In one hand, we have the Xperia Tablet Z, a gorgeous tablet that inherits some of the elements from Sony’s flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z. In the other hand, we have the tried and true Google Nexus 10, yet another stylish tablet that proves to be a great performer.
These are two of the best tablets on the market. The big difference between the two is that the Xperia Tablet Z offers a slick, forked version of Android with a few bells and whistles thrown in. On the other hand, the Nexus 10 offers buttery smooth performance with Project Butter and the coveted, vanilla Android experience.
In what might become a tight race, we start off with design. The Xperia Tablet Z takes on a pleasing rigid rectangular design. The Tablet Z is a black state with rigid corners and one of the thinnest profiles we’ve ever seen on a tablet. The front is all black with a front facing camera placed at the top, and the spine has all of the buttons on the left side, including Sony’s iconic metal silver power button.
As for the ports, you get a microSD card slot and microUSB slots, all covered by a piece of plastic, which enables the tablet to have water resistance. Looking at the back, we have the rear facing camera, and the material around it is made up of a slightly rubberized material that helps the device from slipping about.
When it comes down to it, this is one of the most attractive and best handling devices on the market. Weighing in at 495 grams, this tablet is so thin and light that you’ll be tossing it around as easily as a spiral notebook.
On the other hand, the Nexus 10 takes on a more classic look. Made by Samsung, the 10-inch beast has the tried and true rounded pebble design. You have the black slate front with the front facing camera, but this time time, you also get some really awesome front facing speakers along the sides. Buttons are found on the top, and ports on the side. The right side port is for a mini-HDMI connection.
Looking around the back, the Nexus 10 has a much sticker material around the rear facing camera. All in all, the Nexus 10 is a somewhat no frills tablet when it comes to design — other than those gorgeous front facing speakers (more on that later).
Weighing in at 600 grams, it’s a tad bit more heavy than the Xperia Tablet Z. Since the Nexus 10 doesn’t have the thinness of the Tablet Z, you’ll probably be keeping the Nexus 10 in both hands, as single hand usage feels a little perilous.
When it comes down to it, it’s all based on preference. Are you looking for a tablet that brings a new, exciting style to what we already know? Then the Xperia Tablet Z is for you. The Nexus 10′s classic looks isn’t bad — it’s just something we’ve seen before, and that’s perfectly OK.
Expectations are usually high when it comes to displays on larger tablets, and thankfully, both the Xperia Tablet Z and Nexus 10 give their best. While both offer 10-inch screens, the Xperia Tablet Z sports an LCD display capable of 1,920 x 1,200 resolution rated at 224ppi. It’s a beautiful display, and with good viewing angles and the BRAVIA Engine backing it, you get a TV-like experience, which is yet another industry Sony does really well in.
On the other hand, we have the Nexus 10, which has some extra power behind it’s display. At 2,560 x 1,600 resolution rated at 299ppi, you get an unsurprisingly great viewing experience. While the PLS display is definitely not a Super AMOLED as we’ve come to expect from Samsung, it still has great color reproduction that rivals the LCD display on the Xperia Tablet Z.
While there may seem to be a decent difference in pixel density, it’s actually pretty negligible. The everyday user isn’t going to notice the difference, and viewing text, whether in websites or ebooks, it poses absolutely no problems.
If you really want that extra boost in resolution, the Nexus 10 is for you. However, since 95% of our media is in 1080p, either device will prove to be a great performer.
While the processor package powering the Xperia Tablet Z may seem a little dated by now, Sony knew that the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro was and still is a reliable performer. Don’t discount the 1.5GHz CPU backed by the Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM — it has powered Sony’s flagship devices, which has achieved scores above 20,000 in AnTuTu, and the same goes for the Tablet Z.
Thanks to the extra RAM, you’ll get a lot of multitasking done on this device, and Small Apps, along with work and play, will be extremely easy to handle. It’s a fast tablet, but perhaps not as fast as the Nexus 10.
Snapdragon processors seem to be the norm these days, but Samsung didn’t follow that trend. Instead, they equipped the Google tablet with an in-house package — the Exynos dual-core Cortex A15 clocked at 1.7GHz. Quad-core CPU’s tend to be the norm these days, but don’t discount the Nexus 10 because of its dual-core offering — it’s still a very good and reliable performer.
The Nexus 10 is also equipped with a Mali-T604 GPU and 2GB of RAM, making the stock Android experience speedy as ever. The scores that AnTuTu offers is only tells part of the story, as optimization plays a big role in the Nexus 10.
Those that are looking for more updated specs will love the Xperia Tablet Z, but I can’t stress enough how the Nexus 10, a tablet that scores under 15,000 in AnTuTu, feels more like an 18,000 performer.
The Sony Xperia Tablet already has a trump card with its added water resistance capabilities. While it isn’t a feature we we’ll intentionally take advantage of, it’s a good type of insurance to have that will keep accidents from being more than just mishaps.
Water resistance isn’t the only thing that makes this device appealing though — it has a microSD card slot to help bolster the 16 or 32GB of storage already built in. The speakers found on the two bottom corners are also decent, but this is where the Nexus 10 shines.
Front facing speakers are awesome — you can’t argue with that. The two nondescript speaker grills on the Nexus 10 provide beautiful, loud and rich sound quality that you just don’t find on many mobile devices. This is definitely one of the major selling factors in terms of hardware. Unfortunately, the 16 or 32GB of storage built in aren’t expandable.
However, the Nexus 10 can boast of its HDMI connectivity, as a secondary display is achieved on the Xperia Tablet through MHL, not HDMI.
So, as you can see, both tablets have their ups and downs, but when it comes down to it, do you want your tablet to survive accidental splashing or would your rather go for the gorgeous sound quality? It’s up to you to decide which is more important.
Battery and camera
It might seem unfair to compare battery life in this. After all, the Xperia Tablet Z comes equipped with a 6,000 mAh unit that is somewhat dwarfed by the massive 9,000 mAh performer in the Nexus 10. The Nexus 10 is able to get through seven and a half hours of general usage on Wi-Fi easily, and the Xperia is able to reach Sony’s own claims of around six hours. It’s no surprise, though.
Standby time is great on either tablet, and you can get even more battery life out of your Xperia Tablet Z by taking advantage of power saving features. When it comes down to it, you’ll get a tad bit more work and place out of the Nexus 10, but there really isn’t a huge difference here.
Cameras on tablets are often hard to take seriously, perhaps that is because of their low quality and lack of mobility. However, both of the optics on these two performers are actually pretty good. The Xperia Tablet Z comes with an 8-megapixel rear shooter. It’s less powerful than the 13-megapixel shooter on the Xperia Z smartphone, but still similar in some cases.
With the Xperia Tablet Z, you get an EXMOR sensor, and the app is loaded with a whole host of different scene modes that support Superior Auto, which helps you get just the right shot. Picture quality is decent, but it definitely isn’t as good as its smartphone counterparts, which is to be expected.
Equipped with a 5-megapixel rear shooter, the Nexus 10′s camera isn’t as powerful as its competitors’. The camera app is also not loaded with as many features, but it does come with the coveted Photo Sphere function. While it’s a fast performer and has good shutter-to-file speed, pictures are even worse here. That’s not much of a surprise, though.
It’s nice having a camera handy on your tablet, but these are definitely considered backups when you likely have much better camera performance on any smartphone you might have in your pocket.
And finally, we arrive at the software. Depending on your preference, this could be a very skewed category. After all, many of us Android users prefer the standard, unadulterated, vanilla Android experience. The Nexus line makes it clear that Android at its purest can be the best, and that’s just what you get with the Nexus 10. Not only is it loaded with the latest version of Android, you can rest assured that this device will continue to get the most updated software available, which is the norm for most Nexus devices.
Apps optimized for tablets come along with the coveted Google Now software and the smooth performance of Project Butter. Sure, it doesn’t come with a whole lot of bells and whistles, compared to forked versions of Android, but because of that, stock Android is the best performing software out there. There’s no doubt about that.
While extras may not be particularly welcomed on stock Android, they may help Sony’s Xperia UI, though. The general look of the interface found on the Xperia Tablet Z resembles the Ice Cream Sandwich edition of Android; however, it does come with other apps and functionality that give the device a boost.
Small Apps serve as small overlays over the current workspace for easy and quick multitasking. On top of that, Sony has included some of their own great applications, such as the Walkman and the Album picture gallery. They really do brings some key differences to this version of Android.
If you’re certain that you can put the extras to good use in the Xperia UI, the Xperia Tablet Z will no doubt be a great companion for you. Otherwise, stock Android and its buttery performance is as good as it gets, and general functionality isn’t that far off, in this comparison. Either way, you get a nice, easy to use interface with a few bells and whistles thrown in, depending on your choice.
While the Nexus 10 is the tablet made for Google, it doesn’t retain the same low price point that the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 boast of. However, even at $399, the price is still much cheaper than the premium price point of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z at $499. That $100 difference is huge.
The Nexus 10 and Xperia Tablet Z are both formidable tablets, but when it comes down to it, it’s a matter of necessities. You’ll have an equal amount of fun on either device, but what are you looking to get out of your 10-inch tablet? Do you need water resistance, or at least the nimble fun you can have with such a thin and light device? Or do you need the great sound quality from the front facing speakers, or at least the latest and greatest that Google’s stock Android has to offer?
The questions have to be answered on your own. However, the Nexus 10 and Xperia Tablet Z are two of the best tablets on the market. No matter which one you choose, you’re in for a lot of fun.
Brad Ward contributed to this review.