Apple has dominated the tablet market with their iconic iPad. Most people confuse the concept of a tablet with that of an iPad as a result. Android had had a hard time catching up but catching up they are. There have been tons of companies that have attempted the challenge Apple dominance – HP, Samsung, Asus and the list goes on. Now however, a tech company that is on a bit of a roll has entered the game – Sony.
Sony has produced a 10.1-inch Android powered tablet that they are hoping will make a significant dent in iPad’s sales.
It starts off well, the major reason the other companies have failed in their attempt to make a worthy rival for the iPad is that their products felt shoddy, or at least not as beautifully engineered as the iPad. Sony however, have got the build quality down pat, the Xperia Tablet Z is easily comparable to the iPad in terms of aesthetics and build quality.
The quality of the plastics and glass used give the Xperia Tablet Z a precision engineered, svelte feel. It sits very comfortably in two hands, and can be used with the Kindle app for reading somewhat comfortably in one due mostly to its thin profile and light weight.
The touch interface is smooth and fluid and the quality of the screen is beautiful. With a massive 1920×1200 resolution the colors are sharp and the blacks are deep – this makes it a great device for YouTube or other videos in HD.
To boot, the Xperia Tablet Z is water and dust resistant – something (provided all the port covers are closed) I found to be extremely useful. It removes that sense of terror when someone spills their drink, and your fancy new tablet is on the table nearby, or when you read your magazines in the bath and the tablet slips.
All-in-all the Xperia Tablet Z looks set to be a cracker of a tablet. Sadly, it has one major flaw – It is running Android 4.1 as its operating system (OS).
Android on a tablet is quite possibly the least intuitive and most confusing OS possible on such a device. It consists of a Home Screen where the user places widgets, app shortcuts, and an app tray where other apps sit. In addition Sony have added an additional menu to the mix.
Having a mix of widgets, apps, and home screen as well as an app drawer, gives the whole device a busy and cluttered feel. Further, some oddly placed ‘Home’ and ‘Back’ buttons work differently depending on what app is open at the time. Sometimes the ‘back’ button will take you a step backwards in the app, other times it will take you back to the Home Screen or App Drawer and often it will not work altogether!
I have two other gripes, firstly the actual Android apps or rather the lack of tablet specific versions of Android apps, and secondly Sony’s lack of actual services in South Africa despite links on the Xperia tablet.
The apps on Android mostly appear to be designed for their smartphones and the few that are specifically designed for tablets are so far behind in quality from the iPad’s iOS apps it’s actually frightening. This leaves the user feeling as if they are using an oversized Xperia Z smartphone.
With regards to the multimedia services that are a big part of the tablets appeal, Sony sell the Xperia Tablet Z with a plethora of pre-installed Sony apps, in theory giving the user access to the world of Sony Entertainment. “Awesome!” I though – the problem is none of this content is available in South Africa, nor does it appear they will be anytime soon. Leaving the Xperia Tablet Z with only it’s beautifully build quality to set it apart.
There is no flow, no consistency and certainly no logic to Android on a tablet at present. I am sure that Google are fully aware of this and are working hard to make the next version of android, version 5.0, Key Lime Pie, far more tablet friendly.
Sadly, this ruins the experience on the Xperia Tablet Z. Where the iPad’s iOS feels slick, polished and intuitive the experience on the Xperia Tablet Z is cluttered, a bit silly, and counterintuitive.
The fly in the Xperia Tablet Z’s ointment is currently the operating system. Android just does not feel optimized for tablet use as yet. Compared to its major competitor iOS it feels too much like a work in progress, together with a lack of really good tablet optimized apps, this makes the Xperia Tablet Z far less rewarding to use than the comparable iPad.
The Xperia Z has all the hallmarks of a truly superior product, with outstanding build quality and innovative features, such as its ability to withstand life’s little knocks. My advice is try it and see, if you particularly don’t want to enter the perfumed garden that Apple provides, or if the balance of ruggedness and other features are key, then the Xperia Tablet Z is without doubt the Android Tablet to beat.