The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, aside from being a terribly inconvenient name to write, is a tablet that seems to straddle two camps.
On the one hand, it’s taking the best of Sony’s smartphone tech and spreading it smoothly through a slim and lightweight tablet that’s far less cumbersome than the likes of the (already pretty portable) Xperia Z2 tablet.
On the other hand, it’s being brought out with an eight-inch screen that’s nowhere near as sharp as the competition in the smaller slate arena, which will instantly put some users off purchase, given that spec comparison is still one of the primary ways to decide which tablet to go for.
That said, Sony’s bundled so much top end technology into this tablet that there’s a chance it might be able to offset the fact it’s only gone for a 1080p display.
The other issue could be price, given the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact will be going head to head with the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, and as both of those are subsidised devices Sony could struggle to compete on price.
The design of the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is no surprise at all, given Sony has been very consistent in the language it has used to engineer its products.
The Omnibalance key is once again present, as well as the smooth plastic back that’s become so prevalent for Sony devices. There’s no glass on offer here, instead preferring a matt finish to make it easier to grip, although the 270g weight make it almost as light as some older smartphones.
The balance is good, enabling you to hold it either landscape or portrait without having to worry about wrist strain, and the insanely thin 6.4mm depth means it will slip in and out of any bag without an issue.
The tablet is also IP65/68 rated, which makes it practically impervious to dust and allows you to direct high pressure streams of water or submerge the device without having to worry about breaking it.
As such, the ports are ensconced in tight covers, which can be a little tricky to pull out, but given the impressive battery life on show you won’t need to reach for the charger as often as you might think.
Now, onto the screen. It’s a tricky one to call, as the strides Sony has made in display technology, this year included, mean that even a low-res display is boosted to look better.
Live Colour LED plus an IPS LCD screen mean colours look clear and vibrant, and the black levels are much deeper and richer than before. It’s almost Super AMOLED in crispness, and the videos on show looked impressive.
To the person who hasn’t seen other tablets, this will be more than acceptable, with Sony’s Triluminos technology aiding things further, but for some things (like browsing the internet) the lower res will be seen thanks to less-sharp letters and pictures when loading.
It’s something that I need to test further, as at this screen size it’s hard to really see the quality, but it can offer a visual disparity and for the expected higher price it could be a real deal-breaker.
However, the power under the hood can’t be called into question, with a quad-core Snapdragon 801 CPU clocked at 2.5GHz joined by 3GB of RAM to keep things ticking along smoothly.
Playstation 4 compatibility
One of the big things Sony is touting with the Z3 Tablet Compact is PS4 Remote Play abilities, meaning if you’re in the same wireless network as your console you’ll be able to connect to your PlayStation 4 and play games remotely.
Well, not remotely, given you’ll only be about 20 metres from your console at the most, but Sony has stipulated the same wireless network simply to make sure that latency does not become an issue.
The brand told me that it was technically possible to do the same thing over a mobile network or in another person’s house, but only if both the console and your current location offered a superfast and stable connection.
If you want to be safe, you’ll be using this feature simply to play from your bed or on the sofa next to your partner while they’re watching something else.
The PS4 controller connects to the Z3 Tablet Compact through Bluetooth, but with the GCM10 mount you can use the tablet and controller together as some sort of hyper-PSP, and although I didn’t test it the lower weight should ensure the device doesn’t get too off balance when holding it.
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I abhor cameras on tablets, given they create a very anti-social way of taking pictures, and the ergonomics of holding such a thing make it very hard to actually get a decent snap.
But if you’re one that has to take photos on a slate, then an 8.1MP camera with Exmor RS and a 2.2MP front facing camera will do the job for you nicely. The tech on board is pretty powerful, and Sony has seen fit to add in some fun overlay tools, like AR Fun, which is good if you’re tempted to offload the tablet to your kids to keep them quiet.
The other big element from the Z3 range is the high-fidelity audio on offer, meaning if you’ve got the desire to download loads of really hi-res and great quality files the Z3 Tablet Compact can handle them.
On top of that it will also upscale your MP3s to better quality by addressing the higher pitches of the file, making everything sound more well-rounded. As noted in the Xperia Z3 review, this is a hard element to test, simply because there’s a couple of seconds of delay when activating the higher-quality mode, but there did seem to be a noticeable difference.
Sadly, one of the big ideas from Sony for the Z3 and Z3 Compact, a clever screen technology that allow the phones to save power in day-to-day use, hasn’t made it onto the tablet.
This is less of a hit in reality, as it’s already got a much larger power pack and can therefore last up to 13 hours on video, according to Sony. While that’s obviously optimistic and only in ideal conditions, it’s here that the lower-res screen is really useful, as fewer pixels to drive saves power.
The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has an annoyingly long-winded name, but a decent slug of technology inside its skinny frame.
I’ve got a couple of big reservations about this one though: given it’s got so many Sony-branded elements within it, the price isn’t likely to be low, and will therefore struggle against the likes of the Nexus 7 and even the iPad Mini.
The screen is also lower-res than those around it, and while the Sony Bravia name comes to the rescue, my worry is day to day browsing won’t look as sharp.
As ever, these are the things we’ll be looking at in our in-depth review… which should be just a month or two away as Christmas looms.