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Hands on review: Sony Z3 Tablet Compact

05 Mar 15

From out of nowhere Sony has developed a reputation for crafting slick smartphones, all carrying the Xperia moniker. Having gone hands on with their flagship 5.2”- Z3 smartphone I came away pretty impressed. The Z3 has been followed by an 8” tablet branded the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. As you’d expect, it’s a sweet piece of gear.

When most phone and tablet makers have adopted the sheep like mentality of “bigger is better”, Sony have dared to be different and bucked the XXL screen trend, dropping an 8” tablet on an unsuspecting market. After spending some quality time with it, I can say that it proved both versatile and portable.

As its name suggests the Z3 Tablet Compact, sports a wafer thin design that belies a surprisingly solid spec and build. As with the Xperia Z3 smartphone, the Tablet Compact also sports a remote display capability for PS4 consoles.

Provided the Z3 tablet Compact is logged into the same WiFi network as your PS4 (which does all heavy lifting), gaming goodness will stream to your tablet, letting you play games away from the TV (This proved especially when reality TV rubbish was getting in the way of some serious gaming).

The model I reviewed was a 16GB Wi-Fi only model, but it appears that a 32GB Wi-Fi and 16GB of 4G models are also available.

Look and feel

As you’d expect from flagship Sony gear, The Z3 Tablet Compact is quite the looker. Its wafer thin 6.4mm design lends it an almost unreal look, yet in use it was comfy, even with extended use.

Its display has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which also makes it a great choice for streaming HD video content via Quickflicks or SkyGo/fanpass.

Bells and whistles

Another nifty feature that Sony baked into their Xperia range is waterproofness. This handily meant I could caffinate in the morning without worrying about spilt coffee killing the review unit or even get some frag time in on my PS4 when soaking in the bath. I didn’t test it, but if the tablet compact is anything like previous Xperia Z series handsets, it’d be fair to assume that the odd dunking won’t hurt it any.

All the usual connectivity options you’d expect with in an Android tablet are present. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, USB port and microSD card slot. Where the Z3 Tablet Compact differs is that these are all tucked away under water proof flaps with only a small round power-button uncovered and visible.

Sony’s LCD displays have always been pretty good, and to this end, the Z3 Tablet Compact’s 8” IPS LCD screen impressed. For a start it sports a full HD (1,920 x 1,200 pixels) resolution. While both Apple and Samsung have this beat, the Z3 tablet compact’s screen was both crisp and vibrant with great colour accuracy (skin tones in particular looked great). The Z3 Compact Tablets screen was also bright enough to do double duty as a sun tanning studio. Last (but by no means least) the display’s viewing angles were great.

Powered by 4.4.4 KitKat, Sony’s UI will be familiar to anyone who’s used an Xperia Z series smartphone. The interface doesn’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear, being both simple and uncluttered. In use it doesn’t get in the way or add any lag to the equation. Other Android smartphone and table makers could learn a thing or two here.

In use

Unfortunately, the one thing Sony did get wrong is all the additional software that comes pre-loaded. While some additions such as the PS4 link is very handy, apps from Garmin, and Kobo plus a pile of other apps take up a lot of scarce storage. Perhaps credits on the Google Play store for Xperia Tablet users would’ve been a smarter option? The good news is however that these apps can be uninstalled.

The one feature I found myself going back to again and again was using the tablet as a wireless display for my PlayStation 4. While my wife watched dire reality rubbish on TV, I was able to blast the bejesus out of anything that moved by playing a few rounds of Destiny on my PS4 using the Tablet Compact.  It’s a killer feature that works surprisingly well. The PS4 does most of the heavy lifting with video streamed to the tablet Compact. It’s a must have feature for any die-hard PS4 gamer.

Setting up PS screen sharing proved to be dead easy. After firing up the PS4 Link app app on the Tablet Compact, it searched for my console. I then paired a PS4 controller to the tablet and the it became a console tablet hybrid.

Under the hood

The Tablet compact isn’t lacking under the hood either. Powered by a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, it also has a generous 3GB of RAM  and 16GB of storage. In use this makes for a pretty capable combination. Everything was nippy, with no discernible lag.

Video streaming worked a treat, as did demanding Android games such as my old favourite, Asphalt 8.

Sony has also pulled off a Tardis like feat of cramming a chunky 4,500mAh battery into the Tablet Compacts wafer-thin body. In use this equated to 2 days of typical use before the tablet compact demanded quality time with its charger.

The Tablet Compact’s 8MP rear shooter is serviceable but was a definite step down from the 20.7MP sensor on the Xperia Z3 smartphone. Given the fact that few are likely to use a tablet as their primary camera, it isn’t a huge issue. Surprisingly, The tablet compact lacks an LED flash which is likely to limit its usefulness as a shooter in anything but daylight conditions. This said, Its 2-megapixel front-facing camera did a fine job for selfies and Skype calls.

Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z3 is as you’d expect from Sony. It’s solidly built and sexy looking. There are some drawbacks  – its screen resolution lags behind the iPad Mini and its camera isn’t on par with its smartphone sibling, but it still offers fantastic colour reproduction and manages to take perfectly serviceable photos under daylight conditions. In use its memory and processor spec make it a solid workhorse, something which is also helped along by a solid battery life. Its smaller 16:9 screen also makes it highly portable and perfect for streaming videos. If you’re a PS4 gamer, the PS4 Link feature makes Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact a must-buy.

Tech specs

RRP: $579
Dimensions: 213.3 x 6.4 x 123.6 mm
Weight: 270g
CPU: 2.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 Quad-core
RAM: 3 GB
OS: Google Android 4.4 (KitKat)
Storage: 16 GB
Display: 8” IPS LCD 1920 x 1200 pixels
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0
I/O/Ports: microUSB-B OTG, 3.5mm, Audio Jack, microSD™
Camera: (Rear) 8.1 MP Exmor RS, (Front) 2.2 MP Exmor R
Battery: 4500 mAh 

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