Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact review

90/100

WhistleOut
19 January 2015

The only thing cumbersome about the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is its name. In every other respect it is an easy, hassle-free tablet that is so well designed from a hardware perspective that you can actually forget it’s there until you need it.

The light weight, slim form and small screen combo that is responsible for this unobtrusiveness, it’s a fairly powerful slate. It’s not going to be able to go toe-to-toe with a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.1, but there are a lot of bigger, heavier tablets on the market that will be put in their place by this pint-sized picture of portability.

Don't think all this will come cheap, though. It depends on your market, but the Z3 Tablet Compact is generally priced very similarly to the iPad mini 3, placing it in a high-end, if not quite totally top-tier price bracket.

Design

The Z3 Tablet Compact is an unassuming piece of physical design. It’s small, thin, rectangular, backed in matte black plastic and the only hint of highlighting is found on its lock button and the silver rim around the camera.

In keeping with the rest of Sony’s high-end range, the USB port, SIM slot and MicroSD port are hidden away behind water-tight flaps, giving it an incredible water resistance rating of IP68. These feel righter and better-designed than the ones on the Z3 Compact (phone), which has received some complaints about the flaps coming loose.

hey’re also more intelligently placed for water protection. When held horizontally, the USB port is at the bottom-right and the other two are directly underneath, assuring that fewer droplets impact it directly. Instead they simply run over the flaps before falling off the bottom. This is assuming you use the water-resistance feature for the same thing that everyone else does: watching TV in the shower.

You know you do. And if you haven’t yet, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

By far the most impressive thing about this tablet is its weight. At 270g it’s as close in heft to many large phones as it is to its contemporary tablets. That’s a roughly 20% drop from the iPad mini 3.

It’s so light and so thin that it feels like a tablet from next year. We found ourselves constantly wondering how Sony fit so much power in such a tiny package. We still don’t have the answer, but we’re glad someone found a way.

In an 8 inch tablet, leanness is a considerable portion of your total user experience. Compact tablets are meant to be carried around from place to place, on the train or in your bag. If they’re bulky, or heavy, then they’re a pain. The Z3 Tablet Compact achieves what few other slates can: it lets you forget it’s even there. It’s not a hassle; it’s an accessory. And it does all of this without sacrificing usability.

User experience

Once you get in to actually using the Z3 Tablet Compact the fun times continue. There’s no lagginess or unwanted app crashes. Most surprising is the lack of over-heating in a tablet this small and powerful. It still got a little warm for us on occasion when taxed, but no tablet can claim to be totally heat-free and the temperature increase was well within the norm.

Multitasking is great, the 1080p (ish) screen handles video fantastically and gaming is awesome. Admittedly, some of the bigger titles like Hearthstone can be a tad laggy at times, but never unplayable. The benefits of having a sub-300g Hearthstone machine in your pocket far outweighs any small delays in gameplay.

Reading is a dream, thanks to the decent resolution and super light-weight build. You can hold the Z3 Tablet Compact for hours without your wrist even beginning to get tired. Thanks to the water resistance you can even read in the bath or by the pool with no fears.

Connectivity and storage

You can get a WiFi-only, or a WiFi + 4G version of the Tablet Compact, although the latter is not available in all regions. The WiFi works with standards 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, meaning it can keep up with the best commercially available routers out there.

Both the cellular and WiFi models max out at 16GB of on-board storage. 4GB is taken up by the OS and UI, leaving 12GB for the user. Happily, Sony has included a microSD slot, so you can expand that up to a further 128GB if you want.

Battery

Battery is fine. It’s the first thing about this tablet that is merely “good”. We often got two days of heavy use out of it, with a particular lean towards music streaming, YouTube and gaming. Three days when avoiding gaming and sticking to more regular stuff like browsing, music and reading.

If you go really nuts, specifically with the gaming side of things, expect no more than a day. We played mainly Hearthstone, Plants Vs Zombies 2 and Kingdom Rush: Origins, which are all notoriously power-hungry games. In retrospect it’s impressive the charge lasted until bed time under these circumstances, especially from a device so small.

Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is an awesome device. It completely nails its target use; portability and reliability, with a dash of water protection thrown in as a bonus.

There are generally two kinds of eight inch tablets: ultra-portable ones that sacrifice user experience, and powerful ones that are heavy, hot and often bulky. Now there’s a third – the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact – the best of both worlds.


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