Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet review: is this the best Android tablet yet?

Sony’s next attempt to create the greatest iPad competitor

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For

  • Gorgeous display
  • New improved design
  • Strong battery life

Against

  • Problematic UI
  • Only 32GB option
  • Expensive price tag

One of the best Android tablets on the market has just got a major upgrade with some new top of the range specs built inside.

Sony has a new tablet out to play – the Xperia Z4 Tablet is the latest slate for the company and is first full size version of the tablet in over a year. That's a real achievement for Sony as it's used to releasing new products every six months.

The real problem with tablets is there isn't anything stylish or appealing enough to drag us away from the Apple iPad. It's just the case. Sony wants to change that though, and has done pretty well with its latest attempt.

And if anyone does Android tablets well, it's Sony.

But with competition such as the fantastic Apple iPad Air 2, Sony needed to up its game even further this time around. Faster, thinner, even lighter – and it seems Sony has finally done it.

Design

Most of the same design language is here as we've seen before. It's a rectangular set up once again meaning it's much easier to use in a landscape position. On the front is a full glass display – more about that in a moment – whilst the back is made of a high-end polycarbonate material.

It'd be too heavy to put glass on the back but Sony has vastly improved the material on the back of it. It feels nice to the touch now whilst offering a strong grip, unlike some of the phones Sony makes with glass on the back.

The material on the back of the Xperia Z2 Tablet felt a little grimey and got dirty within a few uses but here it only seems to get messy when you've got greasy fingers all over it.

It's thinner than we've ever seen a Sony tablet coming in at 6.1mm thin, plus it only weighs 393g. You notice how light it is when you pick it up and wave it around.

You'll still need two hands to use it though as it's so big.

On the top edge on the left hand side is the 3.5mm headphone jack as well as a small flap for the microSD. The microUSB slot is on the right edge this time, it isn't covered so it's much easier to put on charge at night without having to fiddle around with flaps in the dark.

But it's still waterproof – huzzah – meaning you can sit and watch Netflix in the bath or cook with it and then just wash the dirt off right away afterward.

It's a feature you quickly get used to and then have to think twice about with your other devices. I now have to double take on whether I can take my iPad into the shower to listen to music or not.

On the left hand edge is the power button and volume rocker. I find this an odd position as I'd rather hit it with my right hand thumb but it's certainly not a major issue.

Display

One of the best elements of the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is the display. It's a 10.1-inch screen with 2560 x 1600 resolution and 299ppi. It's Sony's own Triluminos display technology with the X-Reality Engine at play as well – it makes for some gorgeous looking video and pictures.

Once you get used to a 2K display it's quite difficult to go back as well - not many tablets currently offer this kind of resolution on the market either.

The bezels around the side of the display after pretty hefty meaning you've got quite a bit of space to fill in around there.

Some won't like this design but I actually prefer it rather than an edge to edge display. Alright, on a phone you don't want big bezels taking up room, but when it comes to a tablet you spend a lot of you time with your fingers on the side holding it.

Big bezels allows me to place my thumbs on it without hitting the screen when playing video or looking around the internet. It's a strong design and even though I heavily criticise the black bars on Sony phones I think it should stay on the tablet range.

Power

Under the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz and 2GHz. That exact processor has had some overheating issues in the past on smartphones such as the Xperia Z3+ but in my time using the device I didn't experience much heat up at all.

Playing some graphically intensive games I certainly felt it heat up a little but nothing out of the ordinary and it certainly wasn't too much that I couldn't hold it anymore.

There's also 3GB of RAM. It would have been nice to have a little extra but it's still as fast as you're ever really going to need.

Storage wise you've only got one option, it's 32GB and then you can add in a microSD card anywhere up to 128GB. I'd recommend doing that as soon as possible if you want to fill it with your own stuff as there's only just under 20GB after the OS and other media have been loaded on.

That OS is Android 5.1 Lollipop – the latest and greatest. I'm not a big fan of Android on tablets, I don't feel it is built anywhere near as well as it works on smartphones, but here Sony also has its own UI plastered on top aswell.

It gives all the key apps its own design as well as bloating up the software with a variety of Sony based features. Some of these such as PS4 Remote Play can come in useful for those fully versed in the Sony eco-system but it's not for everyone.

I find quite a few of them quite irritating and starting up a new tablet I do just sigh at the amount of rubbish I'm surrounded with that I will never use past the testing stages.

Battery

Battery life is a big concern when it comes to tablets and due to the size of the device Sony has managed to pack in a 6,000mAh cell inside here. That gives you quite a bit of time to play with.

I ran a video test at full brightness for 90 minutes. The Full HD video took 21% of the battery away meaning you'd be able to get through at least three quite long movies before you'd be running low on battery.

The Xperia Z2 Tablet went through the same test and came out the other side with 72% leftover - that's a 7% improvement on the latest tablet.

It'll certainly outlast the iPad Air 2 and it'll keep up with the likes of Samsung's Galaxy Tab S as well so you shouldn't sniff at the likes of the Sony battery life.

Camera

Personally I don't really see the sense in putting in kick-ass cameras into tablets, you're never going to find the time to use them. Sony seems to think the same and there's only an 8MP sensor on the back.

It does create nice images as well as coming with Full HD video recording, but it doesn't do as much as primary cameras on the Sony phones do.

A lot of the attention has been thrown into the front camera for selfies and video calling. I personally find that a lot more useful and a 5.1MP sensor on the front is entirely suitable.

Other features

Sony has thrown a Bluetooth keyboard into the box of the Xperia Z4 Tablet. It makes it a much more productivity built choice offering you a much better experience at typing.

I found it easy to connect up and it never really dropped out in connection. There's not much space between the keys meaning I sometimes hit one of two of them by mistake but with consistent use you're bound to get used to it.

The trackpad isn't good at all and I found myself just using the touchscreen to navigate around it. It also folds down to give your tablet a nice little protective case and makes it much easier to throw into your bag when on the move.

If you own a PS4 you can also connect it up with the Xperia Z4 Tablet meaning you can then play your games from anywhere else on the same Wi-Fi connection. It's a smart touch and it works much better on this slate than on a small Sony phone. You get a 10.1-inch 2K display to play your games on – you can't sniff at that when playing.

T3 Verdict

There's no denying Sony has tried to create an iPad killer. Has it succeeded? Probably not, it's a struggle to drag people kicking and screaming away from their iOS slate, especially when the only other real option is Android.

That said, Sony has created the next best thing and it's certainly the best Android tablet available right now on the market. The beautiful 2K display makes watching video and browsing the internet a dream and the fact you can do it all from your bath tub makes it even more exciting.

The Bluetooth keyboard isn't perfect but it's a nice little added touch and the design of the whole slate has been vastly improved by whittling it down and keeping it to a premium material standard.

Battery wise you're going to last much longer here than a lot of the competing options and you've even got the added touch of PS4 Remote Play.

All in all the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is a cracking purchase for those who want an Android tablet in their lives and you'd be hard pressed to go wrong with buying it.

Liked this? Check out our guide to the best tablet.

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