A first look at the Sony Xperia Tablet Z

Our first impressions of Sony's new water resistant tablet, the Xperia Tablet Z

We've just got our hands on Sony's new water resistant Xperia Tablet Z. It launched in Australia earlier this week and Sony is claiming it's the thinnest 10in tablet on the market. We've only played with it for a few short hours, but here's our first impressions.

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z.
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z.

What's hot

It's the first tablet we've seen in a while that immediately impressed us.

The tablet market is becoming increasingly crowded but there's only so much you can do when it comes to basic design, right? Wrong. Sony appears to have smashed this claim out of the water (pun intended) with the Xperia Tablet Z. It's the first tablet we've seen in a while that immediately impressed us.

Measuring just 6.9mm thick and weighing a mere 495g, the Tablet Z is extremely thin and light for its size and the weight is perfectly balanced. We were concerned that the sharp corners may not be ideal for a tablet this size but our fears were quickly allayed once we picked up the device. It's very comfortable to use regardless of whether you use it single handedly, or with two hands. Further, the soft touch finish on the back is ideal for a tablet this size. It's comfortable to grip and ensures the device won't slip out of your fingers.

The weight of the Xperia Tablet Z is perfectly balanced.
The weight of the Xperia Tablet Z is perfectly balanced.

As the Xperia Tablet Z is water and dust resistant, all ports are covered by plastic flaps.

From the moment you pick up the Xperia Tablet Z it's hard not to be impressed by small but classy design touches. The small but well positioned aluminium power button, the rounded edges and the smooth reflective surfaces on all sides are borrowed directly from the Xperia Z smartphone and all are welcome additions here. We also like the way the tiny notification LED on the left side almost blends into the side of the device.

As the Xperia Tablet Z is water and dust resistant all ports including the left mounted headphone jack and the bottom mounted micro-USB port and microSD card slot are covered by plastic flaps. They're a little annoying to constantly pull off but it's a trade-off you should be happy with given the water resistance. The microSD card slot will be welcome news to Android fans, particularly as you won't find it on the Xperia Tablet Z's two main competitors.

The small but well positioned aluminium power button is a nice touch.
The small but well positioned aluminium power button is a nice touch.

One really nice touch is the two speakers Sony built into the Xperia Tablet Z. The speakers sit in the bottom corner of the tablet but actually have two sound outlets, one at the bottom and one at the side. This means the sound won't be blocked by your palm regardless of which way you hold the tablet.

The Xperia Z has an LED-backlit LCD with a resolution of 1920x1200, giving it a pixel density of 224ppi. It can't quite match the 4th Generation iPad or the Google Nexus 10 in this regard, but it's an excellent screen in its own right. Viewing angles are impressive, colours are vibrant and the touchscreen is responsive.

What's not

Sony's software overlay on the Xperia Tablet Z is largely minimalist and keeps a clean look and feel but it can be a little sluggish during basic tasks. The home screen is a particular issue as swiping between screens often results in some slight lag. It's certainly not crippling but it simply shouldn't happen on a new device with impressive internals.

You'll want to uninstall plenty of apps that come with the Xperia Tablet Z.
You'll want to uninstall plenty of apps that come with the Xperia Tablet Z.

We found the speakers on the Xperia Tablet Z pretty poor.

Sony also pre-loads the Xperia Tablet Z with far too many apps you'll more than likely never use. While they're easily removable, you'll need to spend a good half an hour setting up the tablet and uninstalling apps like Socialife, Sony Select, PlayNow, Wi-Fi checker and Garage. Sony has also used its own keyboard on the Tablet Z and it's not very good. It does offer gesture typing but it's not as reliable or effective as third party options like Swype or Swiftkey. Given this is a tablet device and swiping to type isn't as effective as a smartphone, we recommend using the stock Google Android keyboard which recently became available as a free download in the Play Store.

We also found the speakers on the Xperia Tablet Z pretty poor. While most users will opt to use headphones, the sound the speakers produces is best described as tinny. Listening at high volume also results in significant distortion and there is a real lack of bass.

Sony currently sells the Xperia Tablet Z in Australia in three variants, a Wi-Fi-only model in 16GB and 32GB storage capacities and a 4G model with 16GB of storage. These variants of the device retail for $539, $649 and $679, respectively in both black and white models.

We'll have a full review of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z published in the next week. In the meantime if you have any questions or thoughts about the device, feel free to leave a comment below!

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

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