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Hands-on: Sony Xperia Tablet Z

In our first look review we go hands-on with the Sony Tablet Z, an ultra-thin premium Android 4.1 tablet. Could Android finally have a match for the iPad?

Since is was first unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February, Sony’s Tablet Z has been seen as the most likely candidate to make a dent in an Android tablet market dominated by the budget Nexuses and Kindle Fires, or the ubiquitous Galaxies.

It certainly is one of the most strikingly designed tablets we’ve seen to date. It takes its styling from the Xperia Z smartphone, and while we found its harsh angles uncomfortable to hold in small form, on a tablet it is perfect.

So light (485g) and thin (an incredible 69mm) is the Tablet Z that you think it might snap in half. It won’t of course, because the device is surprisingly tough, with the same IP57 rating for dust and water resistance that the phone had.

The 10.1” display is impressive, with a better-than-HD resolution of 1920×1200 pixels, 224ppi. Like most Android tablets the display is widescreen, which is not ideal for use in landscape mode, especially as the fairly large bezel makes the Tablet Z even longer.

The Tablet Z runs Android 4.1 with Sony’s skin adding the usual selection of Sony apps but otherwise being fairly light. Performance was good, as expected with a 1.5GHz Krait processor and 2GB of RAM.

A quick benchmark test on the pre-release firmware produced good numbers, and we would expect it to compete easily with anything else on the market. 4G LTE is the highlight of some strong connectivity features.

There’s an 8 megapixel camera on board. We can’t really imagine it would get heavy use given the overall size of the tablet, but it seems good, at least on a par with what we’ve come to expect from Sony’s smartphones.

The Xperia Tablet Z will be available toward the end of May with a price that looks set to be upwards of £400 in the UK.

Fair play to Sony for producing a premium product rather than trying to compete with the loss-leading devices from Google and Amazon. But it does make the Tablet Z a tough sell, as the iPad has the top end of the market pretty well sewn up at the moment.

We will have a full review of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z in a few weeks.