Super-thin and light; Bright and colorful display; Water resistant; Long battery life
Annoying port covers; Screen resolution trails competitors; Mediocre audio; Back picks up fingerprints
The Sony Xperia Z2 is a wonderfully light and thin Android tablet that packs a vivid display and plenty of battery life in a water-resistant package.
Sony calls it the Xperia Z2 Tablet, but it just as easily could be known as The Biggest Loser. But we don't mean that in a bad way. Sony slimmed down its 10-inch Android tablet even further to less than a pound, making it the lightest tablet in its size range, even lighter than the iPad Air. Inside this super-slim--and water-resistant--device is a quad-core processor, one of the best 1920 x 1200 displays we've seen, and enough juice to last more than nine hours on a charge. But is thinness alone enough to top competing tablets?
How does Sony do it? The company took what was already the thinnest and lightest 10-inch tablet and made it even thinner and lighter. Last year's Xperia Tablet Z was just 0.27 inches thick and 1.1 pounds, but the Z2 is just 0.25 inches thick and 15.49 ounces. This thing is so light we were left a bit giddy when picking it up for the first time.
The iPad Air, which has a slightly smaller display, measures 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches and weighs 1.05 pounds, while the Galaxy Note 10.1 is 9.57 x 6.75 x 0.31 inches and 1.23 pounds. Though small on paper, the size and weight differences are very noticeable when holding the Z2 in one hand, and a competing tablet in the other.
The top of the tablet has a microUSB port and a microSD card slot for adding up to 128GB of additional memory; both must be accessed by removing a small cover. This is necessary for maintaining the tablet's water resistance, but annoying nonetheless.
However, the Z2's screen won't respond to inputs underwater, so you'll be stuck with what's on the screen. Unlike the water-resistant Z1s smartphone, you can't use a physical button on the Z2 to take pictures while submerged.
What does all this mean? Sony says the Z2 should be able to display 130 percent of the sRGB color gamut. In our tests, Sony's claim proved accurate, as we measured 124.7 percent. That beats out the tablet average (84 percent), the Samsung Note 10.1 (93 percent) and the iPad Air (99 percent).
Measuring color accuracy, the Z2's Delta E rating of 2.6 (numbers closer to 0 are best) was better than the average (5) and the Samsung (4). However, the iPad Air turned in a near-perfect score of 1.4.
The Z2's resolution hasn't kept up with the Joneses. The 1920 x 1200 pixels on Sony's new slate is the same as last year's model, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has a 2560 x 1600 screen and the iPad Air a resolution of 2048 x 1536. Still, with the exception of pictures, there's not much else that can take advantage of a Retina-like display on Android devices.
With an average brightness of 344 nits, the Z2 outshone the Galaxy Note 10.1 (318 nits) and the category average (334 nits), but not the iPad Air (352 nits).
The side-mounted speakers on the older Tablet Z could easily be blocked by your hands, so we're glad to see that Sony moved the speakers on the Z2 to the front. But while they were loud--82 decibels, as compared to 78db for the Note 10.1 and 67 dB for the Air--sound quality wasn't the best.
Whether watching movies or listening to music, higher tones--such as explosions or the opening guitar strums in Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days"--sounded harsh, especially at higher volumes. Bass was also very thin, making the Z2 sound like you're listening to a radio from the next room.
Sony touts the Z2's ability to eliminate background noise on voice or video calls, but only when using its MDR-NC31EM in-ear headset, sold separately for around $60.
In the upper right are icons showing Wi-Fi connectivity, battery life and the time. Swipe down from here to get to the full settings menu, and toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Location and brightness. You can edit this quick settings list to include other shortcuts to Airplane mode, NFC and sound, among others.
The bottom of the screen houses icons for Back, Home and Recent Apps. Pressing the latter not only shows what apps are open, but also shows a small gray bar at the bottom with several icons. These are Sony's so-called Small Apps, which we'll get to in a moment.
Preinstalled Small Apps include the remote control, Web browser, a timer, calculator and a screen grab utility. As of this writing, there are 87 small apps in the Google Play Store; a link in the Small Apps screen lets you go directly to them. You can also turn Widgets, such as Gmail, Facebook Status and News & Weather, into small apps.
Small Apps are somewhat handy, but not as useful as Samsung's Multi Window mode. For example, while you can have the small browser app and the full browser app open simultaneously, you can't snap them to either side of the screen. You also can't have two Small App browsers open simultaneously. However, you can copy text from the browser and paste it into other apps, or share it via Gmail, Facebook, or Google+, among other apps.
On Geekbench 3, the Z2 scored 2,685, which is on a par with the iPad Air (2,694) and slightly higher than the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2,516). All were comfortably higher than the average of 2,074.
On Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test, the Z2 notched 18,935, blowing past the average (8,846), the iPad (14,850) and the Note 10.1 (13,539). The Sony tablet loaded "N.O.V.A. 3" in 18 seconds. That's the same amount of time as the Note 10.1, a second longer than the average, and 12 seconds slower than the Air.
We further evaluated the Xperia X2's prowess via our Vidtrim test, which times how long a tablet takes to transcode a 203MB 1080p video to 480p. The Sony took 5 minutes and 49 seconds, about a minute and a half longer than the Note 10.1 (4:11). Still, it was much shorter than the tablet average of 11:59.
As with its previous tablet, Sony includes a number of its own apps on the Z2. SocialLife is a news-aggregation app similar to Flipboard and pulls in the latest content from a variety of sources, including Facebook.
Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited let you rent or purchase music and movies. The Premium version of Music Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, and lets you stream and download songs to any device with the app installed. Movies on Video Unlimited cost anywhere from $3.99 to rent to $14.99 to buy.
Although it has access to Google Play, the Z2 also comes with two other app stores: Sony Select, Sony's curated Android app store and PlayNow, which also includes ringtones and wallpapers.
Xperia Link lets you use your phone as a hotspot, but in order to use this, you must also have a Sony Xperia phone. Xperia Lounge is little more than a multimedia content-discovery app.
MORE: 25 Best Android Apps
MobilSystems OfficeSuite7 Pro is a productivity suite that lets you create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations. We like that the suite can link to Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, SugarSync and OneDrive.
Other apps include Sony Reader, Pixlr Express, Sketch, Smart Connect, TrackID and TrackID TV, and McAfee Security.
Ultimately, there's a lot here. On the whole, though, the selection doesn't feel as useful as the host of apps included on the Galaxy Note 10.1. Samsung's bevy of pen-enabled apps may appeal more to those who wish to use their tablet as a productivity tool.
Recommended shows appear in a tile format called Top Picks. Tapping on the tile opens a new window showing details about that program, such as a plot summary, characters and how much time is remaining. Sadly, the most entertaining part of the old SideView app--"flicking" a tile to the top of the tablet to have that show appear on your TV--is no longer a feature.
You can also view show listings in a more traditional grid format. When you select a show's tile, you get additional information, such as characters on the show, and you can recommend a program by pressing a small heart-shaped icon. You can also share what you're watching with others via Twitter and Facebook.
Oddly, while this app was pre-loaded on the original Tablet Z, we had to download it ourselves on the Z2. However, the app is now also available for iOS and Windows 8 devices. Setup was a bit of a pain, too; we had to select all the channels we wanted to appear in the program guide. In the case of DishTV, that meant scrolling through and selecting more than 1,300 channels. While you can set an alert for a show, you can't control your DVR through SideShow.
The Z2 uses 802.11ac for its Wi-Fi, so it will support the next generation of high-speed wireless routers. Additionally, built-in NFC lets you transfer images and URLs from, say, a phone to the tablet. Even better, if you're playing a song on the tablet, you can tap it on an NFC-enabled speaker to continue playing the song on that device.
Like the previous generation, the Xperia Z2 has an 8-MP rear camera with an Exmor RS sensor, and a 2MP front camera with an Exmor R sensor.
Video shot using the rear camera exhibited the same haziness. Colors, such as the yellow of taxicabs and a red brick building, looked muted.
The front 2MP camera rendered our skin tones and cobalt-blue shirt accurately, though we noticed a bit of graininess. It should suffice for video chats, however.
Like the Xperia Z1s smartphone, the Z2's camera can also take advantage of camera apps, such as AR Effect, Sweep Panorama and Motion Shot. There are seven pre-loaded, and an additional 15--such as Vine and Evernote--can be added. Weirdly, when we used the AR Effect to add some dinosaurs and butterflies to our photos, everything was upside-down.
The Z2 has some serious staying power. On the Laptop Battery Test (Web surfing with the brightness at 150 nits of brightness), the Z2 lasted 9 hours and 30 minutes, nearly two hours longer than the tablet average of 7:40.
That's all the more impressive considering the bulk of tablets we've tested thus far have been using our older standard of 40 percent brightness. To reach 150 nits, the Z2 was at 70 percent brightness. Under the old conditions, the iPad Air lasted 11:51 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 lasted 7:44.
A Stamina mode activates certain power-saving functions in order to extend battery life, and a Low Battery mode will turn off other functions when the battery level is low.
In addition to our $499 review unit, which has 16GB of internal storage, Sony sells a 32GB version for $599. The latter is also available in white.
However, all other comparably priced tablets have a much higher resolution, and some offer more features for the money. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, for example, has a built-in stylus, while the iPad Air has hundreds of apps that can take advantage of its Retina display. But if you're looking for the lightest Android tablet around and prefer a device that can survive an occasional splash, the Sony Xperia Z2 is the tablet for you.
|CPU||2.3-GHz Snapdragon 801|
|Storage Drive Size||16GB|
|Storage Drive Type|
|Display Resolution||1920 x 1200|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||2.0MP|
|Card Reader Size||128GB|
|Warranty / Support|
|Size||10.47 x 6.77 x 0.25 inches|