For almost twenty years, Sony has been a dominant force in the gaming industry. Starting with the first Playstation released in 1994, the tech giant focused on core gamers with technology that focused on pushing the boundaries of cinematics in gaming. Today, Sony continues to demonstrate its dedication to gaming with the PS3 and Sony PS Vita.
In the tablet market, Sony would seem to be the ideal candidate to steal market share from the competition. Drawing on the first Playstation’s content roster as well as the company’s tech savvy when it comes to display screens, the Sony Table S is designed with gamers in mind, especially those that already on a PS3. Ergonomically constructed and now shipping with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), the Sony S Andoid tablet breaks into its own space in the tablet market. The only problem is one of its major selling points for gamers – the Sony Online Entertainment PS Store.
When you first pick up the table, you’ll immediately notice the wider book design. The Sony S is constructed like a wedge, with the widest side at the top, when held horizontally. The wider side is functional as well as ergonomic, without forcing a heavier tablet onto the user. Weighing at 1.3 pounds it rivals the iPad 2 in weight, while still weighing less than the newer iPad 3. The wider side also offers a micro USB sync connection and SD Card slot. The SD Card slot alone is a major selling point when held against the iPad. The Sony S also has a custom File Transfer app that easily allows you to migrate files from your SD Cards or USB connection to and from your Sony S.
Held vertically, the Sony Tablet S keeps the bulk of the weight closer to your palm. This makes the tablet less stressful on your wrist when you’re holding it with a single hand. For most Android games available from the Google Play store, this is a definite benefit. Games such as Temple Run or Pac-Chomp! require one-handed play. If you’re playing these games on a standard tablet, the tablet’s weight isn’t evenly distributed to your palm. With the Sony S, you can play for a longer time without ever feeling the stress of holding your tablet up for extended periods.
This ergonomic design is also ideal for reading. Out of the box, the Sony S comes with Reader by Sony as well as a free book download to get you started. You can read with one hand or two, but either way the weight is more deftly controlled thanks to the wedge format. Also, the back of the Sony S isn’t smooth like the normal tablet. The tablet has a lightly textured back to offer some grip. It’s modest but just enough to prevent users from allowing their tablet to slip out of their hand. I’ve seen people let their iPads slip on numerous occasions, which always boggles my mind given the cost. You don’t drop a computer.
The Sony S comes with the original Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes pre-installed. Pinball Heroes uses the standard touch controls. Crash Bandicoot comes with an on-screen version of the Playstation controller. The on-screen controller doesn’t overshadow too much of the game screen. Half of the D-Pad (directional Pad) and half of the action buttons encroach on the game visuals. With most of the original Playstation games, this design won’t hinder you from missing out on too much of the action or a stray enemy coming at you from the side. The shoulder buttons (L1, L2, R1, and R2) are all outside of the game screen as well as the select and start buttons.
Gamers can also sync up their Playstation 3 controller to the Sony S via bluetooth. Unfortunately, you’ll need to buy the USB dongle in order to setup the initial sync, which costs about fourteen dollars. Once you have the dongle, connecting the PS3 controller to your Sony S can be quickly done through the Bluetooth device menu under the Settings screen.
Using the PS3 controller allows you to really enjoy those PS1 games, without having to hold up your tablet the entire time. Also the wedge design smartly props the tablet up so that you don’t need to go out and buy a case that does so. This design is a great bonus for watching movies, which spring to life thanks to the TruBlack technology. This means less reflection and the same crisp-contrasted images you’ll find in the Sony Bravia line of HDTVs.
Unfortunately, PS1 gaming is limited on the Sony S thanks to the Sony Online Entertainment store. You won’t be able to use the same account that you do on your PS3 or PS Vita. It also means an additional login now that you’re changing from the PS Network. Surprisingly, there aren’t too many games in the PS Store, which comes as a major shock. I waited a month in hopes that more games would be released, but no such luck. The PS1 games that are there consist mostly of varied driving and motocross games. Whether or not you want to pay $5.99 each time for several different driving games is up to you, but I’d wager one would be enough.
The Sony S does sync up with your home entertainment through the IR remote control. The graphical button map and ease of use easily trumps other remotes on the market and is a terrific app. It’s basically the Sony Homeshare remote, minus the pricetag. The tablet is also easily with DLNA compatible TVs.
External speakers provide stereo sound. The sound is extremely clear and powerful. There will be some minor distortion at the highest sound levels, depending on what music you’re listening to or if you’re watching a movie (or playing a game) with heavy explosions.
The tablet uses a proprietary plug with two prongs. I’m not a fan of the proprietary design – it feels somewhat flimsy when you connect it to the slimmer side of the tablet. The plug uses touch connectors to charge. It takes upwards of 5 hours to fully charge the unit, but you will get nearly eight hours of life out of the tablet, which is great. Android 4.0 manages resources better so that you end up using less battery.
The unit has front and rear cameras for pictures and video. The rear camera takes pictures at 5 megapixels, for extremely sharp images. It’s a great device to take out to events to capture video or just snap a few photos here and there.
For 399.99 SRP, the Sony Tablet S may be on the pricey side but there’s a lot of value in this tablet. It’s designed with the user in mind, offering a comfortable and refined tablet experience. The PS Store, however, needs a significant boost to its game roster.