Tech Report Ė Sony Tablet S

While Appleís iPad 2 continues to fly off the shelves and Amazonís Kindle Fire grabs most of the headlines, another household name is quietly building a solid fan base in the highly competitive world of tablet computers. The Sony Tablet S may not have arrived with much hoopla, but itís turning out to be every bit as good as its more heralded rivals.

Sony took its time in developing the Tablet S and it shows. Everything is engineered with the renowned Sony quality and precision. And unlike some more publicized launches Ė think BlackBerry PlayBook Ė the operating software is seamless and complete.

The Tablet S measures 9.5 inches by 6.6 inches, and has a 9.4-inch display surrounded by a 0.75-inch black border. Instead of going for the ultra-thin look of the iPad 2, Sony has gone with a more practical wedge shape. This slightly angled look, combined with a weight of less than 1.5 pounds, makes the Tablet S very easy to hold and handle.

The 1080 x 800 resolution touchscreen is equipped with Sonyís TruBlack display technology, which means deeper blacks and a super sharp image. The Tablet S comes with a headphone jack, a microUSB slot, and a full-size SD card reader for transferring media. There is a 5.0 megapixel rear-facing camera and a 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video chat.

While the hardware specs are impressive, itís the software that really sets the Tablet S apart from its rivals. The Tablet S runs Googleís Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system and all the usual Google apps come preloaded, including Gmail, Talk, Calendar, Maps, Navigation, Voice Search and more. Adding other email accounts and customizing the Tablet S is straightforward and intuitive.

The Tablet S also comes with access to Sonyís Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services, which along with the PlayStation Network are part of Sonyís newly consolidated Sony Entertainment Network. The Music Unlimited service is currently offering a 180-day free trial to Tablet S owners and provides access to millions of songs from every major record label. Sonyís cloud service also allows you to sync your music across multiple Sony devices.

The Video Unlimited service offers hundreds of TV shows and movies from every major studio, including many of the latest releases. Most movies can be bought for $14.99 or rented for a one-time viewing for $3.99. It took about 75 minutes to download a 2-hour movie via Wi-Fi, which was then viewed using the built-in video player. If you donít want to pay for TV shows or movies, there is also Crackle, a limited but free on-demand video service that is supported by advertising.

The Tablet S also comes with access to the Sony Reader Store, the PlayStation Store, and the Android Market with thousands of apps specifically designed for tablets. Media apps as diverse as CNN and YouTube look sensational on the Tablet S, with the rich colors and instant video streaming making it the perfect platform for on-the-go entertainment.

And thatís what really makes the Tablet S stand out. While much has been made of Amazonís ability to tap into its media offerings with the Kindle Fire, Sonyís media empire is far more impressive, at least in terms of video and games, the two entertainment categories that lend themselves perfectly to the tablet format. Add to that the Tablet Sís complete package of productivity and communication tools and you have a device that is at the very top of the current class of tablets.

The Tablet S is Wi-Fi only (no contracts to sign) and costs $399 for the 16GB version and $499 for the 32GB model. Itís available through the Sony Store, Amazon and other electronics retailers.

Comment by Tricia Nightowlmama, posted 2/9/2012, 1:54 PM:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm actually in the market for a tablet to take to Blogging conferences and had thoughts on this one and the amazon kindle fire as well as a few others although I'm still weighting options I appreciate your article.
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