The Sony Xperia Z2 is a 10.1-inch Android tablet with a Full HD screen, quad-core 2.3GHz processor and 8.1-megapixel camera. It is also waterproof, dustproof, and is thinner and lighter than the iPad Air.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,4/29/2014 12:47:25 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Beautiful design. Incredibly thin and light. Attractive and easy-to-use Android skin. Expandable memory.
Poor quality speakers.
Screen sometimes looks artificial. Android tablet app selection still not as good as iOS.
Launched alongside the Xperia Z2 smartphone, the £400 Z2 Tablet is Sony’s answer to the iPad Air. It’s powered by the same 2.3Ghz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM as the Z2 phone, and runs the same Sony-modified Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system. The Z2 Tablet is also waterproof, dustproof and shares the same ‘Omnibalance’ design.
On looks alone, the Z2 is without doubt one of best-looking tablets I’ve ever seen - iPad included - but has Sony given it the software to backup the hardware, and create a real alternative to the forbidden fruit?
There is no other way to say this - the Z2 is a gorgeous tablet that is shockingly thin and light. Honestly, the first time I picked it up I couldn’t quite believe how slim it felt and how little it weighed - and two weeks on, that shock hasn’t gone away. Where I felt Sony had made the Z2 smartphone slightly too fat and heavy for its own good, the company has excelled itself with the tablet.
At 6.4mm, the Z2 is just over 1mm thinner than the iPad Air, while its weight of 439g is comfortably less than the 478g Apple. All-in-all, the Sony is a seriously svelte piece of kit.
However, while the tablet looks a lot like its Z2 smartphone stablemate, the larger device doesn’t have an aluminium chassis. Instead, the plastic frame is decorated with metal strips around its edge. No doubt to save weight, this means there is a degree of flex when you apply pressure to opposite corners and the tablet’s back. It’s by no means a deal-breaker, but just be aware that the tablet doesn’t have the same solid build as the phone - but it’s a small price to pay when the result is a tablet this light and portable.
Being waterproof, the Z2 Tablet has two flaps covering its microUSB, SIM and MicroSD card slots, and while removing one every time you want to charge is a pain, the tablet also has Sony’s magnetic charging port, which is waterproof and compatible with an official dock, sold separately. Sony’s trademark oversize power button is on the left edge, next to a volume rocker, and there’s a headphone jack in the bottom left corner.
Turn the tablet around and you’ll find an 8.1-megapixel camera set into a plastic back that has a matt, slightly rubberised finish which wraps around every corner creating a unibody chassis.
That plastic back feels good in the hand - slightly soft to touch and, in my opinion, a better option than the glass of the Z2 phone. However, the back does flex and ‘give’ slightly under pressure, producing the occasional squeak and groan.
Otherwise, this is a brilliantly designed tablet - and I simply can’t get over how light and thin it is. Really, I keep picking it up just to remind myself of how little it weighs. Good job, Sony.
Measuring 10.1 inches, the Sony’s screen has a resolution of 1200 x 1920 and a pixel density of 224 per inch. The latter might not jump out of the page at you (an iPad Air has 264 ppi) but when you see the display in person you soon realise there is more to life than pixel density. Individual pixels are almost impossible to spot, but more than that, the screen is bold, bright and has excellent viewing angles.
For some users the Z2 could appear a little too saturated. Sony’s X Reality screen technology boosts colours, with results that are occasionally close to artificial. Thankfully X Reality, which is most noticeable when looking at photos and watching video, can be switched off in the Settings app. White balance can also be adjusted to help overcome the strong saturation - left unchanged, the Sony produces colours similar to Samsung’s AMOLED screens from a couple of years ago, with colours stronger and more vivid than they should be. Viewed in isolation the Sony looks great, but when compared with other devices the colours go from ‘big and bright’ to ‘a little artificial’ - it’s no more serious than that.
The tablet suffers from the same reflection issues as the Z2 phone - blame the large black bezels - but given you’re less likely to be using the tablet outside, it’s less of a problem here. Some of Sony’s own application icons - namely PlayStation Mobile and Movies - don’t look particularly sharp, with a certain fuzziness to them. but otherwise this is a very good screen.
The Z2 Tablet runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Sony’s own user interface draped over the top. The experience is very similar to using the Z2 smartphone - or last year’s Z1, for that matter - but adds a few features to take advantage of the larger screen. A swipe down from the upper-left reveals your app and message notifications, while a swipe down from the right gives you quick access to settings like the Wi-Fi connection, screen brightness, Bluetooth and more.
Not as obvious as those made by Samsung and HTC, Sony’s modifications to Android are fairly subtle. There are some extra home screen widgets linking you to Sony’s multimedia catalogue of films, games and music, plus small changes to the pull-down notification panel, settings app and camera, which gets many of the shooting modes found in the Z2 phone, such as AR Effect, Background defocus and Sweep Panorama.
As with the Z2 phone, the tablet comes with a range of Sony’s own application, such as Walkman for music playback, Album for viewing your photos, Movies for access to Sony’s film catalogue, PlayStation Mobile for gaming, Video Unlimited (also for films), a second PlayStation app and more.
Although visually simple, Sony’s extra applications may confuse those new to the company’s Android products. You’ll want to spend some time setting everything up, but once you have the Sony experience is is a wide-ranging one with plenty to offer.
The tablet has an infrared blaster on its top edge for use with the included Remote Control app to control a huge range of home cinema products such as your television, Blu-ray player, iPod dock and stereo - and they can be from any manufacturer, not just Sony. It’s still a large-screen tablet, but I enjoyed using the Z2 as an all-in-one remote for my television. Try it, you’ll feel like you’re living in the future.
Qualcomm’s latest quad-core Snapdragon processor with 3GB of RAM means the Z2 Tablet is a speed machine, shrugging off anything I could throw at it. Real Racing 3 (my go-to choice to test intensive gaming) ran as smoothly as it does on the Z2 phone, which perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise, given it’s the same processor pushing the game to the same number of pixels. Either way, the Z2 Tablet performed very well during my time with it.
HD video streams smoothly from YouTube and Netflix, and the tablet doesn’t suffer from the overheating issues I found commonplace with the Z2 phone - impressive, given how thin it is.
The Z2 Tablet’s 6,000mAh battery should see you through a weekend of heavy use without too many problems. For me, it fell just 14% during an hour of HD Netflix streaming over Wi-Fi (with push email and Facebook/Twitter notifications in the background.
However, I felt the Sony struggled to hold its charge while in standby. Being left overnight with Wi-Fi connected and ready to receive social network notifications saw the battery fall by 10%.
As with the Z2 phone, Sony provides two battery-saving modes to help keep the tablet running that bit longer. Stamina mode disables Wi-Fi and the mobile internet connection when the screen is off, and prevents applications from running in the background. Switching this on saw 31% of charge jump from an estimated three days, 21 hours of standby time, to a huge 11 days, two hours.
Secondly, and handy if your battery is getting extremely low, is Low-battery mode. This restricts screen brightness and turns auto-sync, Bluetooth, mobile data, GPS, Wi-Fi, vibration and X Reality off.
The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is the best-looking Android tablet on the market, and shows that Google-powered slates are finally taking the fight to Apple and the dominant iPad. The Z2 is almost unbelievably thin and light, with a strong - if slightly flexible - build quality and a premium design. The rear panel is better than the glass of the Z2 smartphone and is the only plastic I’ve seen on a mobile device which looks and feels premium.
Sony perhaps got slightly carried away with the screen, as colours are often so bright and vivid that they start to feel artificial, but this is only a small complaint. Worse are the reflections, which are more noticeable than on some other premium tablets - iPad included - and they are made worse still by the tablet’s unnecessarily large bezels.
Performance-wise, Sony is at the top of its game with the Z2 Tablet. High definition video streaming and 3D games are shrugged off with ease, while the overheating issues I saw with the Z2 phone are thankfully missing. Sony’s Android software is beautiful, responsive and (mostly) simple to use. But points are lost here for the confusing duplication of apps from Sony and Google’s separate multimedia services.
Though no fault of Sony’s, Android applications for tablets are still a problem; they’re nowhere near as well designed for larger screens as those on iOS. Even the likes of Facebook and Twitter look like they’ve simply been stretched to fill the extra space, rather than make good use of it.
As for alternatives, Apple has the superior screen, build quality and app selection, and Samsung’s Galaxy Note range offers more productivity with its S Pen stylus. But even with those equally-priced tablets taking up adjacent shelf space, the Sony should not be discounted. It’s a stunningly beautiful tablet that is slim, light and waterproof. Only a higher resolution screen and smaller bezels are needed to make it better.