Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

Reviews 30 May, 2013

A beautifully crafted 10in Android tablet, which is waterproof, but has Sony left it too late?

4
Price: 
£399 (16GB), £449 (32GB), £499 (16GB LTE)
Pros: 
Great LCD display; Micro-SDXC support up to 64GB ; LTE (optional), NFC and USB OTG ; Waterproof; Sony has included some nice Android tweaks.
Cons: 
Display not as scratch-proof as rivals; Wide-screen format not entirely suited to productivity use; Water causes the touch-screen to register activity; Large bezel; Glossy finish is bad for outdoor use; Sharp edges can make the tablet uncomfortable to hold.
Verdict: 
Sony has nailed it with the redesigned tablet. The performance and features are worth the iPad-equivalent pricing. However, we just can't help feel that the Tablet Z isn't going to be as widely adopted as it should be.

Sony had to go back to the drawing board after its Tablet S and Tablet P devices bombed. The Japanese firm has bounced back with the redesigned and rebranded Xperia tablet, which ties in with its flagship smartphone range.

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z - to give the device its full title - is a premium Android tablet. It's unique selling point like its smartphone brethren is the IP7 waterproofing and IP5 dust protection. But is this enough to enable Sony to compete with the like of Apple’s iPad 4 and Google’s Nexus 10? The signs point to yes...

The Design

The first thing that strikes you about the Tablet Z upon removal from its bulky packaging is the block rectangle shape. Aside from the dimensions, which are wider than that of an iPad in order to accommodate the 10.1in widescreen display, the corners are square - giving the device an angular, industrial look.

The front is one continuous piece of glass adorned with the Sony logo at the top-right, and looks stunning. This is countered with two downsides though: the glossy finish attracts fingerprints like you wouldn’t believe, despite Sony’s claims of “anti-fingerprint technology,” and when the screen is switched on you suddenly realise just how big the black bezel surrounding the screen really is.

The large bezel is likely a result of Sony’s decision to make the Tablet Z as thin as possible. Measuring just 6.9mm at its thickest point - which, given the angular nature of the device, is also its thinnest point - significantly thinner than the 9.4mm iPad 4 or the 8.9mm Nexus 10 and even besting the 7.2mm iPad Mini.

At 495g, the Tablet Z is light, but it can feel uncomfortable during prolonged use, thanks to sharp edges.

The rear of the device is a matt-finish plastic, but it feels like rubber and offers great grip. The edges of the device include a physical power button, volume control, and clever speakers which are ported on both the edges and the bottom of the casing - meaning whichever way you hold the tablet, the speakers will still be audible.

A headphone port, micro-USB port - which doubles for USB On-The-Go (OTG) or MHL use with an optional cable - and micro-SD card slot are all protected by small flaps, part of the tablet’s waterproofing, along with a micro-SIM slot on the LTE model.

Waterproofing

The Tablet Z is officially certified as IP55/IP57 waterproof and IP5X dust-resistant. This is thanks to the caps that sit over exposed ports - but there’s also a lot of clever trickery in the design. According to the IP57 standard, a device should be able to be submerged to a depth of one meter in fresh water for a period of half an hour. 

The manual has some warnings about relying on the waterproof nature of the tablet. First of all, it quite clearly states that the Tablet Z must not be submerged - despite the IP57 rating allowing for that for short periods in shallow water. Secondly, it warns that if the speakers get wet - which they will - they must be dried for three hours before use.

Worse still, the tablet includes the same moisture sensors inside as have been standard on smartphones for years - and if your tablet gives up the ghost as a result of water getting where it shouldn’t, Sony won’t honour the warranty.

Assuming you’re not going diving, however, the waterproofing is a nice touch. The tablet can certainly survive a drop in the bath and a rain shower. Although heavy rain can trick the touch-screen into registering touches where none exist - resulting in the tablet going off and doing its own thing, dragging things hither and thither without your consent.

A bigger problem for outdoor use is the glossy screen: despite the Mobile Bravia Engine 2’s best efforts, the tablet is difficult to use in bright sunlight, and the glass seems easy to damage with a small, shallow scratch appearing on our test unit after a week’s use in a protective case.

Specifications: 

OS: Android 4.1.2 (with Sony customisations
Display: 10.1in 1920x1200, 224ppi
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro Quad-Core (1.5GHz)
RAM: 2GB
Internal Storage: 16GB or 32GB (64GB available in some countries)
Camera: Eight megapixel Exmor R rear with autofocus and 1080p video, 2.2 megapixel Exmor R front
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, AGPS, Infra-Red (LTE optional)
Ports: Headphone, Micro-USB with OTG and MHL support, micro-SDXC (micro-SIM optional)
Dimensions: 266 x 172 x 6.9mm

Disqus - noscript

There will. :)

Right now many people are switching from notebooks and PCs to tablets, and there will be new customers till 2015-6, I suppose. I really would like to buy Z because I miss Palm Tungsten T materials quality and this will be like resurrection of quality devices... on Android, which is best mobile OS for me, it gives you control over your files and system itself.

It will be a complete win if Sony made the bootloader of Tablet Z unlockable. It could last for 5-7 years if so, 'cause we'll be able to write entirely new operating system in it, like Firefox OS, Tizen, Jolla, tablet Ubuntu or open webOS. Definitely look forward to it.

Sony left it too late?
let's consider the situation:
Android tablets in the past always had a LOW resolution compared to the screen size, with 9" 800x480, which is RIDICULOUSLY low for the size
Android 4 is the first OS that works decently with tablets
customers are realising that Android 4 tablets are FAR better than the low spec/high cost iPad Mini, so are considering them as alternatives, even to the full size iPad
Sony are the first company to produce decent weather proof tablets & phones at a reasonable price

while the Nexus 10 came out a little time ago, this is the PERFECT time for Sony to release a really good 10" tablet, running Android 4+, and weather resistant, and no other decent priced tablets are as even close to water proof!

if the price remains reasonable, and the storage is decent (although no microSD), then it's a good choice against the competitors, whether the Nexus 10 or the "new new" iPad - add in Sony's quality of screen and sound (they're SONY!!!), and you've got yourself a really competitive tablet

until Surface tablets come out at around £400, then the only real choices are coming in as Nexus 10 or this, especially since Apple still hasn't woken up to 16x9 screens for the iPad (although it took 5 years to happen on the iPhone), even though the rest of the world has been 16x9 for over a decade :-P

i'm getting into android tablets mostly because of apps already available for the phones, like gps, office, etc. I imagine new os's won't be compatible with android apps.

800x480? good lord are you ever off m8 my 2 year old xoom is a 1280 display. HD displays are relatively but IPAD and the transformer infinity were both launched last spring so the hardware developmental time frame is about the same for their respected platforms.

I don't see a timing problem with sony release and am seriously considering buying one myself. Waterproof should be a standard on all mobile devices at this point and a built in IR remote and HD display make this very multifunctional.

my comment was "Android tablets in the past always had a LOW resolution compared to the screen size, with 9" 800x480"
your reply was "HD displays are relatively but IPAD and the transformer infinity were both launched last spring"

so, you're saying that the iPad is now an Android tablet? :-P I KNOW that the iPad is a higher resolution screen, with their "retina display" (I refuse to type it without the quotes)
there are VERY FEW tablets released before 6 months ago that are higher than 800x480, and most of the 7-9" tablets were stuck with the 800x480 screens - you've managed to name 2 out of what must be closer to 50 different tablets, which is hardly a trend...

Seems that its very
good tablet to buy, I like its water proof quality and very nice graphic and
best screen resolution…looking great.
http://www.cosmeticandobesitys...

I don't think ISG wanted to think about other OSs for using Android apps on, more that if you can put Ubuntu on it, you can use just about ANY Linux app, as long as the flavour of Ubuntu you installed supported a touch screen interface...

for other Android tablets, people have put completely different OSs onto them - it's certainly possible, and there has been an Ubuntu flavour available for ARM processors for nearly 18 months!

I was floundering around reading reviews about all the different tablet choices until I finally found this honest site which
has clear reviews.
It lead to my first tablet purchase (an iPad) which I am delighted with. highly recommended!

Thanks

Looks nice. Would be nice to know about interfaces & expansion slots and battery life. Not that any device in history actually achieves the advertised battery life...

It's never too late. I don't think there is a timing problem with sony release. Waterproof or not I'll give sony a fair chance to proof it .

regards

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this tablet is better that my netbook

The bootloader comes unlocked. Sony is even making AOSP available for it.