The Good: The Sony Tablet S goes above and beyond the typical Android tablet experience by offering exclusive apps, ergonomic design, PlayStation certification for mobile gaming, DLNA video and music streaming, and an integrated IR universal remote control. The Bad: It's on the pricey side, the charging adapter is proprietary, and screen brightness isn't what it could be. The Bottom Line: Sony took its time with the Tablet S, and it shows. The industrial design is smart, and the software refinements are both practical and restrained. \nPhoto gallery:Sony Tablet S\n\nEditor's note: Thanks to the release of recent, high-quality tablets, the overall score of the Sony Tablet S has been adjusted down from 7.7 to 7.2.\n\n\n\nSony's track record in industrial design, hardware engineering, gaming, and media makes it the best possible candidate to make a tablet that can challenge Apple's iPad. A year and a half after Apple's tablet debut, Sony is striking back with an Android 3.2 slate that is bound to turn heads and win some fans.\n\nEditors' note: As of April 2012, the Sony Tablet S is upgradable to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). For details on the advantages Android 4.0 offers over Honeycomb, check the Android 4.0 section of the Asus Transformer Prime TF201 review.\n\n\nPriced at $499 (16GB) and $599 (32GB), and lacking cellular data compatibility (at least in the U.S.), the Sony Tablet S isn't looking to be an inexpensive iPad alternative. It represents an elevation in the art of making Android tablets, and offers a genuinely fresh take on tablet design.\n\nDesign\nSony's tablet is easy to spot in a lineup. Its unique wedge shape gives it a futuristic look and provides improved balance in your hand compared with the flat competition. As seen when placed on a table, the screen's forward slant minimizes glare and makes it more comfortable to type. The tradeoff is that the Tablet S doesn't achieve the same thinness as an iPad 2, though the Tablet S is just as light at 1.3 pounds and feels more solid than the reigning Android slate, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. \n\n\nSony's charging adapter is as unique as its tablet, but its proprietary design makes it tough to replace.\n\n\nAround the sides you'll find buttons for power and volume, speakers, a headphone jack, and a tethered cover protecting a Micro-USB sync connection and a full-size SD card reader. A built-in app handles moving files back and forth from your card. It's worth noting that unlike other Honeycomb tablets, the SD card reader here functions just for media transfer and isn't meant to act as a memory expansion port. \n\nSony also made an interesting choice by going with a 9.4-inch screen instead of the 10.1-inch panel used on nearly every other Honeycomb tablet out there. Sony also uses the TruBlack technology from its Bravia TV line to make the screen contrast really pop. Though the screen is slightly smaller than those found on most of its Honeycomb cousins, you really don't feel the pinch while using it and it actually helps to bring the overall form factor closer to the iPad's dimensions. \n\nFeatures\nTake it as read that you get Google's full Android 3.1 experience. Everything from Gmail to Google Talk (with video chat) comes ready to go right out of the box. On top of that you get access to Sony's Video Unlimited service. Ironically, video selection is very limited at launch, but plans are in place to offer video download and rental options from all the major studios. You get a six-month free basic membership to Sony's Music Unlimited service (a revamped version of Sony's Qriocity). Sony's own Reader software is included, alongside Google Books. And last but not least, both of Sony's tablets are PlayStation-certified, and run emulator software allowing them to run select PS One and PSP game titles. The original PS One hit Crash Bandicoot comes preinstalled, along with a version of Pinball Heroes.\n\nSony has also included some interesting options for pushing media content from these tablets to DLNA-compatible speakers, PCs, or TVs (and not just Sony's). You can think of it as Sony's answer to Apple's AirPlay media streaming, only more broadly compatible with third-party technology.\n\nAlso playing into Sony's focus on the tablet as a living-room entertainment device is the inclusion of an IR blaster and a universal remote app on the Tablet S. Having tried a demo of this feature personally, we can safely say that it makes the remote functionality of the Vizio tablet look like amateur hour. Essentially, Sony cannibalized its own $250 HomeShare premium universal remote and slapped the same software inside the Tablet S. The result is a graphically rich remote that you might actually want to use.\n\n\nSony's Tablet S includes a universal IR remote capability for controlling your home electronics.\n\n\nIn 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 's Chumby widgets, transforming the tablet into a high-tech photo frame\/widget display when the device is placed in an optional dock ($39).\n\nPerformance\nThe Tablet S' performance is a mixed bag. For example, its beautiful TruBlack screen falls a little short in terms of overall screen brightness. \n\n\n\n\n\nTested spec\nSony Tablet S\nSamsung Galaxy Tab 10.1\nApple iPad 2\nT-Mobile G-Slate\nHP TouchPad\n\n\nMaximum brightness\n393 cd\/m2\n336 cd\/m2\n432 cd\/m2\n424 cd\/m2\n292 cd\/m2\n\n\nDefault brightness\n160 cd\/m2\n336 cd\/m2\n176 cd\/m2\n143 cd\/m2\n85 cd\/m2\n\n\nMaximum black level\n0.47 cd\/m2\n0.3 cd\/m2\n0.46 cd\/m2\n0.52 cd\/m2\n0.38 cd\/m2\n\n\nDefault black level\n0.19 cd\/m2\n0.3 cd\/m2\n0.19 cd\/m2\n0.18 cd\/m2\n0.11 cd\/m2\n\n\nDefault contrast ratio\n842:1\n1,120:1\n926:1\n794:1\n772:1\n\n\nContrast ratio (max brightness)\n836:1\n1,120:1\n939:1\n815:1\n768:1\n\n\n\nAnother 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. \n\nPhoto gallery:Sony Tablet S photos\n\nOne 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.\n\nIn 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. \n\nHere are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.\n\n\n\n\n\n\nVideo battery life (in hours)\n\n\nSony Tablet S\n6.2\n\n\n\n\nHere are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results after the Android 4.0 update.\n\n\n\n\n\n\nVideo battery life (in hours)\n\n\nSony Tablet S\n7.2\n\n\n\n\nConclusion\nSony'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.\n\nYou 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.\n\n\nEditors' 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.