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Digital Life

 
Tablets

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is one of the best Android slates now

Published on Jul 4, 2014 5:00 AM
 
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

Tablet upgrades appear to have reached a point where the improvements now seem incremental.

As with smartphones, every new iteration is lighter, thinner and faster. But none offers a compelling reason to upgrade.

The Sony Xperia Z2 tablet does have a unique feature. If you happen to drop it into freshwater that is no more than 1.5m deep, you have up to 30 minutes to rescue it while its waterproofing still holds.

This may give you the licence to use the tablet while you take a leisurely soak in the hot tub, but certainly not when you are out at sea.

As far as I can tell, no other slate offers such a waterproofing feature. But it is already a staple in Sony smartphones. As you are much less likely to drop a tablet than a mobile phone into a toilet bowl, the waterproofing is a nice feature to have rather than an essential one for a tablet.

The Z2 does remain the thinnest and lightest 10-inch model in the market. At 6.4mm thick, it is even thinner than Apple's iPad Air, which is 7.5mm thick. Even Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Tab S 10.5 is fractionally thicker at 6.6mm. At 445g, the Z2 also weighs less than the 9.7-inch iPad Air, though you probably won't be able to tell them apart by weight alone.

It is refreshing to be able to hold a 10-inch slate effortlessly in one hand. The Z2 can feel slightly off-balance when held in landscape orientation, but the real problem is that you may hit the power button (on the left edge) by accident.

Another downside is that this ultra-sleek chassis flexes slightly under pressure, and makes alarming creaky noises when I shift my grip. I soon got used to this and realised the tablet was not about to snap in half.

With smooth rounded corners and a metallic finish on the edges, the Z2's design mirrors the Xperia smartphones'. The back is covered in a smooth soft-touch material that feels grippy. The Z2 is a smudge magnet but you can easily clean the marks off with a wet cloth

or by dunking the tablet under a tap.

Rubber-sealed flaps hide the ports and connectors and keep water out. The tablet has microSD, 4G micro-SIM and micro-USB ports. An infrared sensor at the top lets you use the tablet as a universal remote control.

A magnetic connector at the bottom edge of the tablet enables it to dock with optional accessories including a Bluetooth speaker and a charging dock.

The Z2 comes with a 1,920 x 1,200-pixel in-plane switching display. It has excellent viewing angles but loses out slightly to rivals offering screens with even higher resolutions.

Text still looks crisp, though the experience is somewhat spoilt by the thick black bezel around the screen.

The 8.1-megapixel rear camera fares poorly in low light, producing grainy images. Sony's camera app comes with a few custom modes, including one that adds gimmicky augmented reality effects.

The two front-facing speakers produce decent audio. Turning on Sony's built-in ClearAudio+ enhancement tool seems to give the audio extra clarity, though some users will probably turn their noses up at the processed sounds.

The Z2 runs the latest Android KitKat 4.4, but with Sony's own tweaks. Unlike Samsung's heavy-handed approach, Sony's customisations are fairly minor and even improve the Android interface. For instance, you can quickly sort your apps by alphabetical order or how frequent you use them.

The Z2 comes with several proprietary apps preloaded. They range from the moderately useful to those that are simply a waste of space. And they cannot be uninstalled. Exhibit A: Sony's Video Unlimited streaming service is not available here but I just could not delete the app from the tablet.

Packing a high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM, the Z2 has all the makings of a top mobile device. It certainly runs action-packed games such as Blood and Glory without a hitch.

Internal storage, however, is fairly limited at 16GB, though you can easily supplement it (up to 128GB) with a microSD card.

Battery life (video playback at maximum volume and screen brightness) was almost 11 hours, which is very impressive for a tablet of this size. The iPad Air, for instance, lasts a mere eight hours.

Unlike Android tablets that often compete with the ubiquitous Apple iPad on price, the Z2 meets the iPad Air head-on with an identical $688 price tag for the 16GB Wi-Fi model. The LTE variant tested here costs $888, or $18 more than the equivalent iPad Air.

It is a bold move when tablet pricing generally seems to be heading south. At this price, I would have expected more internal storage. The extra $200 that Sony asks for the 4G version also seems rather steep.

  • A premium, ultra-thin tablet that produces the goods, but at a price.

vinchang@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on July 2, 2014.

Background story

TECH SPECS

Price: $888 (LTE), $688 (Wi-Fi)

Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (2.3GHz)

RAM: 3GB

Display: 10.1 inches, 1,920 x 1,200 pixels

Camera: 8.1 megapixels (rear), 2.2 megapixels (front)

Storage: 16GB, microSD expandability up to 128GB

Battery: 6,000mAh


RATING

Features 5/5

Design 4/5

Performance 4/5

Value for money 3/5

Battery life 4/5

Overall 4/5