Although Sony's tablet line hasn't seen massive widespread success, the Japanese manufacturer has arguably offered some of the most compelling Android slates around. Last year saw the arrival of the Xperia Tablet Z2 and Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact which, in spite of their wonky branding, offered high-end specs and some unique hardware tricks. In addition to being super thin, Sony's tablets were waterproof, extremely lightweight and well-built.
So what's next for Sony? At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Sony's showing the latest large form factor tablet in its Xperia line — the Xperia Z4 Tablet is a 64-bit, Snadragon 810-powered slate with a 2K display; read on for our first impressions.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet boasts an unmistakably Sony design. Just as the company's starting to bring its "omnibalance" design language to lower-end handsets like the Xperia M4 Aqua, it's continuing to push its premium build quality in the tablet space. Like the Xperia Tablet Z2, the Z4 sports a rounded outer trim, but this time it's been updated to the smoother, sleeker metallic design seen on more recent Xperias like the Z3 series.
Other trademark Sony features remain too, like the rounded power key and, for better or worse, cutout plastic flaps for the SIM and SD card slots. As before, Sony will sell LTE-capable versions of the Z4 Tablet, and these will also support voice calling through the built-in dialer app, which bears the same Sony styling as recent Xperia phones. We're used to Xperia tablets being insanely slim, but it's also worth underscoring just how thin this thing is — at 6.1mm, it matches Apple's iPad Air 2, while being lighter at 389g for the Wifi version (393g if you opt for cellular.)
So it's thin, it's light and it's waterproof — none of that is new. The big deal this time around is the new 2K display — 2560x1600 resolution— which is absolutely gorgeous. Sony doesn't match the astronomical pixel density of Samsung's Tab S devices, but it arguably doesn't need to. The 10.1-inch screen bright, vivid and clear, and when paired with Sony's image enhancement tech really shines when watching movies and viewing photos.
Sony also gets bragging rights for bringing one of the first 64-bit Android tablets to market, as the Z4 Tablet runs Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 810 processor and Android 5.0 Lollipop. Sony's Xperia UI is speedy as ever on the new chip, though we'll need to spend more time with the Z4 Tablet in the real world to get a proper feel for performance. In any case, with a 6,000mAh battery powering the whole package — and Sony's power-saving software tools at your disposal — battery life shouldn't be too much of a concern.
Lollipop is the other interesting side of the Xperia Z4 Tablet. The Z4 gives us our first proper look at Sony's Xperia software customizations sitting atop Android 5.0, and what we're seeing so far is a touch of material design complementing what was already a fairly lightweight UI layer. Everything's just a little bit lighter and more colorful, with light blue flourishes in the phone and messaging apps. Sony's settings panels have been redesigned too, with new icons and animations, and the soft keys are a bit more geometric too. It's the massive overhaul of Sony's software some may have been hoping for, but it's unobtrusive and easy on the eyes.
There's an 8-megapixel Sony camera around the back of the tablet — and while tablet photography remains a touchy subject, Sony's Exmor sensors are no afterthoughts, and have proven surprisingly capable on previous Xperia tablets. Around the front you'll find a 5-megapixel shooter for selfies.
There are no firm details available on pricing for Sony's new Android slate just yet, but given the manufacturer's history of premium pricing, we expect it'll command a relatively high asking price when it goes on sale this June.