Prizefight (week of September 14)
Sony Tablet S vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Sony Tablet S vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
The world of Android 3.0 tablets has become quickly crowded with look-alike products that echo the design and specs of the first Honeycomb tablet, the Motorola Xoom. Emerging from this sea of sameness are two tablets that successfully set themselves apart.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has been the reigning CNET favorite when it comes to Android tablets. Impressively thin and light and blessed with a bright, colorful display, Samsung's Honeycomb slate makes the Motorola Xoom look like an antique.
Not to be outdone, Sony has finally jumped on the Android tablet bandwagon and delivered one of the most surprising tablet designs of the year. The Sony Tablet S offers the lightweight design of the Tab 10.1, but goes with an ergonomic folded-magazine design that thumbs its nose at the thinness wars.
Both tablets are offered at a base price of $499 (16GB), making them relatively pricey compared with many iPad alternatives being offered. Assuming the prices are justified, which one is the better choice? We posed this question to three CNET editors and let them duke it out in a six-round Prizefight. In the end, only one tablet is left standing.
Round 1: DesignDesign and looks count for a lot, so here's where we examine the look, size, feel, and sex appeal of the devices.
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB)||3I felt like Samsung's only design goal here was to get as thin as possible. Other than that, the build quality feels a little flimsy.||3Thin and light with well-placed buttons and speakers. The smooth, minimalist design doesn't leave much room for ports, though, so any type of expansion opportunities will need to come from accessories.||4If you're a user who just wants the thinnest tablet, you've found a winner. It's a clean design, even if we've already seen plenty of tablets like this.||3.3|
|Sony Tablet S (16GB)||4I wish Sony had been able to go thinner, but I have to give the company credit for making an extremely lightweight tablet that feels really good to hold. I would rather be caught holding this than the Tab.||4The Sony takes a unique approach to tablet design with its sloped chassis. Not only does it feel like a comfortable, rolled-back magazine, but the slope acts as a short stand as well. Not as thin as the Tab, but still thin with enough room for an SD slot.||4I'm surprised by Sony's bold design that strays away from the standard tablet form factor. It's ergonomic and the angle is easier for flat viewing. It's still a little too thick, but I like where they're going with this.||4|
Round 2: Controls and user interfaceSexiness is one thing, but are these Android tablets easy to use? In Round 2, we examine the design and usability of their software and navigation controls.
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB)||3I'm not a big fan of Samsung's Android customizations. All of the tweaks make sense, but the skinning and Samsung apps feel a little cartoonish.||4I really like TouchWiz. As Android alteration skins go, it's quite functional and adds plenty of features. My favorite is the shortcut to running apps, which sounds like a small addition and it is, but for those who enjoy optimizing their tablets, it's quite convenient.||3This is still a solid Android experience, and TouchWiz adds new features. I like the screen capture option, but Samsung's bright and bubbly feel takes a little away from the experience.||3.3|
|Sony Tablet S (16GB)||4I really like how Sony introduced the Favorites drop-down panel for quickly accessing content. The rest of Sony's tweaks are refreshingly subtle, and its design aesthetic feels more mature than Samsung's.||4The Sony Tablet S customizes Android in some interesting and useful ways, the best being shortcuts to Favorites at the top. The cool, visual extras don't hurt.||4Sony puts its own twist on Android, with a customizable Favorites drop-down, and quick access to core apps, with a more grown-up design.||4|
Round 3: FeaturesWhat do these tablets offer under the hood? Here we examine the features of each device and rate which tablet offers more.
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB)||3The Tab's beautiful screen is its best feature, and it's something you notice every time you turn it on. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer many of the basics we expect from Android tablets, such as microSD memory expansion or an integrated HDMI output.||2What do you get when you combine an ultrathin design and superlight hardware? In this case, a tablet with no ports or extras whatsoever.||3Front- and rear-facing cameras are on both devices, and the Tab 10.1 really brings an outstanding screen, but when you go slim, you don't bring many hardware features. And you'll need to purchase additional adapters for HDMI-out and media cards.||2.7|
|Sony Tablet S (16GB)||4The screen here is beautiful in its own right, but isn't as vibrant as Samsung's. Sony more than makes up for it with a built-in IR universal remote, a full-size SD card slot, and DLNA wireless media streaming.||3Sony fit in an SD slot, but not much else. The sloped design is useful when watching movies, though.||4I don't expect many features in tablets, but being able to use this as a universal remote is a killer feature. Plus a full SD card slot is nice, too.||3.7|
Round 4: Web browsing and multimediaTablets are multifunction devices that also have Web browsers, multimedia players, and more. Which gadget offers you the better experience?
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB)||4The Tab's browser works great and benefits from the tablet's larger 10.1-inch display. The rich, colorful screen enhances every type of media.||3With TouchWiz, the Tab comes ever closer to matching the iPad 2's vast ecosystem of music and movies. Still, the lack of games support or a huge, dedicated movie service (like Netflix or Hulu) on the platform overall still hurts.||4The larger screen enhances every aspect of the Web-browsing and media experience. Samsung also brings its own media hubs for music, movies, and TV shows, and they look great on the device. Plus there's an 8-megapixel rear camera.||3.7|
|Sony Tablet S (16GB)||4Sony's tweaks to the Android browser help pages appear to load faster. Sony's Video Unlimited, Music Unlimited, and Reader store offer a potentially bigger advantage than Samsung's partnerships, not to mention the support for PS One and PSP game titles.||4No Netflix or Hulu here, either, but Sony does offer its own music and movies services. Also, the inclusion of Crash Bandicoot gives hope that Sony will leverage its huge back catalog of PS One and PSP games.||4I'm calling this even because Sony brings innovations to the Web browser to help load pages faster, plus there's a 5-megapixel camera, and it will also bring apps for media and music and will leverage its gaming pedigree.||4|
Round 5: PerformanceWho brings a snappier interface and squeezes out the most battery life?
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB)||4These tablets use the same processor and RAM configurations and offer roughly the same great performance and battery life. The Tab's high point is its bigger, brighter screen.||4Thanks to its PLS screen tech, the Tab gets the screen-performance edge here. The Samsung also has good battery life for an Android tablet. Also, the camera takes crisp and clear pics.||4Both of these are snappy performers with dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processors. It doesn't feel like one lags behind the other in any noticeable way. And the Tab 10.1 offers more than 9 hours of battery life.||4|
|Sony Tablet S (16GB)||4Sony touts its browser optimizations and "swift and smooth" tweaks to screen responsiveness, but it's hard to notice these improvements head-to-head with the Tab. The tablet's camera quality is exceptional, though, and its added usefulness as a universal remote is pretty sweet.||3A great screen, but the Tab edges it out in quality. The camera is impressive, especially on tight shots, but the interface seems no faster than the Tab's.||4The screen isn't as impressive, but it's not enough to knock the Tablet S down a point. You'll get around 8 hours of battery life, but that's still more than respectable.||3.7|
Round 6: ValueWhich tablet offers the most for the money?
|Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB)||4Personally, I don't think either of these tablets is worth paying iPad prices for. With Samsung, though, you get a proven commitment to developing, deploying, and supporting Android updates, and a screen quality that will make even iPad fans drool.||3TouchWiz adds plenty of value beyond the stock Android interface, but the price is still more than I would personally spend. Until I see close to the level of support the iPad enjoys, I personally won't consider it as a purchase.||3I really think both of these tablets are legit competition, but $499 price tags for both 16GB tablets don't make sense in the current market.||3.3|
|Sony Tablet S (16GB)||4Sony is the underdog here, but it's making up for it with some tangible value additions, including the IR remote, PlayStation support, killer camera, Music and Video Unlimited offerings, and Sony Reader software compatibility. If you can't find a use for this thing, you've got problems.||4Sony's music and video support is promising. I'm giving it an extra point in hopes that the company is smart enough to capitalize on its gaming pedigree.||3Sony might potentially get more media content support with its relationships, and I love the tablet Universal remote feature, but these tablets would really gain traction at the $299 price point.||3.7|
The winner is...
Sony Tablet S (16GB) (3.9 pts)
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB) (3.4 pts)
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