Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sony's S1 and S2 'PlayStation Tablets' vs. the iPad


For decades, Sony's brand has stood for entertainment. So now that Sony's releasing its own tablets to compete with the iPad, which it's calling the S1 and S2 for now, you'd naturally assume two things: That there's some reason to buy one instead of an iPad, and that that reason is entertainment, whether it be music, movies or video games.

As it turns out, the Sony "PlayStation tablets" will have all three, but they'll probably leave something to be desired.

Qriocity killed the cat

Instead of Apple's iTunes for music and video, Sony's S1 and S2 tablets will ship with Qriocity, the streaming music and video service that Sony launched late last year. Its "Music Unlimited" service lets you stream "millions" of tracks to your compatible device, which at the moment includes Sony's Bravia TVs and PlayStation 3 gaming consoles, as well as Windows PCs (not Macs). Its "Video On Demand" service works similarly, and has titles from a lot of big-name studios.

The problem is that Qriocity's $9.99 a month service has to compete with iTunes, which may not offer a streaming option but which actually lets you keep your music. And there are plenty of free streaming music services available, like Pandora, Spotify and Worse, Qriocity is suffering from an extended network outage as of the time of this writing, along with Sony's PlayStation Network. Users' personal data may have been leaked, and there's no word yet on when the service will be back online.

Great for its time

Speaking of the PlayStation Network, the "PlayStation" part of the "PlayStation Tablet"'s unofficial moniker is the other half of its selling points. If you're used to the PSN on a PlayStation Portable or PlayStation 3, though, you'll probably be disappointed.

First off, the Android app that you'll use to log in to the PlayStation Network doesn't let you chat, or buy movies or games or anything. You'll use a separate store to buy PlayStation games, and none of the current titles are available; just PSOne classics like Crash Bandicoot and Wild Arms. A handful of exclusive games are available for PlayStation Certified devices like the S1 and S2, but these are Android games from publishers like Gameloft, and unless you've been following the Android gaming market you've probably never heard of them.

Say what you will about Apple's products, but the iPad is great for gaming.

Show us the hardware

I haven't said anything about the S1 or S2's hardware yet, because none of it excites me. They're both Tegra 2 tablets; they've both got wi-fi and 3G capability; the S1 will have dual cameras, and the S2 will have dual screens. That, and the S1 being "shaped like a magazine" where it tapers out towards one end, is about the most interesting thing I can say about them. And I have no idea how the S2's dual screen thing will play out in real life, but it reminds me of the Kyocera Echo.

The Upshot

If you're heavily invested in Sony hardware (PlayStation game consoles, Bravia TVs), it might be worth a shot to pick up a tablet that'll play nicely with them. You can even use its DLNA feature to stream music and video to compatible TVs and speakers.

Anyone else shouldn't wait, though, and should just pick up an iPad 2 instead -- even if they haven't invested in other Apple products.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

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