Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact hands on review

IFA 2014: Sony's new barely-there 8in Android tablet is wordy by name, nerdy by nature. Here's our first impressions.

It's a big day for Sony fans. We've lost count of how many devices it's announced today - in fact, it's the biggest haul of mobile devices and wearables it's ever launched in one go.

Choice is the buzz word. Big phone, small phone. Big tablet, small tablet. So it's not surprising there's an 8in tablet in the new Z3 line-up. 

There's no full-sized Z3 Tablet yet as the Z2 Tablet, something of a textbook tablet refresh, has barely had time to get going. But this Z3 Tablet Compact is already much more promising than its 10in big brother. 

Slim, light, waterproof and well-specced, it looks a doozy. But most importantly it doesn't have the ridiculously big bezels and odd build of the Z2 Tablet.

Be gone bezels

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact hands on  - Be gone bezels 2Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact hands on  - Be gone bezels 3

The era of Stuff being at odds with Sony's OmniBalance design is over. 

We've always appreciated the care, attention and craftsmanship that's gone into building Xperia smartphones and tablets. But there's also been a part of us that thinks mobile devices, designed to be held in the hand, need to be practical and human-friendly as well as beautiful. 

The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is just that - much easier to pick up, hold one-handed and generally get on with than actually say out loud. It's like the 7.9in iPad Mini in that you'll use it in portrait mode of the time and though you can get one hand around, it makes more sense to rest the Tablet Compact in your palms, thumbs easily moving around the 8in touchscreen. 

The all-metal frame is gone, just stainless steel corners, but it's now rounded and there's still tempered glass on the front. It's as ludicrously skinny as the Xperia Z2 Tablet at 6.4mm but somehow in this smaller, supremely portable size, it works. On the larger tablet it meant that the tab flexed worryingly in the middle and wasn't very satisfying to hold. Here it adds to the sleek build and handbag/big pocket-friendly dimensions. 

Because it doesn't look like a scaled-down Z2 Tablet. The huge bezels all around that slate have gone, transforming it somewhat and if anything this looks like Sony's take on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4. At 270g - nearly 30g less than the still-plasticky Samsung - it's a great move for Xperia tablets. 

With the same IP65 and IP68 water and dust resistance ratings as its smartphone siblings, the Z3 Tablet Compact will also make a great cooking or even bath time companion. The Galaxy S5 might be waterproof but the Tab S sure isn't.

If you're planning to dunk it (in up to 1.5m of water for half an hour) just make sure all those flaps covering ports like the microUSB are closed. Or floods of your tears will soon be joining all that water. 

READ MORE: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review 

2K isn't everything

The Sony Xperia Z3 isn't bowing to pixel pressure by going 2K and neither is the Z3 Tablet Compact. 

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact hands on review

Unlike Samsung with its super sharp 2560x1600 Tab S 8.4 and Apple with its Retina display-rocking 2048x1536 iPad Mini, Sony is sticking at Full HD. And at first glance, we're not terribly annoyed. 

The Full HD Z2 Tablet is a monster movie tablet, in part thanks to Sony's TV tech such as Triluminous for mobile and - to a lesser extent - X-Reality for mobile which pumps up contrast and saturation. And the Z3 Tablet Compact is just as capable at displaying pure whites and vibrant colours. Samsung keeps its edge for deep blacks thanks to its use of SuperAMOLED screens but this screen is just as brilliant as we've seen on past Xperias. It's bright too, holding up well in direct sunlight. 

That said, the Samsung does have its advantages. Loading up Stuff magazine in Samsung's new Papergarden store on the Tab S shows just how crisp text looks. Opening up Stuff.tv on the Z3 Tablet Compact and zooming out on a full screen of (lower res) text in an epic review shows that, while we agree 2K can be overkill, sometimes extra pixels help. 

It might not be futureproof but for now, the Z3 Tablet Compact shouldn't be too ashamed of its resolution. 

READ MORE: Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 

More after the break...

The only tablet that can play PS4 games

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We didn't think a small Android tablet could really trouble the iPad Mini without a miracle but here it is. PS4 owners, listen up. You can now play PS4 games on the Z3 Tablet Compact - as well as the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact. It's the same in-home game streaming tech found on the PS Vita and the Z3 Tablet Compact makes a tidy set-up with Sony's mount and a DualShock 4 controller. We haven't had a play yet but stick to Stuff.tv for our first impressions. 

That's the biggest news but Sony really doesn't put a foot wrong anywhere. With the same largely fuss-free Android skin that we've come to expect from Sony and a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor plus 3GB of RAM under the hood, it's no suprise that the Z3 Tablet Compact ran sans stutter during our hands on time with it. We're sure it will be a hoot 24/7 but we'll put it through the full streaming, multi-tasking and gaming paces when we get a final review unit. 

There's a pair of decent 8MP and 2.3MP cameras front and rear which both shoot 1080p video in case you need them. The Tablet Compact is treated to the same hi-res audio, uprating and digital noise cancelling (with Sony headphones) as the Xperia Z3 smartphone too.

And there's a fairly beefy 4500mAh battery inside to keep all that ticking over. Sure, the Tab S 8.4 has a bigger 4900mAh unit but that has hundreds more pixels to push. Sony reckons the Tablet Compact will last an impressive 15 hours of video playback. That would be a compact all-day tablet to be reckoned with if it stands up. 

READ MORE: Long term PS4 review 

Initial verdict

Convincing people they need an Android tablet - let alone a premium one - is no easy task. 

But the Z3 Tablet Compact is a lovely thing. It's slim, light and feels well made. The screen looks brilliant despite "only" being Full HD. The waterproofing may sway people away from choosing an iPad Mini

We just hope Sony will be sensible and price it slightly less than the Tab S 8.4's steep £320. The Nexus 7 is £200 and when you can't beat the iPad's unrivalled design and tablet-optimised apps, asking for more than £300 for a tablet gets risky. 

Either way, if Samsung's software puts you off a Tab S or your gamer eyes light up at the mention of PS4 remote play on a tidy Sony tab, this 8in Xperia might be the right tablet for you. Stay tuned for an in-depth review and comparisons to the Samsung and iPad on Stuff.tv very soon. 

READ MORE: The ten best tablets - tested and rated by Stuff 

 

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Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact hands on

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact hands on review
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