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Xperia Tablet Z hands-on: Sony design goes back to basics

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Back in 2011, Sony indicated that it planned to take the number 2 spot in the tablet market. While that didn't sound like the most ambitious goal in the world, it also didn't go to plan for the company — the Tablet S and Xperia Tablet S failed to make much impression, and the less said about the Tablet P the better. But as Sony's mobile division gradually finds its feet with the introduction of impressive products like the Xperia Z, we're now seeing a third attempt at a full-size tablet.

The Xperia Tablet Z, announced yesterday and given a grand unveiling today by Japanese carrier NTT Docomo, is easily the company's most attractive effort yet. At 6.9mm thick, it's the thinnest tablet in the world and features the same design language as the Xperia Z. Unlike its companion phone, however, the back is made out of a soft-touch plastic, and this allows for a surprisingly light construction; 495g is quite a bit easier on the arms than the 662g iPad and 603g Nexus 10. We may miss the unique folded-magazine design of its predecessors, but all in all the Xperia Tablet Z has standout style far beyond most of its Android competition.

The 10.1-inch screen comes in at 1920 x 1200 resolution, which can't match up to the Nexus 10 or Retina display iPad but doesn't look bad. The pixel density of 224 is sharper than that of something like a Nexus 7, and far beyond most laptops; in a time where products like the Galaxy Note 10.1 and Surface RT ship with 1280 x 800 and 1366 x 768 displays, the Xperia Tablet Z's comes off as pretty sharp. The 8-megapixel camera, too, seemed to perform at least on par with the best of its competitors, though a showroom floor is not the best place to test such things.

We were reasonably impressed

Overall we were reasonably impressed in our short time with the Xperia Tablet Z, but there's only so far a manufacturer can differentiate itself with a 10-inch Android tablet. Nevertheless, for anyone who puts a premium on design and form factor, the Tablet Z is up there with the best. The only question is whether it'll even make it outside Japan — Docomo announced it today as an LTE device offered on contract, and Sony hasn't said anything about plans for overseas.