Sony Tablet P review

A highly portable yet imperfect dual-screen Android tablet

Sony Tablet P
Sony's Android tablet has two small touchscreens that split up content and controls

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Sony tablet p review

Skimming through the Sony Tablet P's menus is a smooth experience, as expected from the Japanese giant. The desktop is split between the two screens, both of which are touch-sensitive. While we thought the bezel separating the two screens might be irritating, it rarely gets in the way.

Apps are spread across the two displays, which again takes a little getting used to but generally works fine. It can be a little disorienting when using the likes of Google Maps, with streets appearing skewed across the bezel, but we didn't encounter many problems.

However, we're unlikely to see many apps emerging soon that actually take advantage of the dual-screen setup, which is a real shame.

Sony tablet p review

The dual 5.5-inch screens are supremely crisp, thanks to the sharp 1024 x 480p resolution. Photos and movies look fantastic, with realistic rendering. Sadly you can only view movies and photos on the top screen, with the bottom screen used for media controls.

Of course this makes sense - who actually wants to watch a film with a thick black line across the centre - but the compact upper display isn't an ideal way to watch a Hollywood blockbuster. Not only is there not much screen space, your films are also bordered either side by thick black lines due to the narrow aspect ratio.

Note that full-screen YouTube videos play over both displays, while 4OD TV shows are shunted to the top screen. Bizarrely, full-screen iPlayer videos are crushed into a tiny box on the upper screen, so you'll want to watch them in a pop-out window instead.

Sony tablet p review

The Sony Tablet P is compatible with MP4 and WMV movie files, as standard for Android Honeycomb tablets. We tested a couple of Full HD 1080p films and they played perfectly, with no stuttering or smearing.

However, if you're watching movies we'd recommend using a pair of earphones even if you're nestled in your sofa at home. The Sony Tablet P's built-in speakers are tinny, so you'll struggle to hear if there's any kind of background noise.

We were impressed by the brightness of the screens. You can comfortably use the tablet even in bright sunlight, despite the reflective surface (which is a magnet for fingerprints).

Viewing angles are among the best we've seen on a tablet.

Sony tablet p review

If you're looking for a tablet for instant messaging or bashing out emails on the move, the Sony Tablet P is a great option. Its compact build means it's comfortable to hold the device two-handed and type with your thumbs, while Honeycomb's virtual keyboard is one of the better efforts we've tested.

Predictive text brings up a row of possible words when typing to speed up the process.

However, the tiny screens make precision-selection a royal pain at times. For instance, the tiny Wi-Fi icon in the bottom-right corner often takes two or three jabs before the menu appears, and good luck trying to change the volume in the likes of 4OD.

We were frothing with rage after five minutes of prodding, and only a serious kitten-stroking session could calm us down.

One unique feature of the Sony Tablet P is the ability to download and play classic PlayStation 1 games. The compact build is well suited to playing titles such as Crash Bandicoot (which came pre-loaded), thanks to that comfortable grip, while the Nvidia Tegra 2 processor handles these games with ease.

Of course you're restricted to using virtual touchscreen buttons, which can be a little awkward during fast-paced moments, but it worked better than we expected. Our major gripe was the shoulder buttons, which are shunted to the top screen and are very difficult to reach with your thumbs.

Another niggle is the impending release of the PlayStation Vita, which costs considerably less than the Sony Tablet P, features proper buttons and thumbpads, and can do much of the same stuff - including surfing the web and playing media. Hardcore gamers should certainly wait for that to emerge.

The Sony Tablet P is certainly compact enough to carry around everywhere you go, but how does its battery fare?

We found it drained quickly when playing games or watching video, lasting just over three hours on average - although that's with screen brightness turned to max and Wi-Fi enabled. If you drop settings and don't push it so hard, you should get five to six hours of use before it gives up.