Sony Xperia Tablet Z review
Sony hasn’t been having a lot of luck when it comes to tablets despite the fact that some of the tablets it launched were brilliant while having a distinctive design. Further, Sony has been a late entrant into the tablet market where even Microsoft is having a hard time. Sony launched tablets powered by Tegra 2 SoC while everyone were launching Tegra 3 powered tablets and those featuring resolutions as low as 1,280×800 pixels as compared to 1,920 x 1,200 or above being released by others.
Xperia Tablet Z is the latest from Sony and is definitely a strong contender as it packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor instead of the Tegra 3, features a ultra-slim and ultra-light body and boasts of 1,920 x 1,200 10.1-inch display.
Sony hasn’t done anything fancy this time around like it did with Xperia Tablet S, but has kept the design such that the overall weight of the tablet is just 495 grams making it incredibly light allowing most adult users to hold it comfortably using just one hand while use of two hands will allow for easy viewing of movies or videos or web browsing for hours at a time. Further the tablet is just 7mm thick, making it incredibly thin.
These two things might not the appealing to everyone but, business users would appreciate the portability this tablet brings because of its weight and slim design. The thin design may give you a feeling that the tablet is flimsy and would be a ‘handle with care’ object but, it is quite the opposite. The tablet is rock-solid when you hold it and has a scratch-proof glass. The tablet is water and dust resistance just like its smartphone siblings the Xperia Z and Xperia Z Ultra and according to Sony can be immersed in water for about 30 minutes without any damage.
One thing you will notice out of the box is that all the ports (inputs / outputs) are concealed by small plastic flaps – for waterproofing. So, if you want to charge the tablet you will need to remove the plastic cover that hides the micro-USB connector – same goes for microSD slot, the microSIM slot (for the model we reviewed) and even the headphone socket.
Sony has left out the HDMI output – the reason we believe is that the Japanese electronics giant doesn’t believe in wired connections and it wants the tablet to connect to its Bravia TV siblings through the Wi-Fi screen mirroring option or through NFC transceiver for one-touch mirroring. In case you do want to connect using a cable Sony has the micro-USB port that supports MHL video output. We didn’t have a Bravia TV at our disposal to test this feature so we can’t tell how well this works but, this feature would definitely appeal to those who already own a Bravia TV.
Screen & Sound
Xperia Tablet Z’s 10-inch screen has a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution with 224ppi (pixels per inch) and is definitely a good working resolution for an Android tablet. The ppi of Tablet Z don’t match that of Google’s Nexus 10 but, that shouldn’t be a deterrent I believe. You can movies at 1080p and gaming experience is better than that on the Nexus 10. All in all, the vibrant, sharp and crystal clear screen provides you a gorgeous display.
Sony has started including its Mobile Bravia Engine 2 in its smartphones and the Tablet Z also features this engine that adds a little to the display. If you are watching a HD video or high resolution photos they do look stunning while the blacks kind of leap out of the screen. And if you fancy catching up on those TV shows you have missed, then this tablet would definitely fill in.
There is not much in the sound department to write about as the volume is limited and so is the bass but, the stereo spread is definitely better than most of the tablets out there and more or less equal to that of the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle HD 8.9.
Sony has decided to go with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean for its Xperia Tablet Z and has customized the basic UI putting in a few enhancements keeping in mind functionality and design. Tablet Z comes loaded with Apps like Sony Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited, Sony movie player app, Walkman-branded music app, photo album app, a Sony Select app, and Sony’s Socialife app.
Sony hasn’t probably worked on the keyboard as Tablet Z doesn’t offer a lot of improvements over the standard Jelly Bean model and I did err a lot while typing a note. What is worse though is that standard Android model has been removed but, its not that you are stuck with that. You can install keyboard apps available on Google Play store like Swiftkey for tablets and they should work just fine. On a special note Sony’s mail client works great with Exchange ActiveSync and Google Sync but, may need a little tuning as the account setup process is rather clunky.
Sony has touted the capabilities of the Xperia Tablet Z’s cameras since its launch and has been saying that the 8-megapixel rear camera branded Exmor R for mobile provides a great performance in low light conditions. In our tests though, the tablet hasn’t been able to perform that well in low light conditions. Natural colours and detail to come out prominently but, there is a lot of noise in pictures taken indoor and the outdoor photos aren’t all that impressive either. The good thing is that there is software that provides a full range of scene modes, some nice built-in effects and an intuitive UI. The front camera may be deemed good for voice chats only. Nothing else!
The Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro clocked at 1.5GHz powers the tablet and is the same SoC that can be found on Google Nexus 4. With 2GB of RAM, the UI elements of the tablet just feel like a breeze when interacted with and apps load in an instant.
Xperia Tablet Z scores 2001 on Geekbench 1.2 benchmark which puts it ahead of its Tegra 3 powered sibling Xperia Tablet S and just slightly behind Nexus 4 and Samsung Exynos 4412-powered Nexus 10. Gaming may be considered as Tablet Z’s forte as it managed 13 fps off-screen frame rate in the GFXBench T-Rex HD benchmark, and 32 fps in Egypt HD. These numbers can be considered the best you could get up until Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 800 officially arrive on some tablets / smartphone.
We presumed that the Tablet Z, because of its slim design, would be packing a battery that wouldn’t be able to provide much backup. But to our surprise, it did manage to pull off a descent 10 hours through mixed use and about seven and a half hours at constant HD movie streaming over a Wi-Fi connection. However, gaming takes a toll on the battery and about half an hour of Real Racing 3 drained 15 per cent of the battery, which is not surprising.
Xperia Tablet Z is probably the best Android tablet out there in terms of design – it is light and powerful and would take anything you throw at it – well computationally. The battery life is very good, screen is great, and resolution excellent.