Is the Sony Tablet S the perfect Android gaming machine?


Regular readers know that I'm an Android fan, and I'm an impatient one to boot. That's a problem since there's always a constant stream of newest, greatest Android products getting announced, but not so constant a stream of newest, greatest Android products hitting store shelves. Or at least, that's how it seems to me.

I bought my Android tablet last spring (an Acer Iconia A500) as soon as the 'second wave' of devices hit (the first wave being the over-priced Motorola Xoom, primarily) and while I've been very happy with the Acer, now I'm seeing tablets that just seem so much sexier, even if they're very similar on the inside. What can I say? I'm shallow...

One such temptation is the Sony Tablet S. That's the 8.9" device with the 'folded magazine' profile. Holding it in a portrait orientation, one long edge is rounded and much thicker than the other edge. In landscape mode this 'bulged edge' works as a kind of stand when you lay the thing down. I got to play with a Tablet S at Best Buy last week and it really did feel good in my hands, plus that screen size seemed like a sweet spot to me. My Acer (10") feels a little big when I'm reading in portrait mode; it's very tall when held that way. The Tablet S felt like it'd be comfortable to read on but still big enough to really enjoy videos...and games.

And speaking of games, the Sony Tablet S is a Playstation Certified device (as are the newer Sony Android phones). Up until now that hasn't meant a lot, but yesterday gaming blog Siliconera uncovered the fact that a few Playstation Portable games had been rated for Playstation Certified devices by the ESRB.

You can see the entire list of rated games by hitting the ESRB search page and choosing "Playstation Certified Device" from the Platform dropdown. Of the 23 titles listed most are old Playstation One games, but Siliconera points out that Daxter and Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror are PSP titles. Let's hope this is just the start of a deluge of PSP ports to the "Playstation Certified" program.

But let's get back to the Sony Tablet S. What makes this a nice choice for gamers is that you can pair the tablet with a wireless PS3 controller. Now you've got a real gaming rig, right? You've got PS1 classics, and (soon) some PSP games, plus the huge variety of Android games from the Market, and some of those do support a controller. You've got the option of using the touch screen or a physical controller. And don't forget that OnLive is available on Android tablets now. I can't personally confirm that OnLive works with the Sony Tablet S (would love to hear from a reader who can test that for us) but I can confirm that the Android OnLive client recognizes controllers. At least, I can play games in OnLive using my Acer A500 with a wired Xbox Controller plugged into it (the A500 has a full sized USB port). So assuming OnLive works with the Tablet S (there's no reason to think it wouldn't, but Android's Achilles Heel is that it's never safe to assume when it comes to app compatibility), you've got PC gaming on your Sony Tablet S, too.

That's quiet a variety of gaming experiences on one device.

I'd love to see Sony expand their "Playstation Certified" program beyond their own hardware, but with the Playstation Vita right around the corner I don't expect we'll see that happen any time soon. They want the eyes of gamers focused squarely on the Vita, for now at least.

I'd also love to hear Sony announce a quad core Tablet S Mk II, but there was no mention of anything like that at CES. My significant other caught me caressing the Tablet S at Best Buy and immediately launched into her "You have more than enough tablets already!" spiel, and I couldn't even defend myself with a "But this one is so much faster!" argument. C'mon Sony, help a guy out!

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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