Task 4: Networking

Unifying all the devices in your home has long been a dream for home automation experts and DIY enthusiast alike and the advent of smart appliances has started to realise just some of those visions. Want to control your lights from your phone, feed the cat over the internet or literally surf the web with a silicon-based surfboard? Okay I made the last one up, but the other two are real and I’m going to try to replicate just a fraction of what’s possible today by connecting the Sony Tablet S with the other devices within my house. It’s a long and tiring journey, but the rewards are rich plentiful for those who endure it. Unbounded gratification, unparalleled convenience and infinite authority await those who succeed. Okay maybe I made that up as well.

Sometimes we just need to be told that everything is okay.

Connecting to my home WiFi network was the first thing that I did once the tablet powered on. It’s exactly the same as connecting to WiFi on any other Android device, just tick the WiFi checkbox, tap the access point you want to connect and type in the password if there is one. The IP is then obtained from the router and you’re ready to explore the great unknown of the World Wide Web. During my testing, I noticed that the WiFi connection drops out when the screen is turned off even if WiFi sleep policy is set to never (default is when screen is turned off). This seems to be a documented bug that was introduced with the 3.2 update. On a different, but related note, Sony has bundled a WiFi testing app with the tablet, which checks the status of your connection and suggests solutions based on your settings, like whether you have WiFi turned on or airplane mode turned on. It’s not a terribly useful app, but I can imagine it could save some frustration for a new android user.

Does anyone else get this feeling?

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Task 3: Video

The Sony Tablet S has a characteristic focus on multimedia. From the IR Blaster and DLNA support on the connectivity side to the preinstalled music and video streaming apps on the software side, Sony’s tablet oozes multimedia appeal from the pores of its slender frame. But when it comes down business, can Sony’s flagship device deliver the goods, or is the 9.4” WXGA Trublack screen just for show?

Features and codec support

The appropriately named Video Player app that comes preinstalled on the tablet is a simple piece of software that lives up to its almost as simple name. Features are scarce and the interface is minimalistic, though it has good transition animations and the ‘cover view’ mode is an interesting way of seeing your videos. It scatters your video thumbnails out like photos and you can drag them around the screen. Not the best example of practicality, but a bit of fun nonetheless. You can also choose grid or list view and rearrange the order of your videos alphabetically or according to date added. Diving into the settings tab will give you toggles for zoom, dynamic normalizer, two speaker options and the update database button. Simple and functional. Just barely.

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Task 2: Gaming

Touchscreen gaming can be a bit of hit and miss when it comes to serious gameplay and the Sony Tablet S as a touch based device, is no exception. However with the recent explosion in the popularity of mobile gaming, there has since been a surge in touch optimized games that are designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. This alone however, says nothing about the overall gaming experience, which depends not only on to hardware, software and the availability of applications, but also personal preference. So will the Sony Tablet S dominate as a gaming device? Or will it be crushed in a shameful defeat? There’s only one way to find out. Let the games begin!

Gaming experience

One of the biggest complications arise from having no physical controls or tactile feedback, leading to more time spend looking at the controls rather than at the game. I often found myself hitting the wrong button and plunging to my death in Crash Bandicoot or jumping into a monster instead of hitting it. It should be noted that Honeycomb supports USB peripherals, so it is possible to play games via an external controller. The PlayStation One emulator on the Sony Tablet S also supports hiding the soft keys, so playing via a controller would allow an ideal gaming experience for Crash Bandicoot and other PlayStation One ports or games with more complex controls. Unfortunately I do not have a USB game controller, so I was unable to test this, but the general online consensus seems to be rather positive.

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Task 1: Camera

The Sony Tablet S brings a 5 megapixel back facing camera to the table, and offers auto-focus, image stabilisation, geo-tagging, face detection and high-definition video recording plus a VGA front facing camera for video calling and admiring oneself. So how does the camera stack up against the competition? Will the inclusion of photography and video capabilities let you throw away your dedicated devices? You can probably already guess the answer, but read on anyway, you may or may not be surprised.

The pre-installed camera interface is relatively simple, a row of settings to the left, shutter key on the right, viewfinder in the centre and a film strip of your latest shots on the bottom. The film strip is scrollable and tapping on a photo will bring you to the camera gallery, where you can take a closer look at the photos you’ve taken. You also have quick access to settings like resolution, digital zoom, store location, a toggle for switching between photo and video mode and another for front and back camera. Hitting the arrow key on the settings column brings up an additional four options, exposure, white balance, screen mode and focus mode. There isn’t a whole lot of functionality built into the default camera app, but there are plenty of third-party apps out there that can add additional features like HDR, panorama or ‘hipster’ effects.

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Extra: First Impressions

I just got my Sony Tablet S yesterday so I thought I’ll do a quick run-through. Check out my other posts for a more in-depth look at each specific aspect, this is just a brief overview of the hardware, interface and general impressions. Included is an unboxing video for your viewing displeasure. Take note that you are under no legal or moral obligation to watch said video. But reading the accompanying post is scientifically proven to be good for the heart.

A list of specs for the unacquainted:

  • Dual Core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1280 x 800 display at 9.4” (161ppi)
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n with DLNA
  • Android 3.2 out of the box
  • PlayStation certified

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