Sony Tablet S
The Sony Tablet S is a 9.4 inch Android tablet which will ship next month for $500 and up.  The tablet has a 1 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor, a 1280 x 800 pixel display, and 16GB to 32GB of storage. It ships with Google Android 3.1 Honeycomb, but an Android 3.2 software update will greet you as soon as you power up the tablet for the first time.

Android tablets are a dime a dozen, but Sony hopes its device stands out from the crowd due to a unique wedge-shaped design that’s meant to look a bit like a magazine that’s been folded over, a high quality display, an infrared port for controlling your TV and other home theater hardware, and custom software including an app that lets you purchase and play Playstation games and custom eBook, music, and video apps.

With the tablet expected to ship soon, a number of tech websites have published early reviews of the Sony Tablet S. It looks like the general consensus is that while the tablet’s performance is pretty much what you’d expect from a device with an NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, the unusual design does make the tablet easier to hold and the device gets around 8 to 10 hours of battery life. Reviewers also seem to like the software, but some design elements could be better.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Laptop Magazine
    The weight is well distributed and the tablet is easy to hold, so it feels even lighter than its 1.3 pounds, but the ports and power jack are awkwardly placed. The screen looks great, and the software keyboard has been designed to offer more options, including a number pad.
  • Android Community
    The tablet is made of plastic, but doesn’t feel cheap or fragile. There are special shortcuts on the home screen for email, infrared, and other apps. The music player and movie player have also been customized with Sony skins.
  • Engadget
    If you hold the tablet in one hand in portrait mode it feels great, and the wedge shape also lets you plop the tablet down on a table and view from a slight angle without a keyboard. But it feels less comfortable when you try to hold the tablet in landscape mode. Two-finger typing is also impaired by the unique design. Despite Sony’s claims that there’s a scratch-free layer on the screen, Engadget found it actually scratched pretty easily.
  • Gizmodo
    While some reviewers seemed to really like the build quality, Gizmodo reports the tablet does feel like cheap plastic and that the screen even has some flex to it. The reviewer was also unimpressed with the white skin over the app drawer, but Sony is still fine-tuning the software so this may change before the tablet is released to the public.
  • SlashGear
    The glossy screen shows a bit of glare in bright settings, but this is a problem that’s hardly unique to the Sony Tablet S. Preloaded apps will include Evernote, Foursquare, and Ustream as well as Sony’s own Playstation, music, video, and eBook apps. Overall, SlashGear says that while the Tablet S looks a lot like other Android tablets, it shows a more creative design process than most — much like Sony products of yesteryear such as the Sony UX series and Vaio UMPC line.
  • The Verge
    Sony’s tablet looks fat compared with an iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but it feels god in the hand. Classic Playstation games though, don’t really. Using touch-based controls in a game like Crash Bandicoot feels awkward. Joshua Topolsky doesn’t seem to be a fan of Sony’s customization of Android, suggesting that they just make Honeycomb feel different… but not necessarily better.

Sony has long been a company that’s emphasized design and quality. That typically allows Sony to charge a little more for its products than its competitors. But it’s not yet clear whether a wedge-shaped design, plastic case, and ability to handle Playstation games and act as a media remote control are enough to justify the $500 price tag on the Tablet S. Sure, that’s the same price as a 16GB Apple iPad 2, but there are plenty of Android tablets available for under $400 which could make the Tablet S a tough sell.

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