Sony Xperia Tablet Z review (video)
Sony kicked this year off with a bang by launching two incredible smartphones — the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL. They’ve still got a few tricks up their sleeves though, as the Japanese company, after a few short delays, just launched the Sony Xperia Tablet Z across the world.
Let’s take a look, shall we? We’ll go through the design, build quality, display, specs and software of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. In a hurry? Jump straight to the video review.
Design and build quality
It’s a known fact that Sony is adept at designing smartphones, and that holds true for their tablets as well, namely the Xperia Tablet Z. If you’ve seen the Xperia Z, you’ll notice its design made a return in a much larger, 10-inch form. Much like the smartphone, the Tablet Z got angular corners and is flat all over, and it’s nice to see that Sony took that slate design philosophy literally.
While the design of the Xperia Tablet Z is extraordinary, probably the most impressive thing about the tablet is how thin and light it is — it comes in at a mere 0.27-inches thick and weighs 495 grams. Due to how thin and light the tablet is, the Xperia Tablet Z is very easy to handle and keep a good grip on.
Aside from the camera optics on the back, you’re getting a completely black textured back that looks really slick and doesn’t slip when in the hand. Similarly, the front of the Xperia Tablet Z is also completely black, and it’s quite clean, with the front facing camera and Sony logo placed up top. On the left side of the device you’ll find all of the buttons, including the standard volume rocker and iconic Xperia metal silver power button.
The speakers are on the bottom of both sides, and, as you would expect, the microUSB and microSD slots are at the bottom, which are covered by small bits of plastic covers. What’s up with those? Sony’s famous water resistance, of course! This entire 10-inch slate can be submerged in water and come out operational. While we’ve seen this a lot on smartphones, it seems to be a rarity for tablets, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.
A 10-inch tablet isn’t going to be very good without a nice display, and, thankfully, the Xperia Tablet Z excels in this area. It has a 10-inch 1,920 x 1,200 resolution screen rated at 224ppi. It’s very good, considering that this device will, in most cases, be far enough away from your face to make pixelation much less of an issue. Regardless, media and text still look stunning on this device.
Sony’s Xperia Z and ZL smartphones suffered from viewing angle issues, but fortunately they seemed to have disappeared in the Tablet Z. The display is even more beautiful, as Sony brought the BRAVIA Engine 2 to this device to bring more contrast and vibrancy. However, the color temperature tends to the warmer side.
While a rating of 224ppi isn’t very large compared to recent smartphone releases, the Tablet Z still looks gorgeous, and will be perfect for your Android needs, especially when it comes to media consumption.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 is hitting a lot of devices on the market, such as the Galaxy S4 or HTC One. So it might be disappointing to find that the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is “only” running a 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro, which powered last year’s smartphones. The proc is backed by the Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM, which means the device is far from being a slow performer. AnTuTu rates this bad boy right around where its smartphone counterpart ranks — the 20000 mark. When we put the device through Epic Citadel, it ran really smooth and ended with a very high performance rating.
The Snapdragon S4 Pro is not a bad processor — flying through the Xperia tablet’s UI was very fast. However, there are some brief moments of lag, but nothing that’ll truly hinder your experience. Multitasking with the Small Apps and going by app to app was as easy as ever, which further proves that the Tablet Z is a great performer for just about anything.
Coupled with its gorgeous screen, you’ll find the Xperia Tablet Z a formidable device for Android gaming and media consumption. Whether you’re working or playing, you’ll get everything done in a timely manner, and in style too.
Hardware on the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is standard, but the big advantage that you won’t find on many tablets is water resistance. The microSD card slot that we mentioned earlier can expand your onboard memory by 16 or 32GB of storage. Then you’ve got the usual accelerometer, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, and an LTE version is available overseas.
There’s also an IR Blaster that allows for control of TVs and related devices, and if you’d like to take advantage of data transfer capabilities, the Xperia Tablet Z has NFC functionality too. The stereo speakers are side mounted, which is a lot better than being placed on the rear, however, the tablet sounds decent at best. Perhaps the sound quality was held back to help with water resistance. The sound isn’t very rich, but you’ll find that the volume levels are quite impressive.
Battery and camera
One of the Tablet Z’s best selling points is easily its 6000mAh battery. After running a whole season of Community, it only drained the battery to around half life after just over four hours. So you could get around eight hours of constant usage on a full charge out of this bad boy. However, not everyone is going to use a device like this for eight hours straight. With less rigorous usage, you could probably get up to two whole days of work and play before the Tablet Z runs out of juice.
Compared to its smartphone counterpart, the Xperia Tablet Z isn’t rocking a 13-megapixel camera — instead it touts an 8MP shooter. The app does get the same elements of Superior Auto and then the many different scene settings to help you get the perfect shot. Other than that, everything’s fairly standard — touch to focus, touch to capture, and burst shots. Of course, there are a few extras thrown in, such as HDR and sweeping panorama.
As for the picture quality, it’s decent at best. You’ll notice that it does not perform nearly as well as the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL’s cameras. Photos have a level of grain in full daylight shots. It’s more noticeable in lower light shots though. There’s even a lack of a flash diode, which puts the Xperia Tablet Z’s camera feel like any other camera on any other tablet. It’s not really going to blow anyone away.
If you’re already familiar with the Xperia UI from Sony’s smartphone, it’s largely the same with the Tablet Z. The Jelly Bean 4.1.2 powered UI consists of mostly darker tones — a look that is largely reminiscent of Ice Cream Sandwich. The notification dropdown is kept on the bottom right and like a few different UI’s, it has some quick settings available. You can find Navigation on the bottom left while the Small Apps and Remote Control shortcuts have been centered, and all of your apps can be accessed via a tap of a button at the top right.
Other than these few location changes, the experience is pretty much what you’d expect, though, home screens, the app drawer, and settings pages are customizable with a few themes that simply change the color schemes if you’re not a fan of the default.
As for additions, you’ll notice the addition of Jelly Bean’s Google Now and Sony’s Small Apps, much like you’d find in the Xperia smartphones. The Small Apps are pretty cool, as they’re overlays that go over your current screen and help support quick multitasking.
One addition is the Clip manager, which lets you take an editable screenshot. There’s also the Walkman, which manages to be synonymous when it comes to good music players. Finally we have Sociallife, which combines Facebook, Twitter, and other social network feeds.
When it comes down to it, Sony has packed a great suite of software in the Xperia Tablet Z, making both productivity and media simple to access and do.
Price and final thoughts
Like most premium tablets (i.e. the Nexus 10), the Sony Xperia Tablet Z doesn’t come cheap — $499 for 16GB variant and $599 for the 32GB. It’s a very hefty price tag, but as they always say, you get what you pay for. The Tablet Z is one of the better performers out there and certainly one of the best looking, so in that sense, the price makes a bit of sense.
Let’s face it, there aren’t as many good tablets out there as there are smartphones, but the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is a welcome addition to the market. It may not be the best performing tablet out there, but it’s surely one of the better ones available. It’s great for work and play, and you’re destined to get hours of enjoyment out of this bad boy.
What do you think about the Sony Xperia Tablet Z? Is it a device you plan on picking up in the future or do you have your eyes locked on something else?
Brad Ward contributed to this review.