Thanks to Al Sutton of Funky Android at Droidcon NL in Holland this week I got a lot of hands-on time with a retail version of the Sony Tablet P that has just arrived on the shelves in the UK. It’s the Psion 5-like dual-screen Android clamshell that I found quite exciting at IFA in Sept. It may look strange but there’s some nice mobile usability features tucked inside. Sony have done a reasonable job of optimizing Sony apps and gaming capabilities for the screen but there are some issues with standard apps and text input which mean the Sony Tablet P may only be interesting for people wanting the Sony media and gaming experience.
Obviously the clamshell form factor brings a natural screen protector into play which improves ruggedness. There’s also an interesting 12wh removable battery, a fantastic screen, a fast processor, Honeycomb build (with possible, not promised, upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich) and a useful 5-row on screen keyboard.
In terms of size and weight it feels a little bit dense but it’s about the same weight as a Samsung Galaxy Tab. It fits into most pockets for short term transport but it’s very thick indeed. Its design certainly doesn’t shout ‘manly’ either.
Although there’s a gap between the screens I found myself ignoring it when reading content. It was great to see a full readable version of Carrypad across the screens and the Tablet P could make an interesting page-per-view reading device. The split screens bring a little issue when dragging across two screens. When the contact is lost the dragged item gets dropped.
Thumbing is possible in portrait or landscape but I didn’t find it as easy as the Galaxy Tab in portrait mode and the sharp corners dig into your hand. Angling the screen closer to 90 degrees allows a level of table-toppecking but there’s no haptics and its a little hit-and-miss. You certainly won’t enjoy inputting large amounts of text in this way. Again, I find a 7″ portaint-mode Thumbing experience to be much more comfortable.
I tested a number of apps and was impressed with the amounts of content being presented to me but many apps default into a single screen view. Using Honeycomb’s stretch feature apps are encouraged to spread across with screens. This isn’t always successful though. Google Reader refused to expand and crashed at every attempt. I saw other apps doing this too. This is a critical problem.
Having a removeable battery is a real advantage to the ultra-mobile user. Battery life looked, after a few hours of testing, very similar to that of the Galaxy Tab 7 – 6hrs screen-on usage over an active period of 12 hrs. It’s not quite all-day capable if you’re relying on this for some productivity.
- The Sony Tablet P is not phone-capable but 3G version (4Gb storage) is just under 500 UK pounds
- Speaker quality is very poor
- Brightness and viewing angles on screen are excellent
- No games tested – this is a key feature of the device.
- Content catalogue not available from on this UK model tested in NL – This is another key feature of the device.
The Sony Tablet P is an interesting mobile device with some unique and useful features but text input was a little clumsy due to an uncomfortable thumbing grip and lack of haptics. Desktop-pecking is possible, but not efficient. It seems that gaming could be the only serious unique feature here and I haven’t tested it. If that part of the device works well it’s the entertainment user that is the only type of user that really needs to take a close look at the Sony Tablet P. The reading experience was good and the Tablet P is easy to hold but the weight needs to come down a bit to match some of the best reader-capable tablets. Others looking for a more mobile all-round Android experience may find more pleasure in the Samsung Galaxy Note or 7″ Android slates.