Hands-on: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet replaces the Xperia Tablet Z, running with the tagline that it's the world's slimmest and lightest waterproof tablet.

Regardless of the waterproofing, the Xperia Z2 Tablet is light for its screen size, tipping the scales at 426g, and skinny by any standards at 6.4mm thick. It's difficult not to be impressed by the uniformity and the slimness: it feels like you're holding something special, compared to so many of the uniformally bland tablets out there.

It seems that Sony's priority is to hold on to these thin and light plaudits, an area in which the previous edition excelled. There's been a reduction of 0.5mm thickness and a 69g weight loss, a reduction of some 14 per cent.

The means that this 10.1-inch tablet is more comfortable to hold than ever. It's considerably lighter than the 603g of the Nexus 10, lighter than the refreshed Samsung Galaxy TabPro 10.1, and the iPad Air too.

There is a fair amount of bezel around the display but when you're gripping a tablet, you need something to hang on to, so we're not as bothered about edge-to-edge displays on tablets as we are on smartphones.

Display: Punch but not pixels

Where the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet doesn't up the ante, however, is in the display resolution, sticking at 1920 x 1200 when those previously mentioned rivals offer 2650 x 1600 pixels, which makes quite the difference in day-to-day use.

However, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet isn't just about pixels, as there's a lot of technology pouring into this display. Fans of Sony will recognise the Triluminos and X-Reality labels, but adding to the mix is Sony's latest technology: Live Colour LED.

This claims to widen the colour gamut on offer by adding additional red and green phosphors to the IPS LED display panel. Sony says that this will mean a wider range of colours can be reproduced, without the over-saturation that's all too common on some devices.

Unfortunately, the Spider-Man trailer we watched, intended to demonstrate the screen quality, left us with the impression that things were too saturated, with a lot of pink faces to be seen. Perhaps that's just the effect that Spider-Man's web flinging has on people, but we feel it safer to save a definitive assessment of the display quality until we have the Z2 Tablet in for a full review.

The hardware

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet might not be pushing pixels, but it does come packed with the latest 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset. This is Qualcomm's latest and greatest and it is partnered with 3GB or RAM, meaning the Z2 Tablet will rival the best flagship smartphones for speed.

You get microSD support, so you'll be able to expand the storage and if you're looking to be connected all the time, there's the option for a 4G LTE version on top of Wi-Fi only.

There's also an IR blaster on the top of the tablet so you can take control of your home entertainment system: no more fishing for the remote when you're browsing the internet on your tablet, because it will change the channel for you.

If you're a fan of tablet photography, then you'll find a 8.1-megapixel Exmor RS sensor on the rear and a 2.2-megapixel camera on the front.

Powering the whole affair is a 6000mAh battery, which Sony say will give you 10 hours of use.

Improving audio

As with the Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone that was announced alongside the Z2 Tablet at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, you'll find the speakers have been moved from the ends of the tablet, to be forward facing.

It's claimed that they will be less prone to being obscured in the new location when gripping the tablet, but we're not so convinced. Our first impression is that they didn't produce a nice front-firing stereo effect as capably as the Nexus 10, and exhibit none of the audio skills of a tablet like the Kindle Fire HDX, but we need to spend more time testing them.

One area where there is an improvement, however, is when it comes to headphones. The headphone jack is waterproofed, so is free from flaps, but it's location on the bottom of the device isn't so convenient if you want to rest the tablet on a table.

However, the clever part is the inclusion of digital noise cancelling in the tablet. This will give you noise cancellation when using Sony's MDR-NC31EM headset. The ear buds contain a mic that detects the ambient noise and feeds this back to the tablet to then produce the opposing sound waves to cancel it out.

READ: Sony adds noise cancellation to Xperia Z2 and Xperia Z2 Tablet

That might be popular with those watching movies on long flights using the new tablet: you won't need bulky headphones with batteries in, as the tablet will be doing the clever part for you.

Let's accessorise!

Sony is launching a range of accessories to accompany the Xperia Z2 Tablet and Xperia Z2 smartphone. Among the docks and remotes, there's also a Bluetooth keyboard and case.

READ: Sony announces Xperia Z2 Tablet accessories

The Bluetooth keyboard matches the design, so it's nice and slim and connects easily via NFC. It's wireless, so doesn't need to be connected and although the keyboard is a little small and cramped, there's enough travel in the key action to feel positive when typing.

The case will hold the tablet and the keyboard like a small Android laptop, which will be great for those who want to be a little more productive and perhaps crack through those emails or revise those documents. However, it doesn't fold up neatly like the Surface Type Cover or some of the iPad keyboard cases.

If you fancy gaming, you'll be able to hook your Xperia Z2 Tablet up to your DualShock 3 controller. You'll need to connect via cable to pair initially, but after that, it will be wireless.

Sony software

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet launches on Android 4.4 KitKat, which is very welcomed, although Sony has made its usual run of changes. We didn't have time to fully explore everything on offer, but we found the What's New content portal as featured on the Xperia Z2.

It might be a little intrusive for some and there's no shortage of software bloat added by Sony. We'll have to get the tablet in for a full review before we can really determine how this adds or detracts from the experience.

First impressions

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet takes a great design and makes it just that little bit slicker. It's slim and light, so whether it's in your bag or on your coffee table, the Xperia Z2 Tablet looks good.

READ: Sony Xperia Tablet Z vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: What's the difference?

Without a step-up in resolution, however, we suspect that some will happily take a smaller device that's cheaper and almost as powerful, or opt for a rival device offering greater resolution for even slicker visuals.

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet will be available globally from March 2014.



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