Performance: power crazed
Numbers, numbers and yet more numbers. The Xperia Z2 Tablet easily blazes through to the finish line with its 2.3GHz quad-core processor, leaving the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014)'s 1.9GHz quad-core processor behind. Where’s the iPad Air, you ask? It’s trying its best to keep up somewhere in the back thanks to its not-quite-there proprietary dual-core 1.4GHz A7 processor.
While both Android tablets pack 3GB RAM, the numbers point to the Xperia Z2 Tablet comes up tops; it's well-equippedto handle the endless lists of tasks you'll set for it without skipping a beat.
Winner: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Battery: Live long and prosper
What’s the point of being feature-packed if you can only use those features for a couple of hours? In this case, the iPad Air’s 8820 mAh juicepack comes just on top of the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014)’s 8220 mAh, while the Xperia Z2 Tablet is already blinking red, clocking in at just 6000 mAh.
The iPad Air claims to give up to 10 hours of Wi-Fi time while the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) professes slightly lower Facebook-usage time of up to 9 hours. Sony's keeping quiet about the specifics of the Z2's battery life on its product page, instead choosing to play up the power-saving opportunities of its Battery Stamina Mode.
READ MORE Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) review
Winner: undeclared for now
The OS Wars
And now we come to the subject that's spawned a thousand angry Facebook posts on our wall: iOS versus Android. Of the two Android slates, the Note 10.1 runs the slightly older Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, while the newer Xperia Z2 Tablet is unsurprisingly fed on a tasty diet of Android 4.4 KitKat.
Although Sammy's Magazine UX is "seriously lovely," with its useful Multi Window function and gorgeous Flipboard app, it suffers from the perennial Samsung problem of proprietary apps that duplicate Google's own services, and needless bloatware. Sony's stripped-back skin wins out here, in our view.
And then we have the iPad Air's splendid-looking iOS 7. Beautifully-designed, with a host of new features (some of them, yes, nicked from Android), its App Store offers an unrivalled selection of apps – if you're prepared to accept the restrictions of Apple's walled garden. You could go on forever debating the merits of both ecosystems (and you will, in those Facebook comments), but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.
On paper, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet beats its rivals across most of our categories, but that battery life is a niggling concern; will it be enough to make best use of its features?
For the time being, Apple's iPad Air is still comfortably ensconced in the top spot on our Top 10 Tablets list. But we foresee the latest Sony tablet giving it a run for its money. Check back for our full review of the Xperia Z2, and our updated showdown.
WATCH NOW: Video: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet hands-on review