Short Term Review – Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet, June 2017
I couldn’t have made it up. When I concluded my review of the Sony Xperia Z Tablet, I wrote “I’ve used it as my productivity workhorse for over a year now and have no immediate plans to replace it.” Two weeks later and the Wi-Fi module stopped working. I set about finding a replacement and about a week later bought the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet. This is a later generation Sony Xperia tablet with Sony having upgraded almost every respect of the original device.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet was announced in early March 2015 and launched running Android 5.0 Lollipop. It’s over two years old but runs reasonably modern software as Sony first upgraded the software to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and later to Android 7.0 Nougat.
Although the Xperia Z4 Tablet is over two years old, it’s design language is even older as it dates back to the original Sony Xperia Z family, including this tablet. You might be generous and call it a classic, timeless design, or you might call it old fashioned. The Xperia Z4 Tablet has an unassuming design; it’s definitely not an Apple iPad as it’s made out of plastic and polycarbonate. Handling the Xperia Z4 for two minutes shows off some of the device’s key features; let’s take a look.
Firstly, the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is thin and light. It’s only a littler heavier than the 2012 Nexus 7 and is 6.1mm thin – but it packs a full 10-inch screen. That’s as thin as the thinnest iPad and a lot lighter. There are reasons why the device is lighter than the iPad, and this isn’t a comparison between the two products – but if you are going to hold or carry a tablet for any length of time, the lighter the better. In the past, this is why I have opted for the smaller tablets, including the later 2013 Nexus 7.
The tablet comes bundled with a hardware keyboard and trackpad, and when combined this makes the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet a convertible device. Although a potentially useful addition to the tablet, I didn’t buy the keyboard dock with the tablet as I instead prefer my much-used Apple Wireless Keyboard. I’ve added a third party case / stand combination for the device, which is not showing here.
The screen is gorgeous: it’s bright, colourful, responsive and sharp, offering a similar resolution of the Nexus 10. The technology behind the display is impressive. It uses a Sony-built IPS LCD with a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, Live Colour LED and TRILUMINOS hardware. There’s a selectable X-Reality setting in the software designed to improve image quality. This is one of the better overall displays you’ll find on any tablet. It isn’t as good as Samsung’s 10.1-inch QHD AMOLED panels, but it also doesn’t destroy the battery when displaying a mostly-white image.
The software keeps the screen usefully dim when it’s used in the dark so it’s great for watching movies late at night. It can also run the screen very bright, so it’s great for working on a sunny day at a Starbucks coffee shop. Colours are strong and it’s very responsive.
Sony has optimised their LCD technology over the years. The display technology analyses every pixel in order to optimise contrast, which can increase clarity of a display without raising the backlight brightness. Sony also use what they describe as more “light-efficient” LEDs behind their displays and also “shift phosphor material instead of cutting light by color filters.” This means that Sony displays are more efficient, brightness for brightness, than many competitors. In other words, the Xperia Z4 Tablet’s screen is bright and colourful without using lots of battery.
The Xperia Z4 Tablet is smooth and quick when running and switching between applications. There’s good connectivity, and solid battery life. With a variety of non-gaming applications running, I see around eight hours of screen on time, which is comparable to the outgoing Sony Xperia Z Tablet. When it’s time to recharge, the tablet includes Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 via a microUSB port, so it doesn’t take anywhere near as long as the original model.
Sony use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset in the tablet, the same that powers several 2015 flagship smartphones such as the HTC One M9. It uses a big.LITTLE architecture with eight processor cores, and the highest cluster is clocked at up to 2.0 GHz. There’s a powerful Adreno 430 GPU and Sony have provided 3 GB of RAM. The Snapdragon 810 has a reputation for generating a lot of heat, and for good reason: it can run hot! The good news is that the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet has a much more spacious design than a typical smartphone, and this means there’s more room to dissipate the heat.
This particular Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is the LTE model, so in addition to the microSD card slot there’s a single SIM tray. There are cameras front and rear, which we’ll cover in a later review of the device. The device also comes with NFC, and as with other Sony Xperia Z devices, it’s water and dust proof.
Sony’s Xperia software overlay is something a little different to many other manufacturers. It does give the device a definite character that’s in keeping with stock. There are many additional features and services over and above stock Android, including tight integration with Sony’s PlayStation platform and other entertainment services. It’s easy to pair the tablet up with a PlayStation controller and the underlying console if you’re into your gaming, for example, and here and there you’ll discover how Sony have included something over and above stock Android. The tablet supports noise cancelling headphones, for example, and there’s an easily accessible screen recorder too.
Stock Android’s split screen function is included and works great, together with Google’s other refinements to Android Marshmallow, Android Nougat such as battery refinements (Android Doze, App Standby) and notifications but Sony have included their Small Apps functionality. This means it’s possible to run mini applications and widgets over a running application, such as the calculator. Better yet, Sony’s Small Apps work over Android Nougat’s split screen functionality, so it’s possible to juggle three or more functional applications across the one display.
At the time of writing, the Xperia Z4 Tablet is running Android 7.0 Nougat and the March 2017 security patch. It’s not clear if the device will receive any additional software upgrades from this point forwards. I wouldn’t expect it to receive another update to Android, although Sony might surprise us.
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet might be a couple of years old, but it doesn’t show it. It’s very thin and light, has solid performance and battery life, and even runs a reasonably modern operating system. It’s going to be interesting to see how the device shapes up over the medium and long term.