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
Display 9.4" (23.8 cm) 1280x800
I/O SD memory card
Multi Port
IR remote control w/ macro functionality
Networking Bluetooth 3.0
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)
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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  • stm1185 - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    With iPads at similar prices and the possibility of a $199 MS Surface, which that tablet seems to emulate, this Sony tablet looks like another Android failure. I don't understand why they think this was a good idea.

    Sony has an entertainment division, music movies games, they have subsidized hardware before with Playstation, why are they not doing that here to put their tablet at a cost that is competitive in the market?
  • Malih - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    Exactly, don't understand the pricing at all, even if the iPad doesn't have the IR remote and microSD slot, they have Retina display and somewhat better battery life than this, this tablet would be more attractive with $100 cut in prices, and $50 increase on storage upgrade, or current pricing but with additional included accessories (the stand or the cover).

    Most of the Xperia phones are properly priced, but electronic devices other than phones from Sony have overconfident pricing.
  • UpSpin - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    The iPad has a higher resolution display. Yup, that's it.
    The Sony tablet has IR remote and microSD slot, so you can go with the ceapest version and add 64GB later. The battery life seems similar. The Sony tablet is lighter. The Sony tablet is $100 cheaper than the iPad. Because you can add an SD-Card a $399 Sony tablet is comparable to a $699 iPad, that's a price difference of $300 - 70$ for the 64GB micro SD-Card results in $230 less money for a 80GB Sony tablet. Because it runs Android you can make full use of BT, connect any BT/USB keyboard, connect any game controler, ...
    Even if you compare it with the iPad 2, which is definately worse than this tablet, this tablet is still cheaper (micro SD)
  • Zoomer - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    The SD slot makes the two higher models the hidden idiot tax. Given that the article isn't very specific, it's possible that it's a SDXC slot. Which makes 64 or even 128GB cards possible for a lot less.
  • SonyS - Sunday, December 30, 2012 - link

    The Sony tablet is better than the iPad with many better features and more capabilities.
  • UpSpin - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    The $199 MS Surface is nonsense. And nobody said such a thing, except some dubious blogs who interpreted too much in too little.
  • Belard - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    Its quite possible MS will sell the WART tablet for $200.... for a limited time. If I was in their position, I would do it. But MS is doing a lot of stupid things lately... so who knows.

    The MS-tablet market share is easily under 1%. Them bitching "Our partners have done poorly in this market" is insulting and stupid as they have YET to release a dedicated TABLET OS and WP7 was never made to work on tablets. A full OS is not needed for tablets... for most people... most won't spend $1000 for an i5 tablet.

    So... to build up market share quickly... you sell the 10" tablet at the same price as the $200 7" google and Kindle tablets / $250~300 ipad Mini.

    - MS App store is crap
    - They have almost 0% market share
    - Few people are buying the Windows Metro Phone.

    Look what happened to the HP TouchPad when it sold for $100! A device that every customer KNEW would have no future. They sold out within hours.

    It costs about $240 to build a 10" tablet. The WART tablet is only SOLD in the MS-Stores all across the country... you know, all 21 currently open locations. (Apple had about 200 stores when the 1st iPad shipped, not including their Best Buy locations) - so its a bit of a joke. Ha, there isn't one in Dallas nor any near-plans to do so (Apple has 3 stores within a 20 min drive from me).

    But, selling directly to customers means MS looses $40 per unit... like a console. If they are able to sell 1 million units before 2013 = $40million in losses... which is not bad. 1 million units in 2~3 months would jump start the WART/Win8 ecosystem.

    At $400, only the fanboys will buy it. Nobody else in their right mind would.

    I give it a 80% chance we'll see the $200 price... the losses is nothing compared to the long term. And if many of those customers buy 10 Apps or 50+ songs, it'll put MS closer to the black. Then they will raise the price to $300~400. Meanwhile, their partners get shafted... only MS can do this, not Acer, Dell, Asus, etc.

    * I own an iPad... I like it. But the recent Apple lawsuit to ban the Samsung Galaxy S III has put Apple on my shit list. I WILL NOT be getting the iPAD4.
  • Zoomer - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    Given reports that WinRT licensing would be in the mid teens; a $199 surface wouldn't be very possible.
  • Alexvrb - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - link

    I think Microsoft might be giving Microsoft a discount on the Microsoft Windows RT license costs for the Microsoft Surface tablets. What do you think? Sound plausible?
  • medi01 - Saturday, September 1, 2012 - link

    I don't understand why people even consider devices that force installing cough itunes and restrict access even to the non-drm content on them.

    On top of it, having to convert everything into idont formats, very comfortable eh?

    As for tablets, the major thing one should care about is, the screen.
    And not some stupid "retina" buzz or resolution, but, COLORS.

    Acer or Asus have higher resolution than Samsung's Galaxies, yet you won't seriously consider buying them if you see them next ot each other, the difference is THAT big.

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