Sony had announced its XPERIA Tablet Z Tablet back in January, and just before Mobile World Congress, we had the opportunity to play with it for a short while. The new tablet uses the same design language than the Sony XPERIA Z smartphone. Right away, the XPERIA Z tablet felt amazingly light (495g or 1.1lbs) as it is about 30% lighter than some competitors. It is thin too: with only 6.9mm, it is actually thinner than the XPERIA Z handset, which is not a small feat.

Sony uses a 1920×1200 IPS LCD display, which Sony says can reproduce 20% more colors than the iPad’s IPS display. It is difficult to compare color gamut in a non-controlled  environment, but the display did look really nice, and the 16:10 format provides a bit more room in portrait mode, which is appreciable as well. [photo credit: Karsten Lemm]

Industrial design (top-notch!)

The industrial design feels most definitely high-end, and everything from the build quality, to the extreme thinness and the super-light weight made us say “wow” when we got our hands on it for the first time. The size to weight ratio is particularly surprising, and we have no doubt that most people would agree. Interestingly, we have been looking at smaller tablets because of their lighter weight (the iPad remains relatively heavy with 1.44lbs/652g), but while the small size is fine for emails etc, watching movies on a 7″ tablet in a plane isn’t really a dream experience. The XPERIA Z tablet’s light weight may prove to solve this dilemma.

Born to be tough

The screen is scratch-resistant, which is quite common for that type of mobile device, but very few can claim to be water-proof for 30mn in up to 1meter/3feet of water. While it’s true that most people don’t actually go in the water with their tablets, those ruggedness specifications are designed to ensure that life-events like dropping the tablet in the sink, or reading a book in one’s bath can happen without any issues. Given that most mobile devices (mainly smartphones) die from water exposure, Sony has definitely acted based on data when they decided to add water-resistance in their XPERIA Z products.

Digital imaging with Sony EXMOR Sensors

The Tablet has two cameras: one 8 Megapixel camera in the back, and one 2 Megapixel camera in the front. Both are connected to its own Sony EXMOR sensor, which should be particularly good in low-light situation (thanks to its backside illumination technology or BSI). The main camera benefits from the software work done for the XPERIA Z, with a smart full-automatic mode. The front camera’s low light performance will help tremendously with video calls since they often happen during the evening in dim lighting.

Living room companion

It’s not new that Sony has thought of its tablets as living room companions. In fact data suggests that most 10″ tablets are used primarily in the living room, and this has prompted brands like Samsung or Sony to equip their tablets with an infra-red (IR) transmitter so that it can be used as a remote control. Samsung mainly relies on partner app Peel to provide this function, while Sony has built its on app with the help of key partners that provide some of the data. At the moment, Sony’s app looks better, especially on the full HD display, so we would give the advantage to Sony when it comes to being used as a remote.

There is also a social media component to the app, and shows can appear in order of popularity on Twitter for Facebook. As you can imagine, the app also makes it easier to share what you like with your friends online.

Sony pushes NFC beyond mere integration

Sony has recently been promoting NFC more than any other manufacturer, and the brand has promised to build more (30 to be precise) NFC-based products including headphones, sound bars and even remote controls. We have seen how fast it was to pair headphones with NFC and it’s clear that this is one of NFC’s strong points: making setup easier for everyone. NFC has many other qualities, but this is the low-hanging fruit, and we would love to see more manufacturers take Sony’s stance in supporting NFC.

Sony even had an NFC remote control that could switch channels upon a contact with the tablet’s TV app. This may be great for radio-frequency remotes, and it removes a little bit of friction. NFC is just starting to take hold, so expect to see more innovative apps in the future. And did we mention that those NFC features would work with non-Sony NFC equipment?

Conclusion: Sony is back

The Sony XPERIA Z tablet is impressive: the industrial design is top-notch and to be honest it brought that sense of “wow” that hasn’t been associated with Sony for a while. The previous XPERIA tablets brought most of the TV remote features, but this one adds a great look, a much more robust construction and an extremely thinner design.

While this remains an extremely competitive market, we feel that Sony has what it takes to differentiate itself from other Android tablet manufacturers. In fact, in the 10″ Android tablet, the choices are very clear: the Galaxy Note 10.1 has a great pen experience, the Google Nexus 10 has a awesome price/quality ratio and the Sony XPERIA S is the lightest and arguably the best looking. It is also the only one of that group that can survive a trip in the water.

Specs highlights:

Android 4.1.2
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core, 1.5GHZ
1920×1200 (224 ppi) IPS Display
Bravia Engine 2 image processing.
EXMOR R sensor
Integrated NFC
Water-Proof (1 meter, 30 minutes)

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