Sony Tablet S

I love my Tablet. There. I said it. After months of saying I don’t need one, I bought one. And I love it.

The Tablet S is Sony’s first foray into the tablet market, and for the naysayers and poo-pooers who derided it from the start, it’s actually a great piece of kit:

It features a gorgeous 9.4inch, 1200×800 720p HD screen, incorporating Sony’s excellent BRAVIA technology, along with TruBlack and some other bits and bobs. I’ve watched some full-HD youtube clips on it, and they look great. It should be noted Sony beat Apple to the market with an HD screen by a good 7 months…

…just as they did with a 5MP camera on the rear of the unit, capable of shooting 720p HD video as well…

…and it has Adobe Flash support too…

My tablet came already updated to Android Honeycomb 3.2.1 and very nice it is too. I’ve played with some Honeycomb features that have been available for Gingerbread mobile ROM’s, but to have the whole thing is pretty good. It’s a clean, fast and easy to use OS that will only get better when ICS hits in April 2012.

Music

One of the problems I found with the stock Google music player in Android is that it doesn’t have the ability to refresh its databse, which meant until I discovered SD refresh apps, the phone had to rebooted. Not really so much of a chore but if you like to change your music a lot, like I do, you end up rebooting your phone. A lot.

Thank goodness then for the Honeycomb stock music app. Not only is it rather fetching, with a smooth and decent cover flow, it also updates itself with whatever music happens to be on your device. Hurrah! It does come with a very simple EQ as well but I much prefer the indepth DSP Manager, which you can download from HERE.

Built in to the Google player is the new Google Play Music service from Google. I’ve written a warts-n-all post about that HERE, but suffice to say despite a few teething problems it’s actually a very good service, even on 3G.

The stereo speakers provide a decent sound, not too tinny but of course not very rich either, but perfectly funtional for your audio requirements. The headphone socket is of the CTIA variety so you may have a couple compatibility issues. For me, I found there was a problem with the Sony Ericsson LiveSound, but other headphones – Sony Fontopia, iPod standards and a pair of Sony wireless cans worked very well indeed.

Streaming music to the tablet from either Google Music or through my home network – powered by the awesome Serviio – and wandering into every room in the house without a drop in sound from either the music server(s) or the headphones is pretty cool and never gets boring!

Video

As mentioned above, the Tablet S comes equipped with a fabulous 720p BRAVIA screen. It’s lush. Really lush. When I first started writing this review I’d only tested some YouTube videos, but after a couple weeks with the tab I’ve managed to load up some 720p mp4 files and the results are outstanding.

It’s worth bearing in mind the tab won’t quite be able to match the performance of a decent Blu-ray player and HD TV, but as inferred by the italics in the early part of the sentence, the results aren’t too shabby at all.

Watching a 720p mp4 (3.5GB!) of the 2007 Transformers movie on the tablet proved something of a relevation, especially after watching it on an iPod touch for years. The colours were rich, details were fine, there was some slight blocking and the occasional pixellation but, again, this isn’t a Full HD home rig; it’s a tablet, but it’s a plucky tablet with an awesome screen!

Memory

Sony have been a bit tricksy again with memory (as mentioned in a previous post HERE here on blogger and over at Xperiablog) and have utilised the built-in 16GB for everything:

  • 20% lost for standard memory filing etc (13.9GB remaining)
  • 4GB utilised for the system ROM (actually useful as you can stuff the tab to the gills with apps from the Market and still have plenty of room for even more apps!)
  • 8.9GB left for actual ‘stuff’ like media etc. 

Really, I think it’s a bit naughty to advertise something as having 16GB of onboard storage, only to find you can only use/edit just over half of it. Tut tut.

SD support is present, though it’s not (officially) meant to be used as expandable memory, as that’s one of the limitations of this current interation of Android. There are, however, a couple little script tricks you can do to get around this, thanks once again to the masterminds on the XDA forums….

To make the above scripts work, you need to root the device first. Rooting the Tablet S and its Honeycomb 3.2.1 is a little more tricky, but I think this was mainly because I was using a different package for rooting, compared to what I was using before. I fully encourage rooting any Android device, simply because it unlocks the potential of the device. In this case, I rooted the Tablet S principally to be able to run scripts. The 15 minutes it takes to run the rooting process and install init.d support, required for scripting, is time well spent.

If you’re unsure about rooting, read all available literature BEFORE you take the plunge. You get out of this process what you put in, and if you take your time you will be well rewarded. Rush your way through it and, well, a poor workman blames his tools! Read the steps. Then read them again. Then read some more. Then double check. Then go for it! Click the link HERE to use the amazing AiO root kit from Condi over at XDA.

Once you’ve done that, click HERE and follow the steps to add scripts to your new init.d folder. The tips provided bind the content of the external SD card (shown as SDcard2 in Root Explorer) to the internal memory (shown as SDcard). Depending on whether you’ve got the 16 or 32GB Tablet, or the Tablet P with its measly 4GB onboard, if you get yourself a 32GB card and follow the steps on the XDA link, you could end up with 25-50GB of storage. Not too shabby at all for the price of a little warranty-voiding tinkering!

One thing to bear in mind when creating the script file, don’t save it with a extension suffix like .txt or .sh – Android won’t recognise it otherwise. I’ve used the script with a 16GB card and confirm it works very well. The script is picked up during the boot process, all you need to do once the machine powers up is to recscan the SD card to refresh the database. You can get a good SD refresh app HERE. I’m able to store my most essential music on the tablet and adjust the contents of the external SD card as and when I please – though you will need to refresh the card when you put it back in.

And don’t forget, the Tablet also supports USB OTG, so you can take a USB flash drive or portable external HDD with you on your travels and have untold gigabytes of data at your fingertips. Get the required cable HERE.

Conclusion

The only other niggle I thought of with the Tablet is the proprietary power connector – there’s no USB charging as it’s a 5000mAh battery and USB can only deliver something like 500mAh, so it would take ages to charge! Though quite why Sony didn’t use something more readily available, one can only guess, but we’ll assume they’ve made that decision for the same reason they developed proprietary memory cards for the PS Vita. ‘Nuff said, moving on!

For me, two bad points isn’t bad at all. They’re minor points at best, particularly if you’re willing to make some relatively simple adjustments to the operating system. And let’s be honest, anyone who buys an Android tablet is probably in it for the development and freedom offered by the OS, as well as the flashier (pun intended) features on offer.

With good sound reproduction, excellent visuals and a price tag of just under £300 for the 16GB version of the Tablet S, there’s never been a better time to jump into the tablet market.

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