Sony Tablet S
: $579 16GB; $689 32GB
Lenovo IdeaPad K1 Tablet
: $479 16GB; $599 32GB
Apple set the benchmark for tablet
computer design and usability with the iPad
. We decided to check out how the latest offerings from Sony and Lenovo compare with their super-famous competitor – and each other.
The distinctively wedge-shaped Sony Tablet S is about the same weight as the iPad 2. Its thicker rounded edge, textured plastic rear surface and offset weight makes it easy to grip one-handed in portrait view.
The Lenovo IdeaPad K1 looks like a distant relative of a ThinkPad laptop, which isn’t necessarily bad. At 740g it’s heavier than most tablets, and its textured hard plastic rear panel provides a more solid grip than the Tablet S.
The main hardware specs of both tablets are similar: a 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor, 1GB of memory and the option of 16GB or 32GB of storage (the Lenovo also has 64GB). Both have 5MP rear cameras, but the Sony’s front camera is only 0.3MP while the Lenovo’s is 2MP. Both also have 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a 1280 x 800 resolution glossy capacitive touchscreen. The Lenovo’s 10.1” screen is slightly larger than the Sony’s 9.4” screen and uses Gorilla Glass, a thin, light and extra-tough panel engineered for portable devices.
The Sony adds a micro USB connection and SD card slot, and the 5000mAh battery is rated at eight hours. The Lenovo has a micro SD card slot (which we found difficult to access) plus mini HDMI port, and the 7400mAh battery is claimed to last 10 hours.
Being a Sony, the Tablet S is PlayStation-certified, so users can access exclusive games and Sony apps, including a universal remote for controlling other Sony products. Sony has customised Android OS 3.2 for the Tablet S, but Android’s quirkiness is evident, particularly in the difficulty of shutting down running apps.
We found Skyping on the built-in webcam disappointing, with poor video and audio. Also disappointing is the inability of the Sony Reader
software to read ebooks that use DRM (Digital Rights Management). In Australia, the Tablet S isn’t authorised through the international Sony Store, and Sony Australia says there’s no launch date yet for a local Reader Store.
The Lenovo uses a customised Android 3.1 and has Lenovo’s SocialTouch overlay for quick access to Facebook and Twitter services, plus the App Wheel that rotates shortcuts to your six favourite apps. You also get 2GB of free cloud storage. Unlike the Tablet S, it’s easy to shut down background apps on the Lenovo.
The IdeaPad K1 comes loaded with more than 30 apps, including Angry Birds HD, Kindle, Zinio, Documents To Go (file conversion) and Norton Mobile Security. The default ebook reader software, ArcSoft PowerMobia eBook Reader, is basic but works. Our Skype test on the Lenovo was also disappointing, although we found the video quality better than on the Tablet S. However, it’s let down by relatively poor audio and feedback issues.
Overall, the Lenovo gets the nod over the Sony for its lower price, tough display glass, 2GB of online storage and generally better ease of use.
For more information about tablets, see our Mobile computers section.