UPDATE: For a hands-on video look at the Sont S Tablet from IFA, click here.
Announced at IFA, Sony’s 9.4in tablet has been confirmed for a UK launch on 23 September – and it’s in great shape. In fact, Sony’s first stab at a tablet is all about the form factor. Unlike most tablets such as the iconic iPad 2, Sony’s new device is shaped so that it tilts towards the user when laid on a flat surface.
The S tablet measures 241x10x174mm (whd), though that thickness increases to 20.6mm at its fattest point. In practice, that tilted screen is more about Sony searching for an unusual look and a point of differentiation in the crowded tablet market, because it doesn’t make S much easier to use.
Initially available as 16GB (£399) and 32GB (£499) WiFi-only models, a 16GB model that adds 3G connectivity (and another 27g to the weight) is due in November.
At least there’s no viewing angle issue; the gadget proved just as easy to read when placed titled in front of us as when viewed from directly in front. Nor is there much glare or reflection on this 1280×800-pixel resolution TFT LCD screen, which proved as responsive as an iPad 2 when touched and swiped.
Of far more practical use is the S’s clever weighting and asymmetric build, which is designed to make it easier to hold – say, at check-in queues or even while sitting – especially while reading. We tried this with a sample at Sony’s stand at IFA and found that after a few minutes – when an iPad needs two hands – the S was still going strong in our mitts.
Weighing 598g (ever-so-slightly less than an iPad 2) and powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 2 1GHz mobile processor, the S has 0.3MP front and 5.11MP rear-facing cameras, a three-axis accelerometer, gyrosensor digital compass and ambient light sensor, a USB 2.0 port and a SD Card slot hidden under a rubber flap on the edge. Sony confirmed to us that accessories for the S tablet will include a Bluetooth keyboard, as well as the official docking station its was supported by at IFA.
The S runs the Android 3.1 Honeycomb OS, though Sony has confirmed that it will be compatible with the upcoming 3.2 update. The sample we played with was a WiFi-only model, with the demo running some Sony customised screens (including Sony’s new Reader store for ebooks) and a tablet version of the Crash Bandicoot PS3 game.
Usability-wise, the S is spot-on; its virtual keyboard has a numeric keypad that will prove decisive for some, while the buttons in general are large and difficult to miss. Does ‘S’ stand for ‘sausage fingers’? Hardly, but those with donut digits might want to have a stab at this tab. There’s also a decent auto word feature to paper over any cracks and corrections.
During our test the browser launched quickly and worked fast, though we suspect that it will be the S’s low price and curvy design that will help it shift a few.