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Sony Xperia Tablet Z

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: N/A (WiFi only for US model)
Manufacturer: Sony
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What's Hot: Crazy thin and light, superb display with rich colors and deep blacks. Has AV Remote.

What's Not: Design is clean but a little dull.


Reviewed June 4, 2013 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Sony's Android tablets have always been well received, but they haven't come close to reaching Samsung's volume. Granted, they sell one model at a time, while Samsung has several, but we've always felt Sony needed a little something more to capture more of the hot tablet market. This time, they've done it right: gone is the taco shell design and Sony's doing what they do best: making computing devices that are significantly thinner and lighter without sacrificing features. The tablet is indescribably thin and light: when you hold it and feel it, you'll be amazed. I suspect quite a few shoppers will pick it up in a store and decide to bring it home because it's so comfortably light and thin. It's a 10.1" tablet that feels more like an 8" iPad mini and it's every bit as thin. For those of you who've owned or used the average 1.5 lb. 10" tablet, the 1.09 lb. Xperia Tablet Z will feel liberating. The Xperia Tablet Z is trivial to hold and it makes the iPad with Retina Display feel like a boat anchor.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z

Happily, though it's very light it doesn't feel or look cheap. In fact, the polycarbonate housing achieves IP57 certification for dust and water resistance, making it more durable than other consumer tablets. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z looks like an oversized Xperia Z smartphone, but it's even thinner. The tablet is a crazy 0.27" (6.9mm), making it the thinnest tablet currently on the market. Like the Xperia Z phone, the design language is modern and minimalist, perhaps too minimalist. It's a straight-sided super-thin rectangle that's available in black for the $499 16 gig model and your choice of black or white for the $599 32 gig model. Both colors are matte with a modest visual texture. That said, it's not an expensive looking tablet, and it may not make you scream with gadget lust when you see it in person.

Like the Xperia Z phone, the tablet is waterproof to 3 feet deep for up to 30 minutes and it's dust proof. I washed it in the kitchen sink...really. For water and dust resistance, all ports are covered by little plastic covers, again just like the Xperia Z smartphone. If you appreciate being able to splash your tablet without destroying it, you won't mind the covers. If you never go near water, sand or dirt, you'll find them an annoying extra step to access a port. The tablet has a 3.5mm combo headphone jack, microSD card slot and micro USB charging/syncing USB host port. The PS Vita style power button is on the left hand side when held in landscape mode, as is the volume rocker and the multi-color notification LED. The front 2MP video chat camera is centered above the display and there's a microphone and a cradle connector.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z has dual band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, an FM radio and a GPS with GLONASS. There's a front 2MP video chat camera and a rear 8.1MP camera with Sony's Exmor R sensor and HDR but no flash. It can shoot 1080p video and offers image stabilization. This is definitely a better than average tablet camera, though it doesn't impress us nearly as much as the Z smartphone's 13MP shooter. For more technically adventurous types, the Sony Tablet is rootable and you can install custom ROMs. Sony is very good when it comes to supporting devs who wish to customize their tablets and smartphones.

Sony tablets and laptops have had surprisingly meek audio, and the Tablet Z is the first to have decent volume (it's louder than our Nexus 10's front facing speakers). Sound is still treble heavy since the speakers are small, but we do appreciate the dual port design so they fire both to the side and bottom (relative to landscape orientation). Audio through the headphone jack is above average.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z


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Sony Xperia Tablet Z Video Review


Sony Xperia Tablet Z vs. Nexus 10 Comparison

Display: Mobile Bravia 2

Sony's full HD 1920 x 1200, 224 PPI Mobile Bravia 2 display is absolutely lovely. Colors are rich and natural with a wide color gamut, it has great contrast and blacks are pleasingly deep. It's a much better display than the Xperia Z phone's display for black levels and viewing angles and it beats the higher resolution Nexus 10 for contrast and vibrancy. Sony used a gapless display design (there's no air gap) to achieve a thinner tablet, and it should in theory reflect less too. Well, the Gorilla Glass clad display is a mirror with reflections aplenty, and that's our only complaint about this otherwise excellent display. The auto-brightness works well and keeps things fairly bright, much like recent HTC smartphones and unlike Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets that run too dim on auto-bright. At 50% brightness, the Tablet Z's display was bright enough to use in a very well lit room, while max brightness is good enough for outdoor use at 345 nits, though it's not as bright as the insanely bright Asus Transformer Prime on it's outdoor setting. The mirror-like reflections are honestly more of an issue than brightness outdoors.

Horsepower and Performance

As of this writing, the Tablet Z takes the honor as the fastest Android tablet according to benchmarks. We've seen the quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU clocked at 1.5GHz in several high end smartphones since the fall of 2012, and this is the first time it's made its way into a tablet. Of course, the somewhat faster Snapdragon 600 is in the recently released HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG Optimus G Pro smartphones, but it hasn't hit tablets. The S4 Pro, like the 600, has Adreno 320 graphics and it's an overall very strong performer that's also power efficient for good battery life. Benchmarks are nice, but they don't always translate into perceived fast performance. Happily, the Xperia Tablet Z does feel responsive and Sony's custom UI doesn't seem to weigh heavily on performance. Games fly and 1080p video playback is smooth.

The tablet has 2 gigs of RAM and 16 or 32 gigs of internal storage. It has an SDXC card slot for storage expansion.


  Quadrant GLBenchmark 2.7 Egypt Offscreen AnTuTu 3D Mark Ice Storm test Sunspider JavaScript Test
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 7450 31 fps 20,517 44.2 fps 1501
Google Nexus 10 4959 28 fps 13,658 37.1 fps 1308
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 7054 18 fps 16,214 n/a 1024
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 5349 101 fps (GLBench 2.1, easier test) 12,777 n/a 1206
Asus MeMO Pad Smart 10 3309 34 fps (GLBench 2.5) 12,421 n/a 1320


Tablet Score
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 1890
Nexus 10 2292
iPad with Retina Display 1766
iPad 3 757
Asus MeMO Pad 10 1261

USB port handles HDMI and USB Host for Peripherals Too

One of the appealing things about Android tablets is that they behave more like portable computers than does the iPad. The tablet can output wirelessly using DLNA or via HDMI to a monitor, projector or HD TV. It can access USB peripherals like flash drives, game controllers, keyboards and mice. USB 3G/4G dongle drivers are not available for stock Android. The tablet doesn't supply enough power to run portable hard drives that rely on USB power, though it can charge a PlayStation controller. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z supports HDMI output via optional MHL adapter, much like many Android smartphones on the market. Plug the MHL adapter (available at consumer electronics stores and cell phone stores) into the tablet, then plug your TV or display into the tablet and you're ready to roll. We tested the Xperia Tablet Z with the above mentioned peripherals (including a PlayStation DualShock 3 controller) and it all worked well. Unlike older Sony tablet models, the Z integrates the contents of removable storage into the various media players so you don't have to use the included file transfer tool or a file manager to access your movies and music. The tablet also works with high capacity SDXC microSD cards, so you can expand storage easily. Remember that Android 4.x makes you install apps to internal storage, so use your card for movies, music and other documents.


Sony's Playstation Mobile, Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, Crackle streaming movies/TV shows and more are loaded on the tablet. We particularly like the AV Remote that can control most any piece of home theatre gear. It supports a very wide array of brands (not just Sony) and it works with many kinds of home theatre gear including TVs, AV receivers, Blu-ray players, cable boxes and even wireless speakers. Sony was a pioneer in Android AV remote control long before Samsung and HTC got in on the act, and this is similar to what we've seen on the Sony Tablet S and Xperia Tablet S. Sony offers a downloadable TV Side View app via Google Play that has TV programming info and much more. It's a wonderful alternative to a sea of remote controls and a tiny TV grid on your smartphone.

The tablet runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with Sony's usual tasteful customizations that include an easily reordered app drawer and ubiquitous bottom taskbar access to a mini-app launcher and the AV remote. The mini or small app launcher offers a selection of floating, resizable apps like a web browser, calculator, notes, a timer, sound recorder and clipboard manager. You can turn widgets into small apps and you can download more small apps from Google Play for free. I love having apps that can float in a window and be resized and moved, but I do wish there were even more apps to choose from (this is my wish for every neat Android multitasking solution I've seen including Samsung's Multi-Window feature).

Sony goes with the older tablet UI where you access the app drawer via an icon in the upper right corner and the notification area grants access to (surprise) notifications but very few core settings. We'd like to see more settings like direct control for Bluetooth and WiFi here instead of Brightness and little else. Sony says the Android 4.2 update will be coming soon, and that should add OS-level support for multiple users (an Android 4.2 feature) and perhaps more settings in the notification menu.

The tablet supports USB host OTG and it works with Sony's own DualShock 3 PlayStation controller (both via USB and wirelessly via Bluetooth). You can access the controller pairing function under the Xperia section in settings. It even has a section providing instructions on how to re-pair the controller with your PlayStation 3. The Xperia section also has settings for screen mirroring, and setting up media "throwing" over DLNA.

Sony includes Xperia Link so you can use your Sony Android smartphone as a wireless modem for the tablet. This uses a Bluetooth connection between phone and tablet rather than WiFi. Other apps including TrackID, a file transfer app for use with microSD cards and USB drives (the same app we've seen on previous Sony tablets) and MobiSystems OfficeSuite 7 (an MS Office file viewer).


The front 2MP camera is better than average, yielding bright and not too noisy video chat footage in Skype and Google Chat. The rear 8.1MP camera with Exmor R sensor looks great on paper, but it only performed well in good lighting. Granted, there's no LED flash, but we still saw more noise compared to 8MP camera phones. The HDR mode didn't do enough to combat high contrast scenes and the "Superior Auto" mode (intelligent auto) didn't see to avail itself of HDR. The good news is that the intelligent auto mode in all other respects did a good job of picking the right settings, and with good light, the tablet takes bright and colorful photos and video. Contrast is overdone by default, which may please the casual observer, but you'll notice details disappear in darker sections of the photo.

The camera can shoot 1080p video and the image stabilization feature works well. Audio recording levels are decent and as with still images, good lighting is required. The camera can shoot panorama, burst and it has a wide selection of scene modes like soft skin, HDR, night, high ISO and gourmet for you foodies. When you select any scene mode other than Superior Auto, a variety of additional settings are available like ISO and HDR.

Battery Life

The Xperia Tablet Z has a 6,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. Granted, there are tablets with higher capacity batteries on the market, but the Sony holds its own thanks to the power frugal Snapdragon S4 Pro and Sony's good power management. This is a refreshing change since the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL smartphones don't have the best battery life. There's Stamina Mode that turns off the data connection when the screen is off for those who need to extend sleep times, but we didn't enable that for our tests, largely because we like to get background updates for our online-aware apps even when the display is off overnight. Even without enabling Stamina Mode, standby times were excellent, and the tablet managed a long weekend sleeping with 5% power drain per day. With auto-brightness enabled, WiFi and Bluetooth on, our tablet managed 7.7 hours of streaming HD video playback, which also speaks well of wireless power management via the dual band WiFi radio (our US model doesn't have 3G or 4G LTE). In a mix of average use including reading news via Pulse and News Republic, web browsing, playing several YouTube videos, social networking, email, 30 minutes of 3D gaming and two hours of Netflix playback, we had power to spare at the end of the day. That's a little bit better than our Nexus 10, which isn't a particularly strong performer in the battery life department, and 9% short of the iPad with Retina Display.

The tablet ships with a 1.5 amp micro USB charger rather than the more common 2 amp tablet charger, and that means slightly slower charging times. Perhaps Sony wanted to reduce heat when charging and thus they went with a lower amperage charger. On the upside, we didn't notice any thermal throttling when playing 3D games while charging, so heat is well managed. When gaming, the tablet gets warm but not hot to the touch.


It's hard to argue with the Sony Xperia Tablet Z: it's crazy thin and light, yet it's fast, has a vivid full HD display and an advanced array of features including an AV Remote, NFC, dual band WiFi, Bluetooth and a decent 8.1MP rear camera. It easily beats the venerable Nexus 10 on features, including core features like an SD card slot, though the Nexus still wins for resolution. That said, for those of us with average eyes, full HD 1920 x 1080 looks pretty darned great even if it can't match the Nexus 10's 2560 x 1600 resolution. Though speed standings changes quickly, as of this writing, Sony has the fastest tablet according to benchmarks, and it's future proofed enough that it won't feel slow in 2013, and it will probably feel spritely in 2014. That makes the Sony Xperia Tablet Z a solid buy if you're in the market for a premium Android tablet.

Price: $499 for 16 gig and $599 for 32 gig



Sony Xperia Z smartphone review

Sony Xperia ZL smartphone review

Nexus 10 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review


Sony Xperia Tablet Z


Sony Xperia Tablet Z


Sony Xperia Tablet Z


Sony Xperia Tablet Z


Sony Xperia Tablet Z


Sony Xperia Tablet Z


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Display: 10.1" TFT with Mobile Bravia 2 Engine and OptiContrast. Gorilla Glass. Resolution: 1920 x 1200. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor.

Battery: 6,000 Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro (APQ8064) quad core CPU with Adreno 320 graphics. 2 gigs RAM and 16 or 32 gigs of storage.

Size: 10.47 x 6.77 x 0.27 inches. Weight: 1.09 pounds.

Cellular: N/A for US model. Overseas models available with LTE 4G.

Camera: 2MP front camera and rear 8.1MP camera with Sony Exmor R sensor, HDR, image stabilization and 1080p video recording.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Android OS 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Standard suite of Google Android applications including Chrome web browser, email, gmail, YouTube, Maps, Navigation, Gtalk, Search and the Google Play Store. Various Sony apps including an AV remote, small apps, Crackle, PlayStation Mobile and Sony's video and music streaming services.

Expansion: 1 SDXC microSD card slot.


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