Sony's first attempt at making Android slates was less than a rousing success. Not one to be discouraged, Sony is back with a new Android-powered tablet called the Xperia Tablet Z. This is the big brother of the Xperia Z flagship smartphone. I've spent a little time with the Tablet Z and I have some thoughts in advance of the full review.


Hardware: Swoon

The device is surprisingly thin and light. Yes, I know what the spec sheet says, but it's different when you get it in your hands. Just knowing that it's 495g and has a 10.1-inch screen doesn't mean much until you pick it up. I nearly dropped the tablet taking it out of the box because I wasn't prepared for how easily it came up. The thinness is impressive (only 6.9mm), but the weight is what really sets it apart.

The Tablet Z is water and dust-resistant, which likely leads to the extremely solid feel it has. There is no flexing or creaking, although the device is made out of plastic. The frame is rigid and the seams where different panels come together are perfectly aligned. The back is made of a soft-touch material and is completely flat. A lot of devices rely on a tapering near the edges to make the shell feel thinner – not the Tablet Z. It's just crazy thin all the way through. 


There are four recessed speakers near the bottom and a volume rocker on the left right next to the power button. Around the periphery are also covered ports for headphones, a microSD card, and the microUSB cable. I'm slightly concerned about the flimsy-feeling port covers. If one breaks off, the tablet would instantly cease to be water-resistant regardless of how solid the design is.

The 1920x1200 resolution screen would have been top-of-the-line a year ago, but now it falls short of the numbers posted by the Nexus 10 and others. Still, it's a crisp panel and I'm impressed with the viewing angles thus far. That aspect is at least an improvement over the Xperia Z, which tends to wash out easily.

Software: Less Swoon

Sony seems to keep its Android modifications to a minimum, and that mostly holds true with this device. Based on Android 4.1.2, Sony's Xperia Z software is responsive and close to stock. There are some changes in the way widgets and icons are added to the home screen, as well as some (perhaps unnecessary) UI flourishes.

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The version of Android currently running on the Tablet Z uses the "old" style Android tablet interface. The navigation buttons are off to the left, and the notification area is on the right. The app drawer and Google search are at the top of the screen. I know there are some people that were aghast when Google switched the UI around with the Nexus 10, but I actually prefer that approach. The notifications in particular are better in the phone-ish UI. Sony also tossed in some navigation bar buttons for the remote app and built-in floating widgets. I don't think I need access to these features all the time, but I have yet to find a way to turn the shortcuts off.

Scrolling through the home screens and opening apps is lightning fast. I feel like I already know my way around because Sony hasn't fundamentally changed the way the OS works. The settings are –  thankfully – almost identical to stock Android. What customizations there are feel superficial, which is a good thing in this context.

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Stock Android uses a blue edge glow to signify the end of a scrollable list, but not all OEMs keep that effect. HTC has completely removed it, preferring to use the accordion animation in Sense apps. I mention this because Sony kept the edge glow, but made it white. I just find this very odd because it is essentially invisible in a large proportion of apps. It's one example of tweaks Sony made that I believe were poorly thought-out.

Sony packed in some extras like Bravia-branded image post-processing, DualShock 3 controller support, and the PlayStation Mobile store. This is not a carrier-branded tablet, so crapware is at a minimum. Buyers will, however, be subjected to Sony's various multimedia services. It's like seeing two parallel universes coexist on a single tablet. There's the Google Play stuff, which is universal on Android and comes with cool web services. Then there's Sony's "Unlimited" and "PlayNow" services. I haven't fully inspected these yet, but they don't look great.

Conclusion: Hope

There are annoyances with every new device, and indeed there are some with the Tablet Z. However, I'm very impressed with the hardware so far. When you're working with a 10-inch tablet, it's incredibly important that it's a comfortable device. If it's too heavy or balanced oddly, you're going to hate using it. The Tablet Z is looking good on this count.

I'll have to spend more time playing with the software, but things aren't bad. My first impression is that the good parts of the software are the things Sony didn't mess around with too much. The last-gen Snapdragon S4 chip seems more than capable of pushing all those pixels – the Tablet Z is very fast. A full review is incoming, but my brief time with the Xperia Tablet Z had been positive. I have real hope this is going to be Sony's first winning slate.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://twitter.com/GiuntaRob Roberto Giunta

    Well, I hope it feels better than the Xperia Z because that phone feels like a brick in your hand. From the photos I saw back then it looked like a fingerprint magnet. Is that any problem for you?

    • RyanWhitwam

      Back is very fingerprint-y. It is a little brick-like, but you don't wrap your hands around a tablet like you do a phone. Not sure it will be a problem in that respect.

  • Booker Dewitt

    The hardware design is very nice but the UI has little to be desired.

  • James Jun

    Just slap on Cyanogenmod and you got yourself a hell of a tablet.

    • Vijay

      why do you need Cyanogenmod when its already very close to stock.

      • RyanWhitwam

        Well, it's not a huge departure from stock, but I'm not yet sold on the software. Some odd decisions here.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rafaelgaiarsa Rafael Gaiarsa

        Because it turns "some annoyances" into "no annoyances"

      • mikeym0p

        Many times very small things in the software differ from stock. CM also has a few optimizations in it and I personally hate the icons the OEMS use.

  • Edward Germanotta

    I dont trust sony anymore since they never update their handsets

    • Abhijeet Mishra

      What? Sony updates more devices than any other manufacturer. They don't update very quick, and also leave some devices sometimes (like the Xperia U), but overall their update list is always long. Guess you had one of the devices that didn't get an update.

    • mikeym0p

      They're trying hard to redeem themselves. Have you seen their AOSP participation and the list of current phones getting Jelly Bean? Some are well over a year old.

  • mehim

    why didn't sony include a stylus, it would've shot down the note 10.1 and became the undisputed king of tablets

    this tablet was my first choice, but the lack of a stylus (especially for a college student and pathological doodler) is a deal breaker

    maybe i'll get it later when its cheaper as a thank you for not being jerks and allowing their controllers to be used on all androids :D !

    • Butch mayday

      Even if this has a z pen (see what I did there) the nexus 10 would still be better IMO

      • mehim

        to each their preference but the form factor here is quite stunning, also despite the lack of frontal speakers, 3D speakers x4 make up for it!

        i guess they had to hold back to not obliterate the competition, god knows if i hear a sony salesman say "and z pen is quite handy" i'll throw money at them !

        • TornZero

          I do hope you're saying you'd literally pull out your wallet and throw money at them. I sure would.

          • mehim

            if they said it with a german accent, you bet!

          • Javii_mii

            Why a German accent?

          • MultiMediaMike

            "zee pen" sounds better in a german accent

    • RossVoorhees

      The problem with the pen, and the digitizer it requires, is cost, especially with higher Rez screens. That's why we don't see anything other than the Samsung note series in production, and is also why Sammy hasn't released a high Rez Note 10.1

      • mehim

        that makes a sad, sad sense :(

    • mikeym0p

      How is doodling on tablets? Is there palm detection, and does it work well?

      • TornZero

        There's palm interference most of the time, I'd expect — you could wear a glove or long sleeve to rectify that problem.

        Doodling itself is a problem with most styli, though, simply by design. You'll need something like the HTC Scribe Pen, the S-Pen or a Jot Capacitive Stylus for the best results, since those are the closest things to pens you can get. The Jot Stylus is available on ThinkGeek for $20, too, and it's probably worth well over its asking price.

        • mehim

          actually there is a palm-rejection in the galaxy note 10.1 that causes pen-only recognition so you don't have to worry about palm interference 98% of the time (there is the odd, tiny smudge though) , and writing on it may not be like paper but it is very accurate (to the point where it is easy to write in other languages and still get a very good result). unfortunately samsung uses the best toy plastic to make their products which is quite off-putting :S

          still, after using my brother's note, i made the decision that my next tablet must have a stylus (almost went for the surface pro for its pen-support)

  • MaRK

    You can remove "crapware" from any device. Just disable it in app settings. Gone. (well mostly).

    This "review" sounds like the usual Sony hater toss.

    I disliked Music Unlimited before I had even opened it.

    • nsnsmj

      I'm a huge Sony fan, but this is far from the "usual Sony hater toss", as you call it. And it's not even a full review. It's an initial impressions piece. Also, disabling doesn't actually remove anything. It just....disables.

      • MaRK

        You lose about 30MB of storage space because the app is disabled rather than removed. Does it really matter? It's disabled, that's good enough, it also means that future OS patches don't fail because system files were removed...

        Sony are one of the better manufactuers as far as crapware goes. Much of it can be uninstalled (Whatapp, Mcaffee etc).

        It was quite clearly a biased from the outset, the clue is in the instant dislike for Music Unlimited, without actually even tryng it.

        • mikeym0p

          To some people the storage they have on their device isn't as readily available. It's not about how disposable free space is, it's a principal of having control over your device.

          It's one trait mobile devices have that differ from computers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rafaelgaiarsa Rafael Gaiarsa

      Yeah....gone like the 2gb of shitware that you can't remove from your internal storage. What difference does it make if there's an icon in the drawer if you can't remove them anyway.

  • Butch mayday

    They shouldve clocked the processor at 1.7 ghz

  • Michael Ta

    Dat bezel.

    • Herman

      'Dat bezel' is very useful for holding the tablet comfortably.

      • Michael Ta

        I know I didn't say it was bad lol

        • Herman

          I know that's why my comment was neutral towards yours lol

    • Guest

      Theres a navbar hidden on the bottom. The bezel is fine

  • Melvin

    Do we not know the price yet?

    • Louis flood

      500 for the 16gb version

      • Idon’t Know

        You would have to be nuts not to buy an iPad 4 for the same amount.

        • Aaron Couser

          Nobody likes Apple anymore. I'm sorry but their boring:'(

        • Paul

          Oh common, get finally out of here apple fanboi.

  • C4ravan

    there is no doubt that sony makes the hell of a gorgeous hardware, but most recent hardware always fails when it comes to software and a reasonable good battery life.

  • Paul

    "The 1920x1200 resolution screen would have been top-of-the-line a year ago, but now it falls short of the numbers posted by the Nexus 10 and others."

    Dude, what is it with your screen resolution obsession? You don't get 1080p, you get the full 'computerized' x1200, which is even more than on a freaking 40" TV. In words, FOURTY INCHES. What do you need more resolution for on a tablet that's a fraction of that size?
    And if you'd had more, the "Scrolling through the home screens and opening apps" + running apps and games wouldn't be as much 'lightning fast' anymore.

    People, stop the madness with 'bigger and more' for just the sake of being able to taunt 'we got more' (than we actually need).

    • RyanWhitwam

      I never said it was a bad screen, though. It's just not as high-resolution as the other top devices in its category. This is just a preview. I'll have more to say in the final review.

      • Paul

        Just realized that maybe you and *points down to Idon't Know's reply* confuse something here. Read on below.

    • Ceefax

      Spot on for me. Making a complaint that a 10.1" tablet screen is 'only' 1920x1200 seems rediculous.

    • Michael Ta

      good point, plus it's getting ridiculously hard to find a good wallpaper that is not pixellated or cropped. I wonder how long till manufactures going to put 4K resolution into tablets. I''ll be sure as hell it's going to be pointless.

    • Idon’t Know

      Use a high res tablet like the iPad 4 and you will see why. Dude.

      • Paul

        *facepalms and shakes his head* You're thinking of PPI, Pixels Per Inch (Pixel Density). Sony's tablet has only 224, while Google's has 299 which is near "retina". Even if the Sony tab would have a 4K resolution, with the same ppi it would still look worse than Google's.
        This has absolutely nothing to do with Resolution and my points are still valid. Dude, which really doesn't seem to know...

        • thie ukhie nahangot

          Americans are real nitwits, the ipad4 lcd screen is just 738 pixels by default from a tft panel made by lg/sharpax maxed at 900 pixels. All the rest are plain apple false overhyped. Go home americans, you are such a loser race.

  • Tony

    omfg the LTE version is almost 200g lighter than the Apple 4G LTE! *insert teenage squeal here* Sony should have promoted the crap outta this device!

    • Wise Guy

      Did you really have to curse God to say this?
      regardless if you believe in god or not, have some respect for others!

      • Cheeseball

        If you feel offended about someone insulting your "God", then I have bad news for you...

      • Idon’t Know

        I have no respect for people who believe in such childish delusions.

      • MultiMediaMike

        They never said any curse and/or religious words, your mind inserted those words into the acronym so who has the dirty mind?

        OMFG - Oh My Freaking Gosh
        Oh My Floating Goldfish
        Or a handy mnemonic for remembering the ingredients of a greek salad
        OMFG: Olives, Mayo, Feta, Garlic.

  • http://TabletAndroidBR.com/ Humberto R.

    I'm curious about battery life and how well that snapdragon deals with javascript.

  • cyleo

    I received it tuesday, 16 GB version (no 4G). I'm happy enough to have received the Xperia Z also a couple of months ago and it's a very nice couple. The screen is absolutly stunning, very sharp and crisp with good viewing angles (not like the Xperia Z). And it's so thin and light, this is honestly the way to go for 10" tablets from now on. It's as snappy as you would expect based on the specs, and it delivers. Just as fast as the Xperia Z (which is plenty fast). The IR blaster is also a very nice feature, it can substitute the more simpler Harmony devices as it has macro support. Also, the Tablet Z has build-in DualShock 3 support, so happy gaming ;) So far a happy customer.

  • Danny Vaca

    I'm getting this once it's available on amazon 32gb

  • Chris Winkley

    Sony like HTC don't listen to consumers we want things like blinkfeed or the image enhancements on HTC phones but why not have phones /stock and have skins as downloadable launchers , icon , widget packs , fast updates and also charge people without your hardware for the sense laucher or blinkfeed I would be happy to pay £2 or more for it giving a company like HTC extra revenue.. obviously no one will download touchjiz lmao.. no they probably would HTC needs to sort Samsung out coz they can bubut soon either Sony or LG will be challenging Sammy the kg nexus 4 is a work of art it's a shame their skins are worse than sammys like a bad copy of touchshiz.

  • mikeym0p

    I wish the Sony logo wasn't on the face of the device. It gives orientation to the device.

  • Idon’t Know

    Still no Android tablet that compares to the iPad 4. Plus Android tablet software is nowhere near iPad quality and quantity.