The Sony Xperia Tablet Z's water resistant capabilities are a big point of difference against competing tablets.
Design & display
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.
The Xperia Tablet Z is very comfortable to use regardless of whether you hold 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 doesn't slip out of your fingers.
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.
We also like the way the tiny notification LED on the left almost blends into the side of the device, along with the Infrared port along the top that's barely visible. The volume rocker on the left side does require a firm press.
The plastic flaps covering all ports are a little annoying to constantly pull off but it's a tradeoff you should be happy with given the water resistance.
The microSD card slot on the bottom right is good news, particularly as you won't find it on the Xperia Tablet Z's two main competitors.
The Xperia Tablet Z has poor speakers. Sound is tinny and listening at high volume results in significant distortion.
The Xperia Tablet Z has an LED-backlit LCD with a resolution of 1920x1200, giving it a pixel density of 224ppi. Viewing angles are impressive, colours are vibrant and the touchscreen is responsive.
Our only real complaint is the glossy surface. It's very reflective and hard to see in direct sunlight, or under fluorescent lighting indoors.
Software & performance
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z runs the 4.1 Jelly Bean version of Google's Android operating system, but is skinned with Sony's own UI overlay.
This software overlay is largely minimalist and keeps a clean look and feel but it can be a little sluggish during basic tasks.
The UI uses the same standard home screen layout as stock Android with up to seven home screens for app shortcuts and widgets, an app drawer that can be sorted by alphabetical, most used, recently installed or your own order, and standard back, home and multitasking on-screen buttons.
Sony has added a Google search button with voice shortcut on the top left, an edit button to add widgets, apps, wallpapers and themes on the top right, and shortcuts to the remote control function and small apps in the bottom dock. All are useful inclusions.
Sony 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 some apps.
The TV SideView app is a useful inclusion that displays an EPG for free-to-air TV in Australia.
Although Android tablet apps continue to evolve and improve, there aren't enough apps on the Google Play Store designed specifically for a tablet of this size.
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z offers largely impressive performance. It handles most graphically intense games, such as Real Racing 3, GTA III and Dead Trigger, without any issues.
The Xperia Tablet Z's 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM keep things running pretty smoothly for most part.
Camera & battery life
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera for still photos and HD video, along with a front-facing 2.2-megapixel camera that also doubles as a full HD video recorder.
The latter takes ordinary still photos but full HD video from the front camera is reasonably impressive. The small lens in the top left hand corner makes it difficult to correctly frame photos with the rear camera.
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z has solid, but not outstanding battery life. It lasted almost seven and a half hours during our test period, over the average result for an Android tablet this size.
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.
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