Thursday, 10 September 2015

Sony Xperia Z4

Sony Xperia Z4

Light, powerful, and smooth, Sony may have got it right with this tablet

Sony’s barely been on the mobile device radar for the past few years, sacrificing its share of the market in favour of better profits for its underperforming Sony Mobile division. While Sony’s higher-model Xperia smartphones tend to sell well, sales have been dropping off in the last year or so, leaving the division with little profit and greater losses in the past few months. With the Xperia Z4, it might be trying to turn that trend around. The Xperia Z4 is a tablet with a processor and RAM that wouldn’t look out of place on a laptop computer. Its cameras are decent quality, and it’s running on the most recent Android operating system. However, its price range is far above its closest competitors, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S or the iPad Air 2.


The main gimmick here, following in the steps of earlier Sony devices, is that the phone is waterproof and nearly one hundred percent dust-resistant as long as all ports are closed and you dry out the micro USB socket afterwards. Well, as long as you stick to freshwater, no deeper than 1.5 metres, and don’t leave it there for more than half an hour. Good news: there’s finally a tablet that you can read in the bath or shower. Bad news: it might be too slippery to hold on to. You can even take it swimming in a chlorinated pool as long as you rinse it afterwards, but whatever you do don’t take it into the sea.

The breathtakingly slim design, at only 6.1mm thick, is a little bland in a market glutted with flat black screens of various sizes, but has all the usual features. Weighing less than 400g, it’s only two-thirds of the weight of some competitors without sacrificing functionality.

With just enough curve at the corners to stop you cutting yourself on sharp edges, Sony has packed a 10.1 inch screen into the Z4. It also appears to have worked out that most people tend to use their tablets in landscape mode, and sensibly put the front camera in the middle of the long edge. The flash and charging/notification light are hidden in the bezel at the top, and are difficult to spot unless they’re on. Along the short side – to the left, if you happen to have the logo the right way up – are the small silver on/off button and the volume control.

Along the top edge, a little to the left of the camera, a clip-on cover hides the nano-SIM and MicroSD ports nearly invisibly. At the far left, the headphone jack fits smoothly into the corner and its positioning means that it’s unlikely to start digging into your leg. On the right-hand side is the standard micro-USB charging and data transfer port.

On the back, the camera sits at the top of the right edge, smoothly inlaid into the matte cover. Only the glassy smoothness of the lens differentiates it as the height of the camera lens matches the level of the cover.

The Xperia Z4 is available in black and white.

Sony Xperia Z4 keyboard


The keyboard that comes boxed with the Xperia Z4 turns the tablet into a tiny laptop, and a good one. The hinges are so sturdy that you may be worried about breaking the keyboard attempting to open it up, but it does move under firm pressure. The slot that the tablet fits into is lined with rubber grips, which will hold the keyboard in place even if held upside down. The keyboard is also as ultra-thin and lightweight as the tablet itself, with the two paired together being little thicker than an iPad 4.

Set-up is simple; you flick the switch on the right-hand side of the keyboard to activate its bluetooth connection, then switch on the Bluetooth on the tablet and tell it to connect. It only takes a few seconds to link the two together, and the keyboard-to-tablet interface is instant. There’s no delay between tapping a key and the character popping up onscreen, and it keeps up with high-speed typing.

As soon as the keyboard is activated, a row of Google apps pop up along the bottom in the same area that a PC’s quick-launch tray would be, with a little arrow symbol where you’d expect the main menu. The mouse cursor appearing onscreen fosters the illusion of the mini-laptop, although the screen is still fully touch-controllable as well.

The keyboard is a full laptop-style QWERTY model, with the usual function keys that interface smoothly with the Z4’s settings. The keys are a little smaller than the traditional full-sized computer keyboard, but the designers have sensibly gone with making the keys wider than they are high in a brave attempt to make it accessible to those with wider fingers.

The keyboard is far easier to use than the on-screen touch keypad, and has the added advantage of allowing you to angle the screen comfortably to prevent potential neck-ache.

While small, the keyboard is surprisingly easy to adjust to. The return key is one long horizontal bar rather that the familiar nearvertical angular version, but it doesn’t take long to adapt to using it.


The Xperia Z4 boasts an 8.1 megapixel camera at the back of the tablet and a 5.1MP camera at the front. The rear camera is superb at close-ups and middle distance, bringing the images in sharp and clear, but it suffers when digital zoom is applied. Very few mobile devices have good digital zooms; while the Z4 tries its hardest, zooming in further than many of its competitors, the focus fails to compensate and leaves you with blurry images.

On the bright side, the tablet does have a manual setting that allows you to adjust the brightness and scene type depending on what you’re filming or photographing. If the default Superior Auto mode isn’t quite giving you the scene you want, Manual gives you enough control over your screen to get a better shot.

The front camera, which is centred on the long side, adjusts to lighting changes well and has the usual ability to pick faces out of the picture. It’s far easier to take landscape-oriented face photos with the Z4’s camera, but it’s very tricky to take portrait selfies as angling the screen towards you moves half of your face off the screen.

The image quality is good enough to catch individual hairs and every detail of your expression, which is all you can ask of a selfie cam. There are the standard timer options and a couple of focus modes (HDR, image stabiliser, Soft Skin effect) for different situations.

If you’re still not happy with your photo after taking it, Photo Editor, Photos or other apps can be used to add filters, mirror, rotate or even draw on your photo if you feel like it.

The Xperia Z4’s video function takes good, smooth, HD footage, which focuses fast enough to manage moving objects with flair. It operates equally well under natural and artificial light, although it’s likely that it would operate best in bright sunlight.


The screen of the Xperia Z4 is crisp in its colour reproduction and has good, sharp image resolution. With 10.1 inches of screen, even fine details are easily visible, and with its 16:9 screen ratio you’re not in any danger of losing the sides of webpages or pictures off the side of the screen.

Sony is famous for its Bravia TVs, and it’s clear that the research for Bravia influenced the design of the screen.

The screen sensitivity is excellent, responding to even light touches quickly, but clever enough to know when you’re swiping and when you actually intend to load an app.


The Xperia Z4’s high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 2GHz processor and 3GB of memory rarely falter when running apps, loading them swiftly and cleanly, and providing fast response even when resource-hungry games and other programs are drawing heavily on the hardware’s capabilities.

There were no problems with the game tests, and YouTube played music and video clearly and without hesitation. While Chrome seems entirely comfortable with having a dozen pages open at once, it does seem to have the occasional issue with web pages that contain a lot of adverts or widgets. One website with both nearly crashed Chrome during tests.

Overall, however, the Xperia Z4 had very little trouble in handling any demands made of it. The battery performance is also surprisingly robust given that its 6,000mAH battery is smaller than many in equivalent tablets, but it would be a good idea to carry a micro-USB charger cable with you if you intend to carry it all day.


The Xperia Z4 runs on the Android 5.0.2 (Lollipop) operating system. It’s packed with the usual collection of in-built Android apps, including the standard selection of Google apps and some of Sony’s own Xperia bloatware. Interestingly, despite the Bluetooth keyboard which comes included in the box, there’s no note-taking app already installed. The closest alternate is Google Drive, which is not always an option if you end up somewhere that you don’t have an internet connection.

What it does have, however, is some of Sony’s own basic apps, including a fun little program called Sketch that lets you paint basic pictures or play with downloadable ‘sticker’ packs. Probably intended to keep children occupied rather than be a serious tool for adult artists, it’s nonetheless an easy time-waster. We managed to throw together a crude landscape painting in 15 minutes.

Sony also appears to expect that you’ll want or own a Playstation, as its PSN app is one of the five quick-access default apps on the main screen along with Music, (Photo) Album, Video and the essential Settings. Fortunately, as with most Android devices, it’s easy to edit the home screen to match your preferences with a few simple press and drag movements.


The Sony Xperia Z4 is a beautifully engineered tablet with more than enough power to run even the most demanding app smoothly. Unfortunately, while slimline and lightweight, its listed price of £499.00 is surprisingly high for its provided specifications. Powerful but pricey.

Spec Sheet

OS Android 5.0 (Lollipop)
Processor Octa-core 2.0 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, 64 bit
Screen 10.1 inches
Resolution 2,560 x 1,600-pixels
Memory 3GB RAM
Storage 32GB
Micro SD compatible - up to 128GB
Rear camera 8.1MP
Front camera 5.1MP
Video 1080p
Connectivity 4G, Wi-Fi
Dimensions 167 x 254 x 6.1 mm
Weight 393g
Battery 6,000 mAh