Sony has introduced the successor to its Z2 Tablet at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona` and despite no sign of an Xperia Z4 smartphone, the new 10.1-incher is called the Xperia Z4 Tablet.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet carries the tag "Made to Entertain" and Sony claims it is the world's slimmest and lightest 10-inch tablet on the market. It's slimmer, sexier and lighter than its predecessor and the company seems to have listened to many of the complaints faced by the Xperia Z2 Tablet, which launched at the show last year, but is it good enough to fight off the stiff competition?
We got our hands and eyes on the Xperia Z4 Tablet in the run up to MWC to see how far the new flagship tablet has come in 12 months and what we make of the new super-slim, waterproof slab.
Lovely, sleek design
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is a beautiful looking device that closely follows the design ethos we have come to expect from the Xperia Z range. The same OmniBalance design is present but it is far more refined than the Xperia Z2 Tablet, resulting in a slim, light and well-built tablet that is identical to the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact but bigger.
Measuring 254 x 167 x 6.1mm and hitting the scales at only 393g, the waterproof Xperia Z4 Tablet is not only 0.3mm slimmer and 30 grams lighter than its predecessor, but it takes a stab at Apple's iPad Air 2 too. The iPad Air 2 has the same pencil-thin frame but it adds another 40 grams to the weight so that gives you some indication as to how light the Xperia Z4 Tablet feels to hold.
The rounded metal frame of the Xperia Z4 Tablet features the same reinforced corners found on the Xperia Z3 and latest Xperia M4 Aqua smartphones, which are said to help protect the device if dropped. Rather than rubberised like the smartphones however, the corners on the tablet have a polished finish, differentiating them from the matte finish of the rest of the tablet's frame and matching the design introduced on the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact.
The signature side-power button is situated on the left-hand side of the Xperia Z4 Tablet, along with the volume rocker that controls the front facing stereo speakers, which are hidden on the side of the bezel nearest the frame. The speakers sit slightly below a natural holding position, which means they shouldn't be blocked by your thumbs and the sound they produce seemed good. The tablet supports Sony's new LDAC codec that claims to transmit data more efficiently than Bluetooth, while digital noise cancelling is also supported, as well as DSEE HX for upscaling tracks to near High-Res Audio quality.
On the right-hand side of the tablet, there is an open Micro-USB port for charging, which means jumping up and down with joy is now appropriate as Sony has finally done away with the irritating flap that previously covered it. Charging is now not only more accessible, but there is also no longer any need for the two-pin dock connector, so you get a more seamless and fuss-free design.
The bottom of the tablet is plain and simple with nothing but the frame itself to marvel at, while the top has a headphone jack in the very left-hand corner, along with a microSD slot for expanding the 32GB internal storage capacity.
When it comes to the rear of the Xperia Z4 Tablet, you get the exact same matte finish as the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. It offers a warm-to-touch feel that is a delight to hold and it provides a good grip so the tablet feels secure. Not opting for the tempered glass finish also means you don't end up with a collection of your fingerprints on the rear of the device.
Branding is subtle, matching the rest of the products in the Xperia Z range and the rear of the Xperia Z4 Tablet also features a camera in the top right hand side, along with an NFC logo for easy pairing to your smartphone or accessories such as the specially-designed Bluetooth keyboard.
Sony told us that portability was an important feature for the 10-inch Xperia Z4 Tablet and this is clearly apparent in its overall design. In a nutshell, the Xperia Z4 Tablet is a slim, light and well-built device that not only looks great but takes a huge step up from its predecessor to deliver a much more desirable slab.
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet features the same size display as the Xperia Z2 Tablet but it does so within a much smaller footprint, meaning Sony has reduced the size of the screen's surrounding bezel. This was one of the big bug bears of the Z2 Tablet as there was just that little bit too much to hold onto, so it's great to see the company listen to criticism and act upon it.
Sony also clearly took on board the resolution complaints, increasing the Xperia Z2 Tablet's 1920 x 1200 display to a brighter 2560 x 1600 display on the Xperia Z4 Tablet. The company claims it is the brightest 2K display and although we aren't quite convinced it's the brightest overall, there is a clear difference in the new and old models.
The colours are lovely and vibrant, delivering a lot of punch and the detail is good. The Xperia Z4 Tablet has a 299ppi pixel resolution in comparison to the 224ppi of its predecessor. Viewing angles aren't too bad either but the whites still weren't super white and we have felt more wowed by other tablet screens in the past.
There is a definite, visible improvement over the Xperia Z2 and while we won't pass judgement on the Xperia Z4 Tablet's display until we have reviewed it in full, it certainly seems to tick a few of the boxes the Xperia Z2 Tablet lacked. It's brighter, sharper and the reduced bezel all work firmly in the Xperia Z4 Tablet's favour.
Cameras on tablets are nowhere near as heavily marketed as cameras on smartphones, because while you do see people snapping pictures with their tablets, it's not as widely practised as the smartphone snapping phase.
That said, Sony has opted to embrace the selfie trend with the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet, offering a 5-megapixel front-facing snapper and a wide angle lens sitting at the top in the centre of the device. Most tablets on the market come with 2-megapixel front cameras, or less, so the Xperia Z4 Tablet does stand out in this department. There is also an 8-megapixel rear camera on board, but this is more common so less of a feature to reiterate.
In terms of software, the Xperia Z4 Tablet will come with the same camera app suite found on the Xperia Z3 smartphone, including Superior Auto and AR Fun, but like the Xperia M4 Aqua, Sony will also be adding these features to work with the front-facing camera too, something that was previously not possible.
We didn't get a chance to test either of the cameras during our short amount of time with the Xperia Z4 Tablet so how well selfies and video calling will come out will have to wait for the full review, but it's good to see the software features introduced to the front. With a bit of luck, Superior Auto will deliver some lovely-looking selfies for us and if not, then there is always the Portrait ReTouch feature for finishing refinements.
Hardware, software and battery
Under the hood of the Xperia Z4 Tablet is the latest 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, supported by 3GB of RAM, which should mean everything runs nice and smoothly. We jumped between a few apps and played a couple of games in the time we had with it and everything seemed to work as it should, but we will wait until our full review to find out how it adapts in the real world.
As we mentioned previously, there is 32GB of internal memory, along with microSD support for storage expansion and the Xperia Z4 Tablet will launch with the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop software pre-installed. Users will also find Sony's Remote Play feature meaning those with a PlayStation 4 will be able to play console games on their tablet like they could on the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact.
What is perhaps a little more exciting about the Xperia Z4 Tablet than previous Sony tablets, and other tablets on the market, is the company has developed a perfect fit Bluetooth keyboard with a track pad, that introduces a launcher on the left when it is paired. A little like a Sony Android version of the Start launcher in Windows, the launcher helps make the tablet feel like a very portable laptop and it's an interesting take, certainly one we will be looking at in more depth when we get the device in for full review.
In terms of battery, you are looking at a 6000mAh capacity, which Sony claims will give you 17 hours of playback before you need to think about recharging it. We have high expectations for the Xperia Z4 Tablet in this department as Sony is no stranger to providing devices that deliver on their battery promise but we will let you know when we have put it through its paces in the real world.
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is a great looking device and one that introduces some serious improvements on its predecessor. It's slim, light, well built and because of all these combined, a pleasure to use.
The reduction in bezel surrounding the 10.1-inch display does it wonders in terms of design appeal and the brighter, crisper display delivers some beautiful vibrant colours from what we could tell.
It's specced out when it comes to hardware too with a big 6000mAh battery capacity, latest Qualcomm processor, 3GB of RAM and storage expansion via microSD so it looks as though there will be little to disappoint, especially with Android 5.0 Lollipop and Sony's Remote Play software adding to the punch.
We won't pass judgement on it until we have had it in for full review, but from what we have seen so far, the Xperia Z4 Tablet is a promising device that blows its predecessor completely out of the water.