Category Archives: Techradar

Hands-on review: IFA 2014: Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Hands-on review: IFA 2014: Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Design

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.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Camera

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.

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

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.

Battery

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.

Early verdict

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.




Hands-on review: IFA 2014: Sony Smartwatch 3

Hands-on review: IFA 2014: Sony Smartwatch 3

Android Wear is becoming the de rigeur thing to have for any respectable smartphone manufacturer (well, apart from Nokia and Apple, obviously) but I never thought Sony would join the party, given its spent so long developing its own system.

Well, with the Smartwatch 3, it’s done just that: bringing all the wrist-based experience it’s gleaned over the many years it’s been active in the world of timepieces to the Android Wear party.

And it’s made a pretty good effort of it off the bat, with one of the most powerful, easy to charge and complete devices I’ve seen running Google’s wearable platform.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

Of course, this is still ostensibly the same device as seen on the LG G Watch or Samsung Gear Live, as there’s not a lot that manufacturers can do to change Android Wear at this time.

However, Sony’s put a lot of effort into the hardware and come up with some innovative ideas. For instance, it’s one of the only smartwatches to allow charging through a microUSB port, meaning if you lose the charging case you won’t need to worry about how long the battery will last.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

Sony’s being pretty bullish about that spec too, claiming the SmartWatch 3 can last between 2-5 days on a single charge, which seems a bit ambitious when most can’t go over a day without needing to be tethered to the wall.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

Still, that could be partly down to the 320 x 320 resolution 1.6-inch transflective display, which should be kinder on battery power and give good daylight visibility.

The other big win here is the addition of GPS. As a runner, this small spec is the difference between making the watch a sports accessory and a novelty device to be put on now and again – and it’s far too expensive to be the latter.

But with GPS, you can now imagine a world where Android Wear apps quickly come in to take advantage of the feature, meaning you can shed the smartphone to pop off on a quick jaunt around the park and get a much more accurate account of what you just did.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

The Smartwatch 3 has an interesting feature: the actual device is just a square block that you pop in and out of watch straps, rather than being put in with the standard watch pins. Sony tells me this is because it could be used in other devices, although declined to say what these might be.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

It’s hard to see what you’d need it for, but with a quad-core CPU at the heart with 512MB of RAM, it’s a powerful watch indeed, and could feasibly be used to control an in car entertainment system or add something extra to normal white goods.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

Although, if you’re buying a watch, you don’t really want to leave it plugged into the fridge.

The Sony Smartwatch 3 isn’t cheap at €229 (around £185, US$300, AU$325) but isn’t so expensive that it should be dropped from consideration altogether. It’s a good looking device, with the additional GPS making it an interesting choice (as long as you can get apps to make use of the tech).

The LifeLogging ability, which Sony believes will take off in a big way when users start telling their phone everything they’re doing, is another neat feature and one I’m looking forward to trying more regularly. Although it would be nice if between now and Autumn (the Sony SmartWatch 3 release date) the brand could update the interface with more customisation, that would be brilliant.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

It should be noted that Sony has included the Walkman app and the ability to control TV using an IR blaster within the watch, which are key additions – and it’s joined the rest of the gang by putting 4GB of storage in there for music when out running.

It can even be used to control a smartphone camera to take better group shots – but being the person that does this with a group of friends might mean that you don’t have that many for that long afterwards. Your choice.

Early verdict

The Sony Smartwatch 3 is a good device that fits well into the burgeoning Android Wear party, and comes with some nifty features that make it possibly quite a good option to buy.

I’m still waiting for the final price and a proper release date to play with, but with its attractive display and additional features, Sony could have quietly leapt to the head of the Android Wear game.

If only it was round…