Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet

Why You'll Dig it:

IT'S HARD TO believe, but Sony has managed to make a tablet that's both thinner and lighter than the iPad Air. Apple's tablet is just 7.5mm thick and weighs only 469g, but Sony's new Xperia Z2 Tablet trumps that. It's just over a millimeter thinner than Apple's tablet at 6.4mm, and at 439g it's even lighter.

You notice the weight difference as soon as you pick it up. The Z2 Tablet feels significantly lighter to hold than the iPad Air and Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, both of which are 30g heavier. It's also a lovely object to look at. The Z2 Tablet feels more like a high-quality product than the plastic Galaxy TabPro and is approaching the iPad Air for desirability. You may not like the Z2 Tablet's plastic rear as much as the iPad Air's metal finish, but it contributes to the light weight and feels durable. You might also prefer the glass rear of the Tablet Z, but the Z2 is certainly more comfortable to hold. It's still waterproof, too, and Sony has managed to waterproof the headphone socket without using a plastic flap.


The Z2 Tablet contains one of the most powerful mobile chips available - the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801. This has four cores running at 2.3GHz and runs Android 4.4 better than any Android tablet we've seen. It feels far quicker than the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro, which, despite its up-to-the minute Exynos 5 Octa processor, suffers from stuttering and lag. The Z2 Tablet's power is evident when opening and closing applications and flicking through home screens, but even an Android tablet as powerful as this can't match the iPad Air for sheer uninterrupted smoothness, as we still noticed the occasional hesitation.

In our benchmarks, the Z2 Tablet wasn't quite as quick as we expected. It completed the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, which is a reasonable indicator of web browsing performance, in 1,034ms. That's a strong score but is slower than both the iPad(382ms) and Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro (972ms). It's also significantly slower than the Snapdragon 801-equipped Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, which completed the test in 731ms using Google Chrome browser.

Despite this, the tablet's web browsing performance is excellent. It renders pages quickly and there's almost no lag when scrolling around. The Z2 Tablet certainly copes better with complicated web pages than the Galaxy Tab Pro, which was disappointingly hesitant. The Z2 Tablet also performs well with 3D games. As we expected, 3D driving game Real Racing 3 ran beautifully smoothly at maximum detail levels.

The Z2 Tablet's customized version of Android is a winner. The stock version of Android 4.4 can look dark and staid, but Sony's customizations are subtle and classy. Customizing your home screens, with a sidebar presenting apps and widgets for you to drag where you want them. The main app tray makes navigating your apps easy, too. Swiping in from the left edge brings up a menu that lets you sort your apps alphabetically, by frequency of use or according to an order of your own devising.


Apple and Samsung may have pushed their tablet's resolution to great heights, but Sony has stuck with a relatively modest 1,920x1,200 for the Z2 Tablet. This gives it a pixel density of 224ppi compared with the iPad's 264ppi and the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1's 311ppi, but we're not convinced that it matters much. Text on the Z2 Tablet's screen is still incredibly sharp, and web pages couldn't be easier to read.

The Z2 Tablet may not be hugely different from its predecessor, but it's an improvement in all the ways that count. It's slimmer, lighter and faster, with an absolutely beautiful screen and even an impressive battery life of just over 15 hours in a video playback test. It's the best Android tablet by far, and there's not a lot difference between this and the iPad Air for speed, ease of use and screen quality. If you want a 10in Android tablet, buy this one.


Speed, power and a beautiful screen; Sony's new tablet has it all, and is the best 10.1in Android tablet available.


CPU: 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
GRAPHICS: Adreno 330
DISPLAY: 10.1in widescreen LCD(1,920x1,200)
DIMENSIONS: 172x266x4mm, 439g
DETAILS: www.sonymobil.com

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SAMSUNG Galaxy TabPro 10.1

Why You'll Dig it:

There are three 10.1in tablets in Samsung's current range. At the bottom you have the $200 Tab 3, with its relatively low-resolution 1,280x800 screen and dual-core 1.6GHz processor. At the top is the $600 Galaxy Note, which has capacitive stylus for note-taking and drawing. Between the two is the TabPro 10.1, which shares the Note's 2,560x1600 screen and eight-core processor but does away with the stylus and cuts more than $150 from the price.

The TabPro looks almost identical to the Note with its faux-leather rear. This is a little cheesy and divides opinion, but it makes tablet easy to grip and is preferable to shiny plastic. Most Android tablets dispensed with physical buttons a while ago, preferring to devote a section of the display to back, home and running applications, but Samsung has kept dedicated controls on the bezel. This leaves you with more screen space, but means you can't easily use the tablet upside down. That's not much of a hardship, though.

This tablet's stand out feature is its screen, which has a massive 2,560x1,600 resolution. That's the highest pixel count of any current tablet, dwarfing even the iPad's 2,048x1,536. The iPad's screen may be classed as Retina, which means the human eye can't discern individual pixels, but text on the TabPro's screen still looked slightly smoother. There's little to choose between them for image quality too. The calibration tests revealed similar contrast ratios. The iPad's came in at 805:1 and the TabPro's at 812:1 impressively deep for LCD screens.

The TabPro's display is slightly brighter than the iPad Air's at 397.9cd/m² rather than 374.7cd/m², but the iPad has the edge for color accuracy, displaying 96.8 per cent of the sRGB color gamut to the TabPro's 93.3. Viewed side by side, there's little difference but the iPad's screen has slightly purer whites.


The Galaxy TabPro has a Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor, which uses ARM's big.LITTLE architecture. It has four Cortex-A15 and four Cortex-A7 processors and switches to the lower-power cores for less-intensive tasks such as audio or video playback. The tablet managed 10 hours and 14 minutes in a continuous video playback test, which is one of the better scores we've seen from a 10in Android tablet, but lags behind the 12 hours and 24 minutes we saw from the iPad Air.

We weren't particularly impressed with the TabPro's performance, however. Its 1.9GHz processor should run Android smoothly, but we experienced lag. Animations were jerky when opening and closing applications, and there's slight delay between pressing a key on the screen keyboard and text appearing. There's also a delay between swiping your finger on a web page and the page moving. This compares poorly with the super-responsive iPad and also the Google Nexus 5, which feels far snappier despite its slower processor. We suspect that the combination of a high-res screen and Samsung's software customizations is affecting performance.


Samsung's custom software isn't entirely unwelcome. As well as being prettier than the stock Android 4.4. it has some useful productivity features. Our favorite is multitasking support. Swipe in from the right bezel and a pane appears with a selection of apps. You can drag an app to one side, and even adjust how much of the screen each takes up. It's useful for looking at documents or websites side by side, for example.

Samsung has also tweaked its My Magazine app to suit business users. As on the Samsung Galaxy S5, swiping left from the main homescreen brings up a tiled magazine view that pulls information feeds from various news stories in a choice of categories, but swipe left again and you'll now see a dedicated Business screen. This has panels for news stories, your calendar, your inbox and the integrated Hancom Viewer office document app.

The TabPro also comes with a remote access utility that lets you log into your PC. Once we'd logged into the service and installed the agent on our PC, we were able to view whatever was on our PC's screen and even do some basic editing. We could enter data into Excel spreadsheets but not Google Sheets, for example. More useful was the ability to access our PC's file system and copy files to the TabPro. From a productivity point of view, though, we preferred to use SugarSync to synchronize our documents between a PC and tablet's storage, and to edit them using the tablet's built-in apps.

On paper, the Galaxy TabPro 10.1 seems an excellent alternative to the expensive Galaxy Note. It has the same high-resolution display and processor, and if you don't need the Note's stylus, you'll appreciate the $170 discount. We love the high-quality screen too, but were disappointed with the tablet's performance. The operating system feels too laggy for a premium tablet, especially compared with the similarly pr iced and far more responsive iPad Air. We think the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is much better buy than the Samsung Galaxy Pro 10.1.


A lovely high-resolution screen and some useful productivity features, but the TabPro's performance is disappointing.


CPU: 1.9GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Octa
DISPLAY: 10.1in widescreen LCD(2,560x1,600)
DIMENSIONS: 171x243x7mm, 469g
DETAILS: www.samsung.com

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