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Sony Tablet S vs. Asus Eee Pad Transformer Comparison Smackdown
      09/26/11 09:18 AM

The new Sony Tablet S and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer are in some ways unlikely competitors, though they're both 10" class Android Honeycomb tablets that vary only $100 in price The Sony Tablet S came out just a week ago, while the Transformer came out this spring, but both are undeniably hot tablets. The Transformer has had time to mature and receive a few firmware updates, while we're still waiting for a few Sony tweaks and app updates. Both run on the same internals: a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 CPU with a gig of RAM, 16 or 32 gigs of flash storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, a GPS and dual cameras. So why do I say they're unlikely competitors? Because the Sony is more of an entertainment and lifestyle tablet, while the Transformer targets not just bargain hunters but also those looking for a netbook replacement.

Software and Services

Ironic for a multimedia and entertainment tablet, the Sony Tablet S lacks an HDMI port, which the Transformer and most Honeycomb tablets have, though it does have DLNA for wireless streaming. But it's loaded with software and services that make it a turnkey streaming video player, eBook reader and even PlayStation gaming device (though there are only 2 PlayStation titles included at launch). Sony's a large company with a movie studio, gaming platform, music label and services and an eBook store, giving them an advantage for those who wish to use those kinds of services.



Asus is a computer manufacturer, plain and simple, and the Transformer lacks the breadth of the Sony portfolio, but it's very good at standing in for a netbook/basic notebook replacement. They include their DLNA software (actually more capable than Sony's at launch), cloud storage and a basic ePub ebook reader. Their reader has fewer features than Sony's, but as a consolation, both support side-loading of your own ePub and PDF books and you can install Kindle, Kobo and B&N Nook readers on both. But if you're looking for a solid entertainment Android Honeycomb tablet with a healthy helping of pre-loaded apps, the Sony wins.

Win: Sony Tablet S


Expandability and Productivity

When it comes to the geeky side of things like expansion possibilities, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer wins. It has an HDMI port that the Sony lacks, and works with Asus' reasonably priced $149 keyboard dock that Transforms the Transformer into a netbook and even notebook replacement for basic notebook tasks like web browsing, email and MS Office work. The dock adds not only a 10.6" netbook size keyboard and trackpad, but also a full size SD card slot (in addition to the microSD card slot in the tablet itself), 2 full USB ports and a secondary battery that extends battery life by 4 hours.

The Sony is no slouch though, especially when compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad 2. It has a full size SD card slot and a micro USB port that supports USB host. That means with a micro USB to USB cable adapter ($14), you can plug in USB peripherals like a flash drive, hard drive, keyboard, mouse and game controller. You don't need the keyboard dock to do this with the Sony, as you do with the Transformer. Sony's PlayStation game, Crash Bandicoot, works perfectly with Logitech USB game controllers, no hacking necessary. The drawback? Some boneheads at Sony decided to ignore Android Honeycomb 3.2's solid support for mounting SD cards along with internal storage, and that means songs, videos and photos on a card won' appear in Gallery or the music player. You can open and view/play them one by one, but that's tedious for music libraries and photo collections.



Asus bundles a very capable version of Polaris Office for creating, editing and viewing MS Office files. Combined with the keyboard dock, that helps make the Transformer (and the new Asus Eee Pad Slider) the best stand-ins for a notebook in school. Sure, you can buy an MS Office suite like Quickoffice HD for the Sony for $15 and get a Bluetooth keyboard, but the Asus is more streamlined for the job if you're looking for a laptop surrogate.

Win: Asus Eee Pad Transformer


Display

Asus uses an ever-popular IPS display that's bright and has wide viewing angles. It's good at combating outdoor lighting and has plenty of contrast. The Transformer's IPS display is very good but not at the top of our list: it's not a color saturated as the iPad 2, Sony Tablet S or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but its a big step up from the Motorola Xoom, Acer Iconia Tab A500/A501 and Toshiba Thrive. The Sony Tablet S uses Sony's TruBlack technology similar to Bravia TVs. Blacks are deep and colors are deep and rich with a cinematic feel like film. It's better for ebook reading, and has a more neutral color bias with less harshness. They're both nice displays, but we give the edge to Sony. However, if you plan to use the tablet outdoors, the Transformer's somewhat brighter display is more viewable, though tablets in general aren't best viewed outdoors.

Win: Sony Tablet S


Design and Ergonomics

Sony clearly pulls ahead here, at least if you want to use the device as a tablet and not a notebook. The Sony weighs 1.3 pounds vs. 1.55 pounds and has a more compact and balanced design. It' simply the most comfortable tablet to hold for extended periods of time, and that's important for ebook reading and gaming with accelerometer-based games. The Sony has a more interesting and stylish look that's unique, though it's made entirely of plastic (just the back of the Transformer is plastic), and it lacks the Transformer's Gorilla Glass display. That said, the Tablet S is sturdy and durable (it's survived a few accidents in our office), though I'd invest in Sony's $25 anti-glare LCD protector.



The Transformer gains points for its incredibly innovative transformable design, but the Sony wins for portability, comfort and unique looks.

Win: Sony Tablet S


Value

Asus wins this one hands down. You get an excellent Android 10.1" tablet for your money with all the hardware features you'd expect from a top quality tablet, including an IPS display.

Win: Asus Eee Pad Transformer


Conclusion

In the end, these are both top Android Honeycomb 3.2 tablets, and I'd be happy with either one. If you're looking for a multimedia and ebook reader tablet or want to play lots of accelerometer based games, the Sony is our pick. If you want a powerfully expandable netbook replacement or area simply on a tight budget but want a high quality tablet, the Asus wins.


Sony Tablet S vs. Asus Eee Pad Transformer Comparison video







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Lisa Gade
Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview

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