If you have a quasi-religious hatred of Microsoft, and so do not want to get a simply spiffing Surface 3 with wonderful Windows 10, and you do not want to pay Apple’s enthusiastic prices (for a glorified toy), the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet offers true potential as a productivity device. It is also an impressive gaming machine and fulfils the usual media consumption roles of a tablet with speed and style.
Firstly, let us have quick look at the tablet. It weighs a tiny 389g (+4g if you go for the LTE version) which is rather impressive as it is not a small tablet: it measures 167 x 254 x 6.1 mm. 6.1 mm thin seems almost too thin – it feels like it might snap if you drop it. Experience shows it does not. In the picture below you can see that the headphone socket looks like it can barely fit in!
For those living in the gloomy past of units the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet has a 10.1 inch screen. It has quite small bezels, that can be a touch of a problem if you are a fat-handed twat like me – your thumb from the hand that is holding it can creep into the touch screen, fouling up typing.
The Xperia z4 Tablet’s screen itself is a thing of beauty. With a resolution of 2560×1600 it is always gloriously pin sharp displaying text and videos look fantastic, as do games. Sony’s basic level of image enhancement is just great, but you can crank it up to make all colours even more saturated and ‘surreal’ (Sony’s own description!). I have not felt the urge to have a surreal tablet experience…
The microSD card slot (and nanoSIM for the LTE version) live under a little flap on the top of the device – this is to maintain Sony’s fetish for water and dust resistance. Thankfully, they have waterproofed the headphone and micro USB charging connectors so you don’t have to open little flaps to use them.
The rear of the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is polycarbonate and feels pleasing to the touch and perfectly sturdy. This is most unlike the back of the Nexus 9!
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet includes a keyboard. It bonds with the tablet by the idiot-proof method of NFC then stays connected via Bluetooth. The keyboard has very small keys, but because they are widely spaced there is no danger of hitting extra keys when you type.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet is only held in place in the keyboard by friction – I hope this will not result in scuffing the tablet when it has been inserted and removed many times. The tablet can only be folded out into one position when in the keyboard; not up to Microsoft’s Surface 3/Pro 3 standards! It is, however, perfectly easy to use and its inclusion really beefs up the productivity aspirations.
You will note that the keyboard has a trackpad on it. This is because it is an Android device and, unlike iOS, Android supports trackpad and mouse input.
Whereas iOS is a good, simple OS for phones and an under-specified OS for tablets, Android is over-engineered for phones, making it a general pain in the arse to use, but it’s a pretty good operating system for tablets. (Windows 10, of course, being great on any kind of device as it is a resource-frugal, lightweight but richly endowed OS.)
One of the reasons Android is poorly fitted to phone use is that it is a resource hog that sucks up memory and processor time like a Scotsman downs free whisky. Until now, every Android phone or tablet I have owned has had 2GB of memory, but I have rarely seen any of them to have more than 600MB free.
This means that multitasking, and even simple things like being able to keep several tabs open in the memory gobbler Chrome, has been a real challenge. There have always been slowdowns when switching apps and it can take several seconds on far too many occasions for all the icons to appear when you switch back to the launcher.
None of these problems occur with the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet. For a start it has 3GB of memory – a whole extra gigabyte on top of the normal 500-600MB I have had free on other devices when they had no programs running! This makes it possible to store several running apps in memory and real multitasking is possible.
This is further helped by the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet’s Snapdragon 810 octacore 64-bit processor. Switching apps happens in the blink of an eye, the launcher appears instantly, everything is snappy and responsive. This is a whole new Android experience for me!
The graph below shows how the Xperia Z4 Tablet stacks up against its opposition in Geekbench 3, and you can see it does rather well.
I have to admit I am a bit sceptical about Geekbench scores, especially when it is testing Intel CPU’s; but it is the only cross-platform benchmark for CPU’s there is. At least it gives some idea that the Xperia Z4 Tablet is in the same class of speed as the iPad Air 2.
3D Mark Icestorm Unlimited shows the Xperia Z4 Tablet in the top tier for ARM devices for graphs performance. The Nexus 9 may appear slightly faster, but my experience is that 3D graphics in games show fewer slowdowns and suffer from less stuttering on the Xperia Z4 Tablet than the Nexus 9. The slightly more limited memory bandwidth of the NVidia K1 in the Nexus 9 may have something to do with this.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet is certainly fast enough for any game you throw at it. Asphalt 8 Airborne, my co-blogger-cum-partner’s favourite game, looked amazing with nary a hint of stuttering. GPGPU programs, like the fractal generator, pictured below, are blisteringly fast. Graphically the Xperia Z4 Tablet is not shamed by any other ARM device.
Sony claim the battery life of the Xperia Z4 Tablet to be 15 hours watching video in stamina mode, which seems believable. The battery life may be less if you have brightness high and all connectivity options on, but it will certainly last for a long time when you are out and about. I am yet to exhaust the battery on any trip out even when I have been using 4G data enthusiastically the entire time.
The 4G/LTE connection type it supports is an incredible 300mbit/s download. Alas, I think you can currently only get such speeds at Wembley Stadium in the UK. Certainly, the first time I tested it at home, with only one bar of 4G reception, it put our 20mbit/s broadband to shame. Alas, the freebie offer I got from the kind Mr EE only include 2GB of 4G data a month, otherwise I would be using it constantly.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet is a premium Android tablet – more so than any other, I feel – and it is priced as such. Amazon sell the Wifi Version of the Xperia Z4 Tablet for £500 and the 4G version of the Xperia Z4 Tablet for £580 (both prices include the keyboard). That is well into the price bracket of the Surface 3, which has a better operating system and will run every Windows program you throw at it.
However, for those oddball Microsoft-phobes the Xperia Z4 Tablet is clearly the most capable and satisfying Android tablet money can buy. You multitask with your copy of Office 365 (as Microsoft are still the only productivity software maker who count), and have a keyboard to type on, play any 3D game the Android app store will provide and watch silky smooth graphics, or watch videos incredible quality. Moreover, it is cheaper than an iPad Air 2 and can be used seriously for more than media consumption. If you want an Android tablet that will satisfy your every wish, you may have to pay a bit for it, but the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is the premium product that you should be lusting after.