The electronics retail shelves are full up with near identical Android tablets. And Google's Ice Cream Sandwich revision to its OS is just around the corner. So how does a relative latecomer, like Sony's Tablet S, get potential punters interested? By being the quirky, interesting looking tablet in the corner that, of course.
With a 9.4-inch screen it's smaller and less instantly noticeable than the likes of the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 or Acer A500, for example, but thanks to its unusual design and original PlayStation compatibility, it's the one that promises to be both different and fun.
Sony Tablet S - curves in all the right places
Its asymmetrical, wedge shaped look isn't self indulgent, either. The curve serves to provide a raked base when the Tablet S is lying on a desktop, and fits into the palm of your hand if you're holding it like a book. To whit, there's an above par e-reader app included, along with a host of other custom software tweaks for a relatively unique experience.
The asymmetrical fold results in a pleasant viewing angle when the Tablet S is lying on a desktop, which makes it an unusually pleasant companion screen at work. It also fills the palm if you're holding it like a book, although the dimpled rear surface looks and feels like a laptop touchpad – ie. somewhat slippy. It's oddly easier to hold in landscape mode, where the wedge works its way firmly into your fingers.
Sony Tablet S - pixel-packing screen
Despite measuring just 9.4inches in diagonal, the Tablet S' screen still packs in 1280x800 pixels which gives it a sharp, high def look. Colours are more natural on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Eee Pad Transformer, but it does have excellent viewing angles and is bright too.
Sony Tablet S - storage niggles
The Tablet S has the same Tegra 2 processor as most of its Android peers, but the storage is split into two separate drives. Only 10GB appears in the rather poor file manager, and on the whole it feels slightly slower and buggier than other similarly equipped tablets. This could be patched out in time though.
Gaming is one of the Sony Tablet's strong suites.
You only get an SD card reader and a mini-USB slot with the Tablet S, but the latter can be used for a joypad to go with your PS games if you buy an adaptor. It's a shame there's no HDMI out, though, as Sony's forthcoming Video Unlimited service could be the best way to get mobile movies.
Sony Tablet S - universal remote function
There are a few customisations to the Android interface, like an extra app launcher at the top, but they really weren't worth the effort. On the other hand, Sony's own apps – including PlayStation games like Crash Bandicoot, Social Feed Reader, the onscreen keyboard and a stunningly useful universal remote which uses the built-in IR transmitter - are some of the best on a Google tablet so far.
Sony Tablet S - sizing up the competition
The Tablet is lighter than its major rival – the Apple iPad 2 – but the Apple tablet’s strong aluminium back feels worth carrying the extra weight for. Android is catching up in terms of apps, and Sony's music and video services look like real iTunes rivals.
The Tablet S is agonisingly close to being the proverbial iPad-beater, but for now something cheaper and more utilitarian like the Asus Transformer is a better buy.
The Tablet S has an innovative design and Sony's exclusive apps give the desktop a iPad-ish flair. Its compact size also means a smaller battery than most, however, and it will deliver just five to six hours of fun compared to the double-digit capacity of rivals. It's pricey too, forcing you to choose pound for pound against an iPad 2, where other equally equipped Android tablets are now much cheaper.
The Sony Tablet S is available now from www.sony.com.au, Sony Centre stores and selected retailers. It comes in two versions: a 16GB model for $579 and a 32GB model for $689.