BARCELONA - Samsung hopes a pen and software will set its Galaxy Note 8.0 Android tablet apart, but for Sony the difference is in the portability and design. Sony has unveiled its Xperia Tablet Z at Mobile World Congress, a large mobile tradeshow in Barcelona, and it's the thinnest and lightest on the market, at least among the class of 10-inch tablets.
The Xperia Tablet Z is just a hair over a pound, 1.09 pounds to be exact, and a little over a quarter of an inch thick, at .27 inches. The 9.7-inch iPad measures measures .37 inches thick and weighs 1.44 pounds. It feels super light and has a simple (if somewhat plain), minimalist design that echoes the same lines seen in the recently announced Xperia Z and ZL smartphones.
Gone is the foldover-magazine style of last year's Xperia Tablet S. Instead, the Xperia Tablet Z is a simple flat rectangle measuring 6.7 by 10.8 inches.
The Xperia Tablet Z replaces Sony's Xperia Tablet S, which was recalled last year due to a gap between the screen and hardware. It was determined that if it was exposed to water, the tablet's innards could be damaged and thereby counter the company's former claims that the tablet was "splash-proof."
This year with the Tablet Z, company executives made it a point to showcase the device's imperviousness to water by immersing it in a small fish tank during a demonstration. Sony claims that the Tablet Z can remain immersed in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, and can also respond to touch screen swipes and taps with wet fingers. The idea being that it'll withstand the inevitable spills and food stains if you bring it into the kitchen with you.
From what I saw during my brief time with it, the 10.1-inch HD display does a great job displaying images and video. Colors appeared vivid and bright, images crisp and clear. The tablet has a resolution of 1920×1200 pixels and uses an NTSC color palette of 16 million hues to deliver a viewing experience akin to watching TV.
The Xperia Tablet Z also has more of the same connected TV features that made last year's tablet unique. The TV SideView app features a tiled, display feed of TV shows that are currently playing and also lets you cross-search other TV apps like Netflix and YouTube for additional content.
Using the Watch Now feature, you can flick one of the show tiles from the tablet towards your TV and the show will start playing on the bigger screen, essentially rendering the Tablet Z a remote control. There was a 3-4 second lag when this feature was demoed for me, which obviously makes a traditional TV remote faster, but with the Tablet Z, viewers get additional show-related content and social media features. Samsung is also highlighting the TV integration with its new Galaxy Note 8.0.
New this year is built-in NFC capability that lets you transfer content between compatible devices simply by touching them together. Sony is dubbing it Sony One Touch, and it's not clear whether it works solely between Sony devices, but it would allow you to do things like transfer music from the tablet to a speaker or video from your phone to the tablet or a TV.
The Xperia Tablet Z has two cameras, an 8-megapixel camera in the rear, which has 1080p HD video recording capability and Sony's proprietary camera technology - an Exmor R for Mobile image sensor with Burst mode and Sweep panorama capabilities. The front-facing camera has 2.2-megapixels.
The Xperia Tablet Z runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) with the ability to upgrade to 4.2 after launch and has a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core 1.5GHz processor with 2 GB RAM. A microSD card slot allows up to 64GB of expandable memory. The Xperia Tablet Z will be available in May the 16GB or 32 GB versions will go for $499 and $599, respectively.