Hands-on: Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact review

Sony has announced the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact during its press conference at IFA 2014 in Berlin, which brings the specs of the Xperia Z2 Tablet launched 6 months ago to a smaller, more compact offering.

The 8-inch device carries the same "world's slimmest and lightest waterproof tablet" tag as its bigger brother, whilst adding a number of the technologies found on the Xperia Z3 smartphones too. We got our hands on it to see how it stacks up and bring you our first impressions.

Super slim design

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact offers a beautiful, super slim design and it's hard not to be impressed when you first hold it in your hands. At 6.4mm thick, it offers the same build as the Xperia Z2 Tablet and it weighs just under 270g so it is nice and light too.

One-handed operation is a breeze with this device as the curved edges make it easy to hold and grip and its slim design makes it easy to get your hand around it without a problem.

There is a thin metal frame surrounding the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact and while it looks very similar to the Xperia Z2 Tablet, the new device takes a few style tips from the Xperia Z3 smartphone with a slightly rounder edge and reduced metal detailing, plus the signature side power button of course.

The corners have also taken on the nylon material that has been introduced on the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact to help protect it if you drop it, and although it is clear the corners are a different material, they still look good and offer a nice looking finish.

The rear of the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has a matte finish and it is lovely to hold. It provides a firm grip, feels nice to touch and we were big fans of it. Of course being an Xperia Z product, this 8-inch device comes with the IP65 and IP68 ratings meaning it is both waterproof and dust resistant, perfect for watching Netflix in the bath.

Sticking with full HD

Sony has stuck to its guns when it comes to the resolution on its latest devices and the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is no different, sticking with a 1920 x 1200 pixel display.

Samsung recently launched its Galaxy Tab S tablet in both a 10.5-inch size and an 8.4-inch size and both variants offer a 2650 x 1600 resolution, but Sony isn't budging and instead believes its TV technologies included in its smartphone and tablet displays are enough to see it through.

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact offers punchy colours and lots of detail, but we can't help but wish the pixels had been increased just a little for this device.

It packs in the usual Triluminos, X-Reality and Live Colour LED labels into the IPS LCD display, that were also found on the Xperia Z2 Tablet, and the smaller screen means a few more pixels have been packed in per inch, offering a pixel density of 283ppi, but this is significantly lower than some of its competition. 

It's difficult to judge the quality of the screen in the time and conditions we experienced the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact in, so we will look at it in closer detail when we get it in for a full review.

Hardware

Under the hood, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact packs in some powerful specs, offering the same 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor as the Xperia Z2 Tablet and there is 2GB of RAM to support it.

There is a 4500mAh battery to keep things ticking along and it is partnered up with Sony's battery Stamina software so we suspect the battery life will be decent if past devices are anything to go by.

When it comes to the camera, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact offers an 8.1-megapixel Exmor RS sensor on the rear and a 2.2-megapixel camera on the front. Some of the applications found on the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact will be present too, including Face-in and Multi-Camera.

There is a 16GB internal memory but you'll also find microSD support for further storage expansion and NFC is on board too.

Audio

When Sony launched the Xperia Z2 Tablet, it moved the speakers from the ends of the tablet to a forward facing position in a bid to make them less prone to being obscured when holding the tablet. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has arrived with the same theory, offering forward facing speakers that blend into the design at the top and bottom of the device.

Sony has also brought the same audio technologies introduced on its Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact to the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. This means you'll find the 8-inch tablet is high audio-res enabled and offers DSEE HX to upscale low-res files into near high-res, plus it also retains the digital noise cancelling when using compatible headphones.

We didn't get a chance to test the audio quality during our short time with it but it is something we will be testing when we get it in for full review.   

PS4 gaming capability

Like the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact hasn't seen a great deal of change when it comes to the software except for one big difference.

The tablet will run on Android 4.4 with Sony's skin on top and the What's New portal will be there pushing Sony's experiences but Sony has also introduced the ability to play your PlayStation 4 games on the Z3 Tablet Compact.

You'll need the PS4 DualShock controller and there is an accessory mount that will be sold to enable you to attach the tablet to it, but you can just prop it up against something if you prefer.

You'll then be able to use Remote Play as you do on the PS Vita, with the DualShock acting as your controller.

We didn't get a chance to test it out as this service won't be available until November but we suspect the idea of playing The Last of Us on your tablet will be an exciting prospect for some.

Let's accessorise

The Xperia Z2 Tablet came with a number of accessories including a Bluetooth keyboard and the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact will also work with these, along with a new cover that Sony has introduced especially for the new smaller device.

The cover comes in black and white and it folds in a number of ways to offer you a range of viewing angles. It protects both the back and front of the tablet and it is slim so it doesn't add too much bulk.

You won't need to remove the cover if you want to take a picture as there are relevant cut-out holes in place and all ports are also accessible too, plus the tablet should be secure once in place as it clips into the plastic casing within the cover.

First impressions

Our first thoughts are that the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is a great looking device that is super slim, easy to hold and offers some powerful specs in a easy-to-manage smaller device.

It's lightweight, has a decent battery capacity and for those that want a tablet to play PS4 games on, then it looks like it will be a clear winner.

We would love to have seen an increase in the display resolution to match some of Sony's competitors, but we are looking forward to getting this tablet in for review to see what it is really capable of.



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