Introduction

True to its name, the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is small, light, durable and powerful. Hardly a surprise to anyone who's been watching Sony lately. Two generations of mini superphones saw the Z Compact series become the benchmark for design excellence and flagship-worthy performance. Keen to keep the momentum, Sony is bringing the same game to tablets.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact official images

Apple's lukewarm iPad mini 3 announcement this year is leaving the field wide open for the likes of the Z3 Tablet Compact and the HTC Nexus 9. Sony's player is unmatched among 8" tablets in how thin and light it is. To put things in perspective, it's thinner than an iPhone 6 and it weighs a measly 270g - mightily impressive when you consider we've handled phones such as the Oppo N1 or the Lumia 1520 that are well over the 200g mark.

In keeping with the Xperia Z tradition, the Sony 8-incher is dust tight and water resistant, a card-carrying member of the IP68 club. And it has front-facing stereo speakers. That's its third advantage over your run-of-the-mill tablet, if you are keeping count. Here are the rest of the ups and downs of the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact.

Key features

  • Optional 3G and 4G LTE (Cat. 3, 150Mbps)
  • 8" 16M-color capacitive touchscreen Triluminos display, 1,920 x 1,200px resolution, 283ppi; X-Reality engine; shatter proof and scratch-resistant glass
  • Android OS v4.4.4 KitKat with custom UI
  • Quad-core 2.56GHz Krait 400 CPU, 3GB of RAM, Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801 chipset
  • IP68 certification, dust-tight and waterproof
  • 8MP autofocus camera with Exmor RS sensor; Info-eye, AR effects
  • 1080p video recording @ 30fps, continuous autofocus and stereo sound; live video streaming to Facebook
  • 2.2MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
  • 16/32GB of built-in storage; microSD card slot
  • MHL-enabled microUSB port
  • GPS receiver
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Front-facing stereo speakers
  • Supports Sony's Digital Noise Cancelling headphones
  • 4,500mAh Li-Ion battery

Main disadvantage

  • Screen resolution on the low side for a modern flagship tablet (but is sharp enough)
  • Subpar 8MP photos
  • No voice call functionality

As usual, Sony uses its own display panels - after years of TV manufacturing that's no surprise, but WUXGA resolution (the 16:10 cousin of 1080p) is a little thin for late 2014. Even the barely-upgraded iPad mini 3 has more pixels per inch, while the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (another slim and light Android tablet) has nearly 80% more pixels on its Super AMOLED screen.

But that's a topic for the chapters to come. For now all you need to know is that Sony used a fast Snapdragon 801 chipset that runs Android 4.4 KitKat but Sony has already committed to an Android 5.0 Lollipop upgrade. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is the first to feature Remote Play - it lets you stream PlayStation 4 games to the tablet that you control with a DualShock 4 controller, there's even a dedicated mount that attaches the tablet to the controller.

Sony presses on with the inherent advantages of a multi-platform tech giant. A Walkman music player is paired with advanced sound processing and front-facing stereo speakers. The Triluminos LCD with X-Reality processing is, Sony claims, the brightest it has made yet.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact at our office

The Exmor RS sensor is sourced from Sony's camera division and offers 1080p video capture, Superior Auto and livestreaming to Facebook and YouTube. The front-facing 2.2MP camera can also record 1080p footage.

While Sony likes to lean on tried and true brand names, the company does put an admirable effort into making its devices future-proof. The 3GB of RAM is a great start, the microSD card slot lets you add storage on the cheap, MHL 3.0 and Miracast do TV-Out with and without a cable and, of course, that IP68 rating makes the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact suitable for care-free bathtub and kitchen use.

Unboxing the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

The retail box is fairly spacious for such a slender device, but the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact comes with only the very essentials - a charger (1.5A) and a microUSB cable.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Retail box and box contents

Due to the waterproofing, the microUSB port is hidden under a flap so you might want to consider buying a magnetic charger dock or cable so you can charge the tablet with less hassle. Those are sold separately - they are not expensive by any means, but it would have been a nice perk to have them in the box.

Hardware overview

We're essentially looking at an enlarged Xperia Z3, perhaps unsurprising given the name but definitely not a bad thing. The latest evolution of the Xperia design adds a touch of class with a rounded aluminum frame around the sides of the device but keeps weight in check by using mostly glass and plastic.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has the Xperia Z family looks

Unlike Xperia Z phones, here the back is matte plastic rather than glass, which we like better. It's nice and warm to the touch and, more importantly, isn't a scratch and fingerprint magnet. Sure, it's not as cool as an all-aluminum back like on the iPads but the whole Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact weighs just 270g.

Let that sink in, that's 270g for an 8" tablet when a 5.5" Oppo N1 weighs 213g. This lightness has a definite impact on handling - you don't worry you'll drop it (the grippy matte plastic helps here too) and your hand doesn't tire out quickly.

The tablet is super slim too, at 6.4mm it's nearly at the point where you feel the screen glass is glued straight onto the back. This doesn't mean the tablet is flimsy though, the aluminum frame is strong enough to keep the tablet from bending in normal use (though we wouldn't force it).

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Photos don't do it justice, it's really thin

The metal trim around the tablet features the new design where the corners are made of separate elements, which promise to absorb impacts better.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The corners are made to absorb impacts

Thin side bezels and thicker top/bottom bezels are a hybrid solution. At 123.6mm wide, the tablet is okay-ish to hold single-handedly (the rounded aluminum rim around the device isn't very grippy though). You can also hold the tablet horizontally without pressing anything on the screen or covering the front-facing stereo speakers.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact in the hand: two hands for landscape, one for portrait

The stereo speakers are narrow slits near the edge of the device. They are backed by Sony 3D Surround Sound and xLoud tech.

We're pleased to report that Sony has finally positioned buttons and ports in the right locations for a pleasant experience with tablet docks. The tablet is meant to be docked horizontally - the magnetic charging port is on the left side, but on other products we've seen either the microUSB port or the 3.5mm audio jack residing on the same side and providing less than an ideal solution.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Magnetic charging port on the bottom • microSD and optional nanoSIM card on the bottom

Now the only thing on the left besides the charging port is the microSD card slot and the optional nanoSIM card slot (for the LTE version), both rarely used. The microUSB port is positioned on the lower side, covered by a flap.

The rest of the commonly used elements are now on the left/top - left to right, a 3.5mm audio jack, the trademark round Power key and the volume rocker. This means you get easy access to all buttons and ports, you can say use MHL TV-out while charging the tablet via a magnetic dock, or use the 3.5mm jack as analog audio out.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The microUSB port on the bottom/right • 3.5mm audio jack and buttons on the right/top

This orientation - the tablet lying on its left long side - is good for video calls too. The 2.2MP/1080p front-facing video camera is positioned to the side of the central Sony logo, leaving it above the speakers and your fingers when the tablet is docked in landscape.

There's a microphone on the tablet near the 3.5mm audio jack - it's kept clear from the dock for video calls.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

2.2MP/1080p front-facing video camera • on-screen buttons

You'll have to be more careful with the rear camera on the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. It's placed in the middle of the top short side and you may cover it with your fingers when holding it horizontally. There are no problems in portrait orientation but the tablet is a bit too big for one-handed shooting.

The camera itself features an 8MP Exmor RS sensor and no flash. Also on the back you'll find the NFC logo - that is there to guide you when using NFC as the short range technology requires fairly accurate placement when interacting with tags or other smart devices.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The 8MP main camera is poorly positioned, it's too easy to cover it with your finger

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is available in Black and White with both the glass on the front and the plastic on the back changing color. The Black version even has the aluminum frame painted darker to match the rest of the exterior.

Inside the body of the tablet is a sealed 4,500mAh battery - not out of the ordinary for an 8" tablet and not bad for such a thin chassis though the 6.6mm Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has a 4,900mAh battery. Sony have proven they know what they're doing when it comes to battery life, we'll find out if they pulled off another miracle in a couple of chapters.

Display

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact features an 8" Triluminos display with 1,920 x 1,200px resolution (aka WUXGA). The Triluminos tech promises a wider color gamut than conventional LCD screens, especially better reds and aqua green/emerald colors.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The Triluminos display offers stunning colors but is a bit low on pixels

The colors are indeed impressive - the default live wallpaper cycles between different colors to show off the screen and it works, the impressive reds in particular are something to see. A white balance setting lets you tweak the screen though we would have liked a saturation slider here as well.

Viewing angles are as wide as is practically necessary, though contrast varies noticeably depending on the angle of view so shaking the plane of the screen a bit has the potential of getting you dizzy. The screen does not use an IPS panel, but when you view it head on it looks really good.

Putting the brightness slider at its top position confirms Sony's claims that this is its brightest LCD yet. For inside use we kept the slider at 80% or less as there was no need for the extra brightness. While not the brightest LCD in general, it's one of the brightest tablet screens around.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact - - - 0.45 631 1416
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet - - - 0.45 484 1076
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 221 398
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 0.13 126 974 0.53 502 955
Apple iPad mini 2 0.2 167 835 0.56 450 804


Outside with the sun reflecting off the screen there's definitely more use for the highest settings of the brightness slider. The glass is on the reflective side though, which hurts sunlight legibility.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    4.033
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2.618
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • HTC One (M8) for Windows
    2.291
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2.024
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Windows _phone_ 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1.735
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Note that there's an ambient light sensor so the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact can change the brightness automatically. Also, Smart backlight control will prevent the screen from sleeping while you are looking at it.

We mentioned colors, but the other half of the image quality equation is sharpness. The 8" display has 283 pixels per inch, compared to 324ppi for a Retina-packing iPad mini and 359ppi for the Galaxy Tab S 8.4. Close to 300ppi is generally quite enough for tablet use (you hold the bigger screen further away) though it's possible to notice some imperfection in sloping curves of on-screen icons.

If your eyesight has gone the other way and it's no longer good enough to spot such tiny pixels, you can use the Font size setting to make text bigger.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Two other helpful options in the Screen settings are Glove mode (which boosts sensitivity) and the double tap to wake option (so you don't have to reach for the Power key).

Connectivity

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has a rich set of connectivity features. There's a Wi-Fi only version but if you need Internet access on the go you can grab the LTE-enabled variant.

It starts off with 2G GSM connectivity goes through 42Mbps HSPA and offers Cat. 4 LTE for up to 150Mbps of download speed and up to 50Mbps for uploads. There's a variant with TD-LTE for the Chinese market. There's no voice call support though, so you'll have to rely on VoIP solutions (Skype, Viber, you name it).

If you don't buy an LTE-enabled tablet, you can use Xperia Link to share your Xperia phone's Internet connection with the tablet via Bluetooth (instead of the more power-hungry Wi-Fi hotspot).

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Xperia Link for Internet sharing over Bluetooth

In terms of local connectivity, the Z3 Tablet Compact has dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac to lean on with DLNA and Miracast functionality. There's also Bluetooth 4.0 LE complete with the aptX audio codec. ANT+ is also available though the chances of using sports accessories with a tablet are pretty slim.

For easy pairing (part of Sony's One-touch connectivity) there is NFC - you can pair with Sony devices like smartwatches, headphones and even TV remotes.

Besides Miracast, there's MHL 3 available on the microUSB port. It can stream 2160p video at 30fps with 7.1 surround sound so if you pair the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact with a high-end TV you can have quite the viewing experience.

Sony's Smart Connect app comes pre-installed. It allows you to set your device to do a variety of things - like launch an app or set an alarm - whenever you connect an accessory like a headset or a charger. You can also set events to occur during a time interval (e.g. mute alarms at night).

As for NFC compatibility, the Smart Connect app doesn't work with ordinary NFC tags, but only Sony's Smart tags, which is kinda disappointing. However, one of our readers duly pointed out, you can purchase cheap generic NFC tags, which are programmed as SmartTags so the app can recognize them just fine.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Smart Connect

If you're experiencing connectivity issues over Wi-Fi you can use the Wi-Fi checker tool, which is similar to the tool on Windows (and like it, it probably can only confirm there's an error, the rest you have to take up with your router and Internet provider).

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Wi-Fi Checker tool

Battery life

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has a 4,500mAh battery - not bad considering how thin it is, but the 6.6mm thick Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has a 4,900mAh battery and there have been 6" phablets with 4,000mAh batteries. Still, Sony has demonstrated great battery life from the other two Xperia Z3 devices.

The web browsing score is particularly impressive, lasting over 18 hours. The video playback time is less - about 13 and a half hours, somewhat below the official 15 hours Sony gives it. Keep in mind we test the video players until the battery hits 10% as we've had issues with players automatically quitting when the battery gets this low and we need to keep things level.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Latest Android KitKat with latest of Sony

The Sony Xperia Z3 comes with the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat out of box with the latest Sony improvements to its custom Xperia overlay. As usual Sony's additions are thinly draped over stock Android, which many view as an advantage over competing skins.

The lockscreen is enhanced from the stock version. It supports widgets (one per pane) and has a camera shortcut at the bottom. Sony's contribution here is double-tap to wake feature, which saves you the trouble of reaching for the screen.

Waking the screen is one thing, for unlocking the tablet you can enable Face, Pattern, PIN or Password unlock, in ascending order of security.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The lockscreen

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact lets you add or remove homescreen panes (you start with five) and set any of them as default. You can't have more than seven panes at any given time though, nor can you change the order they're in.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Xperia homescreen

In the top left corner there are Google Now and Voice search shortcuts, which are visible on all homescreen panes though you can disable them.

Customization options start from adding widgets but also include changing the theme of the interface, which modifies the wallpaper, system colors, status bar elements and UI controls. Themes are available for download from the Play Store, some of which are paid.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Managing homescreens • Themes

The notification area splits notifications and quick toggles into two different tabs. A one finger swipe from the top opens notifications, while two fingers open toggles. The toggles are customizable and you can choose between 20+ different toggles and have up to 12 of them visible on their dedicated pane.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Notification area

The app drawer is laid out across multiple pages and you can sort the apps manually, alphabetically, by the most used or most recently installed. The menu with these settings is accessible via a swipe from the left edge of the screen and you can also search and even uninstall apps from there.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

App drawer

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact app switcher lets you switch between recently opened apps, as well as terminate them with a side-swipe.

There are shortcuts to the so-called "small apps" inside the app switcher interface. They are small floating windows with widget-like applications, which you can move around and use without having to open the full-fledged app. So far, there's a default set of eight: Active Clip, Chrome Bookmarks, Browser, Calculator, Calendar, Gmail, Timer, and Touch Block. You can launch only one instance of a Small App, but you can open multiple Small Apps simultaneously.

You can download more Small Apps off the Play Store or use the option to turn your favorite widgets into Small Apps. Just hit the Plus key at the top of the list and choose a widget.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Task switcher • Small Apps in action • Small apps UI • Download more small apps

Naturally, you can access Google Now by swiping from the bottom of the UI. There's another shortcut right next to the Google Now launch key called What's new. This app has a very slick UI and will show you the hottest apps and multimedia today. It isn't limited to just the Google Play Store, and will display content from Sony's PlayStation store too.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony's What's new

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Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The Google Now and What's new shortcuts • Google Now

Performance

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has a Snapdragon 801 at its heart - quad-core Krait 400 processor at 2.5GHz and Adreno 330 GPU. Sony has paired that with 3GB of RAM, making this one of the best-spec'd tablets on the market.

There's interesting competition in this size segment though - the Exynos 5420 powered Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and the Tegra K1 powered Xiaomi Mi 4.

Starting off with CPU benchmarks, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact doesn't place very high but neither the Xperia Z2 Tablet nor the Xperia Z Ultra do much better in Geekbench 3. The no-cheat version of Basemark OS II showed no traces of benchmark rigging and gave the Z3 Tablet Compact an average overall score but a good multi-core performance. Also, a Krait 400 beats a Cortex-A15 one on one as both the Xiaomi and Samsung tablets demonstrate.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    3276
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    3165
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    2925
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    2884
  • Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    2781
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
    2754
  • Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    2748
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    2670

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    1222
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1192
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    1181
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1168
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1141
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    830
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    768

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4031
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    2588
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    2334
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    2251
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1999
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    1911

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    15012
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    10413
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    9604
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    9446
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    8547
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    5149

AnTuTu 5 puts the Sony tablet in between phablets like the Galaxy Note 4 (powered by Snapdragon 805) and the Ascend Mate7 (based on HiSilicon Kirin 925).

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    46824
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    42505
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    41510

Adreno 330 is a speedy GPU - other than the NVIDIA-powered Xiaomi Mi Pad, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is one of the top performers. Here the on-screen results are only slightly worse than the standardized 1080p off-screen tests as the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact's resolution is nearly that - 1,920 x 1,200 pixels. Most other high-end tablets have higher resolution. It's on-screen results that count though and it's clear that Mali-packing Exynos is just no match, even the PowerVR used in the iPad mini 2 and mini 3 doesn't cut it.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    53.1
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    44.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    41.7
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    27.7
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
    27.5
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    23
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    20.5
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    16.4

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    39.6
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    28.1
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
    27.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    26.4
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    17.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    13.6

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    27.3
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    18.5
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    12
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
    11.7
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    8
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    5.6

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    19.8
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    11.7
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
    11.3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    11.2
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    8.5
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    2.9

Basemark X was used to verify the tablet doesn't boost GPU clock speeds while running benchmarks.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    24456
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    18684
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18297
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    12911
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    11606
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    6501

The tablet comes with only the Chrome browser, which isn't the fastest on mobile. Other manufacturers typically use customized versions of the stock browser that has been tuned to that particular device, but not Sony.

The Z3 Tablet Compact doesn't do so hot in JavaScript benchmarking (despite its good single-core performance) and only shows an average score in BrowserMark 2.1 (despite the lower resolution).

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    4647
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4650
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    4927
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    5351
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    5567
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    6500

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3389
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    2208
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (Exynos)
    1681
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    1467
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    952
  • Huawei Ascend Mate7
    795

In conclusion, the Snapdragon 801 chipset (the one with a 2.5GHz processor) offers solid performance for apps. Gaming is some of the best a mainstream tablet has to offer (Xiaomi's market share in the west is still narrow). The web browsing performance is somewhat uninspiring but it's still goof enough.

Phonebook

The Contacts app on the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact shares a tabbed interface with the favorite contacts and groups. You can side-swipe between the three tabs. The contact list has a dedicated search field plus it offers and a cool alphabetical scroll bar.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Phonebook

You can sync with multiple accounts, including Exchange and Facebook, and you can selectively show or hide contacts from some accounts (as well as filter specific groups in an account), or set the phonebook to display only contacts with _phone_ numbers or only contacts that are online.

Linking contacts is available, and the quick contact feature is here too.

Loudspeaker

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact features front-facing stereo speakers but that doesn't make it very loud. Sony has improved things since the Xperia Z2 Tablet but the new model still gets a Below Average mark. The iPad mini 2 (also with stereo speakers) gets the same scores, but the other tablets - all of them with stereo speakers though not frontally positioned get Good or Very Good.

None of them have waterproofing though, which undoubtedly mutes some of the sound.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet 62.5 62.1 60.7 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact 66.2 66.3 65.3 Below Average
Apple iPad mini 2 65.7 62.1 72.3 Below Average
LG G Pad 8.3 66.9 75.7 66.6 Good
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 68.7 66.5 75.8 Good
Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 75.7 69.6 82.7 Very Good


Messaging and text input

The Gmail client and the default Email apps are onboard. Gmail can sync only with (multiple) Google accounts. while the generic Email app can handle POP and IMAP and offers a Combined inbox. In landscape orientation it splits the screen between the message list and displaying the selected message. This can be enabled in portrait orientation too or disabled all together.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Gmail and Email

As for text input, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact offers a customizable on-screen full QWERTY keyboard. An easy to use wizard will help you choose the auto-correct setting, learn your writing style from your Facebook, Twitter or Gmail accounts, add or remove buttons (e.g. language change or voice typing), whether long presses show alternative symbols, there are even three keyboard skins preinstalled.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Full-size keyboard • thumb keyboard • small keyboard

You can also try the so-called Gesture input if hitting those keys individually doesn't give you the desired typing speed.

Other typing options include a small floating keyboard (which takes only a small portion of the screen and is easily repositioned) and a Thumb keyboard, which splits into two halves. This is great for thumb typing in landscape mode as you don't have to reach for the keys in the middle of the screen.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Keyboard skins

Album

We should all be familiar with Sony's custom gallery - Album. It organizes images into groups of thumbnails and sorted by date. You can change the thumbnails size by pinching. The top half of the screen is a slideshow of your photos (tap to view the current photo). Thumbnails can be resized with a pinch zoom gesture.

The gallery sorts photos by camera roll, folders, favorites, by people's faces or by location. DLNA is supported out of the box (both viewing and sharing photos) and you can view your Facebook, Flickr and Picasa albums. PlayMemories, Sony's own online album, is available too, of course.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Album • adjustable thumb size • DLNA and online album support • map view

There's a slideshow using the SensMe brand and much like the music player feature, this one scans files and groups similar photos together.

Editing can also be done from within Album app. It pops up a minimalist interface very similar to Google's Photos app, offering the ability to enhance your photos with a verity of filters, as well as adjust from a slew of settings including hue, levels, curves, and many more. Images can also be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery.

The app lets you manually add geo-location info and name faces in photos, which is handy for organization.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Editing is compact yet powerful

The Sketch app is a more artistic editor with various drawing tools, stickers, text and other tools. You can download new stickers and enable online syncing via a Sony account.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The Sketch app brings fun into photo editing

Finally, there is the Movie Creator. It automatically creates small video clips from your pictures taken with the camera. It does its magic automatically, a lot like HTC Zoe.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Movie Creator

Walkman player with noise cancellation

The Walkman music player is part of the equipment of all recent Xperia devices. It now features wider audio support - in addition to popular formats such as MP3, AAC, WAV, the Walkman player also handles ALAC and FLAC.

It features Music Unlimited integration and is not above trying to sell you songs, but you can hide the Music Unlimited stuff.

The Walkman interface is based on a hidden swipe-able menu that sorts your music collection by Artist, Albums, Playlists, Folders and DLNA devices. The Playlists option includes SenseMe, which automatically sorts photos into several categories like energetic, relax, upbeat, mellow and so on, there are nine options in total.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Walkman player • filtering the library • Infinite button

The Infinite button is available in the Now Playing screen (just tap the album art) - it will help you find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google. You can also post about a song on Facebook from here. Several visualizers are available for a bigger show.

Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art, but you can edit info manually. Track ID is on board for identifying songs.

Digging into the settings your can select custom presets for a wide range of Sony headsets, including one for the Sony NC31E/EM noise cancelling headset. This one is not bundled though as it is with the Z3 and the Z3 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Manual editing and automatic track info download • noise-cancelling headphone support • 5-band equalizer

The Walkman player offers a variety of audio settings - ClearAudio+ option is here, which determines the best audio quality settings depending on the song you're listening to. We liked how it changed the music and carefully accentuated various details. Dynamic normalizer evens out the differences in volume between tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.

The Sound effects contain yet more settings. There's a 5-band equalizer with presets and manual settings (including tweaking Clear Bass). Then there's S-Force Front surround and Surround sound mode (VPT), which imitates the Studio, Club or Concert Hall experience.

The Xperia Z3 also includes Sony's Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE), which upgrades the quality of compressed music files by using upsampling, but as can be expected from such an operation the results are hardly spectacular. We'd suggest you steer away from it as the added artifacts don't justify the benefits.

Speaker settings include Clear Phase, which adjusts the quality, while xLOUD boosts up the internal speaker. For external speakers you can output Hi-Res audio to USB DAC amps.

FM radio

The FM radio features RDS support to display radio info, but you can also use Track ID to recognize the currently playing song. You can also post about it on Facebook to show your friends how old-school you are. The radio interface is fairly simple so visualizations are enabled by default to fill in the screen.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

FM radio with visualizations • built-in track recognition • posting a short recording on Facebook

Movies

The video playing app is dubbed Movies and it too has a great custom UI. It's connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies you have on the phone. It will even download posters and metadata like genre, synopsis, director and cast.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work very well for TV shows - it doesn't recognize the S01E02 format and won't pull info about individual episodes. It gets worse, Gracenote seems to be lacking info on TV shows in general, and we couldn't find even popular shows like The Big Bang Theory.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Video player with HTPC-like functionality

The tablet can recognize what's playing on your TV too, not just what files are on your tablet. The Track ID TV app is the TV show equivalent of the song recognition app.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact was able to play most of the video files we threw at it but had some issues with AC3 audio and videos that combined AAC audio with the AVC video codec. MOV files played without problem, a rarity on an Android device. In any event, you can always download a more capable (codec-wise) third-party app from the Google Play store.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Watching a video

The video player supports subtitles, and you can customize their looks. Unfortunately, you cannot manually pick the subtitle file, it has to reside in the video folder to load up.

Video Unlimited is a movie and TV show store where you can purchase content to watch on your tablet.

Audio quality is solid

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact did decently in our audio quality test. The active external amplifier trial ended with very good scores and average loudness - not quite the best in either clarity or volume but good enough for the vast majority of users.

Plugging in a pair of headphones brought some extra stereo crosstalk, but the overall performance remained solid and it will take a very pretentious audiophile to find something wrong with it. We have seen better from flagship slates, but the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact will certainly do its music playback job fine.

Check out the table and see for yourself.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact +0.02, -0.08 -81.4 81.4 0.013 0.019 -83.5
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (headphones attached) +0.10, -0.01 -81.3 81.3 0.022 0.049 -52.7
Xiaomi Mi Pad +0.04, -0.42 -92.0 90.1 0.0055 0.069 -88.4
Xiaomi Mi Pad (headphones attached) +0.02, -0.43 -91.6 89.8 0.375 0.335 -46.3
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 +0.05, -0.02 -95.7 92.3 0.0044 0.0096 -96.0
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (headphones attached) +0.01, -0.05 -95.7 92.1 0.012 0.014 -44.4
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 +0.02, -0.07 -93.3 93.3 0.0019 0.011 -89.2
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (headphones attached) +0.04, -0.06 -93.1 93.1 0.0074 0.037 -70.2
LG G Pad 8.3 +0.14, -0.11 -93.8 92.9 0.0021 0.0082 -93.8
LG G Pad 8.3 (headphones attached) +0.29, -0.11 -90.7 92.7 0.0074 0.208 -53.6
Google Nexus 7 (2013) +0.00, -0.23 -92.2 92.3 0.036 0.020 -92.3
Google Nexus 7 (2013)(headphones attached) +0.83, -0.12 -92.4 92.3 0.010 0.208 -49.3
Apple iPad mini 2 +0.04, -0.39 -93.8 93.7 0.0011 0.0067 -82.9
Apple iPad mini 2 (headphones attached) +0.11, -0.00 -93.6 93.6 0.0023 0.030 -62.2


Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact frequency response

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

8MP tablet camera is not as good as it sounds

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact's camera uses an 8MP Exmor RS sensor. It shoots at a maximum resolution of 3,264 x 2,448 pixels (8MP) in manual mode, or 3,264 x 1,836 (6MP) in Superior Auto. There is no LED flash to help you with some low-light photos.

The camera is positioned in the middle of the top edge of the device, the left edge when held horizontally. We made a note of this in the hardware chapter and we must reiterate it here - it's very easy to cover the camera with your finger, which makes photography awkward. More awkward than your typical tablet photography we mean.

The camera interface is just like that of Xperia smartphones. It's laid across two panes and is shared with the camcorder - in Manual mode you get a still/video toggle, while in Superior auto there are separate still and video shutter keys. There is not hardware shutter key here, not that it would have been useful.

The mode selector (button in the bottom right) offers an additional tab that lets you download more proprietary and third-party shooting modes.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Camera interface: manual mode, mode selector, Superior auto and settings

In Manual mode you get limited controls: Exposure Compensation, White balance, Metering, Image stabilization and ISO. Superior Auto makes a best guess at the type of scene and picks the best settings itself.

The Z3 Tablet Compact comes with two livestreaming options - Social live (for Facebook) and Live on YouTube. Face in lets you shoot photos and videos with the front-facing camera inserting your mug into the shot as well. The software tracks your face to make sure it's centered so you don't have to worry about positioning so much.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Two livestreaming options - to YouTube and Facebook

Multicamera uses other devices - Xperia smartphones or Wi-Fi/NFC-enabled Sony cameras (including the QX models). You can connect up to three devices (two if you use a camera) and record a combined video with all of them.

Sound Photo records a one-second 1080p video with sound, except it uses the uncommon MPO format. There are two AR modes too - one renders a virtual world on top of the real one, while the other is more interactive (it's very similar to Fruit Ninja) making for some fun videos.

Manual mode image quality is not stunning - photos are overexposed, there's noticeable noise and the captured detail doesn't correspond to 8MP resolution. Color rendering is surprisingly okay (may look a little undersaturated if you're coming off a typical smartphone camera).

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Manual mode (8MP)

Superior Auto crops off the image to 16:9 aspect ratio but doesn't actually do much to improve image quality. The photos still come out overexposed and lacking in 8MP-level detail. Overall photos are passable for a tablet, but not on the level of a good 8MP cameraphone.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact: Superior Auto (6MP)

You can get to HDR mode in the Manual settings. It brightens up shadows way too much and brings down the highlights a bit. The strength of the effect varies from restrained to over-the-top. That depends on the given scene and the fine detail is degraded proportionally.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Superior Auto • Manual mode: HDR off • HDR on

There's Sweep panorama but Sony's is one of the worst implementations on the market. It's picky about sweeping speed and while you can stop it before completing the 360° circle, the rest of the panorama is filled in with a grey color (which we cropped out for the samples below). Resolution is fairly low - 5MP in total with 1080px vertical resolution when you shoot in landscape mode. Stitching is far from perfect and leaves plenty of squiggly lines and misshapen objects.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact panorama: shot in landscape mode

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact photo quality comparison

If you want you can do some extra pixel peeping in our dedicated comparison tool below.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (8MP) in our photo compare tool

It's better at video recording

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact shoots 1080p videos at 30fps. They come out with 18Mbps overall bitrate and good 156Kbps audio bitrate (recorded in stereo at 48kHz sampling rate). The Sony Xperia Z3 offers digital image stabilization but do keep in mind that it eats up a significant portion of the field of view.

Like still photos videos are overexposed, but they actually offer good image quality with a decent level of detail. The videos are not particularly sharp but they look better than the still photos. Recorded sound is of pretty good quality too.

You can check out these video sample directly off the device: 1080p@30fps (0:08s, 18.7MB). Or you could watch the 30 second video sample we uploaded to YouTube.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact video quality comparison

Tablets have not entered the 2160p race yet so there's plenty of 1080p competition to compare with the Z3 Tablet Compact.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (1080p) in our video compare tool

Chrome

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact comes with Google Chrome as the default web browser out of box instead of the generic Android browser. While the minimalist interface hasn't changed since Chrome launched on Android, the browser is being constantly refined by Google, and this has resulted in one of the smoothest and most powerful browsing experiences we've encountered on a mobile.

Of course, one of Chrome's strengths is its ability to seamlessly sync with the desktop version using nothing but your Google account. This allows you to open an article on your PC and finish reading it on your mobile phone. It also syncs your bookmarks and favorite sites.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Google Chrome

Other pre-installed apps

Sony Select does the same as the Sony's What's New app, but comes with much less functions and old UI. We feel Sony should retire it. Both try to promote content from the Play Store. The Xperia Lounge is similar but promises exclusive content and is more varied, it shows trailer for upcoming movies, for example.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony Select

The calendar has three different types of view - daily, weekly and monthly. The lower section of the screen is reserved for a list of upcoming events. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Calendar • To-Do list

Sony Xperia Z3 also features the Office Suite 7, which comes with a Premium license for one month, allowing for viewing and editing office files (docs, xls, ppt), and it can also read PDFs.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

OfficeSuite 7

Calculator, Clock app (with stopwatch, world clock and timer), Sketch, Notes and File Manager apps are also here by default. The File Manager has built-in support for local networking and FTP.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Clock • File Manager

There is the Sony PlayStation app too, which allows you to browse your PlayStation profile, avatar and achievements. It's far from Microsoft default Xbox app on Windows Phone, but it's something. It can also connect to your PS4 and extract various content from there.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony PlayStation app

The PS4 Remote Play feature allows the tablet to connect to a PlayStation 4 and act as the display. You play using a DualShock 4 controller, so you can continue playing even if someone wants to watch TV in the middle of your game. Sony is selling mounts that attach the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact to the PS4 controller, but those aren't strictly necessary.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Sony also provides a Backup & restore app, which can use the internal storage, a microSD card or even an attached USB mass storage device. You can backup the system and downloaded apps and their data along with any media files.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The Power saver app

The Lifelog app is onboard too. If you enable its tracking functions - it will record your motion via phone's accelerometer and GSP and then it will convert the data into steps, distance, sleep hours, burnt calories. The app basically tracks and records all of our activity - in addition to the steps, walking/running/sleeping hours, it also saves time spent on communications, taking/browsing pictures, listening to music, watching videos, playing games, reading eBooks, and web browsing. The app is way more accurate if you are using some of Sony's wearable accessories (SmartBand, SmartWatch).

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Lifelog

Final words

Phones and tablets are converging - phones are already in the 5.5-6 inch range and 7-8 inch tablets are more popular than their 10" siblings. There was some speculation that the 7.9" iPad mini will eclipse the 9.7" iPad Air, but with the underwhelming mini 3 launch we're not so sure anymore.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is a direct iPad mini competitor and Apple's neglect of the mini makes this a perfect time for Sony to strike.

The tablet is not compact in the sense of the Xperia Z3 Compact (the smartphone), 8" is actually a fairly standard screen size. The tablet does fully earn its name though - thickness and weight are among of the few areas in tech where lower is better and the Z3 Tablet Compact is about as low as it gets.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

There's something special about a 6.4mm tablet that only weighs 270g. True, the new iPad Air 2 is 6.1mm but, in tablets at 8" or so, there's hardly anything thinner or lighter out there. An exposed metal trim gives the tablet a premium touch, while the matte plastic back is practical (light and grippy) and looks much better than smudgy glass or glossy plastic.

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact leans on multiple Sony technologies. The 8" Triluminos screen of WUXGA resolution may not have the highest resolution around but it boasts stunning colors, while the front-facing stereo speakers that surround it have Sony's usual battery of sound-enhancement tech. For headphones the number of features gets dizzying - from on-board Hi-Res sound, through the legendary Walkman player to built-in support for noise reduction headphones.

The camera was a bit of disappointment, it's not the best 8MP shooter money can buy. It does well enough at video recording though and it has enough fun features.

In terms of processing power, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is certainly fast. Gaming in particular is a focus for Sony and the Snapdragon 801 chipset with Adreno 330 gets the job done, no questions asked. The PS4 Remote Play functionality is an added bonus that can save you the purchase of a PS Vita.

Key test findings:

  • Excellent build quality, stunningly thin and light
  • Water-proofing is a unique feature among this range of tablets
  • Screen with beautiful colors, but resolution is not as high as the price tag suggests and viewing angles could have been a bit better
  • Top notch connectivity unless you need voice calls
  • Battery life is commendable
  • Stereo speakers are not as loud as we like them to be
  • Lightly skinned Android is fast, own-brand pre-installed apps have tons of features
  • The still camera is disappointing for an 8MP shooter, video is acceptable

Apple's brand recognition often leads to questions like "iPad or Android tablet?" as if "Android" is a singular thing. The Apple iPad mini 2 and mini 3 have nearly the same specs aside from the Gold color option and the Touch ID sensor that were added to the new model.

The screen is still a 7.9" LCD of 324ppi - topping Sony's 283ppi. More disappointingly though, Apple kept the A7 chipset so the gains in CPU and GPU performance from the A8X remain inaccessible to the minis. The sleek 6.1mm chassis of the iPad Air is similarly an exclusive perk of the big tablet. What we're saying is unless you have plenty of disposable income and you are after some sort of bragging rights, get the iPad mini 2 rather than the mini 3.

As for the iPad vs. Xperia discussion, the Z3 Tablet Compact is the only waterproof tablet in the segment, has front-facing stereo speakers too and it's thinner and lighter than virtually all of them. The iPad mini 2/3 have stereo speakers too but they are not positioned to capitalize on the stereo effect. Also note that the Wi-Fi only version of the tablet lacks GPS. If you want an all-metal chassis it's iPad or nothing though.

Apple iPad mini 3
Apple iPad mini 2

Apple iPad mini 3 • Apple iPad mini 2

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is one of the very few tablets with an AMOLED screen. It's a very sharp screen too, 359ppi, Super AMOLED fans finally have a replacement for the aging Galaxy Tab 7.7. The tablet is ultra-thin and ultra-light to nearly match Sony's - at 6.6mm and 294g. There's no waterproofing though and the Exynos 5420 chipset is lagging behind the Snapdragon 801.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4

The NVIDIA Shield is a showcase device for the company's Tegra K1 chipset, but it is also a good all-round tablet, well priced too. The chipset is the version with the traditional Cortex-A15 cores but, going by early benchmark results, NVIDIA's own Denver processor doesn't improve much in multi-core performance. Both versions pack the GeForce Kepler GPU, which wipes the floor with the current crop of mobile GPUs - graphic cards are NVIDIA's bread and butter after all.

The tablet itself stays very close to the Xperia with an 8" 1,920 x 1,200 pixel screen and front-facing stereo speakers. It's thicker and heavier, with no increased water resistance, but it has Note-like stylus support and a standard HDMI port to make TV connectivity a bit easier.

Nvidia Shield

Nvidia Shield

The Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 is powered by the same chipset and is an "iPad mini" inspired device, to put it lightly. It has the same screen size and resolution, which also means the same 4:3 aspect ratio. It has the same overall design though colorful plastic replaces the aluminum unibody. It can be hard to find in the Western hemisphere though and imports aren't always hassle-free.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9

The new Nexus 9 doesn't quite fit into the 8" category and it's noticeably thicker and heavier than the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. It does come with a Denver-packing Tegra K1 chipset and it runs pure Android, one of the first devices with Android 5.0 Lollipop and a promise for timely future upgrades. The 8.9" screen has 2,048 x 1,536 pixels resolution (matching the Z3 Tablet Compact at 281ppi), there are Wi-Fi and LTE versions and options for 16GB and 32GB built-in storage. Note that it's not expandable and 16GB on tablets is hardly enough. It's not out yet though, it should launch in early November.

HTC Nexus 9

HTC Nexus 9

Dell recently unveiled the Venue 8 7000, a tablet with impressively slim bezels and mere 6mm of thickness - the only tablet of this size that's thinner than the Sony. It has a screen just like the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 - an 8.4" OLED display of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels resolution (and 359ppi). We don't have official confirmation whether it's a Super AMOLED, but the bezels are razor thin on three sides. The fourth houses the front-facing speaker.

The Dell Venue 8 7000 has a unique Intel RealSense 3D camera (built from two 720p cameras) to add depth perception up to 10m to the 8MP main camera. The tablet is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom with the PowerVR GPU used in the iPad mini 2/3. There's no LTE though 3G comes on all tablets, there's no Wi-Fi only version.

Dell Venue 8 7000

Dell Venue 8 7000

A similar Intel Atom chipset can be had on the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 8.0. This one shuns the concept of thin-and-light to offer a built-in kickstand, a 6400 mAh battery and powerful stereo speakers. The screen is a 283ppi LCD just like the Sony and you get an 8MP camera as well. It's marginally cheaper than the Xperia tablet and comes with 3G connectivity by default (but like the Dell there's no LTE).

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 8.0

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 8.0

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact does not lack competition but its list of features make it the one to beat. It has a super-slim and light body with an exposed metal frame, IP68 waterproofing and front-facing stereo speakers - full of value-added proprietary Sony tech. Offering all of this in a single package is a big win for Sony, but each of those add to the price - which, to be fair, is steep. But that's only if in your world a tablet is either an iPad or a droid - the latter usually presumed to be plain, affordable, inferior and therefore anonymous. Sony says it's time to change your mind.

Unboxing the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

The retail box is fairly spacious for such a slender device, but the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact comes with only the very essentials - a charger (1.5A) and a microUSB cable.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Retail box and box contents

Due to the waterproofing, the microUSB port is hidden under a flap so you might want to consider buying a magnetic charger dock or cable so you can charge the tablet with less hassle. Those are sold separately - they are not expensive by any means, but it would have been a nice perk to have them in the box.

Hardware overview

We're essentially looking at an enlarged Xperia Z3, perhaps unsurprising given the name but definitely not a bad thing. The latest evolution of the Xperia design adds a touch of class with a rounded aluminum frame around the sides of the device but keeps weight in check by using mostly glass and plastic.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has the Xperia Z family looks

Unlike Xperia Z phones, here the back is matte plastic rather than glass, which we like better. It's nice and warm to the touch and, more importantly, isn't a scratch and fingerprint magnet. Sure, it's not as cool as an all-aluminum back like on the iPads but the whole Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact weighs just 270g.

Let that sink in, that's 270g for an 8" tablet when a 5.5" Oppo N1 weighs 213g. This lightness has a definite impact on handling - you don't worry you'll drop it (the grippy matte plastic helps here too) and your hand doesn't tire out quickly.

The tablet is super slim too, at 6.4mm it's nearly at the point where you feel the screen glass is glued straight onto the back. This doesn't mean the tablet is flimsy though, the aluminum frame is strong enough to keep the tablet from bending in normal use (though we wouldn't force it).

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Photos don't do it justice, it's really thin

The metal trim around the tablet features the new design where the corners are made of separate elements, which promise to absorb impacts better.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The corners are made to absorb impacts

Thin side bezels and thicker top/bottom bezels are a hybrid solution. At 123.6mm wide, the tablet is okay-ish to hold single-handedly (the rounded aluminum rim around the device isn't very grippy though). You can also hold the tablet horizontally without pressing anything on the screen or covering the front-facing stereo speakers.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact in the hand: two hands for landscape, one for portrait

The stereo speakers are narrow slits near the edge of the device. They are backed by Sony 3D Surround Sound and xLoud tech.

We're pleased to report that Sony has finally positioned buttons and ports in the right locations for a pleasant experience with tablet docks. The tablet is meant to be docked horizontally - the magnetic charging port is on the left side, but on other products we've seen either the microUSB port or the 3.5mm audio jack residing on the same side and providing less than an ideal solution.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

Magnetic charging port on the bottom • microSD and optional nanoSIM card on the bottom

Now the only thing on the left besides the charging port is the microSD card slot and the optional nanoSIM card slot (for the LTE version), both rarely used. The microUSB port is positioned on the lower side, covered by a flap.

The rest of the commonly used elements are now on the left/top - left to right, a 3.5mm audio jack, the trademark round Power key and the volume rocker. This means you get easy access to all buttons and ports, you can say use MHL TV-out while charging the tablet via a magnetic dock, or use the 3.5mm jack as analog audio out.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The microUSB port on the bottom/right • 3.5mm audio jack and buttons on the right/top

This orientation - the tablet lying on its left long side - is good for video calls too. The 2.2MP/1080p front-facing video camera is positioned to the side of the central Sony logo, leaving it above the speakers and your fingers when the tablet is docked in landscape.

There's a microphone on the tablet near the 3.5mm audio jack - it's kept clear from the dock for video calls.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

2.2MP/1080p front-facing video camera • on-screen buttons

You'll have to be more careful with the rear camera on the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. It's placed in the middle of the top short side and you may cover it with your fingers when holding it horizontally. There are no problems in portrait orientation but the tablet is a bit too big for one-handed shooting.

The camera itself features an 8MP Exmor RS sensor and no flash. Also on the back you'll find the NFC logo - that is there to guide you when using NFC as the short range technology requires fairly accurate placement when interacting with tags or other smart devices.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review

The 8MP main camera is poorly positioned, it's too easy to cover it with your finger

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is available in Black and White with both the glass on the front and the plastic on the back changing color. The Black version even has the aluminum frame painted darker to match the rest of the exterior.

Inside the body of the tablet is a sealed 4,500mAh battery - not out of the ordinary for an 8" tablet and not bad for such a thin chassis though the 6.6mm Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has a 4,900mAh battery. Sony have proven they know what they're doing when it comes to battery life, we'll find out if they pulled off another miracle in a couple of chapters.