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Sony Tablet P review

We review the Sony Tablet P, the unusual dual-screen Android tablet.

There are so many tablets around these days that you are at liberty to feel spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting which one you’d most like to have.

Unless, that is, you happen to want a quirky and slightly off the wall two-screened clamshell design. If that’s your preference then the Sony Tablet P is what you need.

The design of the Sony Tablet P is, quite simply, like no other.  The clamshell is reminiscent of old, PDAs like Psion’s famed Series 5 and the Nokia Communicator, but open it up and you see two screens rather than the screen and keyboard found in those miniature laptop configurations.

These two screens each measure 5.5 inches diagonally and they deliver 1024 x 480 pixels. In most cases they work together to make a single large screen, except there’s a gap of about 9mm between the two and that really irks. Who wants a band of blackness half way down a screen when you are looking at a web page?

Nor do the twin screens stretch the full width of the chassis. The left and right bezels are large at about 24mm, the top and bottom ones smaller at about 12mm. It amounts to quite a lot of unused space around the screens and, ultimately, a disappointing appearance.

If this design is meant to enhance portability, well it doesn’t. At 372g the Tablet P is light when compared to other tablets, but the closed clamshell is bulky – still too big for most pockets.

The build has some interesting features though. Its curved top and bottom sections are both removable. The upper one reveals a SIM card slot, the lower one protects the battery – a large 3080mAh cell, and the microSD card slot.

There’s a headphones jack on one long edge, but apart from that all the buttons and connectors are ranged along one short edge. Here, rather cramped together, are the main power jack (a round plug), USB connector protected by a hinged cover, volume rocker and on/off button.

We’re not fans of the proprietary power charger, and to make matters worse it’s got a hefty brick on the cable. Carrying the charger is a huge pain.

However, the specifications are good. A dual core 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM are supported by 4GB of built in storage. There are two cameras – a 5 megapixel shooter on the outside and a VGA webcam inside the clamshell.

Furthermore Sony has equipped the Tablet P with Android 3.2, and working in the main screen area it feels oddly like you have double the number of home screens on hand thanks to that gap between the top and bottom displays. Here we like the effect.

Sony adds a light touch skin to Android and augments the provided apps with a few of its own such as its Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited stores. There’s also a nice DLNA app.

The screen isn’t all bad, either. Once you get used to things you find that there are some neat split screen customisations.

You can, for example, type a message on a virtual keyboard on the lower screen and view the message in the upper screen, or run Android PlayStation games in the top screen and use the bottom screen for controls. Ditto with video playback, viewing in the top screen, controlling playback with the bottom one.

Still, for all this we can’t say we’re convinced by the dual-screen design.

The screen ratio in full size just doesn’t work for most apps– you get big borders around video as well as that line between the two screens, for example. Few apps take good advantage of the split screen. And Sony hasn’t gone as far as letting us run two apps at the same time, one in each screen, which would have been really nice.

In the end, while we admire Sony’s bravery in designing the Tablet P, the final result just doesn’t work.

Written by Sandra Vogel