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Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Review: Sony comes out swinging

Published by on Jul 1st, 2014, 2 Comments

Z2_Tablet__018The last year and a half has seen some stiff competition in the mobile market. Companies such as LG and Sony have been going toe to toe with their two big brothers, Samsung and Apple. Sony’s Z series, LG’s G series and even the HTC One series have steadily been gaining market share across every mobile product area. This type of environment puts pressure on the participating companies’ sales teams, but we as consumers are smiling all the way being spoilt for choice and price. Competition remains the fiercest in the smartphone market, but we are seeing the same fight spilling over into the tablet market. Sony has come out swinging with the new Xperia Z2 tablet, taking on the currently undefeated (my opinion) king of the tablet ring, the Apple iPad. Will the Z2 put up a decent fight?

Being the 2nd generation Z tablet it is worth comparing the Z1 and Z2 tablets to determine what has changed and/or improved. Looking at the stats below it may seem that the Z2 is only a facelift of the Z1, but the changes they have made though improves significantly on the first generation. This includes a better display, where the Z2 introduces Live Colour LED that allows for brighter colours (technology borrowed from their TV range). The design also comes on in leaps and bounds which backs up Sony’s claim that the Z2 is the slimmest and lightest tablet on the market today. Let’s take a look at the specs side by side:

Specifications Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Sony Xperia Z1 Tablet
Dimensions 266 x 172 x 6.4 mm 266 x 172 x 6.9 mm
Weight 439g 495g
IP Certification (water, dust proof) IP 58 IP 57
Operating system Android 4.4 Android 4.1.2
Display 10.1 inch IPS LCD (1920 x 1200) – 224 ppi 10.1 inch TFT (1920 x 1200) – 224 ppi
Rear camera 8.1 MP 8.1 MP
Front camera 2.2 MP 2.2 MP
Storage, internal 16 GB 16 GB
Storage, expandable microSD microSD
RAM 3 GB 2 GB
Processor Quad core, 2300 MHz, Krait 400 Quad core, 1500 MHz, Krait
Battery 6000 mAh 6000 mAh
Cellular data LTE Cat4 Downlink 150 Mbit/s, LTE Cat3/4 Uplink 50 Mbit/s, HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, EDGE, GPRS LTE Cat3 Downlink 100 Mbit/s, LTE Cat3/4 Uplink 50 Mbit/s, HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, UMTS, EDGE, GPRS

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Design and Build

I wouldn’t blame you if you told me – “But this is the Z1 tablet, isn’t it?” The Z2 has an almost identical look to its predecessor. The only noticeable difference is the 6.4 mm thickness. Sony has managed to create an elegant glass and plastic construct which really rivals the design quality of companies such as HTC and Apple, even though Sony tends not to use a lot of metal finishes. The device (WiFi & 4G) tips the scale at a mere 439g which to me is almost a worryingly light weight. It feels almost a bit “flimsy” sitting in your hand, but the upside is no sore “gadget-arms” after reading your favourite book or watching an HD movie.

The front of the tablet looks like a little Sony TV, with the smooth glass covering and silver brand etching in the top left-hand corner. The Z2 has quite a large bezel (lost opportunity for bigger screen?), which shies away from the current market trend of going as slim as possible. It kind of puts a blemish on an otherwise superb design. The tablet is wrapped in a skeleton-like frame which sports a power button and volume rocker on the left side. The power button has a very cool round design and has a satisfying “click” to it when pressed. The 8.1 MP camera can be found in the top left corner on the back of the Z2 and at the top edge the charge and USB ports are neatly hidden away with foldable doors (required for the IP 58 rating).

The IP58 rating was like a “don’t push the red button” sign to me. I just had to test out the waterproof claims. It was easy splashing water on the Z2 and then watching the preloaded Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer through the droplets, but this feature should have actual practical use right? It took me a whilst to overcome my “keep gadgets away from the tub” instinct, but seeing the device perform under a few inches of water is quite a sight. Reading an eBook in the tub will never be the same.

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Display & Sound

The Z2’s screen is probably its most attractive feature. In my opinion you would struggle to find a better series / movie watching tablet on the market right now. True, the 264 ppi iPad Air does perform much better with fine detail such as text and webpages, but the little Z2 delivers when it comes to watching video. This is mainly due to the X-Reality engine and Triluminous technology ported from Sony’s bravia TV range (helps to be at the forefront of television design). The 1920 x 1200 resolution with Live Colour LCD enhancement generates a stunning array of colours and deep contrast. Where I was bit surprised is that Sony still hasn’t made the jump to 2K resolutions (like Asus and Samsung) even though the company are at the forefront of 4K TV design.

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In addition to all the techno enhancements the viewing angles are great too. You can clearly see what’s going on from all around the tablet. The only issue I have with the display is the actual glass covering. To maintain its IP 58 rating Sony had to make sure they use the right materials, unfortunately this approach created on of the most reflective tablet surfaces I have seen to date. This causes particular havoc when using the Z2 outside or close to any strong source of light.

The experience of watching awesome looking videos kind of falls flat if you don’t have the sound to back it up. Luckily the sound engineers at Sony realised their critical mistake with the Z1. The Z1’s speakers were situated along the edges of the tablet forcing the user to hold the tablet like a medieval scroll to get any worthwhile sound. This time around the speakers have been moved to the front (on the outside edge of the bezel) and provide ample punch to back up the flashy display of the Z2. Sony has also included “dynamic noise cancellation” technology (assuming you invested in compatible Sony headphones).

 Performance and Battery

 With a Snapdragon 801 chipset and 3 GBs of RAM in the tank the Sony Z2 tablet is definitely no slouch. I applied all the resource hungry tests I could think of trying to trip up the lightweight device, but no amount of HD video playback, fast web browsing or high definition Infinity Blade could bring this tablet down. The only area that sometimes displayed lag was when swiping through the home screens (when live wallpapers were active) but overall I was thoroughly impressed. So much so I did a bit of research to find out just how well the Z2 performs against other flagship tablets. Here are some bench mark specs (credit to engadget – using Sunspider as benchmarking tool).

 

SONY XPERIA Z2 TABLET

GALAXY NOTE 10.1 2014

GALAXY NOTE PRO 12.2

Quadrant 2.0

18,877

19,530

16,639

Vellamo 2.0

1,622

2,735

1,786

AnTuTu 4.0

34,150

31,859

33,967

SunSpider 0.9.1* (ms)

1,015

1,069

1,044

GFXBench 2.7 Offscreen (fps)

27.3

22

N/A

CF-Bench

37,902

31,567

33,250

*SunSpider: Lower scores are better.

Clearly the Z2 competes pretty well with the likes of Samsung (better in some tests than others). Usually performance is the first thing I notice when testing any mobile device, but with the little Z2 it took a number of days before any kind of performance thought came to mind.

The little 6000 mAh battery in the Z2 feels a bit light on face value. Especially when comparing it to its Apple and Samsung rivals (both exceeding 8000 mAh). What’s more is that the battery is the same one found in the Z1, now with stronger processor and video engine? Does that make sense? Well the new Snapdragon processor is known for its efficient use of power and somehow Sony mas managed to get battery life relatively close to par for the course. The Z2 matched my iPad for battery life over the review period and I never felt that the battery was draining too quickly. This is primarily achieved through a lower PPI density and also allows for the super slim design.

The Z2′s camera works well. I don’t like taking pictures or video with a tablet, but when I need to I don’t need a 40 megapixel monster. The 8.1 MP back camera delivers as expected and I was able to take a few nice snaps. See below.Z2_Tablet__003 Z2_Tablet__002 Z2_Tablet__001

 Software and UI

 The software and user interface of the Z2 tablet came across as a bit stock. Samsung has in the recent past, for better or worse, totally overhauled the Android software added a multitude of tweaks and applications with its Touchwiz overlay. Sony on the other hand primarily stuck with the stock Android Kitkat and added their signature applications such as Album, Walkman, Movies and the What’s New applications. Now for Android purists this might sounds great, but in my opinion Android just hasn’t done enough for the tablet market to date. Sure the Googly Play store competes on every level with the iStore but when it comes to 10-inch tablets they fall behind.

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Sony did make a few tweaks to the Z2’s software setup. The tablet comes with resizable browser and Gmail applications, which are great additions especially for multitasking. The notification menus are neatly positioned at the top of the screen. The left side has all the message, mail and download notifications whilst the right side provides easy access to enabling flight-mode, Bluetooth etc. The menus are easily edited with a simple to use “edit” button. Sony has stuck with the “Home”, “Back” and “Multitasking” buttons at the bottom. These buttons work quite well throughout the interface but I did have some trouble navigating within certain applications.

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 Conclusion

Impressed. Thouroughly. The design and screen is simply outstanding. A lot of people will love its lightweight design as well (I would prefer it a little bit heavier). Sony has basically pulled together a little 10-inch Bravia TV that also seconds as a well functioning tablet. Can we crown it the new tablet king? Err, not just yet. The Sony Xperia Z2 is a great 10-inch tablet, competing with the best Android tabs currently on the market. It just lacks the x-factor that pulls everything together. I still prefer the Apple iPad Air and I am sure I am not the only one. The Z2 comes close, but Sony won’t be lighting up any cigars soon.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

Body / Build

8

Screen

8

Performance / Features

7

Battery

8

Software

7

Overall

8

Follow Jaco on Twitter: @Jaco_vdWalt

Comments

  • Nomphelo

    How much is this tablet and where can I buy it in South Africa?

  • Jaco van der Walt

    Vodacom has a lot of bundles available starting with 1GB R429 p/m deal. Cash deals will start from R7,800 (16GB WiFi) to around R10,000 for the WiFi+LTE 32GB model. You can buy them online or at any large retailer.

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