Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

T3 4
  • The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is the world's thinnest 10-inch tablet, but can it become the best Android tablet and even rival the mighty iPad 4?

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

    Love

    • Great looking
    • Scarily thin and light
    • Waterproof

    Hate

    • Pale flat screen
    • Parts under hatches
    • Mediocre performance

    The brand's first effort - the Sony Tablet S - hardly set the world on fire and since its lacklustre launch in 2011 a broader selection of tablets has emerged. The next-gen Sony Xperia Tablet S was also a rather average device, but can the new version turn the tables?

    Only Google is genuinely contesting the Apple iPad 4 with its mighty Samsung-built Nexus 10, but the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is gunning for a fight. It's got a big job on its hands - read on to discover whether it's up to the task.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Size and build

    Superlatives rarely last long in tech, but toppling the svelte dimensions of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z - the world's thinnest tablet - will take some doing. The thinness is evident the second you pick it up and at just 6.9mm it makes the iPad 4 feel overweight. At 500g it's a whopping 150g lighter than the iPad, a difference you notice immediately.

    When some companies shave off weight it can make the device feel cheap - yep, we're looking at you, Samsung - but that's not the case with the Tablet Z. The compact size means there's no disconcerting creaking, and while it feels like plastic (albeit premium plastic), the chassis is actually made of reinforced glass fibre (on the back) and glass fibre polyamide on the frame.

    There is a slight unnerving flex, but that's due to the size-zero body, which is so thin you can almost wrap your hand around it and hold it like an e-reader. It's head and shoulders above the Tablet S, Sony's last 10-inch Android outing, and it's by far its best effort so far.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Features

    As a 10-inch tablet there's a lack of standout features here, and compared with some notable new tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and Asus FonePad, there's a refreshing lack of gimmicks. In fact, other than its size there's precious little to boast about.

    There's no input pen, no telephony capabilities, but there is a trick up the Xperia Z's sleeve: it's waterproof. Like its smartphone sibling the Sony Xperia Z, the Tablet Z can survive in liquid for up to 30 mins, and its covered ports means it's dust resistant too.

    Elsewhere there's dual cameras, 8.1MP on the rear, which also records in 1080p and 2.2MP on the front for video calling. Both cameras are standard affairs, with particularly noisy pictures when used in artificial light.

    The iPad's FaceTime camera offers better value for chatting, and while it's loaded with effects such as panoramic shooting, burst mode and HDR, we still believe tablet photography is an offense punishable by public humiliation.

    Connectivity is good too, with microSD support meaning you can add extra storage up to 64GB. Unfortunately this is necessary, as the maximum internal storage is a paltry 16GB. Unlike the latest crop of Windows tablets there's no USB port and under the waterproof catches that dot the Tablet Z's sharp lines, there's just a microUSB which doubles for charging.

    There's also an LTE version available and NFC built in.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Screen

    In a world dominated by the Retina panel of the Apple iPad 4 and the super resolution offered by the Nexus 10, a meagre 1,920 x 1,200 panel does little to pique our interest. Sony's made much of its screens on both Xperia Z devices, but the truth is that results are mixed.

    Firstly, the visuals are noticeably smooth with cool-looking colours and eye-searing brightness  when cranked up to maximum. However, despite the 224ppi there's a noticeable lack of sharpness, which is particularly evident when looking at web pages.

    Whites look dull, making it harder to read text and there's a paleness to the whole panel, whether you're movie watching or web surfing. Unlike the Nexus 10, visuals don't 'pop' and it's not the device for movie lovers. On that note, the built-in speakers proved to be well below par, which is disappointing for a  company like Sony, which produces great audio products.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Performance

    The processor is a Snapdragon S4 quad-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz, which you'll find used frequently in mid-range tablets. The timing is awkward for Sony because on the horizon are the blisteringly fast Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 600/800 chips, while its shiny new tablet delivers pretty mediocre performance.

    The score of 4353 in SunSpider processor speed tests was devastated by the iPad 4's 769 (lower's better by the way) and the Nexus 10 (1507). While this shouldn't make a difference in general navigation, the difference is evident in web page rendering, app loading time and could manifest itself as games become more advanced.

    Sony's previous tablet felt sluggish to use but there's no hint of the jerkiness or juddering here. The Sony skin - which isn't as good as stock Android or Samsung's increasingly well developed TouchWiz - didn't miss a beat as we swiped between its screens and widgets.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Battery

     

    Not having the blistering performance of the latest processors helps the Sony Xperia Z to achieve a solid 8 hours of movie playback. The test involves streaming an HD movie in the YouTube app on full brightness, so the combination of pixel pushing and data drawing make this a healthy score. In standby mode it rarely slipped more than a few per cent over night.

    It's a great result, when you consider than the extreme size and weight means there's little room for adding larger batteries, such as Apple on the iPad 4. Rocking a Retina display means there has to be a pay-off, if you want your iPad to last on a long haul flight or weekend trip away - and the Sony Xperia Tablet Z certainly has this in the locker.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Verdict

    The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is a decent return for a company that's struggled with mobile over the last few years. It's certainly the best Sony tablet ever made, and the insanely thin lines and lightweight build will appeal to Android-hunters looking for a device that turns heads.

    While the Xperia Z is up there with the Nexus 10, Google's slate just takes first place for us. Despite being substantially heavier and thicker, the vastly superior  screen and lightning-quick performance tip the scales in its favour.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z release date: May 2013

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z price: £399

  • The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is not only razor-thin and light as a feather (not literally, you understand), it's also waterproof

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

    Love

    • Great looking
    • Scarily thin and light
    • Waterproof

    Hate

    • Pale flat screen
    • Parts under hatches
    • Mediocre performance

    The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is the smallest, lightest 10.1-inch LTE tablet on the block, says the maker. Set to go head to head with the iPad 4, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Google Nexus 10, the new tablet looks like a significant improvement over the Sony Xperia Tablet S and the older Sony Tablet S.

    T3 was invited along to Sony Mobile HQ to get our mitts on the new tab prior to the official unveiling - here's what we thought...

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Size and build

    The Android -toting Sony Xperia Tablet Z weighs in a just 495g, compared to the 660g iPad 4 and the 597g Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. We were genuinely surprised when we first got our hands on the tablet - it really is amazingly light and easy to hold in one hand.

    Both the design and build quality are similar to that of the Sony Xperia Z smartphone, with the tablet sporting a similarly slimline design, measuring just 6.9mm in depth.

    The back of the tablet is crafted from a glass reinforced polymer, which means that it has a nice grippy texture as well as being extremely light.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Features

    Like the Xperia Z phone, the new tablet is waterproof up to 1m for up to 30 minutes, handy for using in the kitchen without having to worry about any spillages. Although you can't actually operate the screen while it's completely submerged, you can use it when the screen is wet or you have wet hands.

    The tablet features a similar UI to the Sony Xperia Z phone - a design experience that Sony is trying to use across all of its connected product, including TVs.

    Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, clocking in at 1.5GHz, the Xperia Tablet Z is the first tab to use this particular chip, which also appears on the Xperia Z smartphone.

    There'll be 16, 32 and 64GB models available with the 32GB version offering LTE/4G and there's also a micro SD slot on board for boosting the storage.

    Connections include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and DLNA so there are plenty of options on board for hooking up to other kit around the house. The tablet can also be used as a universal remote for TVs, thanks to the onboard IR tech and an app that works with all the AV brands you could possibly think of and more besides.

    As with the Sony Xperia Z, the Tablet Z includes one-touch NFC tech which, as the name suggests, can be used to establish a wireless connection simply by touching it to a compatible product, such as Sony's range of NFC-enabled speakers, headphones and TVs.

    The tablet is currently running Android 4.1, but an upgrade to Jelly Bean is due in the not too distant future.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Screen

    The tablet's 10.1-inch scren sports a 1920x1200-pixel resolutionThe According to Sony, the new tablet has the widest colour spectrum of any tablet, while the brand's Mobile Bravia Engine 2 processing has been used to intelligently adjust the contrast and sharpness.

    There are four speakers on the tablet, two on the sides and two on the bottom edge. The idea is that at least two of the speakers remain uncovered at any one time, whether you're holding the tab in your hands on resting it in a case.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Camera

    Along with a front-facing 2MP camera, the Xperia Tablet Z sports a rear-facing 8MP camera. The camera uses a similar UI to that used on Sony's CyberShot cameras, including the Superior Auto mode. Along with all the usual arty effects, the snappers also offers Sweep Panorama as well a 10fps burst mode.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Battery

     

    Like the Xperia Z phone, the new tablet also includes Battery Stamina Mode to boost the existing capacity (of around 8 hours). When activated, the mode turns off all non-essential functions when the screen is off to conserve as much power as possible. The settings can be tweaked so that you can re-activate certain functions, such as Facebook alerts.

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Verdict

    At first glance, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is probably the most inpressive non-Apple tablet we've seen. Up until now there haven't been many options aside from Samsung for Apple refuseniks who want to get in on the tablet action. We reckon Sony's new lightweight, waterproof tab could be the one to change that. Stay tuned for a full review...

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z release date: May 2013

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z price: TBC

    Hands-on review by Libby Plummer

    • Sony Xperia Tablet Z hands-on preview
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