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First Take of Sony S1 and S2 tablets

  • Ravva Vamsi
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  • Sony S1 and S2 Tablets


    Sony S1 Tablets

    Let's clear something up right at the start. Sony insists that the names "S1" and "S2" are still product code names and not the final product names. We're glad Sony is finally seeing the light on bestowing genuine names to its products instead of the expected alphanumeric mess, but it's not terribly reassuring that the company hasn't pulled a name out of a hat yet.

    Watch cnet Video of S1 Tablet

    One thing Sony is exceptional at, though, is designing elegant hardware. The S1 is a beautiful tablet. Its wedge-shaped design makes it one of the most comfortable Honeycomb tablets we've held. The 9.4-inch (1,280x768 pixels) touch screen offers great viewing angles and vivid colors, seemingly comparable to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (though we couldn't get a sense of its brightness range). The back uses a subtle textured finish that offers a little extra grip and disguises smudges.

    The Sony S1 Android tablet uses a wedge-shaped design.
    (Credit: Sony)

    Whether it's a trick of the asymmetric design or some ingenious shrinking of the internal components, the S1 manages to feel relatively lightweight. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 still gets the prize for lightest design, but to Sony's credit, the S1 seems more durable while still maintaining a light and high-end feel. On the sides of the S1 you'll find a socket for the power adapter, along with a headphone jack, USB sync port, and buttons for power and volume.

    Compared against the ever-expanding sea of Honeycomb tablets on the market, there are a few key features that set the Sony S1 apart, aside from its design. The Android 3.0 experience looks largely unchanged, but Sony has added a unique "Favorites" pane to the top navigation bar, displaying a quick view of your recently accessed and favorite content. It has also added an optimization to the browser called Quick View that gives the illusion of faster page downloading by prioritizing a page's images ahead of JavaScript. If you prefer to load your pages the old-fashioned way, the Quick View feature can be switched off under browser settings.

    Sony S2

    The S2 is hands-down the most exotic tablet we've seen. Using a hinged pair of 5.5-inch screens, the Sony S2 offers the pocket-size portability of a phone, the total screen size of a tablet, and the dual-screen potential of a Nintendo DS.

    Unfortunately, we're not entirely convinced the S2 is going to satisfy in any one of these roles. The Toshiba Libretto W105 springs to mind. These clamshell touch-screen devices always seem killer in concept, but it takes a lot of wizardry to make the sum of two good screens greater than a single excellent one. Once the novelty is exhausted, you're looking at a tablet with a big unusable strip right through the center of the screen.

    The unique screen also presents a challenge when it comes to apps. Sony has put up a $130,000 bounty to inspire developers to create Adobe Air apps optimized for the S2's unique dual-screen format, but during our limited time with the device Sony would allow us to view only its in-house apps, such as its e-book reader, media player, and a demo of Crash Bandicoot that utilized the S2's bottom display as a virtual gamepad. It remains to be seen how Android's current catalog of apps will look. A Sony rep stated that users will have the option to scale third-party apps across both screens (citing Maps as an ideal example) or limit them to a single panel to prevent them from being divided by the bezel. Either way, existing third-party content will make for an awkward fit.

    Another potential roadblock to the S2's broad adoption is the fact that the only version of it coming to the states is a 4G-capable model through AT&T. Though the carrier's data fees seem reasonable, it's one more sign that these tablets aren't going to come cheap.

    Still, there's a lot to like about Sony's foldable tablet. It's a head-turner, for sure, and hopefully a signal that equally daring Android tablet designs are possible. Also, at the end of the day, at least it can't be accused of copying the iPad.

    Parting thoughts

    Sony's tablets are the sexiest Honeycomb devices we've seen yet. They're also the latest to arrive in a Android tablet market that is quickly showing a focus on price over all other concerns.
    But compared with an Asus or a Samsung, or even an Apple, Sony does have a few aces up its sleeve. Its legacy in gaming, digital cameras, and portable audio can't be matched by any competitor on all fronts. There's a sense from what we've seen that Sony intends to leverage these advantages for all they're worth.
    Sony will likely stumble on pricing. The company's pride in its premium brand will probably prevent it from chasing Asus and others down past the $400 mark, which is likely to be the norm by the time fall rolls around. As the tablet market inevitably blooms beyond the iPad, there will certainly be room for two premium tablet brands, but we're not there yet.

    1 Responses to “First Take of Sony S1 and S2 tablets”

    Anonymous said...
    July 14, 2011 at 6:55 PM


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