Ever wish you could fold your tablet in half and stick it in your pocket? Well now you can! It’s all thanks to the innovators at Sony, who figured that what the Android tablet market is missing can be summed up in one word: foldability.
The Sony Tablet P, which has already been affectionately nicknamed the Sony Taco, looks decidedly unique, but isn’t altogether tough to grok. It’s a tablet that folds in on itself, closing up into a clamshell when not in use.
Kidding aside, this is not a frivolous innovation. There a few surprisingly good reasons why you’d want to fold up your tablet. The main one is portability: When snapped shut it really does slip easily into your back pocket, a jacket pocket, or even a smallish purse. For users who’ve wondered what to do with their iPad when both hands are needed for something else, the Tablet P is a decent solution. The design also helps to protect the screen from damage without the need for a special case.
Naturally, Sony has also addressed the Tablet P from a software standpoint. E-books split across two “pages.” Email can be read on one screen, while messages are scrolled on another. Sony has its own developer network for additional dual-screen apps, and off-the-rack apps that don’t support both screens can toggle between single and dual-screen mode with an on-screen button.
For users who’ve wondered what to do with their iPad when both hands are needed for something else, the Tablet P is a decent solution.
Another big focus of the Tablet P is its incorporation of Sony PlayStation games. No, not PS3 games. PS1 games. Games like MediEvil and Crash Bandicoot, all developed in the late 1990s. Paying $6 for an old PlayStation title may give you a little nostalgic thrill, but the on-screen controls are no match for a physical controller. They are placed too high on the lower screen, and I found them unresponsive and difficult to master. (We had the same problem with Sony’s other PlayStation tablet, the book-shaped Tablet S.)
Specs are largely on par with other (non-folding) Android tablets: 1GHz Tegra 2, 1GB RAM, dual 5-megapixel and 0.3-megapixel cameras. It runs Honeycomb. Off-the-shelf storage is limited: 2GB on-board and a mere 2GB microSD card is preinstalled. Benchmark scores were good to above-average across the board. The screens are both 5.5 inches diagonally, with resolutions of 1024 x 480 pixels, and exceptionally bright.
So how compelling is all of this? In the final analysis, I think the Tablet P remains a pretty tough sell for most users. Even with Sony’s customizations, there are layout issues to deal with (like overlapping text squeezed into a single screen), and dragging items from one screen to another isn’t always easy. And some functions — like movie-watching — just aren’t built for split-screen action. The Tablet P puts your video up top and controls on the bottom, the result is that video doesn’t take up much more real estate than watching it on a phone.
But, hey, you can’t fold your iPhone in half now, can you?
Photos: Ariel Zambelich/get-gadget