- Still gorgeous and water-resistant
- Vibrant updated screen
- Lighter and thinner
- SteadyShot and new camera features
- Rain is its nemesis
- No 4k or slow-mo video
- Not a huge evolution
We review Sony's Xperia Z2 Tablet, the full ten-inch follow-up to last year's Tablet Z, packing a gloriously vibrant screen and updated specs.
Time was, Apple’s iPad was the sexiest tablet around by miles. Chunky plastic Android wannabes just couldn’t come close for design, but then Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z turned up and made a nation of tech lovers weep with joy. Here was a stunning and unbelievably thin 10.1-inch tab, rocking the same sexy glass build of the Sony Xperia smartphones.
We’re not surprised Sony hasn’t messed too much with design for the Xperia Z2 Tablet. For one, it’s still gorgeous a whole year after the original’s release. For two, the freshly launched Xperia Z2 smartphone also looks near identical to last year’s Xperia Z1, so clearly Sony knows not to mess with what works. Instead, the Japanese giant has tweaked and updated where necessary, adding a faster processor, more vibrant screen and a few new features.
So what’s actually changed over last year’s model, and is the Xperia Z2 Tablet a worthy travel companion?
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet design: If it works...
The Xperia Tablet Z and Xperia Z2 Tablet may look pretty damn similar at first glance, but Sony has actually tweaked the design to make some subtle improvements. For a start, it’s even thinner than before (we know, ridiculous right?) at just 6.4mm - that’s 0.5mm slimmer.
More importantly, it’s now 70g lighter at 426g, which makes the Z2 Tablet significantly more comfortable to clutch one-handed. It’s even lighter than the Apple iPad Air, the benchmark for surprisingly light full-sized tabs.
Despite being almost as thin as a Ritz cracker, the Z2 Tablet is also surprisingly solid. There is a little flex when you twist and tug on it, but the tablet never feels like it might snap and the display is never really affected by a bit of abuse.
The bezels surrounding the screen are a little thicker than expected, but not to an ugly or eyebrow-raising degree (Google Nexus 7, we’re looking at you, buddy). Flip the tablet around and you get a nice, strokeably-soft rear. It feels good against your fingertips, but owners of greasy hands beware, the surface is a magnet for scum and isn’t too easy to clean off.
Once again you get a fully water-resistant body, so you can dunk the whole thing in a bathtub with no ill effects (providing the port flaps are all nice and secure). Sadly the Xperia Z2 Tablet goes a little bit nuts in the rain, with falling droplets registering on the display as finger-prods, so the tablet’s pretty much unusable until you get into shelter and wipe the screen off.
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet media and screen: Well that’s rich
If you want a big screen for enjoying your media on the move, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet delivers like Santa at Christmas.
That 10.1-inch display packs the same 1920 x 1200 resolution as last year’s model, for Full HD playback. High-def movies really do look good, backed up by Sony’s Triluminos and X-Reality tech working behind the scenes. A pixel density of 224ppi means Apple’s iPad Air is still sharper (that bad boy boasts 264ppi), but we can’t fault the Xperia Z2 Tablet for producing crisp visuals.
Thankfully Sony hasn’t just bolted the same screen as last year onto the Z2 Tablet. This time around the pleasingly bright panel boasts improved colour reproduction, just like the Xperia Z2 smartphone, and the results are gorgeous. Photos and videos really burst with colour, and while you probably couldn’t describe images as realistic, they certainly are vibrant.
The tablet’s front-facing speakers are absolutely tiny yet blast out some impressive audio, which easily fills a small room on top volume. The only problem is the position of the speakers, right at the base of the device, which just happens to be where we clutch the bloody thing. Whenever we shifted our grip, our palms obscured them and muffled the sound, making us readjust. As far as First World Problems go, it isn’t a killer, but it is a little irritating.
Of course, clip in some earphones and that problem disappears, and anyone who regularly endures a horrendously noisy commute will love Sony’s noise cancellation technology. You’ll need to use Sony’s earphones for it to work, but the digital trickery all takes place on the tablet, so the earphones thankfully don’t need batteries. The tech works impressively well, drowning out chatter, music and drunk bankers regaling the whole train carriage with their woes, such as not having enough bonus left to hire a second nanny.
A handy microSD memory card slot expands the 16GB or 32GB of storage, giving you ample room for your apps, movies, games and music.
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet performance and battery life: Aw, Snap(dragon)
Sony has also boosted the tablet’s performance compared with last year’s model, upgrading the 1.5GHz Qualcomm to a full-on 2.3GHz SnapDragon 801, as found on the Xperia Z2 smartphone.
While the Xperia Z2 phone occasionally stuttered while swishing through the Android KitKat menus at full speed, the Xperia Z2 Tablet suffered no such problems. Fast-paced action games play smoothly and we didn’t see any troublesome crashes or glitches.
As for battery life, we enjoyed a full five hours of movie streaming on full brightness on a single charge, a respectable effort for a ten-inch tablet, although the Apple iPad Air is still the champion with a whopping nine hours of life.
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet OS and other features: TV blaster
Android KitKat 4.4 runs on the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet, and it’s the same overlaid experience you get on the Sony Xperia smartphones and last year’s Tablet Z. Sony hasn’t gone wild with the overlay, simply tweaking the look to add in its own swirly desktops and custom menus, and it works well.
You get the usual Sony bloatware such as Socialife and the full range of movies, music and games apps pre-installed, but they’re easily removed if you don’t want to use them.
There’s a 4G version of the Xperia Z2 Tablet if you want to stay connected wherever you roam, and there’s also full NFC support for quickly connecting to other Sony gear such as speakers and TVs. The tablet once again rocks an infrared sensor too, so you can use it as a humongous remote control for your telly and other supported devices.
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet camera: Steady does it
An 8-megapixel rear camera and 2.2-megapixel front-facing camera are built in, both capable of shooting 1080p video. Our everyday shots looked fine, with plenty of detail packed in, although some of our indoor shots were a little dim, surprising given the Xperia smartphones' abilities in low light.
Sadly not all of Sony’s new camera features have jumped over from the Xperia Z2 smartphone. You get the Background defocus mode, which blurs everything behind your subject, and the Vine mode to quickly shoot six-second clips and share them online, but forget about slow motion video and 4k video (not surprising given the pared-down camera tech).
That said, it’s great to see SteadyShot in the video settings. This nifty feature helps to dampen horrible shaky footage when you’re walking and shooting, and the resulting footage makes you much less likely to vomit. It’s particularly useful given the Xperia Z2 Tablet isn’t too easy to wield as a camera.
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet verdict: Ten-inch tablet titan
The Xperia Z2 Tablet isn’t a massive leap over last year’s Xperia Tablet Z, but the tweaks and polishes bring it bang up to date.
However, the Xperia Z2 Tablet is also pricey, and for a similar cost you can pick up Apple’s iPad Air, which is just as usable, sports a sharper screen and boasts longer battery life.
Which tablet you go for will pretty much come down to your personal preference: iOS or Android? But either way, you’ll be rocking a beautiful media monster. Nice.