What is the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet?

A sequel to the Tablet Z, the Xperia Z2 Tablet is the thinnest and lightest waterproof 10-inch tablet available packing a speedy Snapdragon 801 processor. Together with the Xperia Z2 _phone_ Sony is hoping they can make a dent in the competitive 10-inch tablet market with this £400 offering.

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Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: Design

Thinness is the order of the day when it comes to the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet. Sony has almost become obsessive about creating one of the thinnest and lightest 10.1-inch tablets on the market. It certainly trumps the iPad Air, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and pretty much any tablet from the major players.

The previous model was thin at just 6.9mm but the Xperia Z2 Tablet shaves a further 0.5mm from that. That’s slimmer than most phones. So it’s thin and at just 426g it’s light too. That’s 43g lighter than the iPad – a tablet famed for its lightness. 

To achieve these feats Sony has made some conscious decisions in the design and build of the Z2 Tablet. The back is covered in hard plastic that feels thin, but not cheap. It has a very fine texture, which is surprisingly grippy, and you’ll find that holding the tablet is easy for extended periods. The back is an improvement over the previous Xperia Tablet Z, but not by much, and feels much less special than the metal-backed iPads or LG G Pad 8.3. 

Perhaps the best thing about the design is that even though it’s so slender the Z2 Tablet feels solid and robust, helped by the aluminium frame.

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The top edge houses the microSD, 4G and charging ports and IR transmitter. These are hidden behind plastic flaps that help the Xperia Z2 Tablet achieve its IP55 and IP58 water and dust resistance. It’s a level up from the previous model and from the Galaxy S5.

A metal circular power button and volume rocker, that have become trademarks of the Xperia range, are positioned on the left. They’re easy to get to when you hold the tablet in landscape mode and feel quality. The fact that the buttons are shaped differently and there’s a little bump on the volume up makes it easy to know which button you’re pressing even when you’re not looking. 
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Along the bottom edge is the 3.5mm headphone jack and a proprietary connector for a docking station (bought separately). 

Unfortunately, while the Xperia Z2 Tablet is super-model thin the overall dimensions are quite large, a fact made obvious by the large screen bezels – more than an inch thick on the sides. This extra width, coupled with the thin edges and pointy corners, mean that holding it one-handed isn’t as comfortable as the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 or iPad Air are, even though the Z2 Tablet is lighter than the latter.

The bottom line, though, is the Z2 Tablet looks and feels good and we challenge anyone to not be impressed by how light and thin it is.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: Screen

Sony claims that the Z2 Tablet has the best screen yet. The 1,980 x 1,200 resolution with 224PPI lags behind the likes of Apple and Samsung, but it’s the larger colour gamut and the additional sharpness provided by X-Reality and Triluminos technologies that Sony thinks can help it win out. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t compare favourably with the best of the rest. 

Colours are overly warm and a little unatural. Reds are far too dominant, and while some greens look better than they do on other tablets others look toxic. You can tone these effects down by using white-balance setting and by turning off X-Reality, but even after half an hour of tinkering we could not find a hue that provided a natural colour pallette. it's intersting to note that the Xperia Z2 _phone_ does not suffer from the same screen issues while Samsung has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years with its AMOLED displays and these now have better colour accuracy and deeper blacks than the display on the Z2 Tablet can muster.

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Viewing angles are decent but brightness is average. Couple this to the reflectiveness of the screen and you may struggle to make out what’s on display if you're out and about on a sunny day.  

Regrettably, X-Reality is no replacement for the extra megapixel count on the likes of the latest tablets, either. Text isn’t quite as sharp as we’ve come to expect from higher definition displays.

It’s not a bad display by any means; it just falls short of the competition.


Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: Speakers

We admire the fact that Sony has managed to cram stereo front facing speakers into such a slim tablet. Two practically invisible grooves on either side of the screen manage to provide decent stereo separation but are otherwise, like the screen, rather unimpressive. 

Sound is tinny, voices sound overly nasal and there is not much bass. Top volume is reasonably loud , but the quality is not that impressive. If you plan to use the Xperia Z2 Tablet as a video player without headphones you will be disappointed. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 has the best tablet speakers we’ve tested and would be a better bet if that's something you really care about.

Xperia Z2 Tablet is too slim to provide enough space for decent speaker performance. We would happily trade several millimetres and some weight for better sound.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: Software

The Sony Xperia Z2 tablet comes with Android 4.2.2 KitKat with an unobtrusive custom user interface layer on top. 

As Android UIs go it’s not too garish or as restrictive as Kindle’s heavy UI overlay. You get the full Google Play store as well as some Sony specific apps. These include the WALKMAN app, a decent music player that includes Sony’s Music Unlimited for an additional £9.99 a month, Album, Movies and Remote Control.

Unfortunately, the most interesting, the Remote Control app, is also the clunkiest to use. You’ll need the patience of a saint to get all your home theatre set up as it won’t let you choose specific model numbers. Instead you pick by brand and then have to try dozens of preset virtual remotes until you find the one that works best for your product. Alternatively, you can point your TV remote into the tablet's IR and map every single button. Frustrating. 

One feature that will make Playstation owners prick their ears is that you can use the Z2 Tablet as a second screen experience for the latest PS4. We’ve only seen the Xperia Z2 Tablet used as a second screen device for some PS4 demos so we’re not sure how much game developers are taking to this functionality or how excited we should be. You can, however, use the PlayStation Dual Shock 3 controller with the Z2 out of the box – we hope that the Dual Shock 4 will also be supported soon.  

One thing we’re not that happy with is that Android just doesn’t yet work that well on 10-inch tablets. It feels like an operating system designed for devices 7-inch and smaller. The Xperia Z2 Tablet just doesn’t make the most of all that extra screen real-estate and this is why Samsung has heavily ladled on Magazine UX over Android, with mixed success.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: Performance and Connectivity

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet manages to pack one of the fastest processors currently available – Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 running at 2.3GHz and supported by 3GB or RAM. 

This makes the Z2 Tablet fast, very fast. In our benchmarks it manages to trump the iPad Air with an Ice Storm Unlimited score of 18,984, while it is a tiny bit slower in Geekbench 3 with a score of 2,614. 

What does this mean in real terms? Well, navigating the tablet is a slick experience and opening apps is speedy. 3D games also look and play brilliantly; Real Racing 3 in particular looks sumptuous and is butter smooth.

READ MORE: Snapdragon 805 vs 801 vs 800



The Xperia Z2 Tablet does pack a goodly amount of connectivity and features into its thin frame, too. You get 16 or 32GB of on-board storage with the option of a further 64GB courtesy of a microSD slot. If you opt for the 4G version you also get a microSIM slot. 

A 3.5mm headphone port is conveniently located at the bottom edge of the tablet when it’s held in landscape, which means your hands aren’t bothered by the jack and cables hang down and way from the screen. NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and MHL 3.0 are also supported, but, unlike the latest Samsung tablets, you only get USB 2.0 rather than 3.0 support.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: Camera

You may not care about the camera on the back of a 10-inch tablet, but if you do you'll be pleased to hear that the cameras on the Xperia Z2 Tablet pack decent specs. There’s an 8 megapixel rear camera and a 2.2 front facing one for video calling. 
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There are a raft of camera apps that first appeared when the Sony Xperia Z1 was first showcased. One of the most interesting aspects of these apps is not what they do, but how they are accessed.

A transparent overlay pops over the screen at the touch of a button within the camera app. To start with four apps will be available: Social Live, Info eye, Timeshift Burst and AR Effect. 

Social live lets you live-stream video or post images directly to Facebook without leaving the camera app. You can see your friend’s comments and reply to them all using the transparent overlay functionality and voice commands – clever stuff. 

Info Eye is a camera recognition app that can scan a bottle wine, a book or even a landmark and present information about it vie the internet. There are plenty of apps out there that do these things separately but it’s useful to have the whole package wrapped into one.     
  
Ever just missed taking the hilarious picture of your mate getting hit by a football in the face? Never again with Sony’s Timeshift Burst. Essentially this buffers 30 shots continuously so when you press the camera button you get 30 shots of a few seconds before the button press, one at the time, and a further 30 after the press.

AR Effect is an augmented reality app, aimed at kids, that can add effects to a scene – plonking a mini T-Rex to go after a cat was our favourite.
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Photos taken in well-lit conditions look good and reasonably detailed but in gloomier rooms there’s plenty of noise, particularly when using the front facing camera. This is to be expected and you will want to be in a lit room if you’re on a video call. In other respects the front cam is one of the best we've used for video calling.
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The rear camera provides an impressive amount of detail for a tablet cam

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Colours aren't quite as rich as they should be

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The Xperia Z2 Tablet actually manages to take decent low-light shots for a tablet

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: Battery Life

The 6,000mAh battery on the Z2 Tablet is significantly smaller than the batteries found in the likes of the Galaxy Note 10.1 – 33% smaller in fact.

Fortunately, the lower resolution screen means that this doesn’t correlate to a 33% lower battery life when compared to its competitors.

Battery life

The Tablet Z managed to achieve a decent eight and a half hours of mixed use.

Usage included three and a half hours of 720p on-board video, three hours of Wi-Fi web browsing, an hour of 3D gaming and an hour of mixed used picture taking and video calling. 

You’ll want to turn stamina mode on to keep the Xperia Z2 Tablet battery from draining too rapidly when the screen is off, however. Drainage is worryingly steep without it.
 
In our standard tests the Xperia Z2 Tablet lost 8% of battery from a 30 minute 720p streamed video while it only managed to muster 12% of battery from a 30-minute charge even with Sony's fast-charge technology. 


Should I buy the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet?

The Xperia Z2 Tablet is a good tablet that's outstandingly thin and light, and uniquely water and dust resistant. But the truth is the Z2 Tablet hasn't advanced as much as its peers in the year or so since the Xperia Tablet Z came out.

The iPad Air still provides both a superior design and experience, as does the Galaxy Note 10.1, which also adds a great digitiser stylus into the mix for a similar price. And if you’re not absolutely wedded to a 10-inch tablet then the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is one of the best media tablets money can buy at £329. Even the Nexus 10 is worth considering still, though it's overdue an update and rather chunky in comparison.

Certainly anyone who owns the original needn't consider upgrading. If water resistance is something you want or need it's clearly the tablet to buy, but if not we'd recommend trying it first.

Verdict

This is a competent and attractive tablet, but we'd happily trade its thinness and lightness for a better screen and beefier speakers.