This won't be a formal review or anything like that...just wanted to pass along my thoughts on the Sony S Android tablet I bought last Friday, then returned on Monday (thus owning the Sony tablet for just 3 days). The details for the Sony tablet are here (Amazon).
If you browse the page linked to above, you can see how, in many ways, it is different than most of the other Android tablets out there. I had owned the Acer A500 10.1 inch tablet since July and liked it quite a bit. It was a good device for browsing the web, reading, twitter, streaming video, etc. I found over time, however, that I was using the tablet mostly for reading. The Acer tablet was just a little too heavy, and big, to be comfortable for long periods of reading. So I decided to look for something smaller. For the smaller tablets (screens under 10 inches), there aren't many options yet. My choices were:
1) The HTC Flyer (7 inch)..specs seemed outdated at launch, so even more so now. I don't believe it runs Android 3 yet either (at least not without rooting and installing a custom ROM. If this is incorrect, feel free to correct me)
2) The Acer Iconia A100 (7 inch)..this is almost exactly the same as the A500 I owned and traded into Best Buy. Just smaller and a little lighter, no full USB port..but otherwise the same. This was an option. However, I also own a rooted Nook Color that runs CyanogenMod...meaning I already own a 7 inch Android tablet. Yeah, the A100 would have more features and be more versatile, but for reading Kindle books or epubs in the Mantano Reader..the Nook Color is fine.
3) The Sony S tablet (9.4 inch)..this one had some nice features that made it a little different from the other android tablets. Namely, the IR Blaster, PlayStation certification, the wedge shape, The Sony music/video unlimited service, Crackle video service, light weight.
4) The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 (8.9 inch screen) - pretty much the same as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, just with a smaller screen. It is however a perfect size for me, extremely thin, and very light. Negatives are the total lack of ports and no easy way to add memory via an SD or microSD card.
Based on the above..I decided to go with the Sony S. Brought it home Friday night, charged it, and played with it quite a bit over the weekend.
-The wedge shape was comfortable, though maybe not quite as awesome (for me) as some others claim
-The ridiculous, mysterious battery drain issue. I read a few people report issues with the battery draining for no reason, and I fell victim to this too. I noticed on Saturday that the battery seemed to be dropping very quickly, even when not in use. So Sunday and Monday, I charged the tablet overnight so I had 100% battery in the morning. Turned off WiFi and the GPS. Didn't use the device from 6a until 5p. Both days, by 5p, with no use..the battery was down to 75%. Sure, I still had 3/4 of the battery, but it was disheartening to see the battery drain so quickly when not in use. By the time I used the device in the evenings for a couple of hours of reading/surfing, I was down to 30%. Yeah, the battery lasted all day..but barely and with rather light usage. I was afraid that on days when I actually get some time to read and relax, the battery wouldn't make it through the day. If I am gonna spend $499 on a device, I want to know I can get a full day's use out of it. 3 days is obviously a small sample size, and maybe the battery would break in and get better. But it made me nervous, especially for the high cost of the device. I read on another forum that a guy had a full charge on Saturday morning, didn't use it all weekend, and it was completely dead by Monday morning. Just not acceptable to me. Especially since the battery seemed to charge rather slowly. I'm guessing a full charge would take 4 hours or so.
-The power chord and power chord connection was just bad. You can't charge this device via USB (in fact, the darn thing didn't even come with a USB cable to connect it to the computer. $499, and I had to supply my own USB cable. Really, Sony?) Anyway..the charger felt the same as the chargers you get for laptops. It had one chord that goes from the wall to this heavy, brick-like device. Then you have a second chord that connects the brick to the tablet via a proprietary connection. And this connection to the tablet felt extremely fragile and easy to break. The connection wasn't "solid".. it was still loose and flimsy..felt like if I bumped it accidentally, I would snap off the connection prongs and need a new adapter. Plus it means hauling around this big, bulky charger..much different than most devices that can charge via USB or with just a small chord.
-The display was just ok..the screen looked fine for the most part, but was a little dark. I had to turn up the brightness pretty high for it to be comfortable. On my Acer and Nook Color, I can keep the brightness fairly low, thus saving the battery. With the Sony, I had the brightness up much higher..which just compounds the batter issue mentioned above.
-It felt cheap...and I mean really cheap, like a toy. Sure it was lightweight and the wedge shape was nice, but I felt like I was holding a $100 tablet, not an expensive piece of electronics. And inside the wedge, it felt hollow (I'm sure it probably is). Even the screen felt like plastic..I guess i prefer the Gorilla glass that most other tablets have. The "hollow" feeling, along with the plastic body, outweighed the positives of the wedge shape. Its felt like a 2 foot drop could completely do it in..and that the plastic feeling screen (Sony says it is indeed glass) would scratch easily.
In the end, I decided that the negatives were too much to overcome, so I returned the Sony Tablet. Does it have potential to be a great device? I think so, which is why I bought it in the first place. But I wasn't willing to wait to see if the battery issues went away (or were fixed by a software update). And the feeling that my $499 device felt cheap and flimsy..not good for me. I know a lot of folks have positive things to say about this tablet, so I might well be in the minority. But if I spend a lot of money on a device, I want to feel like it will last..as in having a battery that will let me read for long periods, and being made well enough that I will still be using it a year from now. I just didn't get an overall sense of "hey, this was a good purchase for my money". Thus I returned it...and bought the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. I am really enjoying the Samsung so far..but more on that in a later post.
So..anyone own the Sony Tablet? Interested in buying one despite this review, and want me to answer any questions? Heck, if you have any questions about Android tablets in general, feel free to ask.
I've got a few news items related to ebooks and thought I would combine them into 1 post.
-Aldiko, the Android ereader application, announced a new partnership today with Books On Board. Basically, from within the Aldiko app, you will be able to browse for books and buy books from Books On Board (all without leaving the app). I recently tried all of the Android based ereader apps, and I prefer Aldiko. Yeah, if you have books from the Kobo or B&N bookstores, you will probably prefer their app(s). But for a 3rd party (non-storebacked) app, I think Aldiko is better than fbReader,Cool Reader, Moon + Reader, etc. This is a nice piece of news for those of you who like to buy books within a reading app, but don't want to buy from some of the bigger named stores.
-Kobo announced a new eReader today: the Kobo eReader Touch Edition. I have to say I'm highly interested...interested enough to return that Sony Pocket Edition I just bought 2 weeks ago. This Kobo reader looks to have the smaller size I am after, but with WiFi and expandable memory (which the Sony lacks). I am also interested to see what B&N announces tomorrow. Back on topic, from what I have read, if you order the new Kobo now, it should ship in time for Father's Day. It should have some features of interest for you non-US folks...see Kobo's blog post here.
-Get a refurbished Kindle 2 3G today at Woot.com for just $89. This deal is good today (5/23/11) only.
-You can buy a new Nook B/W e-ink reader for $99 in the B&N Ebay store here. Be aware, though, that this is likely another sign that the new ereader B&N will announce tomorrow is an e-ink reader..meaning this device will be superceded by the new device announced tomorrow.
Yep, despite having a Nook Color and a Kindle 3 3G/WiFi, I bought a new Sony Reader Pocket Edition last week (PRS-350). I mainly use the Nook Color for night/bedtime reading..since it is rooted, I have the Kindle & Kobo apps in addition to the built-in Nook app. Thus, the NC is my 'read anything' reader. Incidentally, the same logic applies to my Android phone, which makes a good bathroom reader (TMI, right?). Anyway, I had initially settled on epub books 18 months ago when I first started buying ebooks..mostly because the format was more open (available on multiple devices by multiple makers) and it was easy to remove the DRM (making my ebooks future-proof in case epub goes away). Despite being satisfied with epub, I was finding more and more fantasy books that existed in the Kindle store only (notably Pyr, though this might have changed in the last 3 months). I wasn't a fan of the proprietary Kindle format, but I felt I was missing out on some ebooks. And I really liked how well the Kindle (and Kindle apps) synced your reading progress among the Kindle apps/device. It has been really nice to read a book on my Kindle, switch to the Kindle app on my NookColor (or phone), and have it open on the right page.
So..I have been really satisfied with the Kindle experience so far, but I had a lot of books in epub format that I still had yet to read. Sure, I could convert them to .mobi using Calibre, then copy them to my Kindle and Kindle Apps, but then I miss the automatic syncing (well, I would assume it wouldn't work). While in Best Buy last week, I noticed the Sony Reader devices were on clearance. The little 5 inch Pocket Edition was down to $129. Still expensive when you consider it has no WiFi or external memory, but boy is the reader itself kinda sexy. While the screen is only 1 inch smaller than the Kindle, the overall size of the Sony is much less. It really feels nice and light and an almost perfect form factor for me. I had a $25 Best Buy gift card, plus another $20 bucks in credit from returning an ethernet cable I didn't need. Thus the price for me was down to $84..and I thought "hey, certainly I will get 84 dollars worth of enjoyment out of the reader". And that is how I ended up with yet another e-reader.
After using it for a week, I have to say I am glad I bought it. Yeah, I have to hook it up to the computer to put books on it. And yeah, it doesn't sync my reading progress. And both of those things are big negatives for me, normally. But the perfect size of the Pocket Edition makes those irritations worth it. I did find a way to manually sync my reading progress, though. I tried several Android reading apps (Moon Reader+, Kobo, FBReader, Nook, Cool Reader) and only the Nook used epub page numbers. The other apps seemed to equate a page to a screen. The Nook app seems to have a bug when trying to go to a specific page in a sideloaded book..making the app useless for complimenting my Sony. Then I downloaded the free Aldiko reader, and it supports epub page numbers and navigating to a specific page. Hoorah! Thus, while it isn't automatic, when I switch between my Sony and my NC or Android phone, I just need to know what page I was on. Not a big deal really. And now that you can easily "liberate" the DRM from epubs and kindle books in Calibre, I can pretty much buy any book from any store, and read it on whichever device I happen to prefer at the moment
In a later post..I'll describe how I use Calibre and the Dropbox app to keep my ebook library stored in the cloud so I can access it just about anywhere.