Review by Sunetra Chakravati,9/18/2015 12:58:26 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Solid construction | waterproof | very light
Very expensive | battery not great | iffy Bluetooth connection
Sony have always been known to, arguably, have the best screen in business. They also make some pretty cool phones and their Z3 Tablet Compact last year was well received. So around the time the Z4 smartphone was being unveiled in Japan, they brought out this tablet in the UK.
The Z4 Tablet is a 10-inch slate with the same design philosophy as its predecessors. It would be wrong to say it looks premium because it is all glass on the front and plastic on the back and as well all know, plastic and premium are two words that don't go together.
The tablet, however, is minimalist and when plastic and glass are packed so tightly together, it exudes an air of superiority. You don't hear squeaks or grunts when you try to flex it. It is a flat piece of gadgetry topped off with a layer of glass, the whole package is impossibly design orientated.
The tablet has, what has now become a badge on all Sony products and that is its IPX8 rating making it dunkable in fresh water of up to 1.5m for 30 minutes. Unrelentingly angular, small touches of sophistication are peppered throughout its body. The power button with the concentric circles, the finish on the back which never picks up prints and the rounded off edges are just some of them and go a little way to justify its cost.
Also, did I mention that the tablet is incredibly thin? It comes in at a super skinny 7.6mm thick and weighs a tiny 389g and is sold together with an equally blade-like Bluetooth keyboard. It is a bit like the Addams family.
A 2k display is bound to wow, and the Z4 tablet does it in spades. You get a 2560 x 1600 resolution on the 10.1-inch slate and moving images are pin-sharp and accurate and a massive upgrade from 1200 X 1920 of the Xperia Z2 Tablet.
Stream Netflix and you get a glimpse of real muscle. The screen packs 299 pixels per inch and in comparison with the 266 ppi that Apple’s latest iPad Pro offers, you get one of the best streaming experience ever.
Fat bezels surround the screen and it makes sense to, you don't need to curse your thumbs while binge-watching Narcos on tap.
You get Android 5.1.1 out of the box and Sony have peppered their identity throughout. Apps, themes, wallpapers… you name it, its there. Many times there are more than two non deletable apps for each task you want to carry out. There are some pretty nifty ones, ones that are duplicates of pre-existing stock Android apps as well as some that are outright baffling. Augmented Reality dinosaurs, anyone?
Like the Z3 Tablet Compact, Remote Play makes an appearance here too and it will be more convincing to take your game from you telly to your tablet - less drastic size change etc
There is also the ability to keep more than a few windows/apps open much like on Macs. However, it is only a couple of basic ones that you can work on at the same time.
Qualcomm’s much maligned Snapdragon 810 processor is present and correct on this tablet and let me allay fears and say I experienced no overheating issues that this particular processor has had bad press for. As is expected the tablet got warm on one of the corners after prolonged use as is quite normal with gadgets.
Because I never use tablets the way I use phones, slates usually get away with a far less rigorous testing. However, with a 3GB RAM, it is unlikely that you will face any issues with lag or stuttering. Internally there is 32GB storage with the ability to add another 128GB via microSD card and there are both Wifi and LTE versions available.
Sony have made the battery on their products epic and the streak continues with this tablet. A 6000mAH battery made this tablet last upto 5 days of non-strenuous use with two hours of streaming each day and sporadic web browsing.
If you buy the Z4 Tablet for nothing else, make sure you do for the unending battery life.
The camera is a very decent 8-MP for the primary one and 5-MP for the front facing one. As is expected, there is no flash but if like scores of tourists you use your tablet to take pictures, the Z4 Tablet will not disappoint. Obviously, the lack of a flash will prove tricky for pictures while you are out clubbing- but who takes a 10-inch tablet along when going out for a night on the tiles?
The audio quality is good and the speaker grilles are hidden and between the bezels and the frame and are quite unfortunately placed if you want to stream. It is bound to get covered by your hands when you attempt to do so.
On Page 43, you will find us comparing the stand out features of some of the most compelling hybrid tablets in the market today and indeed, everyone from Apple to Samsung and Microsoft have identified business customers as the next big market.
Not to be left behind, Sony have not only stretched the size of this tablet to 10-inches from the Z3 Tablet Compact which was a 7-inch jobber, but also sells the tablet bundled with a Bluetooth keyboard.
I have never been a massive fan of Bluetooth appendages to either phones or tablets because they sap batteries dry and Sony’s keyboard made me more sceptical than ever. It took almost a month and three returned review samples for me to finally get one that worked as it is meant to.
Aesthetically, it is again a minimalist number and the tablet slots into a lip on the keyboard as well as magnetically. There is a trackpad with an on-screen arrow that works with a slight lag to minimise errors.
When connected, you see a different screen with a start button and a very faux desktop feel to it.
It is not possible to buy the tablet on its own without the keyboard and if you needed a spare one, they cost £149. You don't have to be a mathematician to figure out that you are actually forking out £500 for a £350 gadget. The tablet is great, no doubt, but there is a whiff of the unfair about it all.
Sony have produced a great product and it shows as soon as you pick up the Z4 Tablet: solidly constructed with an IPx8 rated body of an athlete who is all muscle and 0% fat, spectacular screen and long battery life. However, it is a very expensive product (same as the Apple iPad Air 2) and still features bloatware and a single 32GB internal memory model.
After a year of no products and financial losses, Sony are hoping consumers pick up their products on the basis of solid features and pedigree. And they are bound to be interested.
PrIce: From £499
Operating system: Android 5.0
Size: 167 x 254 x 6.1mm
Weight: 389g (wifi) 393 (Wifi +3G)
Resolution: 2560 x 1600 pixels
Processor: Snapdragon 810
Storage: 32GB + 128GB via microSD
Camera: 8.1MP, 5.1 MP
Battery: 6000 mAh
Other features: IP67 rated