There was absolutely no mistaking either of Sony’s previous tablets for anything else — they had a look all their own. The Xperia Tablet S is considerably less notable, but that’s probably a good thing: this is a much better-looking slate, handsome and minimalist with rounded edges, a classy silver-and-black color scheme, and a thin profile. The top edge rolls over into the back, giving it the look and feel of a folded-over magazine page — its grippy texture also makes it much more comfortable to hold one-handed. I like the look, but it’s purely aesthetic this time — on the previous Tablet S the fold propped the device up at a nice typing-friendly angle, but here the flap is much smaller and doesn’t really change anything. The Tablet S took the idea too far, I think, but the Xperia Tablet S might not go quite far enough.
Still, it’s a decent-looking device, if a little boring. The 9.4-inch display is surrounded by a big, glossy black bezel, with a Sony logo placed above the screen and to the left. Weirdly, the logo looks good there. It’s not nearly as obtrusive as most center-located, glittery silver logos — it’s just a quiet reminder that you’re using a Sony tablet. (Of course, I’d trade it for no logo at all, but I’ll take what I can get.) The 1.3-pound body is almost exactly the same weight as the iPad, and at 8.9mm (at its thinnest point, the flap is slightly larger) it’s about a sheet of paper thinner than Apple’s latest tablet. It feels like any other Android tablet to hold and use — I couldn’t say either about Sony’s other tablets, and I’ll take conformity over Sony’s quirky previous designs even though I wish Sony would take a few more chances.
There’s some space on the Xperia Tablet’s edges created by the fold-over plastic flap, and that’s where Sony hides most of the device’s physical buttons. There’s a power button and a volume rocker on the right side, and a headphone jack on the left side above a hard-to-open, easy-to-break flap that covers a full SD card slot. Having the full SD slot is pretty awesome — syncing any Android device with a computer is a pain, and it’s much easier to just throw a document or movie (mostly movies, in my case) onto a card and plug it into the tablet. Sony uses a proprietary charging port / dock connector, which is set so far back into the bottom of the tablet that it takes a big bite out of the bottom edge. It’s surely for the purposes of sturdier docking, but it looks terrible — fortunately you can’t see it from the front.
There are two cameras on the device, an 8-megapixel sensor on the back and a single megapixel on the front. Both are exactly what they need to be, and nothing more: the rear camera takes decent shots in a pinch, and the front camera is fine for video chat. I don’t recommend going out of your way to use either one.