The Sony Xperia Tablet Z has attracted plenty of interest at MWC in Barcelona, and we can confirm that our first impressions live up to the hype.
This is a truly lovely tablet to behold. The first thing you notice is its slimness; the tablet is just 6.9mm thick, compared to 9.4mm for the current iPad. It also feels incredibly light; at 495g, it's over 150g lighter than the iPad, and you can tell as soon as you pick it up.
Show-floor lighting punishes screens as reflective as the Xperia Tablet Z's
It's also pleasant to hold; there's no glass on the rear as on the Xperia Z smartphone, but we liked the vaguely rubberised rear. The Tablet Z is also sealed against dust and water-resistant; Sony claims it can survive up to 30 minutes immersed in up to 1m of water.
But it is only wafer-thin
We had to make do with dunking it in a shallow tank for five minutes, but a quick wipe with some kitchen roll later and the tablet was ready to use again. The tablet has a small flap at the top-left corner concealing the microSD card slot and, if you go for the 4G model, the SIM slot. This flap is tricky to open, but this is testament to the amount of waterproofing around its edge.
Bedside clock and innovative water feature in one
The tablet has a 10.1in 1,920x1,200-pixel display, and Sony has made a big deal about its Mobile Bravia Engine 2 screen technology. This adds such goodies as "real-time contrast optimisation", "sharpness enhancement" and noise reduction. It's certainly a high-contrast display, and the example photos on the tablet were overflowing with vibrancy.
The screen also has a seriously reflective coating, and while this helps with contrast, it certainly suffers from reflections from overhead light sources. You're unlikely to use this tablet in such a screen-hostile environment as the floor of a technology show, though.
The tablet is running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which isn't quite bang up to the minute, but Sony has promised an update to 4.2 is in the works. The Tablet Z has a quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor running at 1.5GHz along with 2GB RAM.
The operating system was generally as fast and smooth as you'd expect, and, as on the Xperia Z smartphone, we liked Sony's classy modifications. We did feel the keyboard wasn't as responsive as we'd like; while we had no problems with the screen recognising our touch, there was a slight delay between pressing each key and it registering, compared to the absolutely instantaneous response you get on an iPad.
The Tablet Z has an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front model for video chats. The rear camera uses an Exmor R sensor and is backside-illuminated – a technology that is meant to reduce noise in low lighting conditions. We took a few test snaps and checked them out on the tablet's screen, and found a fair amount of detail under indoor lighting conditions, but some noticeable noise in large areas of one colour.
We think Sony's on to a winner with the Xperia Tablet Z. It's a seriously classy tablet with a great screen, and we love its slimness and light weight. It looks like the Tablet Z will cost around £399 for the Wi-Fi version and £499 if you want 4G, which is significantly more than the 1080p-screened Google Nexus 10 and up in iPad territory, but we think the Tablet Z is desirable enough to be worth the premium.