While Sony’s Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact was perhaps the finest little tablet out there last year, there was a ten-inch hole in Sony’s Xperia Z3 line-up. Not since the Xperia Z2 Tablet had Sony put out a “full-sized” slate, and while an Xperia Z3 Tablet Not-Compact was teased, it never materialised. Instead, Sony’s leapfrogged it altogether, with the Xperia Z4 Tablet the company’s centrepiece at this year’s MWC show.
Having said all that, it’s clear that the Xperia Z4 Tablet is taking its cues from the design language laid out by the Xperia Z3 Compact. Thin enough to slice butter at 6.1mm, and weighing just 389g for the Wi-Fi edition and 393g for the LTE model (the “lightest” tablet this size on the market, according to Sony), the 10.1-inch tablet has a significantly thinner bezel than its Xperia Z2 predecessor. Landing in black and white shades, the “Omniphone” look returns once again, with a glass front and small glossed corners. In this respect, it’s not a massive departure from last year’s little ‘un.
However, the Xperia Z4 Tablet, with its larger screen size, does differ in terms of the user Sony is trying to reach. Pairing up the device with the BKB50 Bluetooth keyboard stand, Sony sees the Xperia Z4 Tablet as a potential laptop replacement.
Though it took a few attempts to work on the early “prototype” model I briefly tested, pairing the two devices shouldn’t require more than snapping the two components together. Running Android Lollipop, Sony has made a few tweaks to the software to accommodate those more familiar with Windows laptops -- once connected with the keyboard, on home screens you’ll find in the lower left corner a “Recent Apps” launcher that looks remarkably like a Windows Start menu and a lower task bar full of app shortcuts that also look very Windows-like. While the “Recent Apps” section can’t be customised, you’ve three tabs worth of toolbar shortcuts to tweak to your heart’s content.
When you’re finished working, the keyboard case can fold shut over the tablet like a conventional laptop. With a 0-130-degree tilt and a reasonably sized touchpad, the slightly spongy keyboard seems a much better bet than a third-party Bluetooth accessory, should an Android-based work-orientated tablet be what you’re hunting.
As well as being the “lightest” tablet of its kind, those looking to get work done on the Xperia Z4 Tablet will benefit from it being, according to Sony at least, the “brightest” too. It’s had the tablet’s 2560x1600, 300ppi display independently scrutinised by analyst firm Strategy Analytics, who’ve crowned the Xperia Z4 Tablet the slate most likely to get you reaching for your sunglasses. It looks great, and performed well under harsh incandescent lighting.
Under the hood, Sony’s popped an Octo-Core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, backed by 3GB of RAM. It’s again getting to a stage where it’s hard to discern much difference in performance from top-tier processors, but it’s at least efficient enough to draw some impressive battery claims from Sony -- even with that giant bright screen, the 6,000mAh battery should be good for 17 hours of continuous video playback. As for cameras, you’ve got an 8.1MP main shooter and a 5.1MP wide angle option up front for selfies, with the tablet packing 32GB of built in storage. MicroSD card expansion is also supported.
Sony’s push for high-resolution audio doesn’t see the Xperia Z4 Tablet left out of the loop either. With stereo speakers, the slate supports Hi-Res audio playback with DSEE HX upscaling and the LDAC codec for improved quality when beaming beats over Bluetooth.
And, as with all of Sony’s Xperia devices these days, the tablet is fully water and dust proofed to IP68 ratings. It even trumps its predecessors in this department by offering a capless USB port -- where the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact had you fiddling with a little cover on the power port for fear of it getting a dunking, the Xperia Z4 Tablet’s charging port can be left exposed even while underwater without fear of it fizzing out.
While Sony’s yet to reveal pricing or specific launch date information for the Xperia Z4 Tablet, they’re expecting it to hit stores at some point in the Spring. We’ll keep you posted on whether this work/play combo lives up to its stellar predecessors once we’ve had some extended review time with the slate.