The Sony Tablet S, which incorporated a curved design that attempted to resemble a folded magazine, is one of the most distinctive tablets on the market. Sony has kept much of the same formula for its new Xperia Tablet S but has revamped the design and added some interesting new features. See also: Tablet Advisor.
The biggest change in design from the Tablet S to the Xperia Tablet S is aluminium casing. The plastic build of the Tablet S didn't feel very sturdy and noticeably creaked when force was applied to the back. That should no longer occur on the Xperia Tablet S which is constructed from aluminium. Despite the change in build materials, Sony has managed to reduce both the weight and the thickness of the Xperia Tablet S. The device is still shaped like a wedge but it's much flatter than its predecessor. See also: Group test: what's the best tablet PC?
The Xperia Tablet S has a splash-proof finish, too, so it's water-resistant. Sony highlights checking a recipe in the kitchen with wet hands as one real world use scenario where this feature will benefit potential users. Take a look at the Google Nexus 7 review too.
Sony appears to be focussing most of its attention on the software side of things. The most notable new feature is a guest mode that allows children or any other users to log on to their own separate account. This is a feature that's been reserved for PCs and notebooks, but we really like the idea of it on an Android tablet. It could prevent users from downloading apps through the Google Play Store, for example, and Sony says users can configure exactly what apps guest users can and can't access.
One of the best features on the original Tablet S was an Infrared port and combined remote control app. This feature has been upgraded on the Xperia Tablet S so users can can now add up to six macro functions. A macro can be set to allow you to turn on multiple home entertainment devices at once, or skip to a favourite channel on your TV or set top box with one press, for example.
The Sony Xperia Tablet S will initially ship with the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich version of Google's Android platform, but Sony insists the tablet will be upgradeable to the latest 4.1 Jelly Bean version in the coming months. Sony has a poor track record when it comes to timely Android updates on its Xperia smartphones, so we can only hope the company lifts its game now that it has slotted a tablet into the Xperia range.
Despite all the software features, Sony hasn't neglected the specifications of the Xperia Tablet S. It's powered by NVIDIA's quad-core Tegra 3 processor (up from the dual-core processor on the Tablet S), has 1GB of RAM and comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models. There's 3G connectivity available on "selected models", while a full-sized USB port is a nice inclusion and a HDMI port allows users to connect the device to a TV. There's also a full-sized SD card slot. An 8-megapixel rear camera and a front facing 1-megapixel camera for video calls are also included.
Where Sony may have missed the mark is the Xperia Tablet S's screen. The 9.4in capacitive IPS display has a resolution of 1280x800, which is standard for most similar sized Android tablets. However, newer devices like the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity and Acer's upcoming Iconia Tab A700 both have screens with a much higher resolution, immediately making them a little more appealing than the Xperia Tablet S.
Sony will sell a full range of accessories with the Xperia Tablet S when it launches in Australia next month. The highlight is a cover that has a built-in, hardware keyboard, which looks remarkably similar to the Microsoft Surface "touch cover". There's also a docking stand and a range of brightly coloured covers.
The Sony Xperia Tablet S will launch "from the middle of September", but Sony is yet to announce UK pricing. However the Xperia Tablet S will sell for $399 (16GB), $499 (32GB) and $599 (64GB) in the US.