Sony Xperia Tablet Z review: Sony Xperia Tablet Z

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4 stars 18 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Ridiculously slim; Attractive, minimalist design; Fully waterproof; Full HD screen.

The Bad Poor battery life; Skinny design results in flex; Doesn't challenge rivals in sheer power and speed.

The Bottom Line The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is the slimmest tablet around, with a minimalist look that will turn heads. It's waterproof too, allowing you to watch movies in the bath without fear of splashes. While its Full HD screen and quad-core processor are welcome additions, it doesn't have the resolution or straight-line speed of some of its rivals and its battery is far from perfect.

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You're going to need some entertainment on your flight to Monte Carlo, but what tablet is going to match the sleek interior of your private jet? The plastic-backed Nexus 7 isn't going to draw any fond looks and nobody will look twice at that glossy Galaxy Note 10.1 . Cast your eyes instead over the Sony Xperia Tablet Z.

This 10-inch slate boasts an incredibly slim design, with the sort of stark, minimalist aesthetic that will earn you some jealous looks in the business class lounge at the airport. Like its little brother, the Xperia Z smart phone, it's fully waterproof, so it won't mind when you spill your Martini all over it.

It packs a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and has a Full HD screen. It's available now for £400, for which you'll get a Wi-Fi only model with 16GB of storage. £450 will snag you a 32GB model, while £500 gets you a 16GB model with 4G connectivity for super-fast data downloads.

Should I buy the Sony Xperia Tablet Z?

With its super-thin design and sleek looks, the Xperia Tablet Z is arguably the most attractive Android slate around. If your main goal is to own tech that you can flash around a fancy bar then look no further.

It's also one of very few devices that you can fully submerge in water. Ever wanted to watch Scrubs in the bath but were scared about dropping your iPad in the water? The Tablet Z will be right up your street. Even if watching TV shows in the bath altogether doesn't float your boat, rest assured that spilling a pint on your slate will do it no harm -- just rinse it off and you're done.

While its Full HD screen and quad-core processor are not to be sneezed at, its rivals do have it beaten. Google's Nexus 10 packs vastly more pixels, and its dual-core processor achieved more impressive benchmark results.

If you want to win specification Top Trumps, the Nexus 10 will help give you a winning hand. If however you're after a seriously sexy slate you can share a shower with, the Xperia Tablet Z is a superb option.

Design and build quality

The thing you'll notice immediately upon picking the Z up is just how slim it is. It's only 6.9mm thick, which is thinner even than the super-skinny iPhone 5. It feels like holding a thin notebook or magazine and naturally you won't struggle to slide it into your back up against your laptop.

At 495g, it's light too. By comparison, the Retina display iPad (with lightning port) weighs 652g. While you might not notice that weight difference when carrying it around in your bag, you'll certainly feel the difference when you're holding it up for long periods of time. It has the edge over Google's Nexus 10 in size and weight, too.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Meet the Tablet Z, otherwise know as Flat Stanley.

That supreme slimness does come at a cost though. The Z doesn't feel particularly strong and it's not difficult to flex the whole thing. When you do, the glass front activates the screen, causing apps to load or menus to open. It doesn't feel cheap and weak, but I do worry that it wouldn't hold up so well if it was accidentally sat on -- something I wouldn't be concerned about with the metal iPad.

Sony has clearly gone to great lengths to make its slate as thin as possible, but I think it's pushed things a little far. I'd like to see more of a compromise between size and rigidity. An extra sliver of thickness wouldn't be disastrous if it made the tablet more solid and secure. Build quality is generally good though -- there's no loose panelling and the buttons all have a satisfying click to them.

It's a good looking thing, too. It's an all-black slab that looks rather like a piece of slate sat on your desk. It's broken on the back by the stylishly subtle Xperia branding and the camera lens in the top right corner, while only the Sony logo is visible on the all-glass front. If you like pretty patterns and swirling colours this won't be for you, but the stark, minimalist design looks extremely smart. I had numerous people wander over to take a look during my testing.

The back panel is made from a rubberised material. It looks sleek -- particularly when you catch the light and notice the incredibly subtle blue sparkles -- but it's an absolute magnet for every single splodge of grease on your fingers. It quickly goes from being an elegant piece of design brilliance to a greasy, smeary slab. You'll want to keep a pack of wet wipes -- dry tissue doesn't really do it -- on standby if you plan on showing it off.

Waterproof

A great feature of the tablet Z is that it's fully waterproof. Rather than being simply 'splash-proof', the Z can be submerged to a depth of one metre for up to 30 minutes. You can use the slate in the rainy British weather or watch Netflix in the bath, safe in the knowledge that it won't die if you drop it in the water.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Life is better down where it's wetter for the Tablet Z than for most slates.

It manages this feat by hiding the ports behind flaps with rubber seals. To keep the Z fully immune to liquid attacks you'll need to make sure that all flaps are properly shut before it takes a dunking. It makes quick access to ports more of a faff, but it's a small price to pay for waterproofing.

It makes the Z a good choice for the domestic gods and goddesses among you. If, like me, you regularly use a tablet as a recipe book in the kitchen, you'll be familiar with the splatters and smears the screen receives when trying to swipe through pages with sauce-covered fingers. You can simply chuck the Z in with the rest of the washing up and scrub it clean -- it's almost certainly not dishwasher safe, though.

Display

The Z's 10.1-inch display boasts a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution. That makes it Full HD, but with extra pixels to allow for navigation buttons to be displayed, while still letting HD content display at max resolution.

The resolution and physical size results in a pixel density of 224 pixels per inch (ppi), which undercuts slightly the Retina display iPad's 264ppi. Side by side though, you'd probably struggle to really tell much difference. Text is incredibly crisp and icons on the homescreen are pin sharp.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z
The Tablet Z has slightly fewer pixels per inch than its rivals, but who's counting (aside from us, obviously)?

Google's Nexus 10 has both slates beaten hands down when it comes to resolution though. Its display boasts a 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution, giving a pixel density of 299ppi. While the Nexus 10 is the clear choice for showing off high-resolution images at their best, for the day to day essentials, you probably won't notice much difference.

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Where to Buy

Sony Xperia Tablet Z SGP311GB - tablet - 16 GB - 10.1"

Part Number: SGP311GB/B.CEK
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity IEEE 802.11g
  • Weight 495 g
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