Reviewer: Alex Walls
The tablet take on Sony’s powerhouse flagship, the Xperia Z tablet lives up to its handset brother’s powerful performance and good looking screen.
The Xperia Z tablet is Sony’s tablet take on its flagship, the Xperia Z phone, which was a powerhouse device with a very good looking screen. The Xperia Z tablet is no exception; the tablet matches its handset brother well, with the same performance and almost the same screen quality, as well as the same minimalist design.
DID YOU LOSE SOME WEIGHT?
When we say minimalist, we mean thin. The Xperia tablet has been said to look a bit like a roofing tile; it’s a thin slab of black and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does take you back a bit when you first see it.
The tablet measures 172 by 266mm and 6.9mm thick, or thin, as we should say ‘ this is pretty darn slim, even for a smartphone, let alone a tablet, and the device looks very sleek as a result. It also weighs 496g which is not the heaviest tablet out there but is certainly not the lightest; however the device feels quite comfortable and light to hold, also thanks to the rounded edges of the skeleton frame.
The front of the tablet is all glass – which Sony says is tempered with an anti-shatter film – aside from a small matte frame, the same material which covers the back and around the rim are the ports for your various attachments (SIM and microSD cards, audio jacks, USB slots). These are all covered with tabs to make the tablet waterproof, like the Xperia Z, and again, like most tabs, these look fragile at their attachment points, so just how long the tablet remains waterproof relies on the rubber holding the tabs in place.
Despite again the odd design choice in having a large protruding silver circle for the power button (which the tablet actually pulls off better than the phone, since it has more device on either side), the Xperia Z tablet looks good and, in the manner of Apple’s winning design strategy, sleekly high tech.
The tablet also doesn’t suffer from odd speaker placement, as the phone did; while you can muffle the speaker sound when holding the tablet at the bottom of the device, sound is still pretty audible (Sony says it gave the device 3D surround sound speakers to avoid issues with blocking).
The tablet looks fragile due to its thin size and glass front; you get the feeling you could snap it in half. However it resisted stress testing (ie us trying to bend it in half) and survived a week in various bags without a scratch.
The device is meant to be able to survive immersion in up to one metre and 30 minutes of water, as well as water jets. On testing for just under 30 minutes in about two inches of water (we didn’t have a paddling pool), the device worked fine; of note was that it won’t recognise touch under water (so no underwater photos) and the screen is sensitive enough that it will often recognise the water lapping over it as a command, and launch random applications.
The device specs say the tablet’s screen has an anti-fingerprint treatment but if so, I couldn’t see it in action ‘ the Xperia Z tablet picks up fingerprints and dust like nobody’s business and wiping it before use became a habit. There’s also a slight gap between the screen and the frame, into which things variously got stuck. The tablet is dust resistant so this shouldn’t affect functioning but it feels like it would be a pain to keep clean.
Interfacing with Sony
The Xperia Z comes with Sony’s user interface, which features home-made apps such as a music player (Walkman), with links to the PlayNow service for music purchases (terrible ‘ searching for Dave Dobbyn brought up ringtones), a photo viewer (Album) and a video player (Movies). There’s also Music Unlimited, a music library and streaming service which offers free subscription for 30 days ( £4.99 per 30 days after this) and offline playlist listening.
Like most devices running Android, the Xperia Z has access to the myriad apps available from Google’s Play Store, and the Xperia Z tablet sometimes offers both Google’s and its own options; for instance, there’s both a Movies app and a Play Movies app pre-loaded on the tablet. This is nice for those who want choice but can feel a bit like bloatware otherwise.
However one of Sony’s home-grown app offerings (available for download on the Play store) worth taking a look at is TrackID, which is Sony’s version of more-niftily-named Shazam ‘ it recognises tracks after about seven seconds of sound. (It lost points with some more discerning music lovers however, when it failed to recognise a snatch of classical music. The tablet was tossed aside with a snort as a plebian plaything).
There’s also Sony’s Smart Connect function which allows you to set cues or timers for given actions or events, such as playing a particular song or playlist when you plug in your head phones or turning off GPS and data traffic automatically when the device is plugged into a charger ‘ neat.
The Xperia Z tablet also has the ‘Throw’ feature, which plays media, such as movies and music, on DLNA-licensed televisions and speakers. DLNA is a set of interoperability guidelines set up by Sony and devices need to be certified to use the Throw feature. Such devices include the Samsung S3 Mini, but not iPhones (as far as we could tell), and Sony phones from the Xperia T onwards. This is a neat sounding feature although there are various media sharing options out there, but with limited functionality.
The Xperia Z features a dedicated remote control button on its home screen, for linking with HDTV’s and Bluetooth speakers, meaning you can control both from the tablet.
BOOM, SHAKE THE ROOM
The Xperia Z tablet is, like the Xperia Z phone, a dream to use. The tablet runs with a quad core Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5GHz chipset with 2GB RAM; that’s a heck of a lot of lift and the tablet reflects it. Loading web pages, apps, documents or e-books is a breeze and streaming or playing videos doesn’t cause the tablet any worries. Flicking between apps saw no lag whatsoever and playing games on the tablet, generally quite a power-heavy exercise, saw no lag or freezing.
Set up for your tablet is easy; to transfer files and the like, you can use apps such as Android File Transfer to drop and drag. The Xperia will also promp you to put installation software on your PC when you connect it via USB, but Mac users, as per usual, will have trouble with this, since the device won’t be recognised. Similarly, transferring TV shows or movies from iTunes to the Xperia Z won’t work unless you have software to remove Apple’s Digital Rights Management from the files (music generally transfers fine).
The tablet is running Android 4.1.2 which isn’t the latest version of Android (that would be 4.2, also named Jelly Bean) but this version runs fine and gets what you need done; Android is an intuitive operating system which is easy to use and simply laid out ‘ a main home screen you can add favourite apps to and with various go-to buttons which will launch things like a full list of apps, an app ‘tray’ that shows your most useful apps in a scrolling side bar, and your admin-type apps in a small bar across the bottom of the home screen, including calculator and notes.
The tablet comes in a variety of models; there’s the less expensive 16GB WiFi only version, then for £50 more there’s the 32GB WiFi only version and for £499 there’s the 16GB 4G/LTE version.
PS what now?
A little worrying at start up was the refusal of the tablet to open applications downloaded from an ‘unknown source’ and entering credit card details to set up an account can make you pause when considering the PSN hacks of 2011.
There aren’t a whole heap of games on offer (there are a grand total of four in the Adventure section at time of writing) and what is available can be expensive, ranging from £0.79 up to £4.49). There is, however, the bonus of Sony’s remastering old games, such as Lemmings 3D (which also happens to be free).
This lack of offerings feels like a bit of a lost opportunity for Sony; PlayStation was once nearly synonymous with great games and PlayStation Mobile could make up the ground lost to challengers such as Xbox and Apple’s App Store.
WHAT’S COOKIN’, GOOD LOOKIN’?
The Xperia Z tablet is not too bad in the looks department.
The 10.1 inch screen has a resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels and a pixel density of approximately 224 ppi, which is much less than its phone brethren’s 441. The tablet’s display is not quite as good as the phone’s, but it’s an impressive screen nonetheless, running with Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine 2. Colours are vivid but the starkest difference is the fine detail; images look sharp and clear, text looks like it could cut.
Playing video is much the same story, with crisp detail and rich but fine colours.
Game graphics rendered well also – particularly playing lurid offerings such as Temple Run 2, which were so bright and colourful it almost hurt to look at them.
The Xperia Z tablet’s camera, however, is not so great. However, given that people don’t really buy tablets for their camera capabilities, this shouldn’t be a huge issue. The device has an 8.1MP front facing camera with autofocus, including HDR video with 1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. This takes fairly clear photos but colours aren’t picked up that well and details can be a little fuzzy compared with say, the Xperia Z phone. Low light pictures are very fuzzy with a grainy tinge.
BATTERY + MEMORY
The Xperia Z tablet features a fairly large 6000mAh battery and with light to medium use including music playing, checking emails, a few minutes gaming and some videos, the tablet burned through roughly 20% of its battery in two and a half hours.
After roughly two and a half hours, the battery had lost 19% and after more than 12 hours the battery had decreased to 42%, meaning the Xperia Z tablet, on testing, last longer than 12 hours, which is pretty good.
Depending which model you get, the tablet comes with 16 or 32GB of internal storage but there are microSD expansion options up to 64GB and even 16GB is enough to be getting on with.
LIKE, YOU KNOW
In all, the Xperia Z tablet is an impressive offering which matches up to its phone buddy’s powerhouse performance; loading is a breeze on the tablet which looks good while doing it.
While its design and build can initially be startling, it’s a sleek and high-tech looking offering which is super thin. Although it tends towards a screen which picks up fingerprints like nobody’s business, and sports a camera which could use some work, the Xperia Z tablet is comparable in price to the iPad 4 while topping it in some of its specifications. A solid offering from Sony.
A powerfully performing tablet which looks sleekly high tech, the Xperia Z tablet lives up to its phone brother’s name. While the camera isn’t wonderful and some of Sony’s app and game offerings leave something to be desired, this is an impressive offering from Sony.