The Apple iPad Air might be a slick piece of design, but dunk it in the bath and it'll quickly turn into a lifeless slab. Enter the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet -- a 10.1-inch slate that is completely waterproof. It replaces Sony's existing Xperia Tablet Z, but packs in a new quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.3GHz, adds the latest Android KitKat software and slims the design down to only 6.4mm thick.
The Xperia Z2 Tablet is available to buy now online in the UK starting at £399 or throughout wider Europe for €499. Sony is yet to announce wider availability. The iPad Air also starts at £399 (both with 16GB of storage) but Sony's comes with 4G LTE connectivity, something which will cost you an extra £100 on the iPad. The Z2 Tablet's waterproof skills may mean you're less likely to have to shell out on a new one if you're clumsy enough to drop it in the sink.
Design and build quality
When you first pick the Z2 Tablet up, the first thing you'll almost certainly notice is just how incredibly slim it is. It measures only 6.4mm thick, knocking 0.5mm off its already razor-thin predecessor. It feels like you're holding a skinny pamphlet, which is compounded by its light 426g weight. By comparison, Apple's iPad is both slightly thicker and heavier, at 7.5mm and 469g.
That extreme skinniness has come at a slight cost however. While the iPad Air's metal body is incredibly sturdy, with little flex anywhere, the Z2 Tablet feels much less secure. It's not difficult to give the entire tablet a slight bend in your hands -- I don't imagine it would come off too well if it was accidentally sat or leant on.
Design-wise, not much has changed since the previous model. The front is a button-free, all-glass design, while the back panel is a wide expanse of matte white or black plastic, with the minimal Sony branding in the middle. It maintains the 16:9 aspect ratio, which, while helping show movies without black bars, does mean it's quite wide in landscape mode, making it cumbersome to use with one hand.
That's not helped by the enormous black bezels which surround the screen -- 22mm on either side, to be exact. That's a hell of a lot of wasted space. Apart from making the tablet look like a less premium device (cheap slates often use wide bezels) it means the body is needlessly wide for the screen. Sure, it allows you to easily grip it without activating the touch screen, but I'm sure there's a happy medium.
Like its predecessor, the Z2 Tablet is completely waterproof, allowing it to shrug off an errant spilled drink or even let you happily take it into the bath to watch "Breaking Bad". Personally, I like being able to prop it up in my kitchen to watch shows while cooking, safe in the knowledge that when it gets splattered with sauces, I can simply chuck it in the sink with the other pots and give it a rinse.
It keeps the water out by covering the main ports -- including the microSD card slot -- with rubberised flaps. Mercifully, the 3.5mm headphone jack doesn't require a flap, meaning you don't have to unhook a cover every time you pop your headphones in.
You'll also find an infrared blaster on the top, allowing you to use it as a remote control for your TV. Setting up the remote app is a simple process -- select your TV manufacturer and the app will do the rest. It took less than a minute for me to set it up with my Toshiba telly and gives access to all the essential controls you'd normally find on your remote.
The 10.1-inch display boasts a Full HD (1,920x1,200-pixel) resolution, giving it a pixel density of 224 pixels per inch, making it well equipped to tackle glossy, high-definition video. It doesn't quite match the iPad Air's whopping 2,048x1,536-pixel resolution (264ppi), although side by side, I doubt you'd notice a massive difference.
The display is extremely crisp, with sharp edges on text and icons throughout the Android interface and on Web pages. High-definition photos look sharp and well defined too, which is helped by the high brightness of the screen and the excellent handling of colour.
Sony states that the tablet uses some of the same 'Triluminous' display technology from its line of TVs, which promise brighter, bolder colours. Whatever Sony has done, it works well. Colours are rich and deep, without looking bold to the point of being unnatural. If you're not keen on the colour balance, you can pop into the settings and tweak the hues to get something more to your taste.
Software and processor
The Z2 Tablet comes running the latest version of Android, known as 4.4.2 KitKat. Sony isn't brilliant when it comes to updating its products with Android updates -- we're still waiting for KitKat on last year's Z1 -- so it's good to see the latest version on board at launch.
Sony has made many of the same tweaks to Android as you'll see on the rest of its recent mobile range. The five homescreens are littered with icons for Sony's music and movies services and there's a tool to the left of the app tray that lets you easily change the order of the app icons. Although the Sony photo and video galleries are a little clunky, the interface is generally easy to use and won't take long to get used to.
Stuffed into that skinny frame is a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at an impressive 2.3GHz, backed up by 3GB of RAM. That's a burly lineup of specs so it wasn't much of a surprise that it has a some serious power behind it. It achieved an impressive score of 3,787 on the Geekbench 2 benchmark test, putting it alongside its superbly powerful Xperia Z1 smartphone sibling. Navigating around the Android interface was extremely swift, with zero lag when flicking between homescreens, opening menus or pulling down the notification bars.