considering that both phones hit the market at the same time - SONY using Android 1.6 vs. Samsung's 2.1 made me nervous about SONY's ability to upgrade. And then I experience Samsung & at&t failure for a proper Froyo update. Ice Cream has lots of improvements... but still buggy.

    Its crap like that, that make me NOT want to buy another Android device. iOS 5 is a very nice update, it was far less painful than getting Froyo onto my Phone! (I had to use an old XP computer to do it) - but Apple pisses me off with their anti-competitive legal games they play against Android. And I have my issues with Microsoft.

    Okay, they are ALL EVIL! So I'll go with the easiest and best thing at the time of my purchase.

    With Amazon & RIM selling tablets at $200 now, the game will be different next spring when the iPad 3 comes out as well as Windows Mobile 8. Hopefully MS will just call mobile devices "Metro 8".
  • jemm
    Great article!
  • soo-nah-mee
    I had one for a week and took it back. It's a nice device, but not worth $500 IMO. It is very plasticky (albeit lightweight), and it feel like the screen would crack with no more than a slight twist of the device.

    The IR blaster was the one feature that made me consider keeping it. It works VERY well.

    The Transformer Prime is going to be the same price and is better in every way, other than not having an IR blaster. Who would buy this instead? You'd either REALLY have to want that IR blaster or be a Sony fanboy.
  • bunz_of_steel
    Good review Andrew Ku and great comparisons! Has IR port instead of RF... I don't know of anyone that wants an IR port vs RF. A little more expensive but who wants to be aiming this thing to change channels. Also don't like the fact that this doesn't have a full size USB or an HDMI port. ??? Think I'm going to hold off buying any tablet until they have what I need. HDMI out, USB 3, wired port always nice. And like Andrew said why pay $500 when ipad2 is faster.
  • cknobman
    Hard to see too many positives in this device, even with the overly optimistic review given here at Toms.

    Bad ergonomics
    Cheap plastic build
    Terrible battery life
    Sony bloat on it

    I played with one in store and found it to feel and look like a cheap toy compared to some of the other Android tablets.
  • soo-nah-mee
    cknobmanBad ergonomicsActually I thought the ergonomics were quite good. Hold like a book in portrait mode and for landscape mode you can "hang" it by one finger in each of the "loop" areas at the top.
  • andywork78
    Great review this is why i choose galaxy tab 10.1
    good price good options.
    However on your graph cart.
    Higher is better or lower is better?