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Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

The lightest, slimmest and water-resistant-est tablet on the market

Tablets are very much media consumption devices, so you need to be sure when you buy one that movies, videos and books are all things that you'll be able to view on yours comfortably.

That's not an issue we really needed to worry about with the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. We've already mentioned that screen, and we won't bother repeating ourselves, other than to say it's amazing with that Mobile Bravia engine included.

The inbuilt 'Movies' app (the video player) is pretty good - it uses GraceNote to find information and work out what is a TV show and what's, well, not on the device. However, there are a lot better apps out there that can do the same thing, and they can remember where you left off when you were watching a video.

If you've got a lot of video files, the Xperia Tablet Z makes it hard to remember which one you were watching last, which takes a large amount of gloss off the video player.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

This being an Android device, newcomers may find it slightly confusing that there isn't just one store for everything as there is with iTunes for the iPad. For example, Google gives you its options, while Sony does the same, and then there's the third-party ones you can add on top of that.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

We see this with Video, for example. Google Play has its own video store that's fairly well stocked as it tries its damnedest to take on Apple. But Sony also has its own Video Unlimited store, which you're invited to try out too.

We were fairly impressed with Sony's offering, but we'd expect to be, since one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world should have a good stock of movies in its digital coffers. We tried a few random searches and it didn't let us down. Prices seemed fairly on a par with what you'll get elsewhere - around £12 (around US$18/AU$19) to buy a movie or £3.50 (around US$5.30/AU$5.50) to rent it.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

In fact, the only thing we weren't keen on was the size of the movies. This is a Full HD display with a beautiful screen. It's screaming out for HD in every possible way. Yet all the movies we looked at on the Video Unlimited app (including the new releases) had only SD versions, with no option to download HD. The full desktop site on our PC does offer HD downloads.

Bearing in mind the movie is likely to download to the internal memory, perhaps this is a deliberate decision (on average, the SD movies were 1.5GB each, so an HD version would be enormous) but it did leave us feeling a bit short-changed. That's not to say SD films look bad - thanks to that Bravia engine, they actually surpassed our expectations, but that's not the point.

It's a testament to the power of the Mobile Bravia 2 screen that despite the lower pixel count, it looks as good, if not sharper, than the Google Nexus 10 in side by side tests. It shows that resolution doesn't always matter if it's not processed properly.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

If you want to get music, again, you can do it via Google or Sony by default (not forgetting you can also download a third-party offering such as Amazon MP3). Sony's offering is slightly different in that it doesn't offer a music store but a music service.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is merely another device on which you can listen to your Music Unlimited subscription, which enables you to stream unlimited tunes to your tablet in the same way you can with Spotify or other services. At £9.99 (around US$15/AU$15.70) per month, it's on a par with others and will suit some users, depending on their preference of rent or ownership.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

It's also worth noting that you can mirror a lot of your media to your TV, if it's a smart TV. The good news is that it doesn't have to be a Sony TV (we managed fine with a 2012 Samsung smart TV). Sony calls it 'throwing' rather than mirroring but regardless of semantics, we found it worked very well... as long as you're one of the few with an internet-enabled TV. And one of the fewer to actually connect it up.

However, if you want to 'throw' stuff from, say, the YouTube app, you'll have to download a third-party solution, because it only works with natively held videos, photos and music. And mirroring the actual screen is a minefield on a non-Sony device. This is where we miss the Apple TV and iOS's ability to just work.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

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If you decide to stick to listening to music on your Sony Xperia Tablet Z because you don't want to 'throw' or you have an older television, you're in for a pleasant surprise. In our review of the Xperia Z phone, we noted that the speaker was very tinny, but the performance of the Walkman software, via headphones, gave us one of the best audio experiences we've ever had on a smartphone.

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z goes one better. That's because not only do you get that amazing audio via headphones (and incidentally, when streaming audio via Bluetooth) but the inbuilt speakers have a 3D surround sound mode.

Don't get too excited - it won't rival the cinema experience, and nor does it give the bass of HTC's BoomSound on the HTC One - but it's very, very impressive for a tablet and makes watching and listening to media a real pleasure.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

If you're a reading fiend, then you have loads of options - Google offers you magazine subscriptions via its app, with most of the big titles in there. And as for books, you're spoilt for choice.

Google Books is on there, enabling you to browse millions of titles and even download free samples to see if you like them. It works similarly to the Amazon Kindle app, which does the same thing and can be downloaded free from Google Play. Between these two behemoths, you'll find there's no shortage of reading material.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

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What makes the Sony Xperia Tablet Z great here is that it's easy to hold because of its weight. So, while you'll probably put it in some kind of stand when watching a movie, you're likely to want to hold it when reading.

And where the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 get heavy, you'll at least be able to put the Sony Xperia Tablet Z down when you want, not when you're forced to through exhaustion. On the downside, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z can feel a bit awkward after a while because of those square corners. We urge you to try before you buy, because it all depends on how you hold your tablet.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

It's also worth noting that Sony continues the trend introduced by HTC and Samsung and includes an IR blaster for controlling your TV, home cinema and cable boxes.

The software supplied was easy to set up, and we found ourselves controlling a Virgin Media TiVo box, Samsung smart TV and LG home cinema system within minutes. Again, early reviews pointed at problems. We had none ourselves and we were using three different brands - none of which were Sony.

Tech Specs

Product TypeTablet
Flash Memory Capacity32 GB
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeNo
GPSYes
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyXperia Z
Front Camera/WebcamYes
Operating System PlatformAndroid
Processor ModelAPQ8064
ColourBlack
Operating SystemAndroid 4.1 Jelly Bean
Brand NameSony
Form FactorSlate
Processor Speed1.50 GHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon S4 Pro
Screen Size25.7 cm (10.1")
Screen Resolution1920 x 1200
Standard Memory2 GB
Weight (Approximate)495 g
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Memory Card ReaderYes
TouchscreenYes
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Rear Camera Resolution8.1 Megapixel
Height7.2 mm
Width266 mm
Depth172 mm
Screen ModeWUXGA
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Product SeriesZ
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product ModelSGP312GB
Product NameXperia Tablet Z
Product LineXperia
Aspect Ratio16:10
Manufacturer Part NumberSGP312GB/B.CEK
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sony.co.uk
Marketing Information

Brilliantly vivid HD display

Xperia™ Tablet Z is built with the latest Sony display technology, for the most vivid viewing imaginable. The 25,6cm (10.1") HD Reality Display is powered by Mobile BRAVIA® Engine 2, which automatically optimises every image. And with the fullest colour display, every scene is richer, brighter and more breathtakingly vibrant.

Package Contents
  • Xperia Tablet Z
  • AC Adapter