Ease of Learning: 4 / 5
Ease of Use: 4 / 5
Enjoyment: 3 / 5
Design: 4.5 / 5
Value for Money: 2.5 / 5
Sony has released an Xperia device for almost every segment this year alone. We can reference the Xperia Z as the flagship 5” smartphone (recently replaced by the Xperia Z1), the 6.4” Xperia Ultra phablet, and a host of intermediate and budget devices for good measure. Along with these products, Sony has also added to the tablet range with the Xperia Tablet Z. For many, however, when faced with the question of which tablet to choose, there are really only two options when it comes to brand choice; Samsung or Apple. This is a sad fact, though, when, as a techie, you consider how many worthy choices there are available today, even here in South Africa. The Xperia Tablet Z is definitely worth a second look.
On first glance, many are taken aback by the Tablet Z’s appearance. Not in a bad light, as you initially assume. The device is quite a lot thinner and lighter than what people have come to expect from a tablet. At just 6.9mm, it’s thinner than the market leading iPad 4, which measures in at 9.4mm. In terms of the weight, the Tablet Z outshines the iPad with its 495g package compared to its 662g. If you’re a serious reader, and have recently made the switch to digital media, then this would be the first selling point. While there may be quite a number of e-reader available, you’d be hard pressed to find a fully functional tablet with matching specs in this department.
Despite its clear advantage in size and weight, there is a lot to be desired when it comes down to styling. In the case of the Tablet Z, think along the lines of four to six Xperia Z smartphones lined up next to one another. Much like the iPad is simply a big iPod touch. For many 10” tablets, you’re often left to ponder the largely useless space surrounding the already large screen, which is the same case here. Although there are technical and usability reasons for this “feature”, you can’t help but wonder when you’ll be able to find an edge-to-edge screen on a 10” tablet.
The matte-back finish of the Xperia Tablet Z is not simply an afterthought, but essentially aids grip and general use when the device is wet. The Tablet Z is IP57 certified, meaning that it is dust proof and water resistant. Again, for those avid readers who spend time in the bath with their current narrative, this is a huge plus point. It is a great respite not to concern yourself with the safety of your reader from the elements at hand. While this is a useful feature, it isn’t without flaw. It’s true that the Tablet Z can be fully submerged in water up to 1m for 30 minutes, but I found that with a few sprinkles of water running down the screen, the touch sensor tends to go off on a tangent of its own, picking up movements that aren’t mine, closing and opening apps at random. One would think that this may just be a slight annoyance, but in actual fact renders the tablet useless until fully wet or dry.
Another of Sony’s selling points for the Xperia Tablet Z is its Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2, 1200x1920px, 10.1” display. The sales team are quick to point out this technology, comparing it to Sony’s range of Bravia TVs and its heritage. There no doubt that some of this shines through when watching movies, playing games and the likes, but there’s just something strange about the colour reproduction. When viewing highly detailed imagery it’s almost unnoticeable, but when viewing just one colour at a time, you can quickly realise that your initial thoughts may have been correct. White colours tend to be more of an off-white, and, while not nearly as severe, the standard colour palette also suffer similar ailments. Don’t let this bug you too much, though, there’s hardly ever an occasion when the need to view colours in their singularity is required.
The Xperia Tablet Z hasn’t only borrowed designs from Sony’s Bravia department, the speakers, cameras and other odds and ends all have a solid Sony background attached to it. Needless to say, then, that the speaker volume and clarity outperform quite a number of tablets on the market, with the camera not doing enough to stand out on its own.
When Sony announced the Xperia Tablet Z, I was concerned by the choice of processing power to drive the tablet; the same 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro Quad-Core CPU with Adreno 320 GPU you find in the Xperia Z (and Nexus 4 for that matter). Thanks to the near-vanilla copy of Android 4.2 OS available installed on the tablet, the performances Sony yield are quite noteworthy. While the benchmarks may not set the world alight (although it beat many of the competition), the response time, graphics capabilities, and overall smoothness are better than other leading brands (I’m looking at you Samsung Galaxy Tab range). A marked improvement over the early Sony tablets of old.
During heavy use, the Xperia Tablet Z’s 6000mAh battery was capable of lasting between 8 and 10 hours continuous. This shouldn’t be of too much concern, as with every day use, the tablet was able to last a full two, even three to four, days, even with a few sessions of gaming thrown in for good measure. Strangely, Sony’s Eco and Green initiatives means that you’re left without a charger included in your packaging. This isn’t too much of a concern for normal users as the microUSB charging port means that you should already have one or two lying around at home (sorry Apple guys, you’ll have to go out and buy one). This move has meant that Sony has climbed significantly up the ranks in terms of the Guide to Going Green statistics, only 0.1 points off Samsung in 7th place. I’m not going to be the one to complain on any such initiatives.
Here’s what it comes down to. With a launch price of around R9,000, you would have to consider all aspects, features and functionality you can eek out of the Xperia Tablet Z. The list includes being one of the thinnest and lightest 10.1” tablets available, IP57 certification, look and feel, battery life, display, NFC, infrared for remote control, and many others (check out the full specifications link below). Once you’ve done all that, then compare all those features to its competitors. And if you’re still considering it, then you definitely have yourself a winner.
I really wanted to enjoy the Xperia Tablet Z, and hoped even more that it would blow me away and present me the opportunity to write the phrase “best tablet ever,” but it wouldn’t really be true. Although it’s capable of competing with the top dogs feature for feature, there are a few glitches in between all its selling points that stand out. Even still, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is a unique tablet, offering a little of everything to the user, and is definitely worth a few more look ins and considerations over the standard tablets we often run to.
You can find the full specifications here.