Sony Xperia Tablet Z review: Stepping up

Stepping up

GSMArena team, 29 May 2013.

Split-screen contact book

While the Sony Xperia Tablet Z doesn't have telephony, the People app is still quite useful as you can send texts or even call contacts using apps like Viber.

Contacts is organized into three tabs - Contacts, Favorite and Groups. The first tab lists all contacts alphabetically with an image next to the name and an alphabet scroll to make finding a contact quicker (there's also regular search as you type).

Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Split-screen contact book

The app uses a split screen interface, so that you can pick a contact from the list on the left and view its details on the right. You can add multiple accounts (Google and Skype by default) and filter which ones are visible in the contact list to avoid clutter.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Picking which contact are shown in the contact book • importing and exporting contacts

When editing a contact, you can add multiple fields of different types to store more info. You can choose Link contact and the tablet will find potential duplicate entries so you can merge all entries for a single contact into one.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Editing a contact

The Favorites tab shows only starred contacts and uses a rectangular grid of their contact images. The images are big and easy to hit. The Groups tab uses a split screen interface to let you browse through groups with options for mass text or email (there's an "x of y members" label, which shows how many contacts in the group can be messaged at once, in case some don't have phone numbers of email addresses).

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Favorites tab • Groups

Contacts can be backed up to the SIM card, the internal storage, microSD card or even external USB storage.

All that's great, but we wish there was better integration with Facebook - you can see the contacts in the list, but you can't easily check their latest updates or send them a message.

While the Xperia Tablet Z doesn't have telephony features, we still tested the loudspeaker performance as it will be used for music and videos. It scored a Below average, which isn't very impressive.

Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOveral score
Amazon Kindle Fire66.6 63.766.9Below Average
Apple iPhone 566.8 66.167.7Below Average
Microsoft Surface RT61.7 60.264.2Below Average
Sony Xperia Tablet Z66.064.670.1Below average
Google Nexus 1068.366.167.8Average
Asus Google Nexus 768.6 65.975.8Good
Samsung Note II N710070.0 66.680.5Good
Apple iPad mini68.265.775.7Good
Apple iPad 467.266.175.9Good
Motorola RAZR XT91074.766.682.1Very Good
LG Optimus G74.671.382.7Excellent

You can find out more about the test here.

Email, texting, IM and text input

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z comes with two email applications out of the box - one for your Gmail and a generic one to use with any POP3/IMAP account.

They both have a split-screen interface. Initially, your folders (or labels in Gmail) are listed on the left and the emails in the currently selected one appear on the right. Upon clicking on a message, the list of emails moves to the left tab while the body of the selected one pops up on the right.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
The default email client

You can set up the automatic email retrieval interval or you can disable that completely and only check your mail manually. There's also a handy setting that makes your client automatically download attachments only when you are connected over Wi-Fi.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
The Gmail app

Both apps support multiple accounts, but the Gmail app is restricted to Gmail only and does not have a combined inbox. The generic email app also allows messages to be sorted by date, sender, subject, priority, read, starred and size (useful if you're looking for an attachment).

The Messaging app handles SMS and MMS. It uses a split-screen user interface similar to the email apps. The threads (conversations with a contact) are on the left and the messages themselves on the right.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
The Messaging app handles SMS and MMS

You can type a standard message or turn it into an MMS by attaching a picture, video, sound, contact or your location. The Doodle feature lets you draw something and send it as an MMS.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Drawing a quick doodle

Individual messages can be starred so they are easy to find later.

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z comes with three chat apps out of the box. The first two are pretty much mandatory for an Android device, Hangouts (which replaced Gtalk) and Google Plus Messenger, but there's also Viber pre-installed.

Hangous signs into all your Google accounts at once and you can chat from all of them. It too uses a split-screen interface and can send regular text messages but also photos. The other option is to start a video call (no plain voice calls just yet) and you can chat (text or video) with multiple contacts at once.

Viber recently got updated to support tablets and desktop computers, so you can now call your friends from the Tablet Z. Google+ Messenger feels a little useless now that Hangouts is available, but you can still use it.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Hangouts is Androids new chat app • Viber is also pre-installed

For text input, the tablet relies on a custom keyboard. Most of the time it only displays letters, but on occasion (e.g. when entering a password), a numpad will appear on the right.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
On-screen QWERTY keyboard

The keyboard is too large to type comfortably on (especially in landscape mode), so it's great that you can enable the mini keyboard. It takes a little less than the width of the screen and you can move it around. Note that this keyboard seems to be available only on the LTE version of the Tablet Z, an odd limitation of the Wi-Fi only version.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
The mini keyboard takes up less space and is easier to type on

Sony has added a fair number of customization options to the Tablet Z keyboard. You can enable bilingual word suggestions, symbols on long press, the Google voice typing key and the smiley key. All these options are disabled by default.

There's an option for gesture input too - swipe over the keys instead of tapping them.

Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Sony Xperia Tablet Z Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Customization options for the QWERTY keyboard

Reader comments

  • vikram karthik

Very good product sony product

  • Lionsauvaga

Hi, someone can help me by telling me if the apps can be transfer to SD? Because I am hesitating by getting the 32Gb or the 16Gb LTE, but I am not sure if 16Gb will be enough. I would surely go for the 16Gb/LTE if some of the apps can be transfer to ...

  • AnonD-209109

this tablet was the one for me, but the lack of a stylus support (even in just hardware, not software) was a deal breaker as the functionality is too useful to be ignored in a new tablet, i could go for a samsung note 10.1, but i will to see sony's n...