The 10” tablet category is the unloved class of Android devices. While 7” and 8” tablets sell well, larger devices have typically been less popular than rival devices such as the iPad. There could be several reasons for this – an underwhelming tablet software library, the 16:10 form factor or perhaps just a lack of desirable tablets. For a while now, Sony have been trying to resolve the latter with their Z range of devices.
Sony’s approach to both phone and tablet devices has long been one of evolution not revolution. The Z4, Sony’s latest Android tablet, continues this trend. It retains the ‘Omnibalance’ design, but improves on it’s predecessor, the Z2 Tablet in almost every way. The newcomer is incredibly thin at 6.1mm, extremely light at only 389g and with considerably shrunken bezels it is an impressive 12mm narrower than the Z2. This trimming in every dimension results in what could reasonably be considered the first 10” screened tablet that is comfortable to hold for extended periods. The Z4 tablet is IP65 + IP68 rated to protect against dust or water ingress.
While the body of the tablet has shrunk, as you’d expect, the internals have been upgraded to the very latest specifications. The centrepiece of the Z4 is the much maligned Snapdragon 810 with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. In this device however, the processor may have finally found its natural home. The tablet is extremely fast in use, running Sony’s lightly tweaked version of Android Lollipop. While the device can get warm, it never gets uncomfortably so, even under the most demanding of tasks. The screen on the Z4 Tablet is a 10.1″, 2560×1600 pixels IPS panel which is extremely bright and sharp. Although the screen is bright enough to be used outside, as with most tablets the reflective nature of the screen means glare can be an issue.
In the UK the Z4 Tablet is available in two versions – the 32GB Wi-Fi model bundled with the keyboard dock and the 32GB LTE model also bundled with the keyboard dock. The tablet can’t be purchased on its own, which inevitably increases the cost of the device, which starts at £499. The keyboard itself which connects via Bluetooth and has its own internal battery is good, but not perfect. The keys have a surprising amount of travel given how thin the keyboard is. Dedicated keys are included for common Android functions and it is very comfortable to type on for extended periods – this review was written on it! Unfortunately, the included trackpad is not great – movement is jerky, it generally feels unresponsive and there’s no option to reverse scrolling direction for those of us who prefer the ‘traditional’ mode. One of the biggest problems with the dock is that when it’s in use, if the screen is pushed too far back it upsets the balance of the device and it tends to tip backwards. One other thing to note – the tablet might be waterproof but the keyboard isn’t! So don’t use it to work on your spreadsheets in the pool.
The keyboard dock makes the Z4 Tablet a great device if you need to input lots of data but it’s certainly not all work and no play. The tablet supports Sony’s Remote Play feature. Connect the device to the same Wi-Fi network as your PlayStation 4 and get gaming! It works extremely well and the keyboard serves as a useful stand for this purpose.
Taking photos on your tablet is not cool… but it is surprisingly popular The 8.1 Megapixel camera on the rear of the Z4 takes average photos – you’re likely to be much better off using your phone or indeed a proper camera. An area that has received a significant upgrade is the front facing camera, which at 5.1 Megapixels now takes much better selfies (particularly in low light) and is much more capable for video calls.