The Sony Xperia Tablet Z reviewed
Sony’s new tablet is the best on the market right now, but its high price makes the buying decision difficult. By Duncan McLeod.
It’s not often that unboxing a new phone or tablet gets our pulses racing. It happened with the original iPhone and again with the iPad, and later with the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S3. Now, a new 10,1-inch tablet computer from Sony, the Xperia Tablet Z, has elicited a similar must-have-it response.
The Tablet Z simply oozes sex appeal. The almost impossibly thin design — it’s a good 2,5mm thinner than the fourth-generation iPad and, at 495g, more than 150g lighter — coupled with its all-black styling make for a head-turning device.
The tablet has clearly taken its design cue from Sony’s excellent new Xperia Z, which is one of 2013’s very best Android-powered smartphones. (See TechCentral’s review.)
In spite of its diminutive proportions, Sony has managed to squeeze some pretty reasonable hardware into its new tablet.
The machine is powered by a quad-core 1,5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor coupled with an Adreno 320 graphics processor, translating into good gaming performance on the vivid 1 920×1 200-pixel TFT display. Oh, and the display uses Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine 2 technology, which the company says enhances picture clarity and richness. It does look very pretty.
The tablet comes with two cameras, an 8,1-megapixel rear-facing shooter that’s been optimised for use in low-light conditions — it works as advertised — and an above average 2,2-megapixel front-facing camera that works great for Hangouts and Skype calls and which supports resolutions of up to 1080p.
There are all the features we’ve become accustomed to in modern smartphones and tablets: GPS, accelerometer and magnetometer (digital compass).
For connectivity, there’s support for fast 3G — no 4G/LTE, unfortunately (update: the version coming to South Africa does, in fact, support 4G) — and there’s near-field communication, too, though, in practice, not many people seem to use this technology.
Apart from its gorgeous design, the other main selling point of the Xperia Tablet Z — and like the Xperia Z smartphone — is the fact that it is water resistant. The company claims you can submerge the device in a metre of water for up to half an hour. We didn’t attempt that, although rinsing the tablet under a tap for a few minutes caused no problems at all. If you like to read on your tablet in the bath without the worry of accidentally dropping it in the tub, then the Xperia Tablet Z may be exactly the device you’ve been waiting for. Just remember to ensure the port flaps for the 3,5mm audio jack, microSD slot, the Sim card slot and micro USB port for charging and data transfer are securely attached.
The tablet runs Andoid 4.1 “Jelly Bean” with Sony’s inoffensive Timescape overlay. It comes bundled with two streaming media applications, neither of which works in South Africa. Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited both warn at start-up that they are “not available in your country”. It’s a good thing there are alternatives, then. One hopes, however, that Sony is working to bring content to South Africa, especially movies and TV shows, where there’s little competition yet.
Other apps include Walkman for music playback — a nod to Sony’s game-changing Walkman portable audio cassette player from the 1980s — as well as Album picture viewer and the Movie video playback app, which do their jobs as advertised.
All in all, then, Sony has produced arguably the best tablet on the market right now — one that beats even the iconic iPad. It’s pricey though — thanks to the recent collapse in the value of the rand, it’s expected to retail in South Africa for as much as R9 000. Given that the tablet has only 16GB of storage (albeit expandable by 32GB using a microSD card), that means a fairly hefty premium over the similarly specced iPad. Tough call. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media