Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review: A supercharged, super-skinny slate

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The latest version of Android, known as 4.4 KitKat, comes as standard on the Z2 Tablet. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It turns its hand to more demanding gaming tasks very well too. It scored a whopping 18,971 overall on the Ice Storm Unlimited 3D Mark graphics benchmark test, casually besting the 14,605 achieved by the iPad Air and the 13,677 Samsung's 2014 Galaxy Note 10.1 managed to rack up.

Gameplay was very smooth in "Riptide GP 2", and I saw the same high frame-rates in zombie shooter "Dead Trigger 2" and in "GT Racing 2". There was generally very little I could find that the slate wasn't able to handle well. Whether you want a tablet to tackle the latest high-definition games from the Google Play store, or just want to watch Netflix or browse the Web on the sofa, the Z2 tablet will cope admirably.

Battery

The Z2 Tablet's battery life is definitely something of a mixed bag. On the plus side, it put in a more than acceptable performance on a video drain test, managing to keep going on battery (at half brightness) for 13 hours and 20 minutes -- that's exactly the same time as the iPad Air achieved.

It's not all good though. With more intense use (gaming, for example) the processor seems to go into overdrive, draining the battery incredibly quickly. It also seems to take much longer to charge up than I would normally expect to see. Those two points together meant that I regularly found the tablet lost power even when it was plugged in to the mains.

That's very worrying if you're down to your last few percent of life and desperately want to keep racing in Asphalt 8 as the tablet isn't drawing in enough power to make up for the amount it's using. Inevitably, the slate will just run out of juice and shut down.

It also doesn't seem to hold its power well in standby mode. When the screen was off, I found the tablet to have lost around 10 percent of its charge over a period of about four hours. Even if you only plan on using it for moderate use, you'll still need to pack a charger if you're going away for a few days.

The battery drain test showed that the slate is capable of managing its power well, so it could be that its power loss in standby mode is more of a software issue -- background processes not being properly turned off, for example. Fingers crossed Sony takes a look soon and issues a patch to sort it out.

Camera

Tucked into the top-right corner on the back of the tablet is an 8-megapixel camera. Having a camera on a tablet this size is arguably a little unnecessary -- you're not likely to be carrying it around all day using it as your main camera -- but it's handy for those quick snaps in the home that you'd miss if you were to spend time fishing your phone from your jeans.

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The Xperia Z2 Tablet's camera achieved an even overall exposure in this scene (click image to see full-size version). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Thankfully then, the camera is at least good enough for those quick shots of your kids. On my first test shot in the CNET offices, the camera achieved a satisfying overall exposure, with a very natural colour balance. Clarity isn't brilliant -- particularly when you view the image full-screen -- but I've certainly seen worse.

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There's a bit of image noise in the darker parts of this shot, but it's not a bad effort at all (click image to see full-size version). Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It coped well on my second shot too, managing not to blow out the bright highlights or under-expose the shadowy areas too much. There's quite a bit of image noise in the darker portions of the picture, suggesting that it won't do as well if you're trying to grab pictures of your dinner by candlelight -- particularly as there's no LED flash. Keep to well-lit areas and the Z2 Tablet's camera should be more than adequate for Facebook snaps.

Verizon Version

The Sony Xperia Z2 is available in a 4G LTE model through Verizon Wireless. Starting at $600 for the unit (for a limited time it's currently available for $500 with a two-year contract) Verizon offers a variety of data plans -- the cheapest starting at $20 -- but if you're already a Verizon customer you can tack it onto your existing plan for an additional $10 per month. For more information on data plans, head over to the Verizon website or to your closest Verizon store for accurate pricing.

The Verizon version of the Xperia Z2 tablet packs 32GB of internal storage and comes with a few free goodies from Sony, including 90 days of free music streaming via Sony's Music Unlimited app and six free movies to download from the Video Unlimited app. The free movies were a cool perk, but in standard definition, I didn't experience the "wow factor" of the super-HD screen quality and (full disclosure: as a Spotify user) the Music Unlimited trial didn't sway me from my existing streaming services.

When 4G LTE speeds were available, Web browsing, video streaming, and downloading apps were impressively swift and almost as speedy as using my home WI-Fi connection. Downloading a 660MB app with full bars using 4G LTE took an average of 3.9 minutes, while on Wi-Fi it was slightly less, at an average of 3.1 minutes. Streaming video understandably didn't always look good on-the-go when cellular speeds slowed down -- suffering from pixelation and slow load times -- yet I was never without cellular service wherever I took it.

If you've been hankering for a tablet to add to your wireless plan, the Sony Xperia Z2 is a mighty fine addition to the family. Its price may be steep, but keep in mind premium tablets with 4G LTE capabilities cost a pretty penny, and at its current $500 bundled price, the Xperia Z2 offers one of the best values.

Conclusion

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet isn't a massive overhaul from its predecessor, but that's no bad thing. Its skinny frame looks and feels great, while its waterproof design will keep it safe from spilled drinks or accidental dunks in the bathtub. Its quad-core processor provides heaps of power for gaming and the Android KitKat software is easy to navigate.

Although the battery put in a good effort in our drain test, its inability to hold charge causes me some concern. Sony needs to address this if it wants the Z2 Tablet to really give its rivals a run for their money.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity IEEE 802.11b
  • Type Android 4.4 (KitKat)
  • RAM 3 GB
  • Weight 15.03 oz
  • Storage 16 GB
  • Processor QUALCOMM APQ8074
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