With so few companies releasing high-end Android tablets these days, it’s kind of refreshing to see something like Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z.
The Tablet Z weighs just 1.09 pounds and measures 0.27 inches thick, with a 10.1-inch, 1080p display. As Engadget notes, it edges out the Toshiba Excite 10 LE as the world’s thinnest and lightest 10-inch tablet. For good measure, it’s also thinner and lighter than Apple’s iPad 2 (and the bulkier current-generation iPad) and slimmer than the iPad Mini.
That’s not for a lack of tech specs, either. The Xperia Tablet Z has some fancy innards, including a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor from Qualcomm and 2 GB of RAM. Other specs include 32 GB of storage, a Micro SDXC card slot, an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front camera, virtual surround sound speakers and built-in LTE connectivity. The only concern here is its 6,000 mAh battery, which is a bit smaller than what you find on other Android tablets, but it’s unclear how that will translate to real-world battery life.
The Xperia Tablet Z also shares some common threads with the Xperia Z smartphone that Sony announced at CES. Both devices are waterproof and dustproof, and they’re both equipped with NFC, so you can stream music or video from one device to the other by tapping them together. They have similar design flourishes as well, with slightly boxy looks and glass panels that cover the rear sides of both devices.
For software, the Tablet Z will run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, with some additional tweaks and apps from Sony. For instance, there’s a Walkman music app with its own visualizer, a built-in photo editor and a slideshow app that can automatically select appropriate music.
So far, Sony has only announced the Xperia Tablet Z for the Japanese market, due to launch this spring, but it seems likely that it’ll eventually go on sale elsewhere. I’m guessing we’ll find out more at Mobile World Congress, a trade show held in Barcelona at the end of February.
As I noted when writing about Vizio’s Android tablets being easier to navigate through than buying a new car with all their new features, it seems that most hardware makers have lost interest in producing high-end Android slates, instead turning their attention to Windows 8 or focusing on cheap Android tablets that don’t compete head-on with Apple’s iPad. The main exception is Google itself, with its Nexus 10. (I don’t really consider the Kindle Fire or Barnes & Noble’s Nook tablets among this group, since they’ve modified Android beyond all recognition and have built entirely separate ecosystems out of Google’s source code.)
We may see more tablet makers swing back to Android this year, especially if Windows 8 tablets don’t prove as popular as hardware makers had hoped, but for now, a small number of well-designed Android tablets have a chance to stand out. Hopefully Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z can get to market soon, so we can see if it’s as good as it looks on paper.