Sony Xperia Tablet Z Review
Sony's brand-new tablet attempts to answer users' most common problems—and delivers.
Have Tablet, Will Travel
So the form factor is interesting, but what about the core performance? The measurables? The benchmarks by which we judge all tablets?
Honestly? The screen. This is the first tablet screen we've seen try to gun for the Rec. 2020 standard, though it definitely falls extremely short of the mark.
Unexpectedly good... sorta
The centerpiece of any tablet's performance is that of the screen—as it's what you'll be looking at when watching movies, playing games, and browsing the web, it should look decent, right? By the numbers, the screen of the Xperia Tablet Z is decent, but with a fascinating caveat.
Color performance is hugely better than it is on the vast majority of Android tablets, but it oversaturates blues and reds to a notable degree. While this is a problem for tablets trying to adere to the old standards of color space, the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is doing something quite different: Our leading theory is that Sony tailored the calibration for 4K content, which ended up closer to an extremely undersaturated rec. 2020 gamut instead of the normal rec. 709 standard, which would explain the wildly oversaturated max color values.
Contrast is nothing to write home about, but fairly decent: A black level of 0.49cd/m2 and a peak brightness of 394.38cd/m2 leave the Xperia Tablet Z with a contrast ratio of 805:1. The real story here is the gamma, or the transition from brightness level to brightness level—it's near perfect at 2.17, meaning there should be no color banding or detail loss in gradients or shadows.
Critics may point out that the pixel density of the tablet isn't as good as the iPad's, but it's splitting hairs at this point—a 1080p tablet (1920x1080) held at arm's length will appear as if it has no pixel lines anyways. Because the screen isn't very large, every inch contains 224 pixels, making your images and text extremely crisp.
Bright screen, low battery
Without using the added "Stamina mode," you'll find yourself recharging the Xperia Tablet Z quite often. It's not terribly surprising that Sony made some sacrifices to hit certain ideals in the tablet's form factor, but this battery life is a bit mystifying.
Our first round of tests ended with just under five hours (4 hours, 52 min) of constant video playing—that backlight is not kind to the battery, as it sucked the juice out of the tablet at an alarming rate. The same happened with the eBook reading test: A mostly-white screen and maximum backlight really makes the Xperia Tablet Z hemorrhage battery life.
Vampiric settings aside, you can squeeze a little more life out of the Xperia Tablet Z by using the "stamina mode," or by lowering the backlight. Our test settings are not that friendly to tablets with a small battery or a bright screen, so your mileage may vary if you use a different setup.
Not the best, but very good nonetheless
This isn't scored yet—nor should it be—but it's still helpful to take a peek at how well the hardware handles common tasks if you often find yourself taxing your tablet. It's important to know the limits of your device if you are going to be plunking down almost $500 on something, so we've compiled a list of processor scores for the Xperia Tablet Z.
Okay, so it's not quite as good as the Nexus 10, but it's still decent. It may lag behind the Google powerhouse tablet, but the Xperia Tablet Z is a lot better under the hood than most of what's on the market for Android devices.
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