Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet Review: First Look Hands-On

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Mobile World Congress 2015 bought us plenty of rumoured delights that were fully expected; Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, and HTC’s One M9, amongst others. However, there were a few things missing. Sony was in attendence as expected, but what was unexpected was the device it brought to the table.

Sony’s big thing for MWC 2015 wasn’t the expected Xperia Z4 smartphone at all, nope, instead it was actually, literally a big thing in that it was a 10in Xperia tablet reboot, dubbed in accordance with Sony’s typical naming convention as the Xperia Z4 Tablet. 

So yeah, it’s bigger than a phone would be, but in actual fact one of the really compelling things here is how Sony has shrunk its 10in form factor from previous models – this is the smallest 10in tablet from Sony so far. Essentially it’s done to the 10in Xperia Z tablet concept what Apple did between the iPad and the iPad Air; made it as compact as possible while retaining oodles of screen real-estate.

We know also know how much it will cost, too: “Sony made the Xperia Z4 Tablet official earlier today, and now the company’s French arm has put it up for pre-order. This is helpful because it reveals the starting price for the tablet, which will be a pretty steep €559 in its Wi-Fi-only iteration,” reports GSM Arena. “As prices for mobile devices are usually the same amount in US dollars as in euros, we assume it will start at $559 in the USA. This makes it $60 more expensive than the entry level iPad Air 2 model, though that only has 16GB of storage (whereas the Xperia Z4 Tablet ships with 32GB).”

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As you can see from the images, the design is broadly very similar to what Sony has produced before with the Xperia Z series and, more specifically, its tablet members. It’s a highly angular slate with Sony’s distinctive contoured edging, a soft-touch matte polycarbonate back panel, and that quirky round silver power button.

The bezel around the display is now much narrower to give it that iPad Air-like compactness despite its 10in screen size, but it’s also ridiculously thin and lightweight at 6.1mm and just shy of 400g respectively (the weight distribution means it feels like it weighs next to nothing though). In other words it’s looking quite portable and is very easy to get to grips with using one or two hands. Exact measurements are 254 x 167 x 6.1mm.

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Sony definitely knows some of its strengths and has therefore kept the IP65/68 waterproofing certification so that you can use this tablet in the rain, in the bath, jacuzzi, or poolside, without worrying about it getting damaged. There is a port cover over the microSD (and nano-SIM, for the data-enabled model) slots but Sony’s used what a rep described as a “low voltage” USB port which needs no cover cap to maintain waterproofing. Neat, but will this effect charging times? We’ll endeavour to find out in our full review.

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Sony claims the display is the “brightest 2K display” available with a rating of 500 candela, it’s a 10.1in IPS panel with Sony’s Triluminos and X-Reality technologies for enhanced colour and contrast. The resolution is 2560 x 1600 pixels at 300ppi and it did indeed look incredibly sharp and vibrant to the eye during our test time. Such powerful display tech is sure to be pretty demanding when it comes to power, however. Sony has opted for a 6,000mAh cell inside the Xperia Z4 Tablet, and has included its Stamina battery saver mode to help get a bit more life out of the tablet when you really need it. In normal operation, Sony promises 17 hours of continuous video playback.

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Other features include both an 8.1MP Exmor RS primary camera and a 5.1MP front-facing secondary with a wide-angle lens for selfies, while connectivity capabilities cover Wi-Fi, NFC, MHL, Bluetooth and 3G/4G mobile data with Cat 6 LTE. There’s also a purpose-built keyboard dock accessory designed to turn the tablet into a laptop and Sony has even put in a few UI tweaks to make Android in this setup a bit more office friendly – a bit Microsoft Windows style in terms of layout.

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Naturally this latest tablet runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and it has Sony’s custom UI on top. Aside from a few specific Lollipop functions, such as the multitasking carousel, little appears to have changed here and it is still a fairly “busy” UI that may not be to everyone’s tastes. I’m certainly of the opinion that it’s not the best looking by a considerable stretch.

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Still, everything runs smoothly enough and is nicely optimised. The hardware under the hood is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 64-bit octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM keeping things slick and snappy. There’s also 32GB of onboard storage and microSD support for card expansion.

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It’s pretty tough to argue with this 10in tablet shrinkage; as with the iPad Air largely making the iPad Mini redundant, in many ways this feels the same for the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, such is the improvement in weight, portability, and handling, with no loss of screen size. It’s an incredibly handy device, although naturally more in-depth testing is required for the performance, battery, and the usability of that UI. Stay tuned to KYM for a full review in the not-too-distant future.

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