The Xperia Tablet Z has an IPS display with 1920 x 1200 resolution, a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM and up to 32 GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD. For connectivity it has a micro-USB port for charging and transfers, a 3.5mm audio jack, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. There's an infrared port to allow the tablet to double as a universal remote control. All this, may I remind you, is held in a body just 6.9 mm thick.
The operating system is Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with Sony's added apps and interface.
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z comes in a choice of black or white and costs £399 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi version, £449 for the 32 GB Wi-Fi version and £499 for the 16 GB LTE/4G version.
DESIGN & HANDLING
See, this is what we mean when we say we want to see more classy devices. Your first "wow" response will come from how thin the slate is. The second, from how light it is. When it comes to style, we think the Xperia Tablet Z's body surpasses everything else that's on the market right now. The finish is impeccable and the whole thing feels solid and strong, despite its skinnied down profile. Sony is trying to nurture its little "Z" family and gave the slate a silhouette similar to its high-end smartphone, the Xperia Z.
The Xperia Tablet Z has the same edges and the same big, eye-catching ON/OFF button as the Xperia Z, except this time Sony nixed the glass back altogether—which is a good thing, because it means fewer smudges and more solidity.
As part of the waterproof design, the jacks and ports on either side have protective covers to seal them off from the elements. The covers hold well; they seem solid and built to last.
It's a pity Sony didn't give the slate a borderless display, or at least thin borders, because it would have fit perfectly with the rest of the design. After carrying the tablet around in a backpack with no protection for a week, the screen still looked like new. Sony hasn't said what technology they used (Gorilla Glass...?) but the results are excellent.
Sony has always used IPS panels for its tablet screens. IPS technology combines adequate contrast with nice, broad viewing angles. The Xperia Tablet Z is no exception to this rule, and it even got a bump up from the usual 1280 x 800 pixels to 1920 x 1200, making it much better suited to compete on the high-end tablet market.
We tested it out, and the screen does have extremely wide viewing angles. We found no drops in contrast from any angle. And the contrast is great (920:1, on average). At up to 392 cd/m², the screen gets good and bright, enough to offer proper visibility in mild weather. The surface is glossy, though, so if there's too much sunlight then you might want to improve the ligibility by using a different background image than the default Sony one.
But the colours were a let-down. The Xperia Tablet Z is clearly not for the colour-conscious, especially photographers of any kind. The average Delta E is 7.2, and from this inaccuracy no tones come out unscathed (except, maybe, red). A Delta E this high means that the colours displayed onscreen when watching a video, looking at photos or browsing the web are not very faithful to their intended hues.
But the temperature is good, with a close-to-ideal average of 6,412 K and consistency across the spectrum, meaning that there aren't any dominant overtones in any shade.
The display gets satisfactory response times of 21 ms, which is common to IPS panels like this. However, the touch-response time is a very so-so 212 ms, far from the iPad's 75 ms and the Surface Pro's 74 ms. In use, this basically adds up to a (very) small amount of latency when navigating through the tablet, but nothing aggravating—it just isn't one of the best.
As for the 1920 x 1200 resolution, it's a pleasure on the eyes, providing clear and legible text wherever the eye doth drift, and great readability throughout the OS.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
The interface has hardly changed since Sony's last two tablets. To get a full idea of how Sony envisions the world of Android, please check out our Xperia Tablet S review.
Essentially, you've got standard Android dressed up in sober colours with icons that follow Sony's visual flare and a number of cool, practical additions, such as a more intuitive (and classy-looking) set of shortcuts on the home screens, mini-apps that can be opened at any time via the icons in the bottom bar and the tried-and-tested universal remote function. The universal remote mode is easy to set up and it's compatible with most brands and product types. Sony's universal remote should serve as a model of efficiency for Samsung and its recent stabs in this direction. There's also Sony Select for organising the entries in Google Play Store, but how useful this is is open for debate.
The OS runs well enough. There's a certain amount of choppiness when flipping between the home screens—nothing to ruin your day, but it's noticeable. Overall it's still a very nice interface, due largely to Sony's acute sense of aesthetics.
With Full HD+ resolution, the Xperia Tablet Z necessarily offers a great online experience when it comes to clarity and legibility. The somewhat choppy zoom function is ultimately worth it for the high pixel density! And in terms of performance, web browsing runs fast and fluid, no matter what browser you use.
Video playback still relies on Android's native file compatibility (unlike Samsung and Archos, Sony still hasn't given its system an in-house media player really worthy of the name). Then again, they have to push their VOD service somehow, right? Unfortunately, HD content is still nowhere to be found on Sony Video Unlimited and the prices are still sky-high for what's on offer.
For video games, you have all the titles available on Google Play Store and PlayStation Mobile, although worthwhile games are rather sparse on PlayStation Mobile and the handful of exclusive apps don't bring much new to Android.
The Xperia Tablet Z doesn't have the best graphics on the tablet market, but it's capable of running any game, without lags, in more than honourable detail.
The sound through the headphone output is clean, with fairly high volume and absolutely no distortion. It can feed any headphone or speaker system. The two built-in speakers are located near where your hands land when holding the tablet in landscape mode, for better amplification and reproduction of the stereo image. The sound quality via the speakers is fine for a tablet, with relatively good volume and little saturation.
So, Sony was able to fit a 6,000 mAh battery in the 6.9 mm thin body... That's practically the minimum required to feed a screen with 1920 x 1200 pixels. In practice, the Xperia Tablet Z expires on average after 8 hours and 40 minutes of continuous video playback. With more varied usage (e-mails, Internet, movies and video games—as long as you don't go overboard with the games), it lasts just over 9 hours. That puts the Xperia Tablet Z about 45 minutes to an hour behind the tablets with the best battery lives on the market.
As on the Xperia Z smartphone, Sony included Stamina, a mode that saves battery life by cutting things like the wireless connectivity while in lock mode. With Stamina on, the slate can last a good several days on standby. A full charge takes a little over 3 hours.
The camera interface is more or less the same as the Xperia Z's, a derivative of what you find on Sony's digital cameras, with features like Intelligent Auto. The picture quality is better than many a tablet camera, although it can't necessarily stand up to an actual compact. There's less of the contour enhancement Sony seems to like so much, making for photographs that look less artificial. And the Full HD video recording is stable, but you aren't exactly going to direct a movie using it.
The webcam gives a very good picture with little latency and good exposure, as long as the subject is in good lighting. But you'll want to avoid Skyping in low light; that's when the image goes mediocre.