Sony Xperia Tablet Z


The tablet version of Sony’s powerhouse flagship smartphone more than matches its handset counterpart’s powerful performance and good-looking screen – with some slim, sleek curves thrown in for good measure

The Xperia Z tablet is Sony’s tablet take on its flagship, the Xperia Z phone, which was a powerhouse device with a very good-looking screen.  The Xperia Z tablet is no exception; the tablet matches its handset brother well, with the same performance and almost the same screen quality, as well as the same minimalist design.

When we say minimalist, we mean thin. The Xperia tablet has been said to look a bit like a roofing tile; it’s a thin slab of black and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does take you back a bit when you first see it.

The tablet measures 172mm by 266mm and 6.9mm thick, or thin, as we should say – this is pretty darn slim, even for a smartphone, let alone a tablet, and the device looks very sleek as a result. It also weighs 496g, which is not the heaviest tablet out there but is certainly not the lightest; however the device feels quite comfortable and light to hold, also thanks to the rounded edges of the skeleton frame.

The front of the tablet is all glass, which Sony says is tempered with an anti-shatter film – aside from a small matte frame, the same material which covers the back and around the rim are the ports for your various attachments (SIM and microSD cards, audio jacks, USB slots). These are all covered with tabs to make the tablet waterproof, like the Xperia Z, and again, like most tabs, these look fragile at their attachment points, so just how long the tablet remains waterproof relies on the rubber holding the tabs in place.

Despite again the odd design choice in having a large protruding silver circle for the power button (which the tablet actually pulls off better than the phone, since it has more device on either side), the Xperia Z tablet looks good and, in the manner of Apple’s winning design strategy, sleekly high tech.

The tablet also doesn’t suffer from odd speaker placement, as the phone did; while you can muffle the speaker sound when holding the tablet at the bottom of the device, sound is still pretty audible (Sony says it gave the device 3D surround-sound speakers to avoid issues with blocking).

The tablet looks fragile due to its thin size and glass front; you get the feeling you could snap it in half. However, it resisted stress testing (ie us trying to bend it in half) and survived a week in various bags without a scratch.

The device is meant to be able to survive immersion in up to one metre and 30 minutes of water, as well as water jets. On testing for just under 30 minutes in about two inches of water (we didn’t have a paddling pool), the device worked fine; of note was that it won’t recognise touch underwater (so no underwater photos) and the screen is sensitive enough that it will often recognise the water lapping over it as a command, and launch random applications.

The device specs say the tablet’s screen has an anti-fingerprint treatment but if so, I couldn’t see it in action – the Xperia Z tablet picks up fingerprints and dust like nobody’s business and wiping it before use became a habit. There’s also a slight gap between the screen and the frame, into which things variously got stuck. The tablet is dust resistant so this shouldn’t affect functioning but it feels like it would be a pain to keep clean.

The Xperia Z tablet is, like the Xperia Z phone, a dream to use. The tablet runs with a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5GHz chipset with 2GB RAM; that’s a heck of a lot of lift and the tablet reflects it. Loading web pages, apps, documents or e-books is a breeze and streaming or playing videos doesn’t cause the tablet any worries. Flicking between apps saw no lag whatsoever and playing games on the tablet, generally quite a power-heavy exercise, saw no lag or freezing.

Set-up for your tablet is easy; to transfer files and the like, you can use apps such as Android File Transfer to drop and drag. The Xperia will also prompt you to put installation software on your PC when you connect it via USB, but Mac users, as per usual, will have trouble with this, since the device won’t be recognised.

Similarly, transferring TV shows or movies from iTunes to the Xperia Z won’t work unless you have software to remove Apple’s Digital Rights Management from the files (music generally transfers fine).

The tablet is running Android 4.1.2, which isn’t the latest version of Android (that would be 4.2, also named Jelly Bean) but this version runs fine and gets what you need done.

Android is an intuitive operating system which is easy to use and simply laid out – a main home screen you can add favourite apps to and with various go-to buttons which will launch things like a full list of apps, an app ‘tray’ that shows your most useful apps in a scrolling side bar, and your admin-type apps in a small bar across the bottom of the home screen, including calculator and notes.

The tablet comes in a variety of models; there’s the less expensive 16GB Wi-Fi-only version, then for £50 more there’s the 32GB Wi-Fi-only version and for £499 there’s the 16GB 4G/LTE version.

Full article in Mobile News issue 542 (July 1, 2013).

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