Sony hasn’t released a tablet in Australia since last year, when it released the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, and that was a pretty awesome tablet. Unlike the phone market which seems to have sort of stabilised around the 5″ to 6″ mark, the tablet market is still a bit more fragmented; sizes vary between 7″ on the lower end, all the way up to 12″ on the insane end (thanks Samsung), though somewhere between 8 and 10″ seems to be about plum.
Sony’s Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact came right on that, at 8″ and while it was a fairly awesome tablet usability wise, I have to say that I didn’t hang on to mine for long. That’s not for any reason other than I just didn’t need a tablet that size; I’ve already got a Nexus 7 (2013) and that handles my small tablet needs perfectly … and those needs are exclusively watching videos, movies and TV shows while travelling. I simply don’t use it for anything else.
So, when the opportunity came around to take a look at Sony’s Xperia Z4 Tablet — a full size tablet — I thought I’d take a look.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet is a full size, 10.1″ tablet and it was announced earlier this year at MWC 2015 and released for sale earlier this month.
Speaking of that technology, the tablet is well stocked. The chipset is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, with 4 x 2.0GHz Cortex A57 cores and 4 x 1.5 GHz Cortex A53 cores. This develops a significant amount of power, meaning that unlike some experiences, the Xperia Z4 Tablet is no slouch. Paired with 3 GB of RAM on board and 32 GB of storage, expandable up to 128GB, there’s plenty of room for you to do what you need.
In terms of physical size, the Xperia Z4 Tablet is 264 x 167 x 6.1 mm, and weighs in at just 393g. It’s VERY thin, and yet it feels very sturdy. Our unit is the LTE model, which has a SIM and MicroSD slot on the top, and in this case, a nano-SIM is required for LTE connectivity.
Amazingly for such a large tablet, the Xperia Z4 Tablet is IP68 rated, meaning it can take a swim for up to 30 minutes without breaking it; we wouldn’t suggest testing it excessively, but it will take a fair bit of water without issue, and better yet, the USB ports are capless, so there’s no rubber plugs to worry about.
Perhaps the best thing about the hardware is what isn’t included; as you can see above, there’s a Bluetooth keyboard option which retails for $299. That’s a lot, but it is cool — with the keyboard attached (it pairs via Bluetooth and has its own power supply) you’ve basically got a netbook that’s perfectly good for taking notes on the go.
Even without the keyboard, the tablet is pretty decently equipped, but the keyboard really is the signature accessory; without it, the Xperia Z4 doesn’t significantly differentiate from others on the market. With it, it truly does.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet comes out of the box with Android 5.0, and at the time of writing, it hasn’t been updated to Android 5.1.1. The Sony software interface will be familiar to many, and there’s no real improvements or changes with the advent of the Xperia Z4.
Like any Sony device, there are a number of supplied applications which you may or may not find useful, but there’s not a significant number of them. The typical Sony apps are there, such as Lifelog, Whats New, News from Socialife, Smart Connect and Playstation … amongst others. Not all of these are going to be very useful to everyone, and the trend these days — in terms of feedback we get from consumers — is that these bundled apps really aren’t very useful or desirable; you’d rather they simply weren’t there.
We tend to agree with this assessment; some of Sony’s included applications are really good. We love Sony’s interpretation on an Android camera, with creative filters and a really easy user interface. Things like Lifelog, though, we just don’t understand; having your data in a silo that you can’t do anything with just doesn’t seem that useful in this day and age.
Software performance is great; I installed a handful of my usual apps on the Xperia Z4 Tablet and it had no issue running any of them, and it switches between apps extremely quickly. Performance stacks up on the benchmarks too, as you can see in our comparison table below (with comparative results thanks to PC Advisor):
Connectivity, Camera and more
The Xperia Z4 Tablet has most of the usual internals you’ve come to expect; 802.11 11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1 and MHL 3.0 but Sony has dropped the IR which some of its previous models have featured. There’s two major model variants; LTE and Wi-Fi only. The LTE variant is great if you want data on the go and this model can also make phone calls – though you’ll want to do it hands-free or with a headset. Shouting at your tablet makes you look strange.
On the audio front, there’s support for High-Res audio like the Z3 range with front facing stereo speakers, digital noise cancelling support, automatic headphone compensation and a new LDAC codec which supposedly transmits data three times more efficiently than Bluetooth. Compatible headphones are required to take full advantage there.
Camera-wise, there are reasonable 8.1- and 5.1 Mp cameras back and front. The main camera uses Sony’s Exmor RS sensor and the front has a wide angle lens to make more of your selfies, and to give a wider angle for video conferencing. We don’t want to encourage much by way of photography with tablets, because it makes you look like a bit of a dick, but if you really need to, the Xperia Z4 Tablet does take reasonable photos. Far more compelling, when paired with the keyboard dock, is the front camera which truly transforms the Xperia Z4 Tablet into a mobile office.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet is a pretty decent tablet for the price of $888, well cheaper than some phones which can do far less. However, I personally wouldn’t recommend buying the Z4 Tablet UNLESS you’re going to get the keyboard attachment with it; the keyboard really makes this as a package, and without it, the Z4 Tablet just doesn’t really stand out in a somewhat crowded tablet market.
Other tablets have dabbled with the keyboard dock option; Samsung’s NotePro 12.1 had a keyboard option, though it wasn’t all that cheap nor widely available. Equally, the NotePro 12.1 was just too big .. the Xperia Z4 is the right size, and the keyboard really makes it into a portable computing platform. I’ve used the Xperia Z4 Tablet to attend press conferences, type Ausdroid stories, check emails, and even video conference with my parents.
Factoring in the keyboard, though, the package comes in at $1,187, which isn’t all that cheap. For around that price, there’s a lot of laptop options available, and while they might not be as thin and appealing as the Xperia Z4 Tablet, they are probably more versatile.
I’d recommend the Z4 Tablet for those who really want a tablet form factor, but want the added option of a hardware keyboard for hard-core on the go data entry. It outperforms some of the more popular Android tablets on the market, and certainly looks better than many of them. If you’re the kind of person who wants to use a tablet and has a good use-case for having one, the Xperia Z4 Tablet from Sony is a great option worth considering.
Sony Australia supplied our review unit, and while it was running pre-release UK software instead of Australian software, the experience (we’re assured) is pretty much the same, albeit different pre-installed apps.