Sony Xperia Tablet Z Review
Sony’s first foray into Android tablets didn’t really make an impact in the market. Fortunately for Sony the second time’s a charm! We”ll jump the gun a bit and say up front that we believe that the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is one of the best Android tablets available in the market today. It sports a unique and premium design that will make it stand out among its competitors and while the processor and GPU aren’t the latest available, they’re still quite competitive and respectable which lets it stake its claim as a flagship high-end device. However it does have innate and natural weaknesses because it runs Android tablet software, more of which we will discuss in the review later on.
>>> SEE ALSO: Sony Xperia Tablet Z Unboxing and Initial Impressions
Before anything though let’s quickly do a refresher of the specifications.
Sony Xperia Talbet Z Spec Sheet
- 1.5GHz Quad-core Krait Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8064
- Adreno 320 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB Internal Storage, expandable up to 64GB via microSD Card
- 10.1-inches LED-backlit LCD capacitive touchscreen
- 1920×1200 resolution, 224 pixels per inch
- 8.1-megapixels rear-facing camera with autofocus, HDR, 16x Digital Zoom
- Can record video 1080p@30fps HDR
- 2.2-megapixels front facing camera
- WiFi a/b/g/n, WiFi Hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS with A-GPS Support and GLONASS
- 3G, HSPA+, HSDPA, LTE Connectivity
- Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
- 6,000mAh Battery
The unit we tested was the 32GB WiFi model. We didn’t get the LTE variant anymore as our mobile phones already had LTE connectivity and it made more sense to just tether or turn on the hotspot of the phone than have two data plans.
Hardware: Innovative and Stunning Design
First we have to talk about how gorgeous this piece of tech is. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is by far the most beautiful piece of tablet technology we’ve ever seen and touched. It’s ridiculously thin (as you will see in the photos below) and equally crazy light making it the perfect bed/sofa/office companion.
In lieu of the glass back that the Sony Xperia Z adopted, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z has a smooth matte finish which helps with grip and durability.
All the buttons and controls are neatly placed on the sides of the device. The slots for the micro SIM card (if you got the cellular version), micro SD card, and the micro USB port all have “doors”. This lets the Sony Xperia Tablet Z be water resistant. Note though that it CAN survive getting splashed with water or being dunked in water but you won’t be able to operate it since the display isn’t optimized for underwater use.
>>> YOU MIGHT ALSO WANT TO READ: Sony Xperia Tablet Z at the Mobile World Congress
Display: Quite Good, Bravia Engine kicks in for Movies
For the display we have a 10-inch screen with 1920×1200 resolution. Colors are bright and vibrant with deep blacks. Viewing angles are also quite good, something that Sony has been criticized with heavily for their previous products (at least they’re listening). Brightness is quite strong also as we didn’t have any problems watching videos on the display under direct sunlight (yay).
When it comes to the hardware the Sony Xperia Tablet Z delivers both internally and externally. Definitely a great milestone for tech industrial design and engineering.
Software Performance: Replace the Stock UI and Everything Becomes Smoother
For some weird reason we had some issues with the stock user interface that Sony used for the Xperia Tablet Z. There was a noticeable lag in transitions which was quite annoying since the SRP of the device was well over Php27,000. We were able to solve this though by just firing up Nova Launcher (from the Play Store). Everything worked fine afterwards.
Anyway, to get a better idea of how the Xperia Tablet Z stacks up to other Android devices we let it go through our favorite Antutu Benchmark Test. It scored well over 20,000 which is definitely impressive and a good sign that it can take on graphics intensive applications.
Here’s a quick rundown of different case usage scenarios starting with gaming.
We tried a variety of gaming titles on the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. All of them worked fine and we didn’t experience any major lag spikes or delays. Initially we thought that loading time was longer than usual but when we verified it by re-launching the apps it was pretty snappy.
Games we tried included the usual suspects: NBA 2k13, Dead Trigger, Candy Crush, and a new favorite, Worms 2 Armageddon. Personally though I find the game selection quite lacking compared to what you can get on iOS. That’s probably the biggest weakness of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. Developers still aren’t prioritizing creating applications for Android tablets.
Superb Media Player
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z shines the most when you use it for media playback. First, the 10-inch HD display powered by the Sony Bravia Engine is spectacular for video. The speakers are also quite loud compared to other tablets. Lastly when it comes to storage you won’t run out of it anytime soon as you can quickly pop in a 64GB microSD card into it (32GB + 64GB = lots of movies and TV series).
As a testament to how good the display is and the storage, we actually ran through the entire season of Hannibal on the Sony Xperia Tablet Z in two-three sittings without headphones.
Great for browsing too
The display also lends itself very well to web browsing and reading. We thoroughly enjoyed using the Sony Xperia Tablet Z as a web surfing buddy while relaxing on our couch or bed. It also helps that it’s very light and thin which makes it easier to handle (lessens fatigue on the arms).
Strongly suggest you guys get Pulse for this. You get to see a lot of content because of the big screen! Win.
Social networking: Great for reading not so much for inputting
When it comes to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, we didn’t have any issues reading content from our social feeds. However we did have an issue with trying to use the on-screen keyboard on landscape mode. It was just hard to use unless we plop it down on the table, get something to prop it up, and then type with both hands.
Alternatively you can just use it in portrait but it will fee awkward due to the sheer size, hehe. Can’t imagine ourselves doing that in public places.
Android Tablet App Store Still Sucks
Here’s the rub though when it comes to the Sony Xperia Tablet Z… and Android tablets in general. Like what we mentioned earlier, developers aren’t flocking to create tablet-optimized applications for Android. The difference of the quality of apps you can get from the iPad compared Android tablets is still quite big.
To better illustrate our point, here’s what we experienced once we booted up the Sony Xperia Tablet Z.
- Fired up Play Store. We had a budget of Php2,000 for apps.
- 80% of the budget went to aesthetics: live wallpapers, launchers, themes, and widgets.
- A paltry 10% went to games.
- 10% went to other random stuff.
What’s missing here other than more games? Content creation and productivity apps. Something that the iPad has in spades.
Camera: Above average compared to other tablets
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z sports an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera. It does produce above average photo quality shots compared to other tablets but let’s be honest here. Even if you put in a 13-megapixel shooter there you’ll still look like an idiot going around an event or a party using a 10-inch tablet to take photos, lol.
Battery Life: Decent, not mind-blowing
We got around 8 hours of use with the Sony Xperia Tablet Z with Power Stamina mode turned on starting at 30%. Not bad but nothing game changing or truly impressive about it.
Verdict: Needs More Apps and Kinda Pricey
So what’s our verdict? Well to be perfectly honest we can say that the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is to date the best 10-inch Android tablet. However when up against the iPad, we’ll be hard pressed to recommend it for several good reasons. First and foremost is the price. The official 16GB WiFi + LTE model being offered by Sony Philippines is priced at Php35,990. What’s worse is their own stores in malls (like the one in Megamall) sell it for even Php2,000 more at Php37,990. Second, the app store still needs a lot of work. ‘Till we see more quality apps the Xperia Tablet Z will be more for media consumption (videos, photos, readers), web browsing, and social networking. Kinda frustrating that the hardware is crazy good but the software still needs to catch up.
So to answer the question in the title if the Sony Xperia Tablet Z can go head-to-head with the iPad? Unfortunately no, it cannot. The steep price and the lackluster app ecosystem just can’t be ignored despite the stunning and innovative hardware.