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Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact review: A skinny, waterproof tablet that plays your PS4 games

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact shoves a powerful processor, bright screen and PS4 gaming skills into a slender, waterproof frame.

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Andrew Lanxon headshot
Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Expertise Smartphones, Photography, iOS, Android, gaming, outdoor pursuits Credentials
  • Shortlisted for British Photography Awards 2022, Commended in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2022
Andrew Lanxon
8 min read

Sony has a whole raft of devices to excite you that all sit under the Xperia Z3 series banner. There's the flagship 5.2-inch Z3 smartphone, the 4.6-inch Z3 Compact and now the 8-inch Z3 Tablet Compact. An 8-inch device is a first for Sony and will come as a welcome addition if you loved the sleek, waterproof 10-inch Xperia Z2 Tablet , but want something a little more portable for your commute.


Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

The Good

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact stuffs a heap of power and a good display into an extremely slim, waterproof body. While its ability to act as a screen for a PlayStation 4 can be shaky at times, it's a novel feature not found on other Android tablets.

The Bad

Sony has filled the interface up with so much pre-loaded software that it looks cluttered before you've even downloaded your first app. Opting for a higher resolution display would help it compete against many of its rivals.

The Bottom Line

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact's wealth of power, its skinny, waterproof body and decent screen make it a good option to consider if you're after a portable tablet. Although its screen resolution doesn't put it over its competitors, its ability to play games from your PS4 -- although not perfect yet -- gives it a unique selling point.

The Z3 Tablet Compact, mouthful of a name aside, has a razor-thin design like its bigger brother and is also completely waterproof. Its display has a full HD resolution, it runs the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat software, it has a 2.5GHz quad-core processor and an 8-megapixel camera.

So far, so standard Android tablet. But the Z3 Tablet Compact has a nifty trick up its sleeve in its ability to act as a display for your PS4 console. Your console still does all the processing of the game, but it streams the feed to your tablet, letting you play games like Destiny, Last of US and Titanfall on your tablet while in bed or on the toilet.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact shows off its waterproof body (pictures)

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The tablet is on sale in the UK now for £319 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model. £379 will net you a 32GB Wi-Fi only model, while £429 will snag you a tablet with 16GB of storage and 4G LTE connectivity. There's no official word yet on whether the tablet will see a wider release, although given that the US has only recently been treated to the older Xperia Z2 tablet, my hopes aren't high for an imminent release.


The Z3 Tablet Compact isn't a bad looking piece of kit at all. Its crisp white design is neat and clean and it's very, very skinny -- 6.4mm thick, to be precise. While its slender size means it looks good and feels comfortable to hold (also helped by the soft-touch matte coating on the back), it does feel a touch fragile. Make sure it's not beneath your rump when you sit down on the sofa.

It has a 16:9 aspect ratio, meaning it's quite a bit longer than it is wide. By comparison, the iPad Mini has a 4:3 ratio, making it a little more square. Sony's size makes it a little better for watching movies in landscape orientation, as you won't see those awful black bars. Its narrower shape makes it easier to slide into a pocket, although there's a lot of wasted space at the top and bottom, which make it a little too long to comfortably house in your jeans.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Like the rest of the Z3 range -- and indeed the Z2 Tablet -- the Z3 tablet is completely waterproof. Crucially, that keeps the tablet safe from spilled cups of coffee in your living room. It also means that you can lay back in a hot bubble bath, casually browsing Netflix's shelves, safe in the knowledge that it won't conk out if you drop it in the water.

Tucked into the skinny edges you'll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, the charging port (hidden beneath a waterproof flap on the bottom) and the microSD card slot (hidden under a flap on the side). There's space next to the microSD card for a SIM card as well, but only if you plump for the 4G-enabled version.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET


The 8-inch display is full HD (1,920x1,080 pixels) which is less than you'd find on both the iPad Mini 's Retina display or on the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S . It's a resolution more commonly found on smartphones -- although even LG's 5.5-inch G3 has a higher 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution. Although on paper that might be a little disappointing, in reality, the Z3 tablet's screen is very crisp and it's tough to tell much difference between this and the iPad Mini's Retina display.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Icons and text look sharp and crisp and my arsenal of high resolution test images all looked great. It's helped by the screen's brightness, which is bordering on supernova levels of luminosity, as well as the vivid colours. Viewing angles are also good, so if you have a few people crowding around the screen watching Shia LaBeouf Live on YouTube, you'll all get a good view of the screen.

It's a good screen overall and its strong colours make it well suited for watching videos and movies. No, I don't think it's lacking in pixels as such, but it would certainly have put the tablet in a stronger position to do battle against the other tablet big boys if Sony had chucked in a few more pixels.

Android software

The latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat runs the show, over which Sony has pasted the same user interface you'll find on most of its phones. It's simple enough to use and has some handy tweaks like a menu next to the app tray that lets you reorganise the apps with a tap.

Sony has loaded the interface with a whole host of extras too, not all of which are welcome. There are one or two good additions -- the PS4 link in particular is pretty cool, which I'll come to next and the TV guide app will be welcome to telly addicts -- but most of it is clutter. You'll find apps from Garmin, AVG and Kobo already installed, not to mention a wealth of Sony apps, few of which I'd ever be inclined to fire up.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Throw in the various widgets already present on the homescreens as well and the tablet really starts to feel rather cluttered before you've even downloaded your first app. Mercifully, the widgets can be removed and much of the preinstalled software can be uninstalled. I suggest you get rid of everything you don't need before doing anything in order to quite literally wipe the slate clean.

PlayStation 4 screen sharing

A cool feature on the whole Z3 range is the ability to use the tablet as a display for your PlayStation 4 . The PS4 console does the processing of the games, but it streams the content to your tablet, letting you play the games on your tablet's screen, while your TV is off or being used for something else. The idea is that you can carry on playing your game when you go to bed, when your partner demands the TV or, of course, when you're on the toilet. Brilliant.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

I took the feature for a test drive and found it impressive, although a little hit and miss. It's easy to set up -- fire up the PS4 Link app and it'll search for your console on the same network. Hook up a PS4 controller to your tablet over Bluetooth and from then on, you operate it exactly as you would if you were playing on the TV.

Actual gameplay isn't brilliant though. The frame rate when playing Last Of Us: Remastered dropped at times, and the gameplay could freeze up for a second. In slow-paced parts of the game it's easy to ignore the drops in quality and play on. In the heat of battle however -- or in active games like Trials Evolution, where every split-second move of the joysticks is critical -- these drops can ruin your game.

Worse still were the connection drop-outs, where I'd be unceremoniously thrown back to the PS4 Link app start screen. I could get five minutes or so of mostly uninterrupted gameplay, so it's not terrible by any means, but it's certainly not a polished, finished product. It's early days though and in fact has just become available so there's likely to be a few bugs to work on.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It's fair to say though that if you're a keen gamer and want the top performance and smooth gameplay to dominate the ranks in an online Call Of Duty battle, PS4 Link won't keep you happy. For casual levelling up on slower-paced games while you sit on the porcelain throne, it has a lot more promise. I don't suggest you buy the tablet solely for this function, but if you're a PS4 user already and looking for a tablet, it's certainly a reason to consider the Z3 Tablet over any other Android slate. I'll be testing this further over the coming days and weeks so look out for more of my impressions.

Processor, battery and camera performance

Inside is a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, teamed up with a hearty 3GB of RAM, which was very capable throughout my testing. Even with the large amount of unnecessary software additions, it's still swift and trouble-free to navigate. Web browsing was nippy and all the essential everyday apps were tackled without hesitation.

High definition video streaming on Netflix was easily handled too and it turned its hand well to demanding games like Asphalt 8 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas -- which was best played using a PS4 controller connected over Bluetooth. It scored 19,887 on the Quadrant benchmark test, putting it in the same ballpark as the supercharged Xperia Z3 smartphone (20,425). In short, the tablet has more than enough power for anything you're likely to throw at it.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sony has stuffed a 4,500mAh battery into the wafer-thin body, which is a decent size. It managed to keep going for almost 13 hours on our video-looping test, which isn't at all bad -- although the iPad Mini 2 achieved almost 14 hours on the same test. How you find the battery life will really depend on how you tend to use tablets.

If you keep it with you all day, playing games on your commute and using it as a laptop replacement, you will no doubt need to give it a full charge at night. If, however, a tablet for you is more for the home -- sofa-surfing in the evening and watching some Netflix while cooking -- then a charge every other day will probably suffice.

The 8-megapixel camera on the back is a big step down from the 20.7-megapixel camera you'll find on the Z3 phones, but having a phenomenal camera on a tablet is much less important. The camera isn't brilliant by any means -- there's no LED flash, so you can discount dim pictures of your food -- but it's sufficient for quick snaps of your dog being adorable in the back garden. The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is fine for video calling or awful selfies -- so long as you're in decent light.


The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact may not have the sky-high screen resolution to compete with the iPad Mini, Galaxy Tab S, or the rest of this year's best tablets, but it keeps pace in most other ways. Its processor makes all tasks a breeze; it's attractive, portable and, most importantly, waterproof. The PS4 second screen feature doesn't work well smoothly to satisfy hardcore gamers, but it's certainly functional and if you're a PS4 owner already, it's a decent reason to choose this tablet over other Android slates.


Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8