Look and feel
Although it’s a magnet for fingerprints and scum, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is a gorgeous and brain-thumpingly thin tablet that’s still surprisingly rigid. The premium look fits the premium price.
Ease of Use
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z rocks Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and the spacious, responsive touchscreen makes it a joy to play with. The HD screen truly is gorgeous.
As well as the sharp and Superior Auto-enhanced 8.1 megapixel camera, which comes loaded with features and editing tools, you get a front-facing 2.2MP camera that’s perfect for web chats. Sony’s loaded plenty of apps too, such as the handy remote control feature.
With a quad-core Qualcomm processor packed into the slender frame, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z showed no signs of slowdown even when we punished it with the latest games.
With all that power and a beautiful HD screen on board, it’s no surprise that the Sony Xperia Tablet Z’s battery life isn’t great. Expect less than four hours of video playback unless you dim the display right down, and on full screen brightness the tablet won’t even charge when connected to the mains.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,2/26/2013 11:51:28 AM
Ease of use
Impressively slim and light;
Quad core power;
Superior tablet camera
Sony hasn’t had a joyous time with tablets in the past, but the stuttering run has been brought to an end with the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, a masterpiece of design and one of the thinnest Android tablets you can buy. By somehow squeezing impressive performance and a deluge of useful features into a supremely slender device, complete with a gorgeous HD screen, Sony has created a desirable, portable and all-round premium tablet for gaming, web surfing and enjoying a film with the family.
Thin and crispy
The Xperia Tablet Z mimics the look of Sony’s Xperia Z smartphone, as you’d probably expect. However, that wafer-thin body is actually even slimmer than the smartphone model, at just 6.9mm (compared to 7.9mm). It sports the same rectangular design, all-glass front panel and soft-touch rubberised rear, and while that back plate thankfully didn’t pick up greasy smudges too easily, the front is a complete dust magnet. Things aren’t helped by the narrow trench between the glass panel and the edging, which is a haven for crumbs and other bits. Still, if you’re willing to accept that your shiny Xperia Z tablet won’t look pristine for long after it leaves the box, it’s a smart and good-looking gadget.
With a tablet this thin, there’s always going to be a bit of give – pull it at the edges and it clearly bends, and if the screen is on at the time you’ll see some distortion. However, the Xperia Tablet Z is solidly constructed considering how ridiculously slim it is. We’re not sure if it would survive a fall, but it won’t fall apart in your bag. It’s also splash-proof, thanks to covers for the ports, so you don’t need to hide it at the first sign of rain.
Not only is the Xperia Tablet Z thin, it’s also impressively light at just 495g – one of the lightest 10.1-inch tablets we’ve played with. We had no problem holding it one-handed, even if it didn’t feel quite as comfortable or natural as clutching a seven-incher such as Google’s Nexus 7.
Slim and speedy
Somehow buried in that tiny frame is a 1.5GHz quad-core SnapDragon S4 processor, making this one of the nippiest tablets around. After a worrying start to our performance testing, where the Tablet Z crashed when trying to load Shadowgun: Deadzone, we had no further issues. The latest games, even action-packed online blasters, ran with perfect performance. The touchscreen responds perfectly to every swipe and prod and the device itself only got a little warm after some serious gaming, impressive considering its slimline design.
Unfortunately all that power, plus the bright 10.1-inch HD screen, is a major drain on the battery. Even with the Xperia Tablet Z plugged into the mains, we still found the battery ran down if we were using it, unless we dimmed the screen right down. Try watching movies and the tablet will bite the dust in under four hours, a below average result for ten-inch devices. Expect it to take a while to charge up too, even when the tablet is turned off.
With its High Definition 1920 x 1200 resolution, the 10.1-inch TFT screen is simply glorious. Ignoring the fact that it picks up smudges like Wombles pick up litter, it’s a fantastic way to take in HD movies. Images are crisp and colourful, with no pesky motion blur or other distortion (as you’d expect from someone like Sony). The spacious screen has wide viewing angles, so you can happily watch a film with one or two others, and the strong brightness levels mean you won’t be squinting through glare.
The screen proves just as handy for browsing the web, even though we still prefer the square aspect ratio of the iPad. Websites loaded quickly over Wi-Fi and scrolling through them was a buttery smooth affair, as was zooming in and out with a pinch of our fingers.
The Xperia Tablet Z’s 8.1 megapixel rear camera is one of the best we’ve seen on a tablet, thanks to Sony’s Superior Auto mode. First shown off on its Xperia smartphones, the Xperia Z and Xperia SP, Superior Auto produces great results in almost any condition – be it a dimly-lit indoors snap, or a photo of the family baking under the blazing sun. Of course, it can’t perform miracles and there’s no flash, so don’t expect great night time shots.
As usual, Sony has packed in a ton of exta camera features too. Burst shot mode takes a succession of quick-fire shots, perfect for action scenes, while the panorama mode is a great way to capture a vista. You can also shoot HD video, add some funky filter effects or swap to the 2.2MP camera (another excellent lens that captures crisp, bright images) to take a self portrait or chat online.
On top of the camera you get a host of Sony apps pre-installed, which will no doubt divide opinion – some will love the added value of a range of tools, while some will see it as storage-stealing bloatware. Thankfully you can uninstall them if you’re not a fan, to free up some of the 16GB/32GB of storage. A Micro SD card slot allows you to expand if you’d rather keep them.
On top of the usual media services, OfficeSuite and Playstation games store, Sony’s Socialife app has made another appearance. This acts as a hub for your Facebook and Twitter streams, as well as news RSS feeds. You can also browse featured news and ‘news you might like’. Posts are neatly presented in a colourful tile formation, similar to Flipboard, with any photos your friends post showing up right there on the main page – no annoying click-throughs. Refreshing seems a lot less temperamental than the last time we played with Socialife too – just tug down and any new posts drop in. Our only complaint is that flipping from horizontal to vertical orientation automatically jumps you back to the top of your feed.
Rounding off the features is NFC support, pretty much a given as Sony is backing the tech wholeheartedly. If your house is a Sony showroom, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can stream music from the Xperia Tablet Z to your Sony speakers or headphones, back up your content to a NAS, and even control your TV. The handy Remote Control app allows you to pair with almost any telly, set-top box, DVD player, stereo or home theatre system in existence, and control it using gestures on your tablet’s screen (for instance, swipe left or right to change channels). You also get a full programming guide (EPG) which tells you exactly what’s showing and coming up on each channel.
Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z is a masterpiece of engineering, more slender than most modern smartphones and undeniably desirable. The quad-core processor ensures everything runs with buttery smoothness and the HD screen is a great way to take in movies, websites and everything else, but that combo of power and high-res display takes its toll on the battery, so stick close to a power point. This is also one of the pricier tablets around, on par with Apple’s iPad. If you’re not feeling too plush, the Google Nexus 10 is around £80 cheaper and offers a similar experience.