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June 29, 2013

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Review

The Xperia Tablet Z has the rare position of being the only Android tablet that can slug it out even if it’s in the middle of a downpour. That’s because they designed it as a unique selling proposition. Check out our full review of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z after the break.

The Xperia Tablet Z follows the same design path as the Xperia Z smartphone that came before it. The goal was to make a very slim tablet that can resist the elements, has a simple yet every elegant design in a standard form factor.

Design and Construction.

The Xpaeria Tablet Z is perhaps the bext-looking and sexiest tablet we’ve ever seen in its category. It rivals even the slim metallic design of the iPad Mini. In fact, it is even thinner than the iPad Mini.

It’s short of impressive how Sony was able to fit all that powerful hardware inside a 6.9mm thin body . That in itself is already a huge feat.

The body is a combination of tempered glass, a rubbery matte polycarbonate shell and soft trimmings. The flat polygonal shape is slightly accented by soft rounded edges (not as sharp as the edges of the Xperia Z).

The ports are all hidden inside flip-covered compartments along the side – the large, silver power button and volume rockers is found on the left side along with the 3.5mm audio jack tucked in by a flip cover; the micro USB port is on the bottom end, flushed near the left side with the micro-SD card slot on the other end both of which are also protected by flip covers. Just beside the micro SD slot is another empty port which is probably for the LTE micro-SIM card (although our WiFi-only model has that portioned covered with an empty plastic card).

There are two speaker grills, each one positioned on the bottom end of the left and right side of the device. At the back is the 8MP rear camera and the entire back surface has that smooth and rubbery feel to it. The IR blaster is neatly hidden on the top end of the device.

Despite the ultra-thin body, the tablet still feels very solid and very well built. The extra attention to detail is evident. The net weight of the tablet itself is surprisingly very light for its size, factor that made it compelling to bring around instead of the 7-inch Nexus 7 that used to tag along.

Display.

The Tablet Z packs a full HD 1080p TFT display. It is pretty much the standard resolution for flagship tablets nowadays.

The display is very crisp and clear, colors are well-saturated and picture quality is impressive all in all. We were hoping for more brightness when cranked up to the highest settings but the display could only give so much. This is probably because Sony was optimizing for better battery considering TFT displays are more power-hungry compared to IPS or AMOLED displays.

The TFT display also struggled when used in the outdoors since it’s a bit more reflective. Nevertheless, we found the clarity, excellent picture quality and contrast provided by the BRAVIA Engine makes up for its shortcomings.

Since the tablet is so thin, Sony had to make the left and right bezel a little wider than usual to accommodate more area for the palm when holding the device with both hands (and avoid unnecessary touch gestures on the screen).

OS, Apps and UI.

The tablet comes with Android 4.1 Jellybean and a custom UI designed by Sony to focus on the multimedia features of the device. Even the remote control for the IR blaster is permanently docked on the navigation for quick access.

Sony included a lot of its native apps for media playback. We loved the Walkman-inspired design of media players for music and movies. The media files are automatically added into the player, sorted and even identified so it can pull more data like covers and descriptions. Too bad the video player can’t play a lot of file formats so we still had to use VLC in some instances.

With hundreds of thousands of apps available via Google Play Store, you’ll have access to almost any kind of games, productivity apps and tools at your disposal to maximize the use of the tablet. If you don’t like the UI, there are dozens of options to select from and replace the native one.

Multimedia and Camera.

Sony’s focus on multimedia is something we appreciate the most with the Tablet Z. The custom-made media player has a lot of features to make the experience more enjoyable.

The large full HD screen is a good replacement to watching hi-def movies away from the laptop and into the tablet. We only have the 16GB model but we’re able to use a 32GB microSD card for additional storage.

The pair of speakers on both sides of the tablet also produces really good sound quality, has more than enough volume and a little bit of bass. In some instances, one might accidentally cover the speakers with the palm of the hands when holding them in an upright position (only when you’re holding it with both hands at the lower end of the screen).

The rear camera is flushed on the left side of the tablet so framing is slightly skewed to that end. Picture quality is very good in the outdoors and wel-lit environments but can get a bit grainy once you shoot indoors or under low-light conditions.

Here are some samples of photos we took using the rear camera.

Here are additional videos we recorded with the 8MP rear camera.

There’s a built-in image stabilization for photos and videos, just in case you’re the shaky type.

Performance and Benchmarks.

The Tablet Z worked flawlessly during the entire time we’ve been using it for the past couple of weeks. It’s pretty stable, snappy and responsive. The quad-core Snapdragon S4 Krait coupled with 2GB of RAM can pretty much chew any task or app we throw at it, and with ease.

Our 3 standard benchmarks indicated the same. With Quadrant Standard, the device scored 7,408 and for Antutu Benchmark, it’s 20,380. The score for NenaMark 2 is an impressive 60.0fps and considering this is a full HD display, that’s a pretty good result.

Connectivity and Battery Life.

While there are LTE models of the Xperia Tablet Z, these units cannot make or accept calls. Instead, you’re left with data connectivity and with luck, even including SMS (via a 3rd-party messaging app) but that’s to be expected from a lot of LTE-capable tablets anyway.

What you’ll get in addition to WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 is NFC which has limited use for now. What we found more useful actually is the built-in IR blaster as we can use it as a remote control for our Sony HD TV (many other TV brands are also supported).

For battery life, we were expecting the Tablet Z to match the standard 10 hours of movie playback by most other flagship tablets around. The unit has a 6,000mAh battery rating and was able to last for about 9 hours when running a full HD movie in a loop at 50% brightness and 0% volume.

It’s actually a pretty decent battery performance considering the resolution of the screen, type of display and most importantly, the thinness of the device. The 1 hours below expectation is tolerable considering the weight and thinness of the tablet (2.5mm thinner and 157 grams lighter than the iPad 4).

Conclusion.

While we can still consider Sony as playing catch-up in the tablet market (only its 3rd-gen), the Xperia Tablet Z has, in most cases, achieved a feat that help it leap over many other tablets in the market.

Its got a great set of hardware, a very thin and sexy design, a capable OS and it’s even water-resistant to boot. The only shortcoming we can point out is the use of TFT display which we’ve already overlooked because of the full HD 1080p resolution.

In terms of design and craftsmanship, Sony has a clear winner with the Xperia Tablet Z. If only they could price it competitively.

* As of this writing, the Xperia Tablet Z is not yet officially released in the Philippines so gray market prices is still high, starting at Php27,500 for the 16GB WiFi model.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z SGP311 specs:
10.1-inch full HD display @ 1920×1128 pixels, 240ppi
Mobile Bravia Engine 2
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 APQ8064+MDM9215M 1.5GHz quad-core processor
Adreno 320 graphics
2GB RAM
16GB/32GB internal storage
NFC
HSPA+/LTE 100Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
up to 32GB via microSD card
8.1-megapixel Exmor R camera
Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS with aGPS, GLONASS
Li-Ion 6,000mAh battery
Android 4.1.2 Jellybean
266 x 172 x 6.9 mm (dimensions)
495 grams or 1.09 lb (weight)

What we liked about it:
* Simple yet sexy design
* Super thin and light form factor
* Great performance
* Good camera quality
* Good sound quality
* Water and dust resistant

What we did not like:
* TFT LCD display


8 Responses to “Sony Xperia Tablet Z Review”

  1. Kunsel says:

    What’s wrong with its TFT display? It is far better than Xperia Z or the ZL.
    They gave a nice viewing angles on that tablet, but omitted it on the Z/ZL.

    • abuzalzal says:

      TFT LCD is an older technology, where iPS morphed into…it has several disadvantages…washed out colors, poor viewing angles, poor text sharpness just to name a few.

      In every sense, images don’t ”pop” as it normally should on ips or amoleds

    • buns says:

      IPS is a variant of TFT. telling TFT as a bad display is like saying that IPS is bad too

  2. Raul says:

    Hi Abe,

    Can you confirm if what I’ve been reading on other sites and reviews is true? Does it really take along time to charge the Xperia Tablet Z?

    Thanks

  3. Don Lim says:

    6000 mAh battery is too low. Ipad has 9000+

    • Don Lim says:

      according to gsmarena.com…

      IPad 4 (9.7″) = 11,560 mAh
      Nexus 10 (10.1″) = 9000 mAh

      So Tablet Z’s battery should definitely count as a CON.

  4. Jaz says:

    I just bought the 4G version. Malakas makakuha ng signal. It’s just that may instances na parang habang hawak ko ito, parang mag-isa syang ‘pumipindot’. May keyboard sound kasi ako and napansin kong thrice na nangyayari na parang may napipindot ako kahit wala naman.

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