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Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review: slim, light, powerful Android tablet is best iPad Air alternative

From £399 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Sony

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

Sony's Xperia Z2 Tablet is a slim, light, and powerful Android tablet that's good-looking too. The Xperia Z2 Tablet is the tablet to rival the iPad Air. Find out more in our in-depth Xperia Z2 Tablet review.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: UK price

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is out now, with a starting price of £399 for the 16GB WiFi-only model. This scales up to £449 for the 32GB WiFi only model, and £499 for the 16GB LTE model. There's no 32GB tablet with cellular connectivity.

This is a well-priced device. As we'll discover in our review, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is a high-class Android tablet, most closely comparable to Apple's iPad Air. The starting price is the same as Apple's 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad, and the 32GB Sony tablet is cheaper by £30. The 16GB LTE Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet costs the same as Apple's equivalent iPad.

Shop around and you can get the Xperia Z2 Tablet cheaper, too. All of which means that the price is right for a premium tablet. But whether you choose to buy will depend on what follows in our Xperia Z2 Tablet review. (For obvious reasons we will be comparing to the iPad Air at various points in this review.) See also the best tablets of 2014.

Xperia Z2 Tablet review: build quality, design

Straight out of the box we are smitten by the Xperia Z2 Tablet. It is the thinnest and lightest 10in tablet you can buy - noticably thinner and lighter than the iPad Air, which is itself famously easy to hold and carry. The Xperia Z2 Tablet weighs just 426g - or 439g if you opt for the LTE version.

It's exceptionally thin, too, at just 6.4mm. Again, that's thinner than the iPad Air and any other 7in or 10in tablet you can name.

And it matters, not just for reasons of tablet oneupmanship. Holding the Xperia Z2 Tablet feels great, despite the large, 10.1in display, and for lengthy periods of time in standing, sitting and lying positions. Previously we have preferred 7in tablets such as the Nexus 7 or iPad mini, simply because the bigger tablets feel to bulky to hold when watching movies or reading books. But you could spend hours using the Xperia Z2 Tablet without wrist-strain, even when reading in bed. That's a big win.

It doesn't, of course, solve the problem of having to carry your 10in tab in a bag where a Kindle-sized 7-incher can slip into a coat pocket - but the trade off of larger screen to weight and bulk feels like a deal worth making with the Xperia Z2.

And you can just sling this tablet into a bag, too. The Xperia Z2 Tablet is waterproof and dust resistant. It's built to last and feels so, constructed principally of metal and glass, but with a rubbery outer coat around the back and on the corners. That rear cover provides grip but does get grubby with fingerprints, though.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and your views may differ, but we think the Xperia 2 Tablet is a good-looking device, too. It's a simple, stylish device. A slice of black or white tech sharing the same rounded corners and metal frame as the Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone but - to our eyes at least - looking somewhat smarter for larger scale. Our complaint is functional rather than stylistic, in that the bezel is a little larger than we would like. We presume that this is a trade-off in return for the incredible thinness (not a phrase ever used about your author).

It's available in black or white. We tested - and prefer - the black Xperia Tablet Z2. (See also: best Android tablets of 2014.)

Xperia Z2 Tablet review: display

That design is of course built around a 10in display. It's the bit you'll be looking at, so let's take a closer look right now. The Xperia Z2 Tablet in fact sports a full HD 10.1in display. This packs a whopping 1920x1200-pixel resolution, giving it a pixel density of 224ppi. That's up there with some pretty decent smartphones, but not quite as sharp as the market-leading iPad Air. It's an IPS display and the aspect ratio is 16:10, so viewing angles are good but there is a little screen space under utilised when watching movies.

Sony tells us that the Xperia Z2's display has been given a colour boost thanks to TRILUMINOS and Live Colour LED – designed to increase the colour accuracy, depth and gradation. Which is nice.

Of course, all that is so much window dressing. What matters is that we found the Xperia Z2 Tablet's display to be simply stunning. It displays crisp, vivid colours. Watching TV and movies is great. Photos are faithfully reproduced with great clarity but not too much colour as you sometimes find with OLED displays on smartphones. And text documents are sharp, even when you zoom in.

The touchscreen responsive in use, bar the almost imperceptible lag that is found on all Android devices when compared directly with their iOS equivalents. And from our initial roughhouse tests at least it seems reasonably immune to scratching. Our only complaint was that the display was all but impossible to see in natural daylight. (See also: 10 best tablets for children.)

Xperia Z2 Tablet review: specification, performance

As you would expect at the premium end of the market the Xperia Z2 Tablet is blessed with a strong specification. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz - the same chip as the superfast Xperia Z2 smartphone. This is a Krait 400 CPU with which you get Adreno 320 graphics. It's paired with 3GB RAM.

Other key specs include a massive 6000mAh battery, and a MicroSD slot so you can add up to 64GB of storage. Our 16GB model had 11.2GB available to use out of the box.

It all adds up to a beast of a tablet. Despite the thin and light shell the Xperia Z2 Tablet is a snappy performer. We'll get into synthetic benchmarks in a moment, but the most important thing to say is that you will find the Z2 Tablet fast and responsive. As fast and responsive as any Android device we have used, even when placed under load.

Benchmarks are fun because they give you an idea of where a tablet or smartphone ranks against its rival, but take them with a pinch of salt. They are synthetic test designed to give you a number, not hard-and-fast rankings. None the less, the Xperia Z2 Tablet's benchmark performance backs up our subjective experience of a superfast tablet - mostly.

The exception was the SunSpider Javascript test from which we got a decent but not amazing average score of 1099ms. Lower is better in this test which measures your browser's ability to handle Javascript, and the iPad Air blitzes the Xperia Z2 Tablet with a score a little faster than 400ms. We have to say that we found web browsing on the Xperia Z2 tablet a joyous experience, and only occasionally laggy. But this is one to chalk up to the iPad.

We ran a GFXBench test to benchmark graphics performance. In the T-Rex (onscreen) test we got our best ever tablet result of 1,530 frames at 27fps (averaged over three runs). The Xperia Z2 Tablet will chew up and spit out even the most demanding Android games, and beats out the iPad Air which averaged 1,187 and 21fps.

And then there is GeekBench 3. This is a somewhat controversial all-round benchmark as some Android manufacturers have been accused of designing their devices to perform abnormally well in this test. (Allegations they almost all deny, by the way.) So make of this what you will, but the Xperia Z2 Tablet smashed GeekBench 3 to bits in our tests. It returned an average single-core result of 967, a more important multi-core score of 2719. That's the fastest multi-core result we've ever got from a 10in tablet, comparing well with the iPad Air's 2703 points in multi-core mode; and 1487 points for a single core.

All you can really take from this is the fact that the Xperia Z2 Tablet is a fast and responsive tablet. It really is. (See also: 10 best budget tablets of 2014.)

Xperia Z2 Tablet review: camera

It also has a pretty good camera, particularly for a tablet. You'll find an 8.1Mp camera around the back. This has autofocus and captures 3264 x 2448 pixel images which look good on the Xperia Z2 Tablet's display. Additional features include Exmor RS for mobile, which is designed to help users take good-looking shots in any light, as well as geo-tagging, touch focus, face- and smile detection, HDR and a panorama. The rear-facing camera captures 1080p video at 30fps.

Up front there is a 2Mp webcam for selfies and video chat. Here are some test images and test video footage, all taken from the rear-facing camera. Click to view at full size. One problem we had was that we found it difficult to see what was on the screen when taking photos in natural daylight.

Xperia Z2 Tablet test shot

Xperia Z2 Tablet test shot

Xperia Z2 Tablet review: connectivity, accessories

Connectivity options on the Xperia Z2 Tablet include NFC. There's wireless charging with supported accessories, as well as the more standard and useful charging and connecting to your PC via USB. The LTE version takes a micro-SIM and offers 2G GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900; 3G HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 - SGP541, SGP521, SGP551, 4G LTE 700/800/850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600, and LTE 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1800 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600. Obviously the usefulness and availability varies by territory (we tested the Wi-Fi version so couldn't speak to the efficacy of the Xperia Z2 Tablet as a cellular device).

Wireless connects via dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. Other features include Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, and Wi-Fi hotspot. And you get Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP peer-to-peer connectivity.

As mentioned there is an SD card slot. Sony says that the combination of Digital Noise Cancelling, front-facing stereo speakers with S-Force Front Surround and ClearAudio+ for recording means a significantly enhanced audio experience. We think it sounds okay, but no better than you would expect of a decent tablet with front-facing speakers. There are accelerometer-, gyro- and compass sensors, GPS and an FM radio with RDS. In terms of accessories Sony has released a speaker dock and remote control.

Xperia Z2 Tablet review: software

Sony's Xperia Z2 Tablet runs Android 4.4 KitKat, with relatively little customisation. It does have Sony's user interface over the top of vanilla Android. It's a stylish customisation that thankfully doesn't take over the OS in the way that Samsung's and HTC's do.

KitKat is Google's best ever tablet OS. Feature rich, easy to use and good to look at. It offers full access to the Google Play app- and media stores, as well as Sony's own stores and apps.

You can simply mount the Xperia Z2 Tablet as external storage on your PC, but Sony also provides software to make pairing and synching a little easier.

Xperia Z2 Tablet review: battery life

We haven't yet had time to properly test the Xperia Z2 Tablet's battery life and will update this review when we do. Our early experience of using the Z2 Tablet suggest that it won't be a problem, despite the killer power specs. That 6000mAh battery cell should help. And, according to the company, there's also the Battery STAMINA mode, designed to prolong battery life. We'll test it and get back to you. Find out more about which tablet to buy in our tablets buying advice.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Expert Verdict »
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet 16GB Scores 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 reviews
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 - SGP541, SGP521, SGP551
LTE 700/800/850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600 - SGP521
LTE 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1800 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600 - SGP551
Micro-SIM
266 x 172 x 6.4 mm
439 g
TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 1200 x 1920 pixels, 10.1 inches (~224 ppi pixel density), Multitouch
stereo speakers
3.5mm jack
microSD, up to 64 GB
16 GB
3 GB RAM
GPRS
EDGE
HSDPA, 42 Mbps
HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
LTE, Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, dual-band, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP
NFC
microUSB v2.0 (MHL 3)
8.1 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, 1080p@30fps, HDR
2.2 MP, 1080p@30fps
Android OS, v4.4.2 (KitKat)
Qualcomm MSM8974AB Snapdragon 801, Adreno 330
FM radio with RDS
GPS
Non-removable Li-Po 6000 mAh battery
  • Build Quality: We give this item 9 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 9 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 8 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 9 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

The Xperia Z2 is a great looking and well built Android tablet. It is staggeringly thin and light for a 10in device, has a great screen, expandable storage and good performance. We like the OS and the camera. Indeed, our only issues with the Xperia Z2 Tablet is occasionally laggy web browsing, and the fact that the screen is poor under natural light. But priced in line with the iPad Air this is right at the top of the shop.

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