With the end of 2014 approaching, along with a handy extra bit of spare cash post Christmas, I decided it was time to ditch the Sony Tablet S I’ve been using for the last 3 years and buy something new. I’ve been using Sony tablets and phones for quite a while now, and the Xperia Z has been a cracking piece of tech so it wasn’t too difficult a decision to make to go for it’s younger, bigger sibling – the Z2 tablet. Given that I predominantly used my Tablet S for Netflix whilst cooking because it was starting to struggle with anything more taxing than reading emails and streaming video, was the cost outlay worth the upgrade to a device that’s been on the market for over 6 months already?
At £359.99 (the price for a 16gb Wi-Fi model), it’s certainly on the high side of what most people will want to spend, though the obvious features it has before it gets switched on start to explain why. It’s a full 10.1″ screen running at 1920 x 1200 pixels (not as high as the iPad or Samsung equivalents), waterproof and dust resistant, comes with Android KitKat powered by a 2.3 GHz quadcore processor, and most satisfyingly, it’s very slim and very light. Aesthetically I like the look of the recent Sony hardware with its minimal, angular design and most of the ports hidden behind covers; it’s a bonus that the Z2 is so easy to handle and hold, with a reasonable border around the edge of the screen that means you’ll not obscure your view, and still have your fingers and thumbs close enough to do their job. If you want a comparison, it’s roughly the same size and weight as the latest iPad Air, only it’s got a couple more millimeters in length.
Connectivity wise the Xperia Z2 lacks for nothing. Bluetooth, NFC, dual band Wi-Fi, 4G if you go for that model, MHL 3.0 support and micro-USB connection, DLNA, Throw, Screen Mirroring and Xperia Link, ANT+, GPS, IR remote, and headphone jack; plus room for a micro-SD card. In fact, top Codec Moments tip here, if you end up wanting to buy one then only get the 16gb version and spend any other money on an SD card – 64 gb can be bought for less than £25, and the device will support up to 128 gb. It’s much more cost effective that way. So how does it look and sound? Pretty damn good actually. It won the 2014 – 2015 EISA tablet of the year award, and coming from a body with decades of experience in audio/visual products, it’s decent praise. The LED screen is rich, vibrant and pin sharp for pretty much everything you can put through it despite the lower resolution than other makes, though this should be expected from the Bravia TV manufacturers. Sound is perfunctory, though what do you expect from a portable device thinner than a centimeter? Audio via a Bluetooth speaker is the better option (I’ve been using a Sony SRS-X2), and the NFC capabilities make pairing and throwing one of the simplest things going. The same goes for flinging the display to a networked TV if you need to – just a couple of simple screen taps and you can display content on fixed displays if needed.
The screen is responsive, though the software keyboard has its moments of strange behaviour. Occasionally it’ll respond as if you’ve lifted your finger off and started a new word, if you’re using the inbuilt swipe-to-type option, though this could be a combination of my digits and getting used to a new display. Multi-tasking and switching between apps is a piece of cake thanks to the 3 gb of RAM working with the processor, and I’ve found that certain apps run faster and smoother than they ever did on my old Tablet S or even my current Xperia Z. Good news really as this would have been a real lemon if it had performed worse. Sony’s skinning of Android’s KitKat firmware is pretty neat, even if they don’t add as many features as some of their competitors (like Samsung). They have added access to one feature usually reserved for devs and rooted software – the screen recording function. Previously you’d have to have dealt with SDK’s or rooted devices, now it’s just a tap of the power button to pick the option. Makes it pretty handy for showing the speed and features of the Xperia Z2.
Let’s not forget that it’s also PlayStation certified and will remote play with your PS4… with mixed results unfortunately, and you can’t see in the video above because the tablet won’t record that source even though it does pick up the audio (and despite Sony stating you could record remote play using it). There’s the option to pair a Dualshock 4 controller directly to the tablet so that you can play anywhere in the world, but the latency and issues just running from a direct connection within the same room make me think it’s unlikely it’ll be worth doing. What is worth making sure you’ve setup is Google Now and the OK Google voice activation which works far better on this than it does on my phone. Siri and Cortana are the equivalent Apple and Microsoft “servants”, and Google’s does pretty much the same thing in a similar way – it’s just handy when you’re not in touching distance to make things happen.
Battery life is surprisingly good, not that we really expect tech to stay powered for long anymore. It’s not got the same capacity battery as the competition, it’s around 25% smaller, but it lasts roughly the same time. Partly due to the lower power consumption of the components, partly because of the aforementioned display resolution, and also because of the inbuilt stamina mode that conserves power under pre-determined conditions. After standard use: a bit of Netflix, some music flinging, a bit of Hitman GO, browsing and social media gubbins – it lasts just under 2 days before I need to put it in its magnetic charging dock (not supplied, but well worth buying). Sure, I’ve not got the brightness up full and some of the audio enhancements are off, but given that I’ve seen some tablets needed fully charging inside 24 hours, this isn’t bad going at all. Let’s hope the battery doesn’t fade too much over time.
Overall, the Xperia Z2 Tablet is great and I definitely am happy with the upgrade from my Tablet S, and at pretty much the same price too. The fact that I’ve written, recorded and edited on it to pull this review together (including pictures and video) is testimony to how versatile it is, and even though it won’t completely replace my laptop, it’s getting really close. In fact, finding a good Bluetooth keyboard and hooking my podcast recording mic up might seal the deal. Is it perfect? Nearly. The only thing that lets it down from a technical standpoint is the screen resolution isn’t quite as high as its peers, something that you won’t really notice when you’re using the Z2 in isolation. Especially if that use is watching TV or listening to music in the shower or bath – face it, there’s no comparable tablet out there that will do that. Sound is not as good as I’d like it to be, though this is a personal preference rather than the fault of the Z2, and a good pair of headphones when you’re wandering around will solve this anyway. I have had to drop a full mark off though for the PS4 remote play problems. If it’s a selling point of the device, as it is with the Z3 phone and mini tablet, and the functionality is there, I’d expect it to work better than it currently does. Maybe the upgrade to Android Lollipop that’s coming soon will improve that, I’d love to test this when out and about, but it’s just not reliable yet.