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

DLNA Certification And A Remote Control Catch Our Eyes

Do you want to win a Sony Tablet S of your own? We're giving away two of these tablets along, with a Jambox and $25 gift card for our first-place winner. Special thanks to the TegraZone team for providing the prizes!

Read through our review and, on the last page, follow the link to fill out our entry form on SurveyGizmo. Good luck, Tom's Hardware readers!

Airfoil. That was the first thought that popped into my head when I saw the Tablet S.

For good reason, Sony's first expedition into the tablet market defies the conventional wisdom that dictates "thinner is better." Instead, the company opted to design a tablet with more of a wedge shape. As a result, the Tablet S looks a lot like an aircraft's wing. But then I saw this commercial:

At least according to whichever marketing firm created that minute-long ad, the Tablet S' inspiration comes from a folded piece of paper. Though that's not necessarily any sexier than Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Apple's iPad 2, it doesn't need to be. In an increasingly expansive sea of tablet choices, Sony isn't trying to impress us based on good looks. Instead, the company is trying to uniquely cater to entertainment mavens.

Based on a cursory glance at a feature checklist, the Tablet S doesn't really seem well-suited to address that market. It's closely comparable to the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but it cannot output to HDMI. Reading data from USB-based drives is possible. But, like the solution from Samsung, you need an adapter.

Once you read beyond the most common tablet-oriented features, though, you see the Tablet S is DLNA-certified, which means it should interact very naturally with other DNLA-enabled devices like TVs, PCs, and speaker systems. The fact that this product is born into an existing ecosystem, rather than forced to co-exist with dissimilar devices, could give it a marked advantage in the tablet space. As an added bonus, the Tablet S is able to operate as a universal IR remote control, giving it functionality much like a Logitech Harmony remote in a tablet form factor.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Native Feature ChecklistAcer Iconia A500Asus Eee Pad TransformerMotorola XoomSamsung Galaxy Tab 10.1Sony Tablet SToshiba Thrive
Full-Sized USB PortX----X
Front CameraXXXXXX
Rear CameraXXXXXX
SD Card Reader----XX
microSD Card ReaderXXX---

Both of those differentiators certainly help make Sony's Tablet S the most unique tablet offering we've seen. However, they're not going to be must-haves for every potential tablet buyer. Again, this product is distinctly aimed at media enthusiasts.

  • 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?