Sony Xperia Tablet S review

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Sony Xperia Tablet S

The splash-proof Sony Xperia Tablet S was first launched a few months ago, but had to be pulled from sale because of problems with its waterproof seal. It's now back on sale, and watertight, but has the delay sunk it, with numerous competitors breaking the surface since its original launch. Although it retains the same unique tapered design as the original Tablet S, it is thinner, lighter and easier to hold.

The slimmer design also looks much more generic than its predecessor, meaning it has to standout in other ways in order to impress. It certainly has a decent enough specification, having a 1.3GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU, 16GB of storage, an 8-megapixel camera and Android 4.0. Although the model reviewed here only has Wi-Fi, a 3G model is available. It looks similar to other tablets, and the original Tablet S, but recessed edges hide the power and volume keys on one side and the 3.5mm headphone jack and full-size SD card slot on the other. Annoyingly, there's no video output, so you won't be able to connect the tablet to a TV. Both the card reader and the charging port at the base of the tablet are covered by plastic flaps. The charging port cover is completely removable, and could be easily misplaced or lost.

With the port covers fitted, this tablet is completely splash proof. We tipped a cup of water over the display and it suffered no adverse effects. This, along with a limited guest account feature, could make the Xperia Tablet S ideal for families with young children. Here's the Xperia Tablet S getting a good drenching Sony showed us its guest mode well before Google announced multiple-user accounts would be supported on Android 4.2 tablets. The two aren't directly comparable, however; once you enable guest mode, you can choose specific apps and widgets to enable or disable, limiting access to the internet, or features such as the camera or Google Play Store. Using a password, you can safely hand the tablet over to your kids without worrying what they're getting up to when you aren't around.

By comparison there's no such control on an Android 4.2 device, with extra accounts having full access to all features. Guest mode aside, Sony has done very little to tweak the default Android interface. The only two additions are the shortcut bar at the top of the screen, which means you can quickly access up to four apps, no matter what home screen you're currently viewing, and the mini
Apps mode. This lets you overlay a web browser, calculator, voice recorder or remote control over any open App. Both are welcome additions, but neither revolutionises the Android user experience.
Selecting apps from the tray for a guest account. There are plenty of pre-loaded apps, too, including Sony's own Walkman media player, Reader eBook store, Music and Video Unlimited streaming
services and Xperia Link, which lets you pair a Sony smartphone for one-touch internet tethering. Although the Google Play Store is rapidly gaining content, there are plenty of films and artists that
are Sony exclusives, but check both stores, as we noticed some disparity in pricing.

The IR blaster returns from the original Tablet S too, letting you replace your remote controls with a universal one built into the tablet. Every app looks great on the 9.4in, 1,280x800 IPS display, which
produces clean images with plenty of contrast and balanced colours. The overly glossy screen can make light reflections somewhat troublesome, but text and icons still appeared sharp and perfectly
legible. We were able to play 720p videos smoothly, even though audio quality was distinctly average. The dual speakers are pointed downwards and produce a slightly tinny sound, which is never
particularly loud even at full volume. Sony has also applied a low-friction coating to the screen, which doesn't do anything to prevent fingerprint smears and feels surprisingly slippery. This meant
we experienced a few more typing errors than usual.

The 8-megapixel rear camera is surprisingly capable, but we still think tablets shouldn't be used for anything more than the occasional portrait. Still pictures appear clear from a distance, but as soon as you zoom in or get close to a subject the limited detail becomes easier to spot. Colours also look a little dull compared to the average smartphone. You can record 1080p video, but the constant refocusing isn't ideally suited to recording precious memories. During our time with the Xperia Tablet S, we felt it performed admirably thanks to its quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor running at 1.3Ghz and its 1GB of memory. It scored 4070 in the Quadrant benchmark, putting it on par with the Asus Transformer Prime, and it completed the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in 1602.8ms. It's not the fastest Android tablet around, but it's easily fast enough to play games and multitask without any visible slowdown.

It also produced a very respectable twelve and a half hours in our battery test, so you'll easily get
through a whole day on a single charge. It's a shame that Sony had to pull the Xperia Tablet S for so long in order to fix its splash-proof seal, as in the meantime its been surpassed in many ways by the Google Nexus 10 , which has a significantly better screen for the same money. The Xperia Tablet S's splash-proof design and family-friendly guest mode are genuinely useful features that should appeal to parents of young children, but given its high price, it's difficult to recommend when the Nexus is such good value.
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