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MWC: Sony Xperia Tablet Z hands on review

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BARCELONA: Sony unveiled the Xperia Tablet Z a few weeks before Mobile World Congress (MWC) at an event in Japan.

But sitting all the way across the ocean, the UK tech journo community was left unable to get any hands on time with the device.

However, live at the scene at MWC, we snuck with ninja stealth past Sony's gatekeepers and got some hands on time with the super-sleek Android tablet.

Design and build
Visually the Tablet Z looks like a blown up version of the Xperia Z smartphone. The 10in tablet features the same Omnibalance, hard edge, rectangular design.

Omnibalance is a special design philosophy by Sony that aims to ensure the Z has a consistent appearance from whatever angle its viewed at, apparently.

Also, like the Z smartphone, the tablet is ridiculously slim, measuring a tiny 6.9mm thick. That makes the Z the slimmest tablet ever created.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z side

The Tablet Z is also light, weighing just 495g. That means that the Z is as much as 100g lighter than most other 10in tablets.

Even better, the Z is IP57 certified, meaning it is scratch, dust and even water resistant. While we haven't had a chance to test just how robust the Z really is, if Sony's tablet is as tough as the company claims, it could be an ideal choice for business users looking for a tablet they can use on the go without fear of damage.

Screen
Sony's loaded the Xperia Tablet Z's 10.1-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixel LCD screen with its own Bravia Engine 2 screen technology. The tech is the same used on the Z smartphone and aims to radically improve the screen's clarity, colour balance and refresh rate.

During our hands on we found the tablet's display was superb when view directly. However, as with the Z smartphone, the tablet did appear to have some glare issues. Using the Z tablet in the brightly lit Sony showroom we found it was slightly prone to picking up stray light.

This could be due to the hefty coat of shatterproof and scratch-resistant glass Sony's wrapped round the display - though to be fair the conditions where very bright and we suffered the same issue using our own HTC One X+.

Operating system
The Z runs on a customised version of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. This means that the tablet features a number of duplicate Sony made equivalents of the OS' core Google made apps. These include a custom Walkman app and slew of third party Sony stores.MWC Sony Xperia Tablet Z system info

The OS also features tweaked shortcuts to Google's own apps meaning it looks slightly different to most other Jelly Bean powered devices. However, the changes are harmless and from what we saw Sony hasn't overloaded the user interface with too many needless custom widgets, as certain companies - cough, Samsung, cough - have.

The device also has 3G and 4G connectivity options, hopefully meaning users will be able to get the most out of Jelly Bean's in-built location based Now service. Google Now is a custom service that offers users intelligently selected information about their surroundings based on their search and location data.

Performance
Sony's loaded the Z tablet with an impressive quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU. This combined with Jelly Bean's Project Butter coding meant that during our brief time with the device we were seriously impressed by how nippy it was.

While we didn't get a chance to see how it performed when tasked to run powerful, 3D-heavy games off the PlayStation Mobile Store loaded on the Z, our initial tests indicate the Z is a powerhouse.

The tablet loaded multiple web pages off the Chrome browser with ease and streamed video seamlessly and we're really looking forward to seeing how far we can push it come our full review.

Camera
The Z's main rear facing camera features an 8.1-megapixel main sensor while its front snapper is 2.2MP.

While not on a par with the 13MP camera loaded into the Z smartphone, we were pleasantly surprised with how well the Z's camera worked in the showroom floor's well lit lighting.

Images were crisp and featured great colour balance levels. However, we didn't get the chance to see how the camera performed in more adverse low lighting conditions - a traditional stumbling block for most tablet and smartphone's cameras.

Storage and Battery
The Tablet Z comes pre-loaded with 32GB internal memory that can be expanded via its microSD card slot.

The device is also confirmed to be powered by a 6000mAh non-removable battery, that Sony claims will last at least one day of a single charge. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to test the Tablet Z's battery during our hands-on.

Prospects
Although we weren't wholly won over by the Z smartphone when it was released earlier this year, out opening impressions of the Tablet Z are very positive.

Being lightweight, robustly built and featuring a powerful quad-core processor, it could prove a great choice for mobile business users.

Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z.

26 Feb 2013

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