Many companies have tried to build an elegant tablet that's the right combination of look, feel, and functionality. Not many have succeeded. But my first look at the new 10.1-inch Sony Xperia Tablet Z ($500) makes me think that maybe the electronics giant has produced a success story. And if you're planning to use the Xperia Tablet Z near a pool this summer, don't fear the water, at least at the shallow end: Sony claims it's water-resistant, and our tests bear that out.
At just 0.27 inches thick, the Xperia Tablet Z is the thinnest tablet we've seen. And at 1.07 pounds, it's lighter than any 10-inch tablet in our Ratings. Other models have the silky feel you get from the back of this tablet, but when you combine that with the Xperia's thin profile and light weight, you've got a home run.
Here's a closer look at some of the Xperia Tablet Z's notable features:
Screen sharing. Sony touts its One Touch technology, which lets you view content from your tablet on properly equipped TVs just by swiping. It uses NFC (near-field communication) to do that.
I couldn't find a reference to One Touch anywhere on the tablet. Instead, I went into Settings, then More, and finally found a checkbox for turning NFC on. After that, make sure your NFC-ready TV is set to receive content, then touch the NFC-enabled remote that comes with your TV to the tablet. It was easy to do, but Sony needs to provide easier access to that NFC setting, and make it clear that you need to enable NFC in order to use the One Touch feature. There's no HDMI port, the usual wired connection for a TV.
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Content. Sony is an entertainment company, so you'd expect great content on its tablet. What you actually get is a mixed bag. There's access to Sony's Video Unlimited app, which offers movies and TV shows in HD and standard definition, for rent or purchase. I even found a few free videos, including episodes of "Ice Road Truckers."
Sony has also revived the old Walkman moniker by placing a Walkman app on its tablets, which gives you access to your own music, as well as extra features like album art and biographical info. There's also Music Unlimited, but that's a subscription service with no free content beyond a 30-day preview. Sony's got a lot of competition in that area, including Google Play Music All Access.
Water resistance. Sony says the tablet is water-resistant to a depth of 3 feet for up to 30 minutes. We put that claim to the test by leaving the Xperia Tablet Z in a container filled with 3 feet of water for a half hour. When we pulled the tablet out, it still worked fine. Even the speakers sounded the same as before the dunk test.
One caveat from Sony: Be sure the tablet's ports and covers are "firmly closed." That shouldn't be a problem—just close the cover whenever you pull out the charging plug.
Other specs. The Xperia Tablet Z has an 8-megapixel camera for shooting photographs, as well as a webcam. It has 16GB of storage and runs Android 4.1. The display resolution is full HD 1920 x 1200. There's a memory-card slot, but no HDMI port.
Bottom line. We'll have full Ratings for this tablet soon. In the meantime, if you're looking for a thin, light tablet with a large display, this is one to consider. Its ability to easily share content to your TV is a bonus.
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