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Sony Xperia Tablet Z: A Strong Contender for Best Tablet
on May 29, 2013
I HAD to have one of these as I've been looking for my ideal Android tablet for some time, and so far, the majority of the pro websites have given the Sony Xperia Tablet Z very positive reviews. Not wanting to wait several weeks, as Amazon states for their shipping times, I bought one straight from Sony...and I couldn't be much happier! Just about every tablet I've tried has had defect issues, build issues, too low screen resolution (or underpowered when it was hi rez), etc., etc. Although it's not perfect, with everything I'd LIKE to see in a tablet, I think it's overall the best tablet currently available.
I know it's been said in many reviews, but seriously, this thing is amazingly light and well balanced. At roughly the equivalent in weight to an iPad Mini, it's a remarkable feat of engineering. Yet it's also quite solid and exceptionally well made. There is no tablet lighter and thinner than the Z...period.
Powered by a quad-core Snapdragon processor, the Z scores a remarkable Antutu benchmark of 20,000+ straight out of the box, readily defeating the Nexus 10. That's some serious power, and it shows in smooth and responsive controls, whether surfing the web, running apps, or playing graphic-intensive games. The GPS locked onto 15 satellites INDOORS within seconds using GPS Test. WIFI is rock solid and supports dual-channel wireless speeds of 300 mbs. It links up with a PS3 Dual Shock controller through a USB host adapter at first, then wirelessly after being paired with the tablet. It has a Micro SD card slot for memory expansion up to 64 GB. It even has a built in FM radio for heaven's sake. The IR remote control works very, very well, and the channel guide with show descriptions and pictures is a great added feature. And the ability to "throw" the channel to your TV with a simple swipe is pretty cool. And although Sony claims that the WIFI mirroring of your tablet screen is a feature for Sony smart HDTVs, it worked perfectly with my LG TV, much to my surprise. I really haven't had the ability to test out the NFC capability, but I suspect I will eventually as the standard is more widely adopted.
Hands down, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z has the most vivid screen of any tablet I've seen, including the Transformer Prime, Nexus 10, and Apple iPad 4, thanks to the Bravia 2 engine, the same used in Sony's HDTVs. It's simply stunning. While not as high of a resolution as the Nexus 10 or iPad 4, I personally think the difference is hardly noticeable in side-by-side comparisons. A Matte finish would have been great as the screen is glossy, but no more so than the other tablets out there.
Sony touts the sound as a primary feature of the tablet, and for the most part, it lives up to the hype. The 3D surround is decent, although I have to say the Galaxy Note 10.1 still has the best overall stereo and 3D sound with its forward facing bezel-lined speakers. Still, the Sony sound is plenty loud, and full of nice enhancements and equalizers for fine tuning. I have to be honest and say that I was slightly disappointed in this regard, as the overall sound feels hollow, no matter how you adjust it. Not nearly as rich as the Kindle Fire HD's powerful speakers. But still, it's a tablet after all, and headphones are the way to go, with full surround sound support that's REALLY nice in every respect... something I don't think any other tablet features.
Sony made a lot out of the use of its EXMOR low light sensors used in the front 2 MP and rear 8 MP cameras, but at this point, despite it's plethora of features and adjustments, I find the results to be disappointing when used indoors...where you'd think the sensors are best suited. The result is noticeable graininess, even in fairly well lit indoor areas. Outdoors? No problem. Nice, crisp, well saturated photos and video that are as good as you'll get on any tablet. But why manufacturers can't use the same cameras as their smartphones is beyond me. Anyway, I have to say that Burst Mode is really cool. I got some awesome hummingbird photos while sitting on the back porch. I'm hoping Sony can wring out better results with firmware updates down the road.
A lot has been said about the fact that it's running an earlier, skinned build of the Android OS: 4.1.2 as opposed to 4.2.2 on the Nexus 10. But honestly, the added Sony specific features are largely well implemented while keeping the experience true to the standard Android OS. Sony also stated that they'll have a 4.2 update "soon", but we'll have to see how that pans out.
HEY! IT'S WATERPROOF!
Although this may not be a selling point for many, it does open up some places for use that no other tablet offers, at least without some trepidation, like at the pool, spa, bathtub, or in the rain. Pretty cool I think, and yes, it really does work as advertised. You can't help but feel strange submerging it in a sink full of water for a couple of minutes (up to 30 by Sony's standards), but afterwards, you'll know for sure that you don't have to worry about liquids damaging your investment.
Even though it's substantially smaller than the majority of tablet batteries, the Z DOES last as long as Sony claims, and even exceeds my expectations. So far, I've gotten 8 hours of constant use, from surfing to video playback to playing graphic intensive games, and it's down to about 15% remaining. Need I say more?
Bottom line? Sony delivered in a big way, and it appears that they've learned from their mistakes in previous, rather anemic tablet offerings. The combination of a great hi rez screen, decent sound, expandable storage, ease of extended use, battery life, raw horsepower... plus features like universal remote control and waterproof... really do make the sum of the whole the best there is, in my opinion.
Well done Sony, well done!