Hands On: Sony Tablet P


5 Aug 2011
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The new Sony Tablet S may be the mainstream model, but the new Sony Tablet P has the wow factor. It might be doomed, but it's audacious and very cool. I got some time with it and I was almost—but not quite—seduced.

The Sony Tablet P is a dual-screen, folding Android tablet that's about the width of a paperback book, although it's long and skinny. It's not flat, either; the outside bows out into a convex form that's oval at the edges. It's the weirdest Android tablet design ever, although it isn't the first dual-screen Android device (that would be the Kyocera Echo phone).

Open up the Tablet P and you see two 5.5-inch, 1024-by-480 screens. They can work together or semi-independently, although you can't multitask different apps on the two screens. Apps' user interfaces can span the bezel, which give them a gap in their UIs. That isn't great, but it works. The tablet runs Android 3.2, the first version that can handle its oddball 1024-by-960 resolution.

Things get much more interesting when apps start using the two screens for different things. Sony has customized almost every app on here. If you need to enter text, the entire bottom screen becomes a virtual keypad. If you're playing games, it's a gamepad; if you're watching a movie, it's the controls.

Some apps are even more innovative. The gallery, for instance, shows your photos on one screen and a Google Map of where you took the photo, based on its GPS location, on the other screen. The Sony Reader app lets you hold the tablet like a book, vertically, reading one page on each screen.

The tablet works well, and smoothly. Like most Honeycomb tablets, it's based on an Nvidia Tegra 2 chipset, and it will connect to AT&T's network with a speedy HSPA+ modem.

There's a 5-megapixel camera on the outside, and a VGA camera for video chatting on the inside. Just like the Tablet S, the P has Sony's own music and video stores, and it runs some PSOne and PSP games. Sony's other proprietary apps, such as the infrared home theater remote control, Crackle movie streaming, and Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited music and movie stores, are here, too.

As long as I stayed in Sony's preloaded apps, the Tablet P experience was excellent. Take email: reading a full message on the top screen while paging through an inbox on the bottom panel is a top-notch experience.

But there's clearly going to be some trouble with third party app compatibility here. The Tablet P's oddball screen resolution and dual-screen form put it way outside the norm for Android tablets, and there's no standard Android API for dual-screen devices.

Sony told me it hasn't even talked to Kyocera about the dual-screen APIs used on the Echo phone, so if you want to design for this tablet, you're designing for just this tablet. With few Tablet P models in the market, that means you'll see relatively few non-Sony apps that support it. Sony's running a developer contest for this tablet, but it's all about the size of the audience.

The Tablet P is definitely coming to the U.S. (look at that AT&T logo!) but Sony wouldn't give a date or price for the tablet, except to say that it'll be here before the end of the year.

Source : Digit
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