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Hands-on look at Sony Tablets S and P

Way back in April, Sony announced its plan to enter the tablet game with a pair of uniquely-designed tablets that definitely go against the traditional look of the iPad and others. Here is a hands-on look at both the Sony Tablet S and Tablet P.
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By Rachel King, Staff Writer on
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Make no mistake about it: both of these tablets are consumer-focused devices. Sony reps reminded me that Sony is an entertainment company, and these devices are in fact reflective of that.

That isn't to say that they can't be used for professional purposes. They are still Android 3.0 Honeycomb-based machines, and users can download productivity apps and such from the Android Market as they please.

Check out our a full review over on Between The Lines.

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I'm not a big fan of Android to begin with -- the only tablet I use regularly is an iPad, and I'm not ashamed to admit that. I'm also a lesser fan of tablet manufacturers that put their own UI touches on top of the Android platform, with the exception of HTC Sense, which is just less cluttered than most alternatives. However, Sony's isn't so bad. The gestures are intuitive, the main apps menu is easier to navigate and there's a unique QuickLaunch menu  with nine squares (pictured, Brady Bunch-style) that represent the nine most-recently used apps for quicker navigation.

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On the inside, the Sony Tablet S is PlayStation-certified. So far, that means that the Tablet S is capable of playing PlayStation 1 and PSP titles. No, that doesn't mean you can insert a disc copy of Final Fantasy VII inside (although that would be awesome), but it does mean that you will be able download and play some of your favorite old games. Crash Bandicoot and a few others will be pre-installed upon purchase.

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Additionally, if you have a PlayStation 3, Sony-branded speakers, TVs, Blu-ray players or basically anything DLNA-enabled, you can use the Tablet S as a remote control thanks to the integrated infrared to manage these systems.

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Even better, you can use these systems to playback audio and video that is stored on your tablet by dragging them over in a very simple to use app. Other integrated Sony features include its reader app, Crackle and both Video and Music Unlimited by Qriocity.

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Thankfully, Sony did not stick a Memory Stick slot but rather went with the more universal, built-in, full-sized SD card slot, which is woefully missing from most tablets.

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This tablet is unusual in some respects, which some consumers might love or completely dislike. The most obvious point here is the design. Instead of a flat surface all the way around, the back is curved significantly and the center of gravity is weighted to one side.

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The point here is that users could hold the tablet in one hand (by the curved, more heavily weighted end) like a magazine and a cup of coffee in the other.

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Sony has gotten the HDTV team involved as the 9.4-inch TruBlack display is made with the same materials as seen on Bravia LCD screens. This model also sports dual cameras -- a front-facing VGA cam for video chatting and a 5-megapixel rear camera with an Exmor processor seen in Sony's digital camera collection.

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Additional accessories will also be available at launch time, including a keyboard for $79.99 and a cradle for $39.99.

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Many of the same features that are available on the Tablet S are also integrated on the Tablet P, such as the DLNA support, dual cameras and the Honeycomb operating system. However, it does not have built-in IR. All of the Sony ecosystem (i.e. PlayStation 1 games, Music Unlimited, etc.) are also included here. The big difference, besides the design obviously, with the Tablet P is that this one is 4G enabled.

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Sure, the Sony Tablet S is portable. But the Sony Tablet P takes portability to a whole new level.

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This clam-shell gadget folds out to host dual 5.5-inch screens with a 1080 x 480-pixel resolution that can be formatted to run two applications simultaneously or combined for one big picture.

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Sony's reps made a very smooth move when presenting the Tablet P to me by pulling it out of the inner pocket of a suit jacket. Thus, you can imagine how easy it is to tote this device around. The Sony Tablet P might actually be a better option for business travelers on-the-go who always want to stay connected.

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The Sony Tablet S will become available to consumers first in September. Pricing starts at the usual $499 for 16GB of installed memory and $599 for 32GB.

Mystery still surrounds the launch of the Sony Tablet P. Although that one will be enabled with 4G HSPA+ connectivity on AT&T's network when it starts shipping, a launch plan hasn't been finalized nor has pricing. Note that the Tablet P will only have 4GB of onboard memory, but that can be expanded upon with the use of a full-sized SD card.

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