Birds of a feather
They say "better late than never". Sony announced its play in the tablet space over the Easter weekend, unveiling two uniquely shaped Android Honeycomb-powered tablets to rival Apple's dominant iPad and competition from Samsung and Motorola.
Codenamed S1 and S2, Sony's tablets feature custom Sony overlays to complement their unorthodox physical design, plus other unique tweaks including Sony's "Swift" browser for pulling down pages on slow connections. This shouldn't be too much of an issue for Aussie customers, as both the S1 and S2 will ship with HSDPA 3G and Wi-Fi when they launch globally in the third quarter of the year.
We're guessing that there will be plenty of similarities on the inside, but from a distance the S1 and S2 couldn't be more different.
Hallelujah! Finally, a tablet computer that doesn't look like every other Tab or (i)Pad. Sony's unusual curved design looks like a magazine opened to the middle, and Sony believes that this shifts the centre of gravity and makes the S1 more comfortable to hold. After testing a bevy of tablets so far this year, we are definitely looking for one that we don't need to rest on our laps after 15 minutes.
The S1 sports a 9.4-inch touchscreen with a WXGA resolution (1280x800). It also runs the first manufacturer-customised overlay for Google's Honeycomb OS, adding a Windows Phone-like tile design to popular apps for social networking and multimedia.
The S1 and S2 will also be the first PlayStation Certified tablets, meaning that they will ship with Sony's PlayStation Suite software installed, giving gamers access to PlayStation One titles to download and play. It also features an infrared sensor so that the tablet can double as your TV remote for compatible Bravia flat-panel sets.
This render gives you a good idea of the unique design in play with the S1. You can also see a few of the side-mounted controls, including power and volume keys.
The curved back of the S1 should also elevate the screen towards the user when lying on a flat surface, making it somewhat easier to type on.
The S1 looks pretty standard from behind, with a rear-facing camera visible. You can also see the Bravia TV remote sensor on the bottom right, plus holes for a lanyard strap lower still, though we're not sure who would want a massive thing like this hanging from their wrist.
It's also difficult to tell from this image, but the underside of the S1 is textured to give the user extra grip when holding the tablet.
Give me a D, give me an S
The Sony S2 (again, just a codename) features a very familiar-looking dual screen design. Each screen is 5.5-inches diagonally, so if you imagine two Dell Streaks glued together you should get a good idea of how big the S2 will be.
Those who can't shake the similarities to the Nintendo DS are actually thinking of the S2 as Sony would like them to. Like the S1, this dual-screen computer is PlayStation Certified and is capable of using the screens independent of one another, so that a gamer could use the bottom screen for controls while watching the action of a game on the top display.
Sleek grey shell
Sony's official renders show the S2 in sleek silver, which we assume has a brushed metal finish. No word yet on whether there will be a variety of colours at launch or not.
The S2 will look best to some people when closed up like this; it certainly offers an alternative to the large, flat slate designs of other tablets. You can also see the S2's rear-facing camera in this pic, with a second camera on the inside for videocalls.