Sony (SNE) isn’t one of those names that immediately comes to mind when you think of tablets. Most of the big names are primarily on the Android side, and the Apple (AAPL) iPad, of course. The Nexus and Kindle Fire, with Samsung (SSNLF) and its dozens of Galaxy Tabs and Galaxy Notes gobbling up the majority of sales. What about the Sony Xperia tablet?
Sony very nearly missed out on the tablet rush, but once on target, it opted to follow the Apple model instead of repeating the mistake it made in the TV business — trying to churn out cheap products to compete with low-end competitors in a price race to the bottom. It refused to enter a price war against Amazon (AMZN).
Last year’s Xperia Tablet Z was a premium model that emphasized Sony’s design chops and display expertise while adding bragging rights for being the world’s first waterproof tablet. The company recognizes tablets are a key to its survival, so it pulled out all the stops on this year’s version, the Xperia Z2.
Our Xperia Z2 tablet review explores what Sony got right (and wrong) in the quest to beat the iPad Air in engineering while convincing Android buyers to spend an extra hundred bucks over competitors like the Google (GOOG) Nexus 10.
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Review: Waterproof Tablet with Best of Bravia Display Technology
Product testers are often in a tough spot when it comes to checking manufacturer claims about features like durability. When conducting an Xperia Z2 tablet review, Sony invited testers to take the device in the shower or shallow end of the pool to test its claim of being the “world’s slimmest and lightest waterproof tablet.”
The good news is, if you’ve ever felt you were missing out by not being able to update Facebook (FB) while in the shower, Sony has you covered.
But more important to most users than waterproofing is Sony’s leveraging of its Bravia TV technology in the Xperia Z2. The display is bright, crisp, offers excellent black levels and wide viewing angles. Sony is using its TRILUMINOS for Mobile display technology here as well as its X-Reality picture engine, and the payoff is a display that stands out, especially when watching video or playing games.
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Review: Design Misses Include Bezels and Battery Life
Apple and Samsung have both pushed the envelope when it comes to reducing the size of the bezels that frame their tablets. These days, a tablet with big bezels tends to look as though someone in the design department couldn’t figure out how to pack everything in, and the tablets end up looking chunky.
Despite being thinner and lighter than an iPad Air, the Xperia Z2 suffers from thick side bezels –nearly an inch wide– that make it look heftier. And that thinness has also resulted in a tablet that has a little more flex than owners might be comfortable with.
The other major shortcoming is battery life. The iPad Air regularly clocks well more than 10 hours of typical use; even the giant Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 (reviewed here) can hit 9-10 hours, despite having to power a 12-inch display with more than 4 million pixels.
The Sony tablet is lucky to hit just 8 hours. In its Xperia tablet Z2 review, Engadget managed an average of 7:57 before the Xperia tablet’s battery quit.
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Review: Specifications
- 10.1-inch TFT display with 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) resolution
- Sony TRILUMINOS and X-Reality for Mobile technology
- Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor @ 2.3GHz and 3GB RAM
- 16GB or 32GB plus microSD card expansion
- 8.1 MP primary camera with Exmor sensor, 2.2 MP front-facing camera
- Playstation certified
- IPX5/8 waterproof and IP5X dust resistant certification (during our Xperia Z2 tablet review, we did not verify how well its stands up to dust, so we’ll have to take Sony’s word on that one).
- Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0 and microUSB, NFC, ANT+, IR blaster TV remote
- 15.49 oz, 0.25-inches thick
- LTE option available (at time of Xperia Z2 tablet review, no U.S. carriers were offering this Xperia tablet)
- Runs Android 4.4 (KitKat)
- Starts at $499
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Review: Conclusion
Sony has assembled a very competent tablet. Based on our Xperia Z2 tablet review, few people would find much to dislike in the device.
The chunky bezel is a bit disappointing, but the display quality helps to make up for that, and the bragging rights of being a waterproof tablet won’t hurt. Performance is also a high note (Laptop Mag’s Xperia Z2 tablet review showed it more than holds its own against the competition in benchmark tests), but that’s countered by the poor battery life.
Will the Xperia Z2 be enough to move the needle on tablet sales for Sony? The company currently doesn’t even place in the global tablet sales top five, where fifth-place Lenovo (LNVGY) holds just 3.3% of sales as of 2013.
This latest Xperia tablet offers a beautiful display, extremely svelte form factor and whatever points it deserves for being a waterproof tablet. However, consumers are a tough sell on expensive tablets, and with a $499 starting price, it has to overcome Android competition that is often priced lower while offering comparable specs. And with that big bezel, the Xperia Z2 simply doesn’t stand out from the pack visually.
Overall, the Xperia Z2 is a great tablet, but I doubt it’s going to steal sales away from Samsung, Apple or other tablet leaders in a meaningful way.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.