The Android tablet market is getting decidedly crowded, with dozens of different offerings from big and small companies alike, in sizes from 5” to 13.3”. How do you make your device stand out from the crows when most tablets are running the same OS and variants of the same hardware? Sony hopes to garner increased consumer interest by incorporating remote control and macro functionality with their new Tablet S. Let’s start with the specs first:

Sony Tablet S SGPT121US/S Specifications
Operating System Android 4.0
Processor NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core Cortex-A9 CPU 1.4GHz
(Maximum 1.4 GHz 1-Core Operation, 1.3GHz Multi-Core Operation)
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB
RAM 1GB
Display 9.4" (23.8 cm) 1280x800
I/O SD memory card
Headphone
Multi Port
IR remote control w/ macro functionality
Networking Bluetooth 3.0
802.11a/b/g/n
Camera 1Mp Front
8Mp Rear
Battery ~12 hours video playback
~10 hours Wi-Fi web browsing
Dimensions 9.45"x6.87"x0.35"~0.47" (WxLxH)
240mmx174.5mmx8.9-11.9mm
Weight 1.26 lbs (573g)
Pricing $399/$499/$599 (16GB/32GB/64GB)

The core specs are nothing out of the ordinary; Sony uses the ubiquitous NVIDIA Tegra 3 SoC clocked at 1.3/1.4GHz with a 1280x800 LCD and 16 to 64GB of storage. Pricing is certainly higher than many competing tablets, and the margins on the 32GB and 64GB models are frankly obscene ($5 to $10 of flash memory bumps the price up $100 to $200), but we’ve seen that elsewhere. The Tablet S also has a non-uniform thickness, with a somewhat unusual rounded top edge where the IR remote is located. We pretty much know what to expect from the hardware side of the equation (other than the IR remote), but the software package is where Sony hopes to differentiate.

The IR remote is designed to allow control of most home theater devices, including Blu-ray players, HDTVs, stereos, and cable boxes. Macro functionality allows you to program sequences so that a single button can power on the appropriate devices, select the correct input, and you can quickly “Watch TV” or “Play Blu-ray”. I can’t imagine most people are interested in spending $400+ on a glorified remote, but if you’re already looking to buy a tablet then the extra functionality could be enough to sway you.

Going along with the remote/living room device concept, Sony has a “Watch Now” application that provides an interactive, visual program guide. It will pull information from your personal preferences along with real-time trends from social media feeds, potentially allowing you to discover new shows or learn more about shows you already watch. And of course, Watch Now can integrate with the universal remote to allow you to quickly change the channel to a new show. The Tablet S also supports DLNA for use with compatible PCs, TVs, speakers, etc.

Another software feature Sony touts is their Guest Mode, where you can manage multiple users. Besides allowing different wallpaper for each user, you can customize the applications and widgets available. Such a setup is going to be particularly beneficial for people that want to use the Tablet S as a remote as well as a personal tablet—you wouldn’t want your friends (or you kids’ friends) to start snooping around your email while watching TV, after all.

Rounding out the features are two last items. First, Sony has a “Small Apps” function that allows you to use one application in a small screen while continuing to use another main application. The Small Apps include a calculator, web browser, voice recorder, timer, and the IR remote—we’d like to see some sort of chat or email added to that list. Second, Sony includes a redemption code for three movies via the Google Play movie library (out of a selection of 15 movies), worth up to $45. These are Sony films and are subject to change without notice, but right now it looks like Men In Black II, Moneyball, Anonymous, Battle: Los Angeles, and Friends with Benefits are some of the offerings.

The Sony Tablet S is available for pre-order right now, with shipping scheduled for September 7. Pricing starts at $399 for the 16GB model, though we might see lower retail prices once the tablet shows up in stores. Sony also has several peripherals available for the Tablet S, including a case with keyboard, HDMI adapter, charging cradle, a variety of other cases (sans keyboard), several variations of docking stand, a screen protector, and a slipcase.

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  • Penti - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    Well Sony has no content network to sell through. SEN (Sony Entertainment Network formerly Qriocity) is just a third party service by omnifone under a Sony brand and is available at essentially no markets, they don't deliver any such services themselves and makes no money of content by selling it themselves basically. Sony are no Amazon and they don't have the majority of their staff in retail stores as Apple. They can't even compete with iTunes. Granted here in Europe iTunes can't really compete either as they don't care to deliver TV and movies or books properly, but Sony is worse and don't even deliver music. As a music business they prefer channels such as Spotify (which they own part of) and whatever competitors that are popular where you are from.

    True this is just another Android tablet, but they got no services to tie to it. No retail stores, no digital book sales, movies, content or anything not even software. Not even the Playstation Mobile framework as a certified and exclusive thing. I'm sure they can deliver real and better tablets as they integrate that business into the handset division they are moving to Tokyo though. Sony might be a large company but they don't even make panel/displays for TVs any more or own any share of it and have divested out of it almost entirely and got rid of most of their production sites.

    Sony's entertainment companies don't make any money from hardware sales or Sony services basically so there future has to be to make hardware and sell consumer electronics and they have to find ways do design there stuff well, which they should be able to do. But don't expect them to try to take over markets and grow. For example the Optiarc division had only 400 employees but they decided to close it to. The only notable production Sony it self has today that one can instantly think of is Li-ion battery cells. That's some 2800 people. Also another thing that comes to mind is their semiconductor business that produces CMOS (Image) sensors that has some approx. 7300 employees. Despite that Sony isn't as industrial as other Japanese conglomerates. Sony's largely contract manufactured TV's aren't exactly going particularly well either. They are cutting everywhere they can and sadly can't be expected to do much in terms of new products, or to develop any new digital services of their own. Expect them to be very Japan oriented and develop for the Asian markets instead of trying to compete in western markets. I'm sure they can develop great phones and tablets for those markets though. But they are turning less of a production and market leading company and will try to do what they can make money on. They don't have the economics to spend from some cash reserves or anything like that.
    Reply
  • BenSkywalker - Monday, September 03, 2012 - link

    I can think of a very good reason to buy one-

    http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.a...

    $399 for this tablet isn't horribly out of line if we ignore the fact that it is already a better version of a $349 high end remote. Honestly, this is the first Sony tablet that I can see having the potential to draw in a group of *very* loyal customers. $399 isn't a bad price for this tablet period, the additional functionality it has seriously has me considering it(waiting on reviews of course).
    Reply
  • SonyS - Sunday, December 30, 2012 - link

    I just got one and everything is functioning great, but I haven't got the remote working yet. Reply
  • Belard - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    I use my iPad a lot in the living room. A click of the button and within a second or two, I'm on the internet looking up something. Having the remote build-in is quite handy.

    Since I am no longer in the market for an iPad4... this tablet is higher on the list. BUT, I will have to wait for a newer version. I already have a 1024x768 display, I must have HIGHER resolution. Like 1920x1080 at the very least.

    * I own an iPad... I like it. But the recent Apple lawsuit to ban the Samsung Galaxy S III has pissed me off! NOT be getting the iPAD4.
    Reply
  • B3an - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    Just give in and get a superior Win 8 tablet. You always bitch about MS, when Apple are clearly WAY worse. Reply

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