Sony's long marched to the beat of its own drummer — to varying levels of success. Sony's unique designs have created plenty of success stories (like the NEX line of cameras), but tablets haven't been one of them. The Tablet P had strange, clamshell hardware that was good for basically nothing other than keeping the screens protected. The original Tablet S, which looks like a rolled-up magazine, was nice hardware but had really underwhelming and outdated software. Neither was what you'd call a smashing success.

When I met with Sony to talk about its latest tablet, the Xperia Tablet S, reps told me the device was a direct result of everything the company learned from the past two devices. The folded-over magazine aesthetic remains, but it's been toned down and refined. The software's been updated to Android 4.0, and Sony's added a lot of new features and functionality as well. One of the Tablet S's most popular features, I was told, was the IR blaster universal remote — that's been upgraded and improved. The new tablet also plugs into Sony's enormous ecosystem, from Music Unlimited to PlayMemories to Reader.

The Xperia Tablet S is the first Sony tablet to feature the Xperia branding, and as such is something of a re-launch for the company. The tablet is out now, starting at $399 — is it enough to elevate Sony into the Android tablet race? Read on.