Published on September 4, 2013 11:16 AM

Tablet Duel: Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 vs Sony Xperia Tablet Z

Two 10-inch slates battle it out

In the left corner Sony jumps into the ring with its latest tablet, the cornerstone of the Japanese firm's resurgence on the market, the Xperia Tablet Z. Sony didn't slack off in the specs department, loading it with a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2 GB of RAM, a Full HD display and an 8-Megapixel camera. And, being water-and-dust-resistant, the Xperia Tablet Z has carved its own niche in the Android slate market.
Samsung enters the ring on the right with its latest 10-inch tablet, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. It has the general look and feel of the previous Galaxy Tabs, plus a respectable set of specs. It houses a 1.6 GHz Atom Z2560 processor instead of its usual Qualcomm or Exynos fare, and it's fitted with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal memory, expandable up to 64 GB via microSD. There are two cameras in store, a 3.2-Megapixel rear-facing sensor and a 1.3-Mpx camera on the front.   
Operating system (OS) Android
OS version tested 4.1 Jelly Bean
Chipset (SoC)
Processor (CPU) Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5 GHz
No. of CPU cores 4
GPU Adreno 320
Screen 10.1 inches IPS Capacitive
Resolution 1920 x 1200 pixels
Internal storage / SDHC slot / External storage 16 GB / no / yes
Battery life 9 hrs
Battery capacity
Dimensions/Weight 266 x 172 x 6.9 mm / 495 g
Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / 3G / 4G (LTE) yes / / yes / yes
Ports MicroUSB, 3.5mm jack, IR port
NFC yes
Operating system (OS) Android
OS version tested 4.2 Jelly Bean
Chipset (SoC)
Processor (CPU) Intel Atom Z2260 1.6 GHz
No. of CPU cores 2
Screen 10.1 inches PLS Capacitive
Resolution 1280 x 800 pixels
Internal storage / SDHC slot / External storage 16 GB / no / yes
Battery life 10 hrs
Battery capacity
Dimensions/Weight 176.1 x 243.1 x 7.95 mm / 510 g
Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / 3G / 4G (LTE) yes / / NA / no
Ports Proprietary
NFC no

Sony burst defiantly back onto the mobile scene in 2013 with the Xperia Z smartphone. Still high from the massive success of its flagship device, the Japanese firm decided to bolster its "Z" collection with the Z Ultra, a super-sized version of the Xperia Z, and the Xperia Tablet Z. As always, Sony impressed with a well- constructed design that sets its slate apart from the lot. The Tablet Z is marketed as a high-end device that aims to wed performance and design.
True to its ways, Samsung has kept a strong battalion of tablet sizes in its arsenal. Here, the South Korean firm has made a sound yet predictable return with the third generation of its 10-inch slate. But will this year's version make the cut? With fully boosted specs, competitors like the Xperia Tablet Z and Asus Transformer Pad Infinity have what it takes to give the G Tab 3 a run for its money. Even so, Samsung won't be knocked out by just any tablet.
The Xperia Tablet Z and Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 boast different specs, but both are vying for the same market: the 10-inch Android tablet market. Sony jumps into the ring as the challenger with high-end details and design as the ace up its sleeve. Samsung, the current champ in the ring, arrives with a tried-and-tested form factor, but one that has proved a solid success for the firm.
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
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Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1
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The Xperia Tablet Z is outfitted with 1920 x 1080-pixel Full HD resolution, whereas the Galaxy Tab 3 has a-little-more-than HD resolution at 1280 x 800 pixels.
So technically, the Z begins the duel a point ahead of its sparring partner. The IPS display guarantees good image quality from any angle. The high contrast (920:1) and screen brightness (392 cd/m²) follow suit. The Tablet Z can be used outdoors, just not in extremely bright surroundings. But for as much as this Full HD screen is worth, the Z slate isn't immune to flaws.
For example, colour fidelity isn't totally accurate with a Delta E of 7.2, (the Delta E should be as close to zero as possible). Plus, Sony's tablet doesn't shine when it comes to the touch response time. Actually, at 212 ms, it's far behind the stars of response time, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro (75 ms) and iPad Mini (80 ms). It's still enjoyable to navigate through the tablet, but we would've preferred a little better response time.
The Galaxy Tab 3 10.1's display backpedals from the previous generation. This time around, it has contrast of 779:1, compared to the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1's 840:1, and same goes for the brightness, which is now 291 cd/m², down from 370 cd/m². The Tab 3 10.1 rounds out this backward troika with colour fidelity, measured by a Delta E that's up to 7.5. It all comes together to offer what's ultimately an average display that's acceptable, but won't satisfy anyone demanding impeccable image quality.

The Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 has several display modes, such as "Standard" and "Dynamic", but none of them dramatically improve the image, except maybe "Movie" mode. The G Tab 3 10.1 swings back with a hearty punch against the Tablet Z with a touch response time of 105 ms. Plus, viewing angles on the PLS display (Samsung's version of IPS technology) are similar to the Tablet Z. 


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The Xperia Tablet Z looks solid. Sony definitely sought inspiration from the Xperia Z smartphone and intuitively adapted it to the tablet format. It has the same IP 67 rating for water and dust resistance and the same distinct power button. However, Sony thankfully omitted the glass surface, which means you won't be leaving as many fingerprints behind. The firm didn't gyp on the material, either; it's just as nice to handle as it is to look at. This definitely gives the Xperia Tablet Z a leg up in the "Miss 10-Inch Tablet" pageant. Now that we're done raving about the design, what is there to say about the interface?

Android coupled with Sony's GUI is a match made in heaven. The Android-ness is still there, but you'll notice that Sony added a few personal touches, with apps like Play Memories and Music Unlimited. However, Sony's overlay isn't as flashy as Samsung's TouchWiz. It relies more on its simplicity while remaining just as effective. There aren't any major lags in store and the menus are pretty user-friendly. For those who surf the web regularly on tablets, the Full HD display is divine. Web browsing is smooth and readability is top-notch. It's a real smorgasbord for the eyes!

The Galaxy Tab 3 10.1's may not be as "sexy" as its rival, but it's still a well-built and handy slate. The Tab handles nicely and the sleek and polished design is very Samsung-esque, such as the smooth, textured plastic back also found on the Galaxy S4
The first G Tab 10.1 measured 8.46 mm thick. The second generation put on some weight and ballooned to 9.7 mm. Then the G Tab 3 went on a diet and slimmed down to 7.95 mm. But at 6.9 mm thick, the Xperia Tablet Z just barely prevails as the more svelte contestant in this segment of the pageant. Also, weighing in at 510 grams, the Galaxy Tab tips the scale a little too far compared to its rival.

The slate has Android 4.2.2 as the operating system with the TouchWiz UX overlay on top. And, it's TouchWiz that really gives life to the G Tab and ultimately defines its Samsung-ness. Browsing through the menus and the web runs smooth and responsive, however the modest 1280 x 800-pixel resolution tarnishes the experience and you'll find yourself needing to use the zoom to reduce the blurriness around text.


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The Tablet Z may come in a beautiful casing, but it's a little stingier in terms of performance. The native video player supports fewer formats than Samsung's player. The same goes for VOD, which is useless on both tablets due to high prices, a lack of HD formatting and few language choices.
The Z doesn't handle graphics the same way the Galaxy Tab does. Video games still run smoothly and don't lag, but the image quality isn't as good as its competitor. However, Sony knew how to make up for it with the audio and camera. In fact, Sony performs quite well on the sound quality front. Headphone output is powerful and clear with no noticeable distortion. The speakers have similar quality, but their placement isn't as clever as on the G Tab 3 10.1 because they are placed near where your hands would land, whereas Samsung put its speakers on the top sides of the bezel, reducing any obstruction from the user's hands.

The 8-Mpx camera gives the Tablet Z an advantage when it comes to picture quality and sharpness. Its 2.2-Mpx front-facing camera is decent, although it quickly shows its limits in video chat as soon as it's thrown into low-light conditions.

The Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, lacking a Full HD display, is less of a knockout than its rival. But it's still a powerhouse and one of the slate's strongest points.

The Intel Z2260 processor under the hood works perfectly for this tablet. Even the most heavyweight video games like Real Racing 3 can be played without any snags. It's a performance that puts the Tablet Z to shame. Plus, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 can rely on Samsung's excellent know-how for reading multimedia formats. The slate can read just about any audio or video format and, to the user's delight, it does so brilliantly. 

However, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 falls behind the Tablet Z in picture quality. The meagre 3.2-Mpx camera that it's had since the first model pales in comparison to the 8-Mpx snapper in the Tablet Z. If the general consensus is that taking pictures on a tablet is different than a smartphone, then it's a shame Samsung didn't offer a better camera. By installing a mediocre sensor, it effectively neglected one of the most popular features in mobile devices today.



As far as the battery goes, each tablet is powered by a 6,000 mAh battery. But which one is more efficient? The Xperia Tablet Z's Full HD display coupled with multimedia usage requires a bit more energy, so the tablet lasts 9 hours. The Galaxy Tab, lacking these advantages, dies after 10 hours and is the victor. But it's good to point out that the Tablet Z makes up for this with "Stamina" mode, which allows you to save energy by deactivating several functions, such as the 2/3/4G connectivity, the LED notifications and any apps that may be running in the background.   


In the Xperia Tablet Z's favour

With a polished design, 8-Mpx camera, more-than- welcome Full HD screen resolution and water and dust resistance, the Xperia Tablet Z enters the ring with a slew of advantages. But despite all of its strengths, the performance lacks a certain robustness, placing it a notch below its more vigorous adversary, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, in terms of processing power. 

In the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1's favour

The Galaxy Tab comes back with the well-liked TouchWiz interface, an Intel processor that works wonders and a lot of flexibility reading a variety of file formats, but we would've liked a little more innovation from Samsung. Even though these small changes are noticeable, it isn't much more than a remake, so this 10" slate is plain vanilla. The lack of a Full HD screen drags the slate down even further, especially considering how well the tablet handles multimedia.


The Sony Xperia Tablet Z and Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 each have their own distinct flavour and a range of advantages. But in this battle royal, only one can come out alive and the Xperia Tablet Z scrapes by as the champion. 

Though there may not be a lot of flaws in either tablet, the intentions behind each one is what makes all the difference. Sony gives us the Xperia Tablet Z, which isn't perfect, but proves itself unique among more standard devices. Compared with the Z, the Tab 3 10.1 performs quite well, but is little more than a repeat of a tried-and-tested form factor. Although the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1's exceptional performance may be its biggest asset, its lack of originality compared to its rival is what finally hammers the last nail into the Tab's coffin.
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