Xperia Z: Sony's Tablet Reboot?

Sony's new premium Android tablet has a lot going for it. Will it be enough to get Sony back in the tablet game?
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Sony Monday announced worldwide availability of its Xperia Tablet Z Android tablet. The device, announced earlier this year, represents Sony's attempt to lay claim to the premium Android tablet market: it is thin, light, and big on features.

For starters, the Xperia Tablet Z boasts a 10.1-inch HD Reality Display with 1920 x 1200 pixels. The screen is an LCD touch panel that makes use of Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine 2 for enhanced clarity and richer detail. Sony has done a commendable job at porting its television technology to its small-screen devices, and the Xperia Tablet Z benefits from Sony's expertise in that regard.

Sony spared no expense to make the Tablet Z an attractive and useful piece of hardware. It measures just 6.9 mm thick and weighs 1.1 pounds. The 9.7-inch iPad, in comparison, weighs 1.46 pounds. In addition to its thin profile and reduced weight, the Tablet Z is water resistant and can withstand submersion for up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water, water jets, and blowing dust. The screen's tempered glass is protected by an anti-shatter film. It's not fully rugged, but it is certainly tougher than many other tablets on the market today.

[ Android takes the lead over iPad in the tablet race. Read Android Tablets Edge Out iPad: IDC. ]

Under the hood, the Tablet Z is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, with each core clocked at 1.5 GHz. This is paired with 2 GB of RAM and an Adreno 320 GPU for added horsepower. The Tablet Z features Sony's Stamina Mode, which can be used for power management, although Sony didn't specify how long the Tablet Z offers continuous operation. It includes 16 GB of on-board storage and supports microSD cards up to 64 GB for additional storage. The Tablet Z runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box.

As with most of Sony's top-of-the-line products, the Tablet Z's camera is no slouch. It rates 8.1 megapixels and uses Sony's Exmor R mobile image sensor, which supports HDR imaging and HDR video for the best possible low-light performance. It can record 1080p HD video, and has a 2-megapixel HD user-facing camera for video chats.

On the connectivity side, Sony loaded the Tablet Z with most modern radios, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS/GLONASS, and select GSM, EDGE, HSPA+ and LTE bands. The device supports MHL (HDMI via microUSB) for connecting to television sets, a standard headphone jack, and strong software tie-ins with Sony's extensive PlayStation services.

The tablet is, of course, compatible with a wide range of Sony's living room-focused accessories.

The Xperia Tablet Z is an excellent effort from Sony, but it has a lot of competition. The iPad has the high-end tablet market well in hand, and Samsung is gunning for it in a big way. Given the market preference for smaller-screen tablets (less than 8 inches), it is hard to say how well Sony's latest offering will fare. The Tablet Z's thin and light design and waterproof features set it apart, to be sure, but the price will play a big role in its success. The tablet starts at $499 but pricing varies by region.

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