Sony S1 and S2

Sony S1 and S2

The recent announcement of two PlayStation-branded tablets shows that Sony is serious about entering the market dominated by Apple's iPad. But one has to wonder if the new hardware has enough power "under the hood" to challenge the current undisputed industry leader.

First impressions of the two devices are good. Whether it's a TV, console or computer, Sony has a reputation for always providing cutting-edge style for its products, and the aesthetic appeal of both tablets (the 9.4-inch S1 and the S2 foldable with two 5.5-inch screens) gives the impression of a certain technological elegance and build quality.

Sony is also attempting an innovation in tablet mobility with the S2, a foldable device and put in your pocket. The more massive S1 therefore seems designed to work primarily at home, while the S2 is ideal for traveling. However, both appear to use the same architecture, and incorporate both front and rear cameras.

The basic functionalities use Google's Honeycomb Android operating system, further enhanced by other features such as the ability to use the tablet as remote control for the Bravia AV kit. It will also be possible to transfer content to TVs and wireless speakers. Sony's choice to use the most advanced technologies will ensure that both tablets will be able to decode h264 content at 1080p with little effort.

Additional services will be provided through the array of media outlets managed by Sony: Qriocity takes care of music and videos, while PlayStation Suite offers a range of PS one games to download (we assume that converted Android titles on the Xperia Play will also work on these tablets). There will also be an eBook functionality via the Reader Store, Sony's already well-known eReader service.

All of these services give Sony an edge over many of its competitors in the Android market. Either way, from the consumer's point of view, the real question is whether these services can deliver enough quality to shift the market currently dominated by giants like iTunes and the irresistible App Store.

Some questions surround the technical conformation of the devices. It seems that Sony tablets have similar specifications to those of the Motorola Xoom, which uses an NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC (system on chip). Assuming it's the same processor and not the upcoming NVIDIA "Kal-El" chipset, it's an ARM Cortex-A9 dual core CPU on par with the iPad2, coupled with a GPU component that far surpasses that of the former. iPad but that falls short of Apple's latest tablet.

The iPad2's A5 processor uses a PowerVR SGX543 MP2, a graphics processor that is overall better than the Tegra 2 according to these Anandtech benchmarks. The iPad 2 SoC represents a huge step forward in terms of graphics power, and is designed to expand Apple's sights in the gaming sector.

Few had foreseen such a leap in performance, and one cannot help but come to the conclusion that Sony has opted for an architecture that, according to its predictions, would be competitive for the iPad 2. On the contrary, however, Apple has created a monster of power well above expectations, an aspect that we will analyze in more detail in one of the next articles of the Digital Foundry.

Despite the PlayStation brand, tablets lack an aspect attractive key for users: if the Xperia Play has a physical control interface designed for games, the current images of the S1 and S2 show an interface managed by the touch-screen that mimics the controls of the Play. This is exactly the same type of intermediate solution adopted by developers seeking to integrate conventional controls on devices that have only touch screens.

And it is precisely here that we have doubts about the possible success of tablets as products. PlayStation. The best games have totally disassociated themselves from similar input mechanisms, while others have implemented a system where the controls are dynamically remapped depending on where the player places his thumbs. What we have seen so far of the PlayStation S1 and S2 suggests a fixed configuration.

At the moment there is little else we can comment on. The potential of Sony's S1 and S2 may not be as good as the iPad 2, but it's far too early to judge. With a Honeycomb OS, Sony's thoughtful enhancements and the potential for Adobe Flash compatibility, the S1 and S2 could gain a serious advantage in terms of web functionality.

There are also exciting multitasking opportunities on the S2, with the device potentially running several applications on the two 1024x480 screens. But will the market welcome this type of configuration well compared to the more conventional smartphone model?

From a playful point of view, if we are faced with the same processor as the Motorola Xoom then we have a serious power deficit compared to the iPad 2, but it is yet to be seen whether iPad 2 games will capitalize on its brute power anytime soon. In fact, remember that the vast majority of titles have yet to run properly on the old iPad hardware, which both S1 and S2 tablets will be able to match and overcome effortlessly. That said, it will take a titanic push to undermine the App Store from its throne of reference for mobile gaming.

Sony's stated goal is to jump straight into second place in the tablet market, right away. after Apple. But it is not the only company with this regard and there will be considerable competition from other Android devices.

As novice tablets, the S1 and S2 are both very promising. All we need to know now is what the cost will be and what fall date will be the launch date.

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