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Sony Xperia Tablet Z review


A super-thin tablet, but too expensive to replace the Nexus 10 in our affections

Review Date: 5 Jun 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £333 (£400 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £268
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

4 stars out of 6

Full-sized Android tablets have been thin on the ground of late, with manufacturers concentrating instead on shoving out cheap, compact tablets by the dozen.

As such, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is a breath of fresh air. It’s the first 10in Android tablet we’ve reviewed since the Nexus 10 – our current favourite Android tablet at this size – and it’s a stunner.

The first time we picked it up, it seemed impossibly thin and light. Incredibly, it’s thinner than an iPhone 5, and you’ll barely notice its 495g weight when it’s in your bag. Its squared-off, angled edges and flat rear and front panels ooze class, and like its smaller companion, the Xperia Z smartphone, the Tablet Z is water- and dust-resistant, with sealed flaps covering all its ports.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z

In a spec-for-spec comparison, the Tablet Z doesn’t match up with the Nexus 10. Its 1,920 x 1,200 resolution is lower than the Nexus 10’s 2,560 x 1,600, and while the Nexus runs the latest version of Android Jelly Bean at 4.2, the Tablet Z is stuck on 4.1.2. It also costs £80 more than the Nexus.

Otherwise, the Tablet Z has much the same feature set, with 16GB of storage and a microSD slot for expansion, dual-band 802.11abgn Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth. Its quad-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor helped the Tablet Z achieve a strong Quadrant score of 7,413, but its SunSpider result of 2,074ms was much slower than the Nexus 10’s.

In practice, the Tablet Z handled all the tasks we asked of it during testing, and played demanding games such as Real Racing 3 smoothly. But given the price premium over the Nexus 10, you’re entitled to expect more. We’d hoped to see better battery life and a more vivid screen, but the Tablet Z disappointed on both fronts, with a score of 9hrs 11mins in our looping video test, a maximum brightness of 370cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 787:1 – all short of the Nexus 10’s results.

The Xperia Tablet Z has an 8.1-megapixel camera at the rear that produces reasonable snaps and 1080p video at 30fps. It tends to blow out highlights a little too easily in bright light, and it isn’t great in low light, but it’s fine for the occasional shot when the tablet is all you have to hand.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z

Embedded in the top edge of the tablet is an infrared transmitter, allowing the Tablet Z to be used as a universal remote control. We found setup a little hit and miss, but once we’d figured out which profile to use with our TV and set-top box, it worked perfectly. The remote control app can be used in full-screen mode, or you can bring up a pop-up control that sits on top of whichever app is currently running, making channel-hopping a breeze.

Although the Tablet Z doesn’t run the very latest version of Android, we rather like what Sony has done with its user interface overlay. The custom keyboard, which responds to each keypress with a light tinkle, exhibits no lag.

The pop-up quick apps panel, launched via a small icon in the soft-button bar at the bottom of the screen, is another nice touch, as is the way the app drawer can be re-ordered to suit your own whim. You also have the ability to “throw” currently playing video or music to DLNA-compatible devices from Sony’s proprietary media software.

Is all this enough to make up for the high price? The answer has to be no. We enjoyed using the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, but it’s 25% more expensive than the Nexus 10, and while it boasts a more elegant design and tougher construction, it fails to compete with that device’s screen, or its battery life. In short, the Tablet Z isn’t good enough to justify the extra cost.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

Hi Jon

I would have thought that the waterproof to 1 meter would have been worth at least part of the price difference?

By amanu2 on 5 Jun 2013


the waterproofing is just one thing, add to that you can actually add more storage through the micro SD slot (try that on the nexus), the remote control ability is a brilliant feature (again not on the nexus...or anything else ?).

Also if Apple can trade on perceived quality then why not Sony.

Ok screen res not as high, but it is beyond full hd so it will do. The difference in battery life is not so vast as to be a killer.

So that extra wonga ain't looking so bad.

if i still have a job in a couple of months, this is no 1 on the shopping list.

By davidk1962 on 6 Jun 2013

It gets my vote.

Why is new stuff often rated on it's price tag compared with another rather than simply on it's own merits? If we're going down that route the Nexus 10 felt a little cheap to me so it will be interesting to see how the Sony compares. Shame the wedge shape that Sony used on their original tablet didn't catch on because in practice it works very well, as does the Sony remote app so it good to see that retained. Overall I agree with davidk1962, there are some decent extra features that for many would be worth a few quid more. Having destroyed one nearly-new laptop with a knocked-over glass of water that waterproof feature could be worth the extra premium all on it's own, and personally a tablet without a card slot would be crossed off my wish list straight away so that's the Nexus 10 out of the game for me.

By coolcity on 6 Jun 2013

And another thing......

You clearly state that it is very thin but omit just how thin. At just 6.9mm it is a whole 2.5mm thinner than an i thingy and whilst we are here an even more enormous 155g lighter. The nexus is 2mm thicker and 108g heavier.

These are huge numbers and not to be ignored.

By davidk1962 on 6 Jun 2013

Sony Quality

I feel that sometimes Sony is unfairly criticized, in my experience it's not just all about the specs Sony quality is the stand out factor to me. After several unsuccesful forrays into the original LCD TV market (a samsung and a hitachi) I finally purchased a sony HD ready 32" and 5 years on it's still like new, it's giving me a headache trying to talk the wife around to swapping for a smart TV.

By Ainsley_ljw on 7 Jun 2013

I find it funny that on one side all compliment the quality, features, etc and on the other side, finally a verdict is given to either Samsung or Apple. Are all being biased to the "other" 2 companies? I have been a die hard fan of SONY products and as such have not had any problems for as long as I have used them (and I mean a few, from 2 laptops, 2 MD players, hi-fi sets, mobile phones etc). Many people complain of build quality....seriously - water proof, dust proof!! guys come on, SONY rocks!!

No review is gonna change my opinion that SONY knows their stuff.

By nemisis146 on 11 Jun 2013

Doesn't look so bad in Japan - just picked one up for under £300 equivalent and they have 32GB internal as standard here.
Trying to resist testing its waterproofness...

By Mr_Square on 22 Jun 2013

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