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Sony Tablet S review: Sony Tablet S

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The Good Decent screen resolution; Unusual yet attractive design; Will handle most tasks.

The Bad Under-powered in the face of quad-core competition; Screen could be brighter; Not the latest version of Android.

The Bottom Line The Sony Tablet S has an unusual look that sets it apart from most tablets. It doesn't offer much in the way of performance, but it has enough power to tackle most tasks.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.5 Overall

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Apple's iPad may have been the catalyst that started the tablet boom but other companies were quick to jump on the bandwagon, offering up their own takes on the mobile computing genre.

Sony is a little late to the game, but it's hoping to separate itself from the rest of the tablet world by offering alternative designs.

The Sony Tablet S comes packing a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. It's available now from £350.

Design and build quality

With so many new tablets looking almost identical to one another, it's difficult to tell them apart. Not wanting to get lost in the crowd, Sony has given the Tablet S a very different -- and a little unusual -- look.

Face on, its black front and glossy screen are unremarkable. Turn it to the side and the look is more offbeat. The black front bends around and folds back on itself, emulating the feel of a folded magazine. Sony reckons that it gives a more natural, comfortable hold.

Sony Tablet S side
Viewed from the side, it's easy to understand why Sony describes the design as a folded magazine.

The fatter edge certainly makes gripping the tablet more pleasant when you're holding it in portrait orientation, but it's less comfortable if you're clutching it in landscape. If you're planning to watch a movie on it, you might want to rest it on your knee.

The chassis is made of a thick glossy plastic that while not as premium feeling as the metal casing on the iPad 2, still manages to avoid appearing cheap. We poked and squeezed the casing and didn't detect any flex or unpleasant creaking so we're pretty confident it could put up with a few knocks and bumps. The rear has been given a textured dot pattern, making it more grippy to hold.

Sony Tablet S
If you grab it on the fat edge, it's pretty comfortable to hold.

At just a shade under 600g, the Tablet S weighs the same as the iPad 2, so its weight is not going to be the deciding factor between the two if you're looking for a light tablet. At 20mm at its thickest edge, it's considerably fatter than the iPad though and it's not going to slide into your tiny bag next to your book quite as easily.

We're quite keen on the look of the Tablet S. While the whole 'magazine' style is unusual, we welcome any company trying to do something to stand out from crowd. It also makes sure Sony doesn't come to blows with Apple over copyright infringement like with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

The contrasting polished black against light silver makes it a handsome piece of kit. Around the edges you'll find a full-sized SD card slot, a micro-USB slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack. These two slots are hidden behind a big plastic flap that feels pretty flimsy. Make sure you properly click it away if you don't want it to accidentally snap off in transit.

Sony Tablet S ports
We're not at all keen on the plastic flap.

Annoyingly, the tablet charges via a proprietary cable, which means you'll have to be careful about not losing the power adaptor. We'd have much rather seen a standard USB charger.

Storage options and 3G

Our review model came with 16GB of storage, without 3G connectivity, and will set you back £350. If you're after some mobile web surfing then you can plump for the 3G model, but you'll have to shell out a whopping £200 extra.

There's also a 32GB model for £430 if you reckon you'll be saving a lot of photos and videos. Bear in mind though that there's a full-size SD card slot on the Tablet S so you can always plump for the cheaper 16GB model and expand the memory with a removable card.

Screen

The 9.4-inch screen on the Tablet S offers an excellent 1,280x800-pixel resolution, which matches the effort on the excellent Asus Transformer Prime. It coolly trouncing the iPad's 1,024x768 resolution. We're chuffed that Sony has kept up with the competition in the resolution stakes. However, if the iPad 3 packs a super high-definition retina display as is rumoured, the Sony and Asus tablets won't be quite so smug.

Sony Tablet S screen
The screen has a great resolution, but it's not particularly bright.

The screen does a decent job at producing rich colours, making it an excellent device for showing off your latest family snaps or catching a few hilariously weird YouTube clips. It's not the brightest display we've ever laid our eyeballs on though so if you plan to enjoy some hi-def BBC iPlayer or settle back with a good film, you'll want to turn the lights out to enjoy it properly.

The viewing angles are pretty impressive too, so if you've got a bunch of mates crowding round, they'll all be able to see clearly what's going on. That also makes it particularly good for keeping the kids quiet in the back of the car on a long journey.

Android 3.2 Honeycomb

The Tablet S comes with Android 3.1 Honeycomb, which can be immediately updated to version 3.2. Honeycomb is the version of the Android operating system specifically designed for tablets, rather than small screen smart phones. Even so, Honeycomb is now outdated in the face of the shiny new Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which promises a unified experience over all devices.

Sony Tablet S homescreens
You get the usual five home screens to fill up with apps. Or you can leave it bare if you don't like clutter.

While many people don't care that much -- or even know -- about the latest versions of the software, it's pretty galling for those of you spending upwards of half a grand on a new tablet, only to find out that it's running on outdated software. Sony Ericsson has promised that its whole line of Xperia smart phones will be upgraded to ICS in 2012, so fingers crossed that Sony does the same for its tablets.

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