Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact review: A skinny, waterproof tablet that plays your PS4 games
Sony has a whole raft of devices to excite you that all sit under the Xperia Z3 series banner. There’s the flagship 5.2-inch Z3 smartphone, the 4.6-inch Z3 Compact and now the 8-inch Z3 Tablet Compact. An 8-inch device is a first for Sony and will come as a welcome addition if you loved the sleek, waterproof 10-inch Xperia Z2 Tablet , but want something a little more portable for your commute.
The Z3 Tablet Compact, mouthful of a name aside, has a razor-thin design like its bigger brother and is also completely waterproof. Its display has a full HD resolution, it runs the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat software, it has a 2.5GHz quad-core processor and an 8-megapixel camera.
So far, so standard Android tablet. But the Z3 Tablet Compact has a nifty trick up its sleeve in its ability to act as a display for your PS4 console. Your console still does all the processing of the game, but it streams the feed to your tablet, letting you play games like Destiny, Last of US and Titanfall on your tablet while in bed or on the toilet.
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact shows off its waterproof body (pictures)
The tablet is on sale in the UK now for £319 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model. £379 will net you a 32GB Wi-Fi only model, while £429 will snag you a tablet with 16GB of storage and 4G LTE connectivity. There’s no official word yet on whether the tablet will see a wider release, although given that the US has only recently been treated to the older Xperia Z2 tablet, my hopes aren’t high for an imminent release.
The Z3 Tablet Compact isn’t a bad looking piece of kit at all. Its crisp white design is neat and clean and it’s very, very skinny — 6.4mm thick, to be precise. While its slender size means it looks good and feels comfortable to hold (also helped by the soft-touch matte coating on the back), it does feel a touch fragile. Make sure it’s not beneath your rump when you sit down on the sofa.
It has a 16:9 aspect ratio, meaning it’s quite a bit longer than it is wide. By comparison, the iPad Mini has a 4:3 ratio, making it a little more square. Sony’s size makes it a little better for watching movies in landscape orientation, as you won’t see those awful black bars. Its narrower shape makes it easier to slide into a pocket, although there’s a lot of wasted space at the top and bottom, which make it a little too long to comfortably house in your jeans.
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Like the rest of the Z3 range — and indeed the Z2 Tablet — the Z3 tablet is completely waterproof. Crucially, that keeps the tablet safe from spilled cups of coffee in your living room. It also means that you can lay back in a hot bubble bath, casually browsing Netflix’s shelves, safe in the knowledge that it won’t conk out if you drop it in the water.
Tucked into the skinny edges you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, the charging port (hidden beneath a waterproof flap on the bottom) and the microSD card slot (hidden under a flap on the side). There’s space next to the microSD card for a SIM card as well, but only if you plump for the 4G-enabled version.
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The 8-inch display is full HD (1,920×1,080 pixels) which is less than you’d find on both the iPad Mini ‘s Retina display or on the new Samsung Galaxy Tab S . It’s a resolution more commonly found on smartphones — although even LG’s 5.5-inch G3 has a higher 2,560×1,440-pixel resolution. Although on paper that might be a little disappointing, in reality, the Z3 tablet’s screen is very crisp and it’s tough to tell much difference between this and the iPad Mini’s Retina display.
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Icons and text look sharp and crisp and my arsenal of high resolution test images all looked great. It’s helped by the screen’s brightness, which is bordering on supernova levels of luminosity, as well as the vivid colours. Viewing angles are also good, so if you have a few people crowding around the screen watching Shia LaBeouf Live on YouTube, you’ll all get a good view of the screen.
It’s a good screen overall and its strong colours make it well suited for watching videos and movies. No, I don’t think it’s lacking in pixels as such, but it would certainly have put the tablet in a stronger position to do battle against the other tablet big boys if Sony had chucked in a few more pixels.
The latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat runs the show, over which Sony has pasted the same user interface you’ll find on most of its phones. It’s simple enough to use and has some handy tweaks like a menu next to the app tray that lets you reorganise the apps with a tap.
Sony has loaded the interface with a whole host of extras too, not all of which are welcome. There are one or two good additions — the PS4 link in particular is pretty cool, which I’ll come to next and the TV guide app will be welcome to telly addicts — but most of it is clutter. You’ll find apps from Garmin, AVG and Kobo already installed, not to mention a wealth of Sony apps, few of which I’d ever be inclined to fire up.