Sony's Tablet S is refreshing for two reasons: 1) it doesn't look like an iPad and 2) it has a unique asymmetric "curl" to one side that makes it feel like you're holding a folded magazine. What's more, Sony's mobile division has taken all of the feedback from last year's tablet and channeled them into creating the gorgeous Xperia Tablet S, a tablet it hopes will rule the living room.
Signature Sony Design That Oozes "Premium"
There's no mistaking the Xperia Tablet S (XTS) as being a Sony-made tablet. Aside from the tablet now sporting the Xperia branding, it's still got the original Tablet S's "curl," but this time it doesn't stretch across the entire tablet's rear. The XTS is also significantly slimmer with a thickness that tapers from 0.47-inches to 0.35-inches versus the 0.81-inch to 0.40-inch Tablet S, which also means it's slightly lighter at 1.26 pounds. The mono speaker has been replaced with twin stereo speakers that are audible and loud and the plastic frame has been ditched for sleek aluminum.
Under the hood, the specs are comparable to what you'd find in competing tablets. The XTS has a splash-proof case with a 9.4-inch display (1280x800 resolution), runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, has a 1.4GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 1GB of RAM, 8-megapixel rear camera and 1-megapixel front camera, SD card slot, IR remote control and comes in 16, 32 and 64GB models. Battery life is rated at 12 hours playing video and 10 hours browsing the Web with Wi-Fi on.
In my brief hands-on demo with the XTS, I felt it was a huge improvement over the Tablet S. Thanks to Android 4.0 ICS, UI elements transition smoother and apps open up quicker. The thinner design isn't quite as thin as an iPad or Galaxy Tab 10.1, but it doesn't feel like the clunker that the Tablet S was, either.
Two Reasons To Care About the XTS
Having had a year to hear consumer input, it was expected that Sony would refine the Tablet S with a sleeker design. If looks alone were enough to convince shoppers to buy, the XPS would be an instant hit. Sadly, that's now how things work.
The XTS comes with two features that make it standout in a row of tablets at the local Best Buy. The first is an upgrade to the universal infrared remote blaster with one-button macro instructions. On the Tablet S, you could control all of you home entertainment devices with the remote app, but on the XTS you can now automate it all into a single button press. (Example: You can program a button to turn on your TV, speakers and PS3 when you want to watch a Blu-ray.)
The second feature is something Sony calls "Small Apps," which is Sony's implementation of multitasking on an Android tablet. Similar to the Galaxy Note 10.1's pop-up apps, Small Apps are bite-sized apps that float on top of open apps. Not every app can be a Small App — it's limited to a miniature browser, remote control, calculator, recorder, time and memo for now — but Sony hopes to offer more downloadable ones later on.
Accessories, Price And Release
Of course, no proper tablet would be released unto the world without a boatload of accessory to go with it. Here, there's a very thin and attractive cover and keyboard case that will be available for $99.99, a metal docking stand that pivots is yours for $99.99, a charging cradle for $39.99 and a dock speaker for $129.99 (available in November).
The Xperia Tablet S itself will be available on September 7 for $399 (16GB), $499 (32GB) and $599 (64GB). Pre-orders start today.