TECH
02/03/2015 04:48 GMT | Updated 02/03/2015 04:59 GMT

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet Hands-On Review: The 2K Tablet That Thinks It's A Chromebook

sony xperia z4

The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet shouldn't really exist. When Sony quite clearly didn't unveil a full-sized Z3 Tablet at IFA 2014 it seemed clear that the company had come to the same conclusion that many tech companies were reaching: People just aren't being full-sized tablets anymore.

Even if they are, they're doing it less. Apple's slowing sales of the iPad highlight the fact that people are preferring smaller, more portable tablets that they can take beyond the safe confines of their living room.

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Against all the odds then, Sony has turned round, stuck two silicon fingers up at the market trends and released a powerful new 10.1-inch Android tablet.

The Z4 is a classic Sony upgrade. Take a noun, add an 'er' and you'll get the idea. It's lighter, slimmer, faster and brighter, it's also much more waterproof.

Despite all of these things it looks -- by and large -- almost identical to the last model, and the model before that.

This isn't a bad thing, the Xperia tablets are stylish and yet totally unassuming. If you saw one in a coffee shop you'd need to squint fairly awkwardly to actually discern a piece of branding. It gets worse with this model because it's so thin - you'll be hard-pressed to discern anything.

sony xperia z4

At 6.1mm thin, the Xperia Z4 Tablet is now fully competing with the iPad Air 2. Where the two part ways however is in weight, the Z4 Tablet is much lighter at just 396g.

How does that work in the real world? It's surreal, and we're not sure if it's in a good way. The problem is that with large screen tablets you actually need some weight to keep it planted in your hands. Without it the whole thing is in danger of slipping to its doom.

We felt this way with the Z4 Tablet, it just feels oddly balanced and while the frame feels solid enough, the lack of metal feels like it's missing something.

The 2K 10.1-inch 2560x1600 Trilluminous screen really is impressive, but then all Sony screens are. It's as bright as you'd hope the brightest screen on a tablet to be and colours pop and zing in a way that demonstrates Sony as the undisputed masters of mobile display tech.

If we have one bug bear about the display it's that the bezel is still too big. We'd rather have thickness over a huge distracting strip of white or black glass that's wrapped around the display. It feels like that's the way the industry is heading and the sooner the better.

The Xperia Z4 Tablet comes running Android Lollipop and features a powerful 64-bit Snapdragon 810 Octa-core processor along with 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal memory. It was hard to get a sense of how powerful the Z4 Tablet was in our brief time with it but the fact is at this point, you're going to be hard-pressed to find a flagship tablet that struggles.

sony xperia z4

The same goes for the two day battery life claim, but we'll be able to better test that when we do the full review.

Finally, and last but not least is the addition of a wireless keyboard. Connecting via Bluetooth, the keyboard will be sold separately however Sony's really pushing the pair as a true workhorse replacement for your laptop. Once connected to the keyboard, the tablet changes into tablet mode, offering up an app tray and a start menu as well as the traditional mouse pointer.

The fact is, that even though the keyboard feels a little flimsy (Sony have confirmed it's a pre-release prototype), there's real potential for the Z4 to become a legitimate Chromebook replacement. It's running a 64-bit processor, has full access to Google Docs and can run Microsoft's shiny new Office apps for Android. It's hard to think of a reason why you wouldn't get the keyboard if you bought the tablet because as just a tablet, it finds itself facing the same competition as everyone else: the iPad Air 2.

We won't know for sure until we can review it properly but even though it's not an immediately exciting upgrade, the move to Chromebook could be the Xperia Z4s redeeming feature.