Times are tough for Sony. The once-venerated electronics manufacturer is struggling in the tablet, smartphone, and digital music-player markets, so I felt much trepidation when I opened the box of the Xperia Tablet Z, Sony's new $500, 10-inch Android tablet. But I came away pleasantly surprised. This is an idiosyncratic device, to be sure, but it's got a whole lot going for it.
It's a prop, right?
At 495 grams, the Xperia Tablet Z is so light, it seems more like something you'd find atop a coffee table at a furniture store than a fully functional tablet. I've never felt comfortable carrying a full-sized iPad in one hand due to its weight (652 grams), but not once did I worry about dropping Sony's tablet.
At 0.27-inch thick, the Xperia Tablet Z is also thinner than the 0.37-inch iPad. But because it sports boxy edges (as opposed to the iPad's curved lines), it doesn't feelthinner than an iPad-but it is much easier to hold onto. In fact, this is the first large tablet I've held that feels more like a magazine than a piece of technology.
This isn't to say the Xperia Tablet Z feels cheap-far from it. From the front, it's a black glass slab resembling the monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey," but for the Sony logo next to the top left corner of the screen. (Bad form, Sony. And the logo placement is even worse when staring at the tablet sideways or upside-down.) The sides are featureless black, but for a silver on/off button, and the back is matte black. It's pretty, but picks up fingerprints in a hurry.
One of the Tablet Z's most interesting selling points is that it's waterproof. You can't take it scuba diving, but you can bring it in the bathtub with you. This feat is managed by the placement of removable port covers over the tablet's Micro-USB port (also used for charging) and Micro-SD slot. As someone who bites his nails but doesn't routinely find himself wanting to use a tablet where it's wet, I found this feature annoying-it was a bit of a struggle for me to get those ports open.
That said, if you're someone who does fancy a tablet surfing session while taking a bath but don't want to perform the Bezos Maneuver and stick your device in a Ziploc bag, have I got the tablet for you.
Fast enough, with enough pixels
Sony's display isn't as high-resolution as those found in Apple's Retina iPad or theGoogle Nexus 10. Its 1920-by-1200-pixel screen is big enough to display 1080p HD movies at full resolution, and text is crisp (although not quite Retina crisp) at a resolution of 224 pixels per inch.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.