Sony's Android 3.2-based Tablet P took a while to get to UK shores but, thanks to the clamshell dual-screen, it was worth waiting for...
Sony has an array of mobile devices including the Sony Tablet S and the upcoming Sony Vita - due to replace the ageing PSP. Whatever you think about Sony's decision to plough its own tech, when the Japanese giant gets it right, it's a great thing.
For the Sony Tablet P, we think Sony has innovated the humble tablet by releasing this dual-screen Google Android 3.2 Gingerbread beast, nicknamed the Tablet P. It’s a highly portable device for browsing the web and messing around with your favourite apps, and appeals to nostalgic gamers too with a catalogue of Playstation One games.
Sony Tablet P: Design
The Tablet P features a smart clamshell design, folding in the middle much like Nintendo’s 3DS console. It’s a great way to keep the dual screens protected on the move, especially if you throw your kit straight into a bag before hitting the road.
You’ll still want to take care of the tablet however, as the silver finish picks up light scratches quite easily. Keys and other sharp items are its mortal enemy.
It’s a little chunky but it still slips easily into a handbag and we even managed to cram it into our jeans pocket. The 375g weight feels good when you’re using the device, and it’s solid enough too – we only noticed a little flex when pushing on the exterior.
Sony Tablet P: Usability
Google’s Android Honeycomb 3.2 operating system runs the show and does a sterling job as usual. Barring a couple of little tweaks, this appeared to be vanilla Honeycomb. You have five desktops to populate with apps and widgets, and our review system came with plenty of both.
Skimming through the menus is a smooth experience, as expected from the Japanese giant. The desktop is split between the two screens, both of which are touch-sensitive.
While we thought the bezel separating the two screens might be irritating, we barely even noticed it after a while, even when browsing the web.
Apps are spread across the two displays, which again takes a little getting used to but generally works fine. It can be a little disorienting when using the likes of Google Maps, with streets appearing skewed across the bezel, but we didn’t encounter many problems like this.
However, we’re unlikely to see many apps emerging soon that actually take advantage of the dual-screen setup.
Sony Tablet P: Display
The dual 5.5-inch screens are supremely crisp, thanks to the sharp 1024 x 480 resolution. Photos and movies look fantastic, with realistic rendering. Sadly you can only view movies and photos on the top screen (with the bottom screen used for media controls).
Of course this makes sense – who actually wants to watch a film with a thick black line across the centre – but the compact upper display isn’t an ideal way to watch a Hollywood blockbuster. Not only is there not much screen space, your films also appear slightly crushed due to the narrow aspect ratio.
We were impressed by the brightness of the screens. You can comfortably use the tablet even in bright sunlight, despite the reflective surface (which is a magnet for fingerprints too). Viewing angles are also excellent, among the best we’ve seen on a tablet.
Sony Tablet P: Performance
One of the highlights of the Tablet P is the ability to download and play classic PS One games. The compact build is well suited to playing titles such as Crash Bandicoot (which came pre-loaded), and the nVidia Tegra 2 processor handles these games with ease.
Of course you’re restricted to using virtual on-screen buttons, which can be a little awkward during fast-paced moments, but it worked better than we expected. Our major gripe was the shoulder buttons, which are shunted to the top screen and very difficult to reach with your thumbs.
Another niggle is the impending release of the Sony Playstation Vita, which costs considerably less than the Tablet P, features proper buttons and thumbpads, and can do much of the same stuff – including surfing the web and playing media. Hardcore gamers should certainly wait for that to emerge.
We found the tablet’s battery drained quickly when playing games or watching video, lasting three and a half hours on average – although that’s with screen brightness turned to max and Wi-Fi enabled. If you drop settings and don’t push it so hard, you should get five to six hours of use before it gives up.
Sony Tablet P: Features
You can browse the web using Wi-Fi, or 3G if you have a valid SIM card with a data contract. Web browsing is smooth and as usual you can zoom in or out with a pinch of the fingers. Flash video is also supported in-browser, as standard with Honeycomb tablets.
A 5MP rear camera takes reasonably sharp pics, thanks to the built-in auto-focus, although we did encounter the odd blurry shot. It’s more of a ‘snap an unexpected moment’ device than a dedicated camera. You also have a front-facing VGA camera for webchats.
Despite the chunky build, you only get a single mini-USB port and an internal Micro SD slot. You’ll want to use a memory card too, as the 4GB of storage fills up instantly.
Sony Tablet P: Verdict
If your current tablet has been scratched to ruins, you should definitely consider the Tablet P. Its unique folding design makes it easy to carry and protects the dual screens, while the nVidia Tegra 2 processor keeps everything running smooth. It's possibly one of the best tablets of 2011 we've ever seen.
However, we reckon gamers will be waiting for the Playstation Vita instead.
Sony Tablet P availability: Out now
Sony Tablet P price: £499