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IFA 2011. Sony – Two Bizarre Tablets and a Player Prototype
As usual, there is a small crowd around Sony tablets at the show – they are one of the most interesting products here. I met a few acquaintances marching through showrooms who headed to the Sony showcase straight away to see the tablets. Sony has always been arousing interest – the company surely knows how to create unusual products and on the Android tablet market they offered Sony Tablet S and Tablet P until recently known as S1 and S2 and supposed to go on sale back in spring as the company told us in February in Barcelona behind closed doors. I don’t know the reasons of such postponement – may be it was the earthquake in Japan. The first model will be launched in mid-September priced same as iPad 2 - $499/ˆ499 for the 16GB version, $599 for the 32GB version.
Before getting down to my impressions of the tablets I want to note that I condone the practice of Android tablet manufacturers to set the price of iPad 2 for their tablets. As of today, Android Honeycomb does not have the capabilities of iOS and such a positioning is artificial. Of course, Android tablets are sold in significant quantities but in terms of the operating system they are very crude and cannot provide same user experience as iOS.
Sony Tablet S can boast of a very interesting ergonomics concept – the tablet reminds of an open magazine, it has a bulge that makes holding it more comfortable. It weighs almost like iPad 2 – 598g/21oz but it’s made completely of plastic and this is the first disadvantage you notice. The second one is the 1280x800 9.4” screen called TruBlack suggesting it must have excellent black. It may be true but my general impression of the screen is that it’s not as good as the ones in Apple iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Besides, the plastic cover that protects the screen is rather soft and easily scratched – I easily made a few scratches with a coin.
It runs on NVidia Tegra 2 and the performance looks great at first glance. But with every app you install the tablet gets slower and, all in all, this must be the slowest HoneyComb tablet produced by a major manufacturer. Some people fairly blame HoneyComb for that but it’s only partly at fault.
I think Sony could not resist installing a bunch of extra apps that would attract some people. And some apps are actually pretty cool like the remote control app. But all the additional software goes heavy on the performance. It is the same story as with Vaio laptops that feature so much bundled software that a buyer starts using his laptop with deleting most or all of it.
It’s a vicious circle. Sony is trying to please users by providing a lot of extra software but it leads to lagging and occasional crashes. I’d much rather prefer the tablet to be more stable as many other users. The bundled software includes Entertainment Unlimited the Sony music and video service, the Sony style gallery, ebook reader with access to the Sony store and a PSP emulator that also works for some old games. You can get all those features on any Android tablet so Sony isn’t offerening anything unique here.
The tablet is not light at all – it’s easier to hold it in one hand than iPad but it’s not what I’d called comfortable. It’s lighter but not light. The tablet is definitely Sony Style and that will surely attract Sony fans while still remaining something alien for most users. It has a nice and unusual design and the price is on a par with the best tablets and iPad 2. Don’t forget that iPad 3 is coming soon so it turns out that Sony produced a tablet just for the company’s fans. Outside this group of people this tablet will hardly be popular.
Sony Tablet P
Remember Nintendo DS? Sony decided to create a similar tablet with two 5.5” screens. What they’ve got is interesting toy attracting attention with its unusual design. When it’s open you can hardly see the space between the screens but it’s there when you e.g. browse the web. I found it hard psychologically getting used to this fractured screen.
If you think that the two screens function as one big screen you are wrong. It is basically a 5.5” tablet with a second screen for controls. When you type an SMS the lower screen turns into key pad, when you watch a video it displays the playback controls. I don’t like or find this kind of interface reasonable – most apps on touchscreen devices have pop-up controls and it has become the standard for market and there is no need to add a second screen.
It’s a very unusual device and with a low price it could become a very nice toy and even a cult object for kids and teenagers. However, it is going on sale in Europe in November 2011 at ˆ599 per unit. The astronomical price tells us that Sony themselves do not see a future for this device. The price is way beyond the market and no unique design can justify it.
Inside if the tablet is the same hardware we see in Tablet S and it is also quite slow. The lags reminded me of Sony Vaio P – the index might have something to do with this. It will be available in black and silver. It looks nice in black but this is a toy, not something for everyday use. It’s a great show exhibit but a disappointment in general.
A Walkman Prototype Based On Sony Ericsson Arc
Is it a display of power when you dare to show a prototype at a show? Or is it because you are sure there is nothing for the competitors to copy from you? As far as Sony is concerned I cannot really tell but they decided to show us a Walkman prototype. What they did is they took Sony Ericsson Arc, took the cell module out but left Wi-Fi and voila – it’s a new Android player. I don’t know what can possibly attract buyers. It may be a lot cheaper than the phone but then Sony Ericsson is quickly losing credit and Sony becomes the hostage of the Sony Ericsson failures. Sony won’t be able to set their own price for this player and it won’t be able to compete. Paired devices like iPhone/iPod Touch are becoming popular and Samsung followed Apple on this way and now Sony is trying to join in. this device won’t be popular unless the price is really low but we can’t expect that – It’s a Sony.
Sony Showcase – The Rest
Çäåñü õâàòàëî è òåëåôîíîâ Sony Ericsson, íî èíòåðåñíûõ ìîäåëåé, êàê òàêîâûõ íå áûëî, à There were quite a few Sony Ericsson phones but no interesting ones – mere modifications to the already announced phones didn’t make me stop to look at them. There was the Bloggie 2 camera now with two screens and it’s already available on a number of markets and it’s boring – just another product made to follow the market and fill in the niche.
It was fun playing with professional NEX FS100E camera that costs around $6500 and has removable lenses. It looks impressive but I cannot tell you if it’s any good in real life.
There were lots of cameras and lenses, a demo zone with flamenco dancers but the most popular part of the showcase was the tablets and ebooks.
The rest of the exhibits were quite trivial, the TVs were not attracting any attention at all (maybe there were some interesting models but the first two stands were getting all the attention). This was my short walk through the Sony showcase at IFA2011.
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Published 09 September 2011
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