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Best big screen tablet: Galaxy Tab S2 vs iPad Air 2 vs Xperia Z4 Tablet

We compare three of the best premium big-screen tablets you can buy in 2016: the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, Apple iPad Air 2 and Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet.

If you need a high-performance tablet that boasts a large HD display, long battery life and premium features, check out these three devices in our full comparison review.

At a glance

Tablet Apple iPad Air 2 Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
Weight 437g 389g 393g
Screen size 9.7-inches 9.7-inches 10.1-inches
Screen resolution 1536×2048 (264ppi) 1536×2048 (264ppi) 2560×1600 (299ppi)
Fingerprint sensor? Yes Yes No
OS iOS 9 Android Lollipop Android Lollipop
Processor Apple A8X Exynos 5433 Snapdragon 810
Storage 16/64/128GB 32/64GB + microSD 32GB + microSD
Battery 5870mAh N/A 6000mAh

Design

All three tablets here are pleasingly slim and light considering they sport screens around 10-inches in size. The Galaxy Tab S2 wins for portability, at 389g and 5.6mm, but the Xperia Z4 Tablet is only a shade behind at 393g and 6.1mm. The iPad Air 2 is the heftiest tablet of the group at 437g, but it’s still quite comfortable to clutch one-handed and slips neatly into any decent-sized backpack or oversized handbag.

Best Big Screen Tablet - iPad Air 2 side image

As for looks, the iPad Air 2 sports Apple’s typical metallic frame, which may not dazzle like it used to but is still pleasingly solid and scuff-resistant. We love the Xperia Z4 Tablet’s fiberglass backing and the overall aesthetics are attractive but also suitable for a business device. The Tab S2 isn’t bad looking either but the plastic back plate is a disappointment, with a hint of flex in the centre.

Best Big Screen Tablet - Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 front

If you’re planning on using your tablet in the bathroom or kitchen, we’d recommend checking out the Xperia Z4 Tablet. It’s fully water resistant so can even be submerged in a metre of water for up to half an hour, while the iPad Air 2 or Tab S2 shouldn’t even be sprinkled ideally.

Read next: Best Android tablets 2015

Screen and media

All three tablets here sport gorgeous, pleasingly crisp screens, although they’re best suited to different tasks.

If you’re after an entertainment machine, you can’t go wrong with the Xperia Z4 Tablet. That 10.1-inch IPS LCD screen is the biggest panel here and also the sharpest (299 pixels-per-inch versus 264 ppi). Best of all, the stretched aspect ratio makes it well suited to movie playback, almost matching the standard widescreen format.

Best Big Screen Tablet - screen & media

The Galaxy Tab S2 and iPad Air 2 both have 3:4 displays (more square than the Xperia Z4 Tablet’s screen) which means movies are blighted by a thick black bar above and below. However, this aspect ratio is better for web browsing and document editing as you can see more of the page without constantly scrolling around.

Best Big Screen Tablet - film on Tab S2

But while the Tab S2 and Xperia Z4 Tablet come with microSD slots to expand the on-board storage, the iPad Air 2 follows Apple’s trend of forcing consumers to buy bigger models if they want to carry a proper media collection.

Features

If security is an important feature to you – i.e. you’re taking this tablet outside of your home and storing important docs on it – then we recommend the iPad Air 2 or Galaxy Tab S2. Both tablets have built-in fingerprint sensors that are accurate and responsive, allowing you to secure your privates with more than a simple PIN or password. Apple and Samsung’s security and encryption software is also held in high esteem, making these solid choices for small businesses.

Best Big Screen Tablet - iPad Air 2 TouchID

Of course, the iPad runs iOS 9 while the other tablets here run Android, two very different (and yet also very similar, in many ways) operating systems. All three tablets allow you to multi-task by running apps side-by-side, have optional keyboard accessories for more comfortable typing and come with their own cloud storage solutions and online stores.

However, only the Xperia Z4 Tablet allows you to stream Playstation games, while the Android tablets support multiple users, something not found on the iPad.

Check out our iOS 9 and Android Lollipop features for more info.

All three tablets come with a SIM variant that allows you to stay connected wherever you roam, providing you stump up for a data contract.

Performance and battery life

Don’t stress if you want a tablet for gaming or staying productive on the move, even if you’re hoping to do some heavy photo or video editing. All three devices here will handle the latest games and office suites.

Best Big Screen Tablet - battery life

As for battery life, all three tablets will also happily make it through a full day of use, with the iPad Air 2 just clinching the victory. Even if you stream video non-stop via a service like YouTube or Netflix, you’ll enjoy a solid 8-9 hours of entertainment on the Xperia Z4 Tablet and Galaxy Tab S2, and a whopping 10 hours on the iPad Air 2.

Verdict

All three tablets have their own strengths and weaknesses, but for pure entertainment we’d recommend the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet. That glorious widescreen display, expandable storage and PS streaming via Remote Play make it a great way to get gaming or take in a movie on the move. If you’d rather get down to business, the Galaxy Tab S2 and iPad Air 2 are your best bets, depending on which OS you may already be loyal to, thanks to their strong security features and 3:4 aspect ratio.

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