Sony Xperia Tablet Z full review

Sony Xperia Tablet Z hands-on review

Sony has had two attempts at making a high-end Android tablet. The previous Xperia tablets weren’t overly impressive and very much became one of the crowd. The firm aims to correct all this with the Xperia Tablet Z.

Priced at £399 the Sony Xperia Tablet Z goes directly up against the iPad 4 and high-end Android tablets such as the Nexus 10. It's a tough battle so let's find out whether the Xperia Tablet Z can deliver a knock-out blow. See also: What's the best tablet PC?

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Design and build

As the name suggests, the Xperia Tablet Z shares its design and style with the Xperia Z, a smartphone we're very fond of which is still top of our chart. Sony has binned the wedged shape used for previous models.

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z feels extremely good in your hands; it's astonishingly thin and light at just 7mm and 495g. It's a product that screams 'Sony' in terms of its design and build quality - that’s no bad thing.

Although it shares its design with the Xperia Z phone, the Tablet Z doesn't have a glass rear cover. Intstead it's a smooth, slightly rubbery feeling plastic. Nevertheless, it’s one of the best looking Android tablet on the market.

A feature which the Tablet Z shares with its smartphone counterpart is that it has a dust- and waterproof design. So now you can watch BBC iPlayer and check Facebook in the bath on a large screen, for example. As far as we know, no other tablet offers this feature.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Hardware and performance

The Xperia Tablet Z is powered by a Qualcomm 1.5GHz quad-core processor and packs 2GB of RAM. In our benchmarks tests it didn't set any records but did beat the iPad 4 and Nexus 10 in one at least one test.

A score of 2119 in GeekBench 2 and a framerate of 31fps in GLBenchmark are impressive but the SunSpider time was a little on the slow side at 2036ms.

The user experience is good but we did occasionally see lag from the tablet which we didn't really expect. Even when just swiping between home screens, the Xperia Tablet Z doesn't always perform the task smoothly. It's a shame and not something we found with the Nexus 10 or iPad 4. Browsing the web was the worst for us; the device just couldn't keep up with our scrolling and zooming when on content heavy sites.

In a field where bigger really is better this is an area the Sony Xperia Tablet Z falls short of its rivals. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z 10.1in display only has a pixel density of 224ppi, which is a little way of the current screen kings, the Nexus 10 and iPad 4, which boast 299ppi and 264ppi respectively. That said, the screen's 1920x1200 resolution can hardly be called bad. The Mobile Bravia Engine 2 means colours and contrast look great.   

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z comes with 16GB of internal memory, and has a microSD slot which gives users expandable memory of up to 64GB. More freedom than you'll get with the Nexus 10 and iPad 4.

As well as the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DLNA and microUSB, the Xperia Tablet Z has NFC on-board. A rarity for a tablet and something Sony is championing. Sony's speakers, headphones and even TVs are starting to come with NFC chips for easy paring.

Furthermore, the tablet has an infrared transmitter so you can control some of the tech kit lying around your house. Although we found it easy to set up with a Philips TV, picking up the remote controller is still easier although admittedly not as cool or impressive.  

There's an element of pedigree about the Sony Xperia Tablet Z's cameras too – it's the kind of spec you would find on a decent smartphone. The front is a pretty high quality (for a front camera) 2.2Mp camera. The rear is an 8.1Mp camera that took super sharp images and for us. Although don’t really use tablet cameras in the same way as smartphones, this is still a nice attribute to have.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Software

Running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, the Xperia Tablet Z is nearly up to up to date when it comes to operating system. Like the Xperia Z, the software is a nice balance of vanilla Android and Sony's stylish overlay.

Notifications are shown in the bottom corner and we like the app dock which sits in the top bar. It means you've always got access to whichever four apps you choose regardless of which homescreen you're looking at. There's also a number of floating 'small apps' including Notes, Timer and Calculator. They are like movable windows on your desktop PC.

As well as the expected collection of Google apps, the Xperia Tablet Z comes with some of Sony's own. Many of them as related to the Sony Entertainment Network and double up on what the Play Store offers. We don’t mind the extra choice but would rather they were combined into one app so that it's less confusing.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Battery life

Like its rivals, the Xperia Tablet Z will get you through a few days of use before needing to be charged. Provided you don't want to watch all three Lord of the Rings movies in succession.

For example, we used the Xperia Tablet Z fairly heavily over a weekend for web browsing, gaming, social media and watching video content and still had a little bit of charge remaining come Sunday evening. A good performance all round and what we expect from a high-end tablet.