Sony S review: Sony S

In that same spirit of borrowing from its best technology to make a compelling tablet, Sony has borrowed the Exmor image technology from its digital cameras to make a tablet camera that's actually worth a damn. The touch-screen panels on both tablets take advantage of the TruBlack technology used on Sony's Bravia HDTV sets, as we mentioned, providing richer contrast and minimizing reflections between the LCD and the glass above it. Sony even threw in the Dash 's Chumby widgets, transforming the tablet into a high-tech photo frame/widget display when the device is placed in an optional dock ($39).

Performance
The Tablet S' performance is a mixed bag. For example, its beautiful TruBlack screen falls a little short in terms of overall screen brightness.

Tested spec Sony Tablet S Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Apple iPad 2 T-Mobile G-Slate HP TouchPad
Maximum brightness 393 cd/m2 336 cd/m2 432 cd/m2 424 cd/m2 292 cd/m2
Default brightness 160 cd/m2 336 cd/m2 176 cd/m2 143 cd/m2 85 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.47 cd/m2 0.3 cd/m2 0.46 cd/m2 0.52 cd/m2 0.38 cd/m2
Default black level 0.19 cd/m2 0.3 cd/m2 0.19 cd/m2 0.18 cd/m2 0.11 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 842:1 1,120:1 926:1 794:1 772:1
Contrast ratio (max brightness) 836:1 1,120:1 939:1 815:1 768:1

Another example is the optimized Web browser, which prioritizes image downloads so that pages appear to load faster, even if overall page download time isn't necessarily improved. Like the TruBlack screen, it's a feature we're glad to have, but doesn't come across as an improvement when measured objectively.

One standout feature that performed undeniably well was the 5-megapixel rear camera. Photos come to life with a vibrancy we haven't seen on competing tablets. Little extras, such as a digital macro, manual exposure adjustments, and preset scene modes, offer the kind of flexibility you'd expect at this price.

In terms of battery life, Sony rates the Tablet S at around 8 hours of mixed use. Full recharge takes around 5 hours of charge time using the included power adapter. The adapter uses a proprietary contact-only connection, which has the advantage of not wrecking the tablet if it becomes yanked. Unfortunately, the unique design means that you'll need to go to Sony for a replacement if your adapter goes missing.

Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours)
Sony Tablet S 6.2

Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results after the Android 4.0 update.

Video battery life (in hours)
Sony Tablet S 7.2

Conclusion
Sony's tablet is uniquely its own. Beyond the eye-catching design, you can't help but see Sony's hard work in the attention to detail running throughout the subtle Android optimizations, software selections, and feature refinements.

You have to give Sony credit for really making something on its own terms that showcases the best of what it has to offer. Sony has the media content, the gaming legacy, an eye for elegant design, and some solid technological advantages. Whether it can get us to open our pocketbooks remains to be seen.

Editors' note: This review was updated December 11, 2011, to add CNET Labs' battery life test results, and and June 12, 2012, to add the same results after the Android 4.0 update.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Sony Tablet S (32GB)

Part Number: CNET-Sony-S-tablet-32GB Released: Sep 16, 2011
MSRP: $499.99 Low Price: $389.00 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep 16, 2011
  • Wireless Connectivity Bluetooth 2.1 EDR
  • Type Android 3.1 (Honeycomb)
  • Weight 1.3 lbs
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Processor NVIDIA Tegra 2