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If you haven’t been paying attention to Sony lately, then you’ve been missing out on some of the company’s best mobile products it has ever released. The Sony Xperia Z and ZL are powerful and sleek devices that can take on just about any other smartphone available today head on, and the same goes for its latest tablet offering, the Xperia Tablet Z.
In an iPad-dominated market, Android tablet manufacturers have made a habit of chasing the 7-inch tablet market by offering serviceable tablets at an affordable price point. Not Sony, though. The company is still laser-focused on the high-end 10 inch tablet market, and it shows with the Tablet Z. It looks as though Sony has left no stone unturned with it’s latest tablet, but is it enough for the consumer to make the jump? In this review, we’ll find out just that. Read on!
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is packed with just about any feature one could imagine on a tablet, and then it goes a little further.
Rocking a 10.1 inch 1920 x 1200 Reality HD Display (about 225 ppi), the screen on the Tablet Z is quite beautiful. Images are crisp and color reproduction is stellar. This much we expected of Sony, but as we know, it's not just about the display. The Tablet Z also rocks a 1.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2GB RAM, 16/32GB storage options, micro SD card slot, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, IR Blaster, and more.
Possibly the Sony Xperia Tablet Z's best trick is that its water and dust resistant, which can allow the device to be submerged into 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Because of its water and dust resistance powers, you'll find all ports for the tablet under small covers to keep them water tight.
The front of the tablet is about as clean as any 10 inch tablet, where you'll find only the 2 megapixel front-facing camera and Sony's logo on the top left disrupting the otherwise solid black face. The left side of the Tablet Z gives home to the 3.5mm headphone jack (under a cover), the familiar silver power/lock button we've seen on devices like the Xperia Z, volume rocker, notification LED, two small connections for the optional docking accessory, and a small speaker grill at the bottom. The right side is clean, leaving only a speaker grill, with the bottom sporting two more speaker grills, the micro USB charging port, and micro SD card slot.
About those speakers. There are only two of them, but Sony cleverly placed two grills to each speaker on the corners of the tablet. This can help greatly depending on how the user holds the tablet, as sound will won't be muffled due to the other grills at the bottom to show the user where the chip is located.
The back of the Tablet Z is done up in a nice soft touch finish, and is as elegantly bare as the front. Here you'll find the 8 megapixel camera, Xperia branding smack dab in the middle, and a NFC logo at the bottom.
Looking at the Xperia Tablet Z and picking it up are two very different experiences. A simple glance at the device doesn't really do it justice. The Xperia Tablet Z is both incredibly thin and light. The Tablet Z is thinner than a pencil, coming in at a mere 6.8mm and ultra light weight at only 495 grams. Compare this to the 9.4mm/652 gram iPad and the 8.89mm/594 gram Galaxy Note 10.1.
Unsurprisingly, Sony has brought its Omnibalance design found on the Xperia Z to it's tablet cousin. Sony's Omnibalance design is defined as minimal yet distinctive, and that's pretty much what you'd call the design of the Tablet Z in a nutshell.
The tablet avoids the swooping curves and rounded edges found on many tablets today to bring a stark contrast that works very well. The rounded edges that do exist on the corners are very subtle. There's a touch of elegance to the simplicity of the overall design and we think it would be a pretty great addition to the living room (due to its IR Blaster for controlling the TV) and just about anywhere else.
Outside of its water and dust resistant capabilities, the Xperia Tablet Z feels pretty durable. Sony clearly went heavy on the plastics when it made the Tablet Z, but the skeletal frame lining the sides of the entire tablet certainly makes it feel like the device can take a beating.
Of course, we'd love to see the Tablet Z built out of better materials, but this likely wouldn't allow Sony to boast about the tablet's light weight feel, so there's a bit of a trade off. I personally don't see the build quality of the tablet to be much of an issue to owners.
Like the Xperia Z, the Tablet Z shares a nearly identical user interface, but slightly revamped to take advantage of the extra 5.1 inches of display.
The user interface of the Tablet Z is very clean, and with the exception of a few visual tweaks, the UI gives off a stock Android feel. Of course, it's also pretty obvious that Sony put a lot of effort into its UI, as it offers some unique features, like custom themes and more. Sony also added a nice touch to the selection sounds on the Tablet Z, which sound pretty much identical to that of the PS3 when panning through menus.
There's a nice helping of Sony-made applications on the Tablet Z, and the best part about this is that you'll probably find yourself using them. The Walkman, Albums, and Movies applications are all a nice step up from the stock Android applications, with playful animations that aren't over the top. Sony's Update Center tells you when any of it's home-made apps have an update waiting, which side steps having to update the entire system on the device.
Of course, since this is a Sony device, users will be able to use the Tablet Z to interact with Sony devices your other devices in your home. Tablet Z owners can easily pair NFC-enabled wireless speakers, use the PS3 Dualshock 3 wireless controller to play games on the device, and much more with ease.
Overall, the software experience on the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is just as nice as what you'd find on the Xperia Z and ZL, which is a very good thing.
Even better, if you don't like the user interface on the Tablet Z, you can look into the AOSP build.
While tablet photography looks laughingly awkward in just about every way, it's kind of hard to ignore when said device rocks an 8 megapixel camera. In our experience, the camera on the Tablet Z performs pretty well.
I had the same experience with the Tablet Z that I did with the Xperia ZL, in that the photos produced look very different than what you see in the view finder. Photos look much, much better when you see them in the gallery and I was pretty impressed to see the color saturation in the photos below in such gloomy SF weather.
The Superior Auto focus feature is a great addition to the tablet's camera, as it will automatically adjust the focus mode depending on the focus subject. This is a very handy feature that will keep you from fidgeting with the camera settings every time you choose to take a photos of a different subject.
The Xperia Tablet Z oozes style and a beautiful design without needing to be in your face. This approach could have been a disaster, as the tablet could have just been another slab, but it's not. The combination of power and sleekness make this one of the best Android tablets available on the market today.
Sony has been churning out some of the sexiest devices for a while now, but it's now been able to find a great harmony between its hardware and software experiences. The Tablet Z would best be served as a companion to something equally as sexy as the Xperia Z or ZL, but it certainly can stand on it's own in every way.
We'd say that the only draw back is the price point of the Tablet Z. It's completely worth the price tag, but tablet prices are dropping like crazy these days, with many companies shipping smaller, more affordable units alongside their 10 inch tablet offerings. It doesn't look like Sony has plans on releasing a 7 inch version of the Tablet Z (as much as we'd love to see one), so if you want it, you're going to have to pay up. Still, we have our doubts that the price tag will stop anyone who has been eyeing this tablet.
If you're not sold on Samsung's Note 10.1, be sure to look at Sony's elegant and straight forward Android tablet. It's a winner.