We got to spend some quality time with Sony's upcoming Android Honeycomb 3.1 tablet, the Sony Tablet S. The 9.4" tablet will be available September 16, but some software still wasn't ready like the Crackle app for watching streaming movies and TV shows and the Sony Reader app for reading eBooks downloaded from the Sony Reader Store that currently serves Sony's long like of dedicated readers.
Sony is the only manufacturer who dares to be different when it comes to styling, and they are a company known for their design. We love the elegant look of this Android tablet with its unique tapering book or magazine like design, but we weren't fond of the plasticky look and fingerprint-loving surfaces. No high end Sony materials here like carbon fiber, but the price isn't high end either. The back is stippled to make it less slippery; a good thing since it would otherwise be slick gloss black plastic. Sony cleverly hides the volume and power controls under the side folds, along with the micro USB port and full size SD card slot.
The micro USB port supports USB host, and that means you can plug in flash drives and hard drives. You can see it in action in our video. In fact we played 720p and 1080p video from a flash drive. There's no HDMI port, and we assume that will come via a dock of some sort. The display isn't hugely bright, but it's colorful and uses Sony's TruBlack for deeper blacks. Honestly, we prefer the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Asus Eee Pad Transformer and HTC Jetstream displays.
The Sony Tablet S weighs a light 1.3 lbs. and it feels OK in hand, though having the heavy thicker section up top in landscape mode feels slightly out of balance vs. holding it in portrait mode. It's powered by the usual Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz CPU with a gig of RAM and it scored 1514 on Quadrant, which is lower than the Transformer and Jetstream that manage better than 2,000.
We like Sony's mild software customizations overall, especially their enhancement of the app launcher. There's Chumby on board, so you can turn the Tablet S into a big Sony Dash, and a solid AV Remote with IR blaster. We do wonder about battery life since the tablet packs only a 5,000 mAh battery vs. the 7,000 mAh used in some other 10" tablets.
The Sony Tablet S is WiFi only, and it has WiFi 802.11b/g/n as well as Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. The 16 model will sell for $499 and the 32 gig model will cost $599.