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Buyer’s Guide : Android Device (Part 2) - Sony Tablet S, Acer Iconia Tab A200, Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

11/20/2012 11:48:11 AM
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Sony Tablet S      

Description: Description: Description: Sony Tablet S

 “The wedge shape actually means it’s a little awkward to hold”

Sony was an incredibly late entrant to the tablet race, and the unimaginatively named Sony Tablet S is its best effort. Released in the UK in August last year, the oddly wedge-shaped device does at least look unlike every other tablet on the market. Whatever you say about Sony’s products, it’s certainly tried to create something distinctive rather than follow be herd

The idea behind the design is to make it more confortable to type on, and in that, it undeniably succeeds. The thing is, it’s not really solving a problem anyone had great difficulty sorting out for themselves. The wedge shape actually means it’s a little awkward to hold, and this swaps one problem for another.

Although the appearance of the Sony Tablet S is unlike any other on the market, beneath the case there’s something far more familiar going on. A 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2, 1GB of memory and an SD card slot. Front and rear cameras, and a 9.4” screen with 1280 x 800 resolution. The 16GB of memory is slightly more than most devices of this class, but Sony’s trademark high pricing explains how it can justify that.

As much as Sony would like to pretend this competes with its contemporary, the iPad 2, there’s little here that makes it particularly stand our as better unless you’re a gamer. PlayStation certification gives you access to all sorts of exclusive titles and apps that can sync with your PS Vita or PlayStation 3, and that might tempt a few gaming enthusiasts over the fence.

The version of Android has been modified, sometimes for usability, sometimes for performance, and the changes are generally worth having. Some of its problems, however, include issues with media playback (jerky videos) and oddly poor browser performance even compared to other Android devices. If you’re a die-hard Sony fan, you’ll probably forgive these mild irritations, but even at the reduced prices you can expect of a tablet released last year, there are better choices available.

Worth a look for gamers and Sony fans, but there’s little special to find here

Details

Device class:

Tablet

Price:

$566.5 (16GB)

Android version:

Honeycomb (upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich)

Release date:

August 2011

Features

8

Value

6

Overall

7

Acer Iconia Tab A200

Description: Description: Description: Acer Iconia Tab A200

“The question is: what matters most to you: size or quality?”

As one of the cheapest 10” devices on shelves today (especially since you can find it for up to $97 off RRP by now), the Acer Iconia Tab A200 has a lot to live up to. It’s a mid-market product that looks like a high-end tablet and runs like a low-end tablet. Frankly, that makes it a little confusing to use.

It’s full of contradictions. For example, the 10.1” display is 1280x 800 pixels, the same resolution as the Nexus 7, but because it’s a bigger device, the screen on the Iconia A200 actually looks a little worse. The question is what matters most to you: size or quality?

The internals are fairly modest, and once you strip away the screen it’s not that different to the much older A100: a 1GHz Tegra 2 with 8GB of storage, 1GB of RAM, a 2MP front camera and no rear camera. Although an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich has been deployed, Acer tends to modify Android installations extensively. Those expecting a bare-bones version of the OS will be disappointed, but it’s worth pointing out that the Acer Ring interface is actually very good in its own right.

A lack of storage is a problem considering the price, and the battery life is also poor. Even though the inclusion of a full-size USB 2.0 port alongside micro-USB, micro-HDMI and micro-SD ports mitigates some of the device’s shortcomings, it doesn’t quite do enough to convince you it’s worth dropping $485.5 on – especially in a world where the Nexus 7 exists.

Ultimately, the only real place in the market for the Iconia Tab A200 is for those who absolutely can’t live without a 10” device but don’t want to spend more than $485.5. and even then, the Xoom 2 is probably a better choice…

Not a terrible device, but it’s undeniably suffering from an identity crisis

Details

Device class:

Tablet

Price:

$469.5 (8GB)

Android version:

Honeycomb (upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich)

Release date:

March 2012

Features

7

Value

6

Overall

6

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Description: Description: Description: Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

“The digital pen/active stylus is an optional extra, but it’s one worth buying into”

The tablet world is currently overcrowded with devices attempting to match one another’s prices and specs, which leaves very little room for interesting features. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is an exception that proves this rule: it’s created not as the kind of lightly recreational tablet that these pages are full of but as a hardened business device, with support for digital pens, corporate software and multiple hardware interfaces built in.

For example, there’s a headphone jack, mini-HDMI, micro-USB jack, mini-HDMI, micro-USB and docking station ports, as well as a full-size SD card reader and a SIM slot (for the 3G version). A full-size USB port allows you to attach storage peripherals, or a keyboard/mouse. As many ports as one person could reasonably want on a tablet! Other business-oriented features include security software, printer-sharing support for Microsoft Office documents, and video conferencing tools.

Spec-wise, it was reasonably high end at its release, but it’s decidedly average now. It’s powered by a Tegra 2 with 1GB of RAM, and the 10.1” screen has a 1280 x 800 resolution with decent colors and viewing angles, but as ever, audio is poor. The front-facing camera is a respectable 2MP, but the rear camera is a mildly unimpressive 5MP

The operating system is Honeycomb (a heavily modified version) at purchase, but an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich was released in recent months. Don’t expect to see Jelly Bean anytime soon, though.

Finally, the digital pen/ active stylus is an optional extra, but it’s one worth buying into, allowing you to hand-write and create sketches with a variety of supporting software not found on most tablet devices. The palm-rejection feature even means you can rest your hand on it as you use the pen, and when you’re done, there’s a dock built into the case to store it away. It’s definitely the device’s selling point, so if you end up buying a ThinkPad Tablet, make sure you get one!

Well-suited to professionals, but the digital stylus is the real selling point

Details

Device class:

Tablet

Price:

$777

Android version:

Honeycomb (upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich)

Release date:

October 2011

Features

9

Value

7

Overall

8

 
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