Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review

Is this what the best Android tablet ever looks like?

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Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

Pros

  • Slender and light
  • Waterproof and dust resistant
  • Powerful
  • Home entertainment remote

Cons

  • Large bezels

Bottom Line

This tablet delivers a completely enjoyable user experience. Not only has Sony made the best Android tablet thus far; it has made one of the best tablets. Period.

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Sony has spent the last three years honing the design and function of its Xperia range. The spec sheet of the company’s latest tablet, the Xperia Z2 Tablet, reveals it is thinner, lighter and more powerful than its rivals. But what sacrifices has Sony made to achieve these feats?

Thinner. Lighter. Faster

Using the Z2 Tablet is a sensory experience. The screen reflects light in the same way still water mirrors natural scenery. Sony has achieved this by matching thick black bezels with the same shade as that of the screen. Isolating the two from afar is a tall order, until you turn on the power.

The Z2 Tablet represents Sony beating top dog Apple on its own terms

Doing so illuminates a 10.1in screen that has a 1920x1200 resolution. The screen has a plausible 224 pixel-per-inch density, but its real strength lies in the way it articulates colour. Sony’s heritage in the television market comes into play here with the Z2 Tablet inheriting the company’s Triluminos technology. In short, content looks picturesque on this screen. The effect is enhanced by the bezel, which borders the screen not like plastic excess, but more like a frame housing artwork.

Picking the Z2 Tablet up appeals to the sense of touch. The tablet is lighter and thinner than any 10.1in tablet before it at 439g and 6mm thin. The Z2 Tablet, a competitor in the Apple dominated space, represents Sony beating the top dog on its own terms.

Subtle stereo speakers complement the screen. Audio is loud, but the slender size of the tablet has had an effect on sound quality.
Subtle stereo speakers complement the screen. Audio is loud, but the slender size of the tablet has had an effect on sound quality.

The Android tablet feels remarkably solid in the hand and the texture of its plastic cover is kind to the touch. Being thinner and lighter than the big rivals would be enough for most brands, but then you remember this is an Xperia tablet, and like its forefathers, the Z2 Tablet continues the noble tradition of being tough.

Tough guts

The Z2 Tablet can take on water — more water than you’ll ever demand from a tablet. Its IP58 rating certifies the tablet can be submerged in freshwater 1.5m deep for a whole thirty minutes. An additional IP55 rating covers it against the ingress of dust. Protecting the Z2 Tablet from water and dust instantly expands what it can be used for. In this case, it is near everything.

This part of a review always makes us nervous. After checking the seals were properly closed, and after we checked them a few more times, we submerged the tablet in water. Colleagues from affiliate publications gathered around.

Thirty minutes passed.

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And for every minute that ticked over, the Z2 Tablet continued to play a video without fail — audio and all. Streaks of water trickled down the tablet’s face when we finally pulled it out. We touched the screen and it worked. The volume rocker increased and decreased audio on cue, and then we locked the screen with the power button. The verdict: Sony has made a tablet that works under water.

The Japanese company hasn’t stopped there. Hardware in general bodes well for the new Sony tablet. It has a 2.3GHz CPU, 3GB of RAM and 16/32GB of internal storage. The inclusion of a microSD card makes it possible to increase storage by a further 128GB, and that puts the Z2 Tablet’s storage on par with several SSD ultrabooks.

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Sony has released the Wi-Fi Z2 Tablet in 16- and 32-GB versions in Australia. Internet-savvy customers can also purchase a 16GB version compatible with 4G sim cards. Connectivity features of note include NFC, DLNA, screen mirroring, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11ac).

Powering the slender tablet is a 6000 milliamp-hour battery. Our testing involved upping the brightness and volume to max, disabling the efficient ‘Stamina’ mode, and activating Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. We used the tablet to search the internet, watch full-length movies, listen to music, take photos, play games, send emails and create Google Drive documents. The Z2 Tablet endured this punishment for 21 hours and thirty minutes before needing a charge. We’re confident the Z2 Tablet could last for a couple of days with if it was set-up economically.

It took 3.5 hours to charge the Xperia Z2 from flat to full.
It took 3.5 hours to charge the Xperia Z2 from flat to full.

Xperiancing Android

This hardware handles the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system with ease. Every facet of the tablet transitions seamlessly from one screen to another. It is responsive, quick and highly capable when it comes to multitasking.

Tablets highlight the weaker parts of an operating system. An unattractive Android skin can look even worse when it’s stretched to ten inches, especially if it fails to make proper use of the larger screen.

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Over time Sony’s Android overlay has appreciated in both design and functionality. The larger screen makes it look even better, and the culminating result of the software and hardware is a truly enjoyable experience.

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8MP stills, Full HD video

Complex lighting will fluster the Z2 Tablet’s 8 megapixel rear camera. Photos are generally good in the light of day, but the lack of an HDR mode and a LED flash encourages noise in poorly lit situations. Despite this, the Z2 Tablet outperforms most of its rivals when it comes to taking still photos. Following are some sample shots.

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Notice the loss of detail in dark areas such as the tree
Notice the loss of detail in dark areas such as the tree

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Videos are recorded in Full HD resolution, but some of the detail is pixelated in lighting other than ideal. Enter the shadows or hit record at night and you will have a grainy video.

The front 2MP camera, which too records videos in Full HD resolution, will perform well during Skype calls. It has a knack for capturing motion, but the videos and photos captured don’t recognise detail as well as they should.

Compared to Sony’s smartphones then, the Xperia Z2 Tablet doesn’t perform as well. However, it does outperform most rivaling tablets.

Final thought

Android tablets have grown in number, but few — if any — have been good enough to take on Apple’s iPad. Sure the specs give them a leg up on paper, but in reality, Apple’s tablet always delivers a better user experience, and that is what counts at the end of the day.

We were using a top-of-the-range Apple iPad Air prior to testing the Xperia Z2 Tablet. No matter what would come our way, ranging from a 12.2in Samsung tablet to an Asus hybrid, we would always return to the Apple iPad Air.

Now we’re not so sure. Sony has done something numbers can’t measure with the Xperia Z2 Tablet. But if you had to, measuring it would be done with a smile. Not only has Sony made the best Android tablet thus far; it has made one of the best tablets. Period.

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Read more on these topics: IP58, ios, Android, transformer, iPad, IP55, 12.2, review, galaxy, Z2, samsung, Apple, 4.4, Tablet, Xperia, asus, Note, KitKat, sony, AIR

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