07/06/2013 09:45 | By David Phelan, contributor, MSN Tech

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

An iPad killer? Almost - Sony's new tab is the best big-screen Android slate we've seen

What is it?
Sony's first tablet to use the winning design of the Xperia Z smartphone is slim and striking-looking.

What’s great?
The design is strong, the thinness is pleasing and if you like watching video in the bath, it’s a waterproof winner.

What’s not?
The battery life isn’t quite on a par with rivals and the screen, though good, could be even better.

The bottom line
As Android tablets go, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is excellent. It has great design and is thinner and lighter than its rivals. Processing power is good but not exceptional and the battery life could be better.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review (© MSN)

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Review

There are plenty of full-size Android tablets on the market, but relatively few have the classy, premium feel that the iPad manages so effortlessly on its rival iOS. There’s the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, the Google Nexus 10 and er, well that’s about it, unless you include the Asus tablets that thrive when connected to a keyboard. There are budget 10-inch Android tablets but they mostly have awful displays, slow processors or keen omissions (like no access to Google Play Store, for instance). Sony’s tablet makes none of these mistakes.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Design and build quality

Sony has a chance to make a mark with its new model which takes definite design cues from its popular Xperia Z phone, including a black casing and a precisely milled, gleaming silver power button on the side. Actually, the design here is better, thanks to the slightly more forgiving edges than the sharp ones on the phone and the pleasing soft-touch matte finish on the back which is more welcoming to the fingers than the smartphone’s glass rear.

As a result of this back and the remarkable thinness of the Tablet Z, this is a very comfortable tablet to hold, helped by the fact that it’s so light (it’s more than 150g lighter than the fourth-generation iPad). It’s well-constructed and the only downside to this tablet being so pleasingly slim becomes apparent when you flex it in your hands. It still feels secure but there’s a slight audible creak when you do so – and the screen can think you’re touching it when you flex it, so apps sometimes leap into life unexpectedly. Even so, it’s a small trade-off for the light, slim profile of the Tablet Z.

This is a Sony Android device so as you’d expect it has a classy software design, too. So the default background is a stylish black with multi-coloured wafts of light to show off the rich colours and decent contrasts. The unlock screen has a pleasant Venetian blind effect as you swipe it. And the app icons are slick and cute. The hardware and software design work together better than on any other Android tablet.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z rear (© Sony)

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Display

The tablet has a Full HD resolution, exactly matching that of a full-size HD TV, in other words. This comes to life best when you’re playing back HD video, which really shines here. There are other displays which are even better, such as the fourth-generation iPad and the even higher-density Nexus 10, for instance. But this still looks great, not least thanks to Sony’s TV section having helpfully chipped in with some Bravia technology to ensure smooth motion, for instance – though you can turn this off if you don’t care for it.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Features

Like the Sony Xperia Z phone, this tablet is waterproof. You can plonk it in 1 metre of water for up to half an hour and it’ll still work. This is handy if you want to watch a video in the bath without fear of splashing or ruining your tablet. You could use it to email in the bath, if you really must. And the more perverse will enjoy the fact that you can watch video through a puddle. It’s a gimmick, of course, but if you happen to drop the Tablet Z into water, you’ll be so grateful it’s there.

This feature does mean, as it does on the Z smartphone, that the sockets, such as headphone and power, have to be sealed. This means there are little plastic flaps sitting on top of the holes and they don’t feel solid or especially easy to move. They work just fine, though. Sound from the tablet’s speakers is not as strong as on other tablets and the waterproofing may play a part in this.

Sony has included its Track ID app to help you name that tune, and there are the company’s Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited subscription services as well, both of which are effective and easy to use. Plus, if you lost your TV remote, your tablet can become a useful – if rather unwieldy – replacement, and not just for Sony models. This is a feature on several smartphones at the moment and it’s better suited to the smaller size and weight a phone offers.

And the back of the tablet sports an 8-megapixel camera: an unusually high-resolution snapper or a big-screen device. The usual rules apply about a big oblong of glass being a poor shape for a camera, but there we are. Low light doesn’t help, either, and there’s no flash. Still, it’s usable for those quick snaps so many people seem to want to take on their tablets.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Android (© Sony)

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Performance

The 1.5GHz chip in the tablet isn’t as fast or capable as some of the Z’s current rivals. It’s not that it’s slow, it’s not. That’s partly down to the 2GB of RAM that the tablet has. It’s just that some of the competition runs faster. And you may notice this difference when you have lots of apps running, for instance.

And the version of Android that’s in use here is not the latest. It’s Jelly Bean, but only version 4.1.2 instead of the 4.2 edition that’s available now. It’s not that big a difference but which Android version is one of those disparities that Google geeks care a lot about.

Battery life is a little disappointing, not living up to the expectations that the iPad has set. It’s not terrible, but you’ll need to recharge more quickly than you might imagine and – like the iPad – a full recharge takes some time.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Verdict

Slick, sleek and super-slim, this is the catwalk model among 10-inch tablets. The design is Sony at its best: chic and unafraid of making a statement. The thin profile does mean it flexes slightly in the hand if you’re not gentle enough, but this is a small price to pay for a gadget that’s so light and comfy to hold.

Though it’s out-pixelled by the iPad and Google Nexus 10, the display here is bright, sharp and realistically colourful and the Full HD resolution is all you need to play back HD video faithfully. Sound isn’t as strong as on some rivals, not least because this is a waterproof device. This means there are slightly irritating flaps on the headphone, microSD card and micro USB sockets, but they work well and being waterproof is a neat extra that means you can rest assured that the tablet will survive if you drop it in the bath or splash it in the kitchen.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z: Available now - £399 (16GB Wi-Fi), £449 (32GB Wi-Fi), £499 (16GB LTE) - check the latest prices with Bing.

Also on MSN Tech:
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 review
Best Windows 8 tablets


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