Sony's Tablet S from last year had kind of a unique design, and made a good impression. Even if it wasn't perfect, it managed to distinguish itself from masses of Tegra 2 tablets at the time. With the new Xperia Tablet S, Sony is continuing with a similar design.
By using the Xperia moniker Sony is making it clear that it no longer makes a distinction between the tablet and smartphone product group. They both fall under the "mobile" header now. This development was not possible last year because Sony was still making smartphones together with Ericsson, while the Tablet S just had the Sony brand attached to it.
The tablet runs on a Tegra 3 SoC with four 1.3 GHz cores and the companion core. It has 1 GB of RAM. These specs make it clear that Sony is not aiming at the true high-end segment where you find faster SoCs such as in the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T and the Exynos 4 Quad in the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. The Samsung tablet also has twice the RAM.
Again the tablet has a 9.4-inch diameter. What the advantage is of this size is unclear, but Sony is the only manufacturer that uses it. Perhaps that is the reason, to distinguish this tablet from the countless 10.1-inch models out there.
If you look at it from a distance, the Xperia Tablet S looks quite a bit like last year's Tablet S. That's not the case when you hold it in your hands. Sony caught some flak last year for the back side of the Tablet S, which was constructed out of plastic and felt a bit cheap and flimsy. That same plastic is still there, but covers a much smaller portion of the tablet. The majority is now aluminium, which makes the tablet look and feel better. It does kind of remove the magazine design feel of the Tablet S, which looked like a folded magazine.
The new Tablet S is a bit lighter than the old one, with a weight of 553 grams instead of 591 grams. It's also thinner, almost a centimetre of difference in the thickest spot. It doesn't really feel lighter, however, and that is because it is top-heavy when you hold it horizontally. You have to get used to holding it a bit higher.
The plug for the charger has a cover to make the Xperia Tablet S 'splash proof', which isn't the same as waterproof. But even the splash proofing didn't go so well, judging from the recently halted production and recall of the tablet. It looks like there is a small gap in the bottom corners between the display panel and the rest of the case.
To find out how well the Sony Xperia Tablet S performs and how it compares to other recent tablets, read the full review on Hardware.Info.