Sony's new Android, Windows 8 tablets to battle Microsoft Surface

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Xperia Tablet S

Sony introduced two tablets Wednesday, the Xperia Tablet S Android slate and the VAIO Duo 11 running Windows 8 that comes with a slick slide-out keyboard. Both were announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin on Wednesday. Sony’s Windows 8 powered VAIO Duo 11 comes with some impressive specs and features and will give Microsoft and its’ Surface tablet some healthy competition. The Xperia, with a $400 price tag, should have broad appeal.

Here is an overview of both tablets.

Sony Tablet S

We first got a glimpse of the Xperia tablet earlier this month in leaked slides, and Sony has now confirmed that the Xperia Tablet S will indeed be well-outfitted with a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, 9.4-inch display with TruBlack technology, a 10-hour battery life, and a ton of accessories and connectivity options. Among the multiple stands and cradles Sony has designed for the Xperia Tablet is a Surface-like keyboard cover for $99. Sony’s positioning the tablet as a multimedia powerhouse—one that taps into Sony’s Entertainment Network and features an HDMI connector and wireless streaming through “Party Streaming,” expandability through the SD card slot, and 3D surround sound.

The other big hook? Sony has upgraded its built-in universal remote, so it will be more capable than the previous tablet’s iteration, and will be better able to compete with standalone universal remote controls. The IR remote works with any brand entertainment component, and it now features a nifty macro mode so you can preprogram in a sequence of commands to turn on your cable box, HDTV, receiver, Blu-ray player in whatever order you specify, for example. To complement its remote, Sony has also created its own WatchNow application, a visual program guide grid that’s useful for discovering what’s on your cable lineup.

Design-wise, this update to the original Sony Tablet S still has a unique fold-over bump in the back, but it’s slimmer and less obtrusive. The tablet is even splashproof—made for safer use in the kitchen or around kids.

Another sign that this is a family-friendly device: Sony has built into the device parental controls and a unique “guest mode”. Although it will ship with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) starting September 7, Sony says the device will be upgraded to 4.1 (Jelly Bean) later. Prices start at $399 for the 16GB model, but if you need more storage space you can now preorder the 32GB for $499 or 64GB for $599 at the Sony store.

Sony VAIO Duo 11

Sony’s covering all its bases by adding the Windows 8 VAIO Duo 11. This tablet is the first Windows-based model to combine an 11.6-inch full HD (1920 by 1080 pixels resolution) touchscreen with a slide-out keyboard dubbed the “Surf Slider.” The design is very reminiscent of last year’s Asus Eee Pad Slider SL101, an Android tablet with a slide-out keyboard. In addition to the keyboard, Sony provides a digitizer stylus pen with a range of tips.

Sony VAIO Duo 11

The built-in keyboard makes the tablet heavier than standard tablets, but the Duo 11 is still very portable 2.9 pounds—a bit more than the Surface’s 2.0 pounds and the Eee Pad Slider’s 2.1 pound. Beyond it’s keyboard, the biggest point of distinction for the VAIO Duo 11, is that it’s a full-fledged, fully configurable laptop. The Duo 11 comes with a full range of Intel Core processors, a choice of either a 128GB or 256GB solid-state drive, up to 8GB of RAM, an optional battery sheet for extended battery life, and the usual array of ports including ethernet and an SD card reader.

The VAIO Duo 11 should be available in October—just in time to challenge the Surface and other Windows 8 devices—but the price is still to be announced. I’m guessing the convertible tablet PC will cost a pretty penny, but you’re paying for the flexibility and powerful laptop performance.

Additional reporting by Melissa J. Perenson

This story, "Sony's new Android, Windows 8 tablets to battle Microsoft Surface " was originally published by TechHive.

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