You're going to need some entertainment on your flight to Monte Carlo, but what tablet is going to match the sleek interior of your private jet? The plastic-backed Nexus 7 isn't going to draw any fond looks and nobody will look twice at that glossy Galaxy Note 10.1. Cast your eyes instead over the Sony Xperia Tablet Z.
This 10-inch slate boasts an incredibly slim design, with the sort of stark, minimalist aesthetic that will earn you some jealous looks in the business class lounge at the airport. Like its little brother, the Xperia Z smart phone, it's fully waterproof, so it won't mind when you spill your Martini all over it.
It packs a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and has a Full HD screen. It's available now for £400, for which you'll get a Wi-Fi only model with 16GB of storage. £450 will snag you a 32GB model, while £500 gets you a 16GB model with 4G connectivity for super-fast data downloads.
Should I buy the Sony Xperia Tablet Z?
With its super-thin design and sleek looks, the Xperia Tablet Z is arguably the most attractive Android slate around. If your main goal is to own tech that you can flash around a fancy bar then look no further.
It's also one of very few devices that you can fully submerge in water. Ever wanted to watch Scrubs in the bath but were scared about dropping your iPad in the water? The Tablet Z will be right up your street. Even if watching TV shows in the bath altogether doesn't float your boat, rest assured that spilling a pint on your slate will do it no harm -- just rinse it off and you're done.
While its Full HD screen and quad-core processor are not to be sneezed at, its rivals do have it beaten. Google's Nexus 10 packs vastly more pixels, and its dual-core processor achieved more impressive benchmark results.
If you want to win specification Top Trumps, the Nexus 10 will help give you a winning hand. If however you're after a seriously sexy slate you can share a shower with, the Xperia Tablet Z is a superb option.
Design and build quality
The thing you'll notice immediately upon picking the Z up is just how slim it is. It's only 6.9mm thick, which is thinner even than the super-skinny iPhone 5. It feels like holding a thin notebook or magazine and naturally you won't struggle to slide it into your back up against your laptop.
At 495g, it's light too. By comparison, the Retina display iPad (with lightning port) weighs 652g. While you might not notice that weight difference when carrying it around in your bag, you'll certainly feel the difference when you're holding it up for long periods of time. It has the edge over Google's Nexus 10 in size and weight, too.
That supreme slimness does come at a cost though. The Z doesn't feel particularly strong and it's not difficult to flex the whole thing. When you do, the glass front activates the screen, causing apps to load or menus to open. It doesn't feel cheap and weak, but I do worry that it wouldn't hold up so well if it was accidentally sat on -- something I wouldn't be concerned about with the metal iPad.
Sony has clearly gone to great lengths to make its slate as thin as possible, but I think it's pushed things a little far. I'd like to see more of a compromise between size and rigidity. An extra sliver of thickness wouldn't be disastrous if it made the tablet more solid and secure. Build quality is generally good though -- there's no loose panelling and the buttons all have a satisfying click to them.
It's a good looking thing, too. It's an all-black slab that looks rather like a piece of slate sat on your desk. It's broken on the back by the stylishly subtle Xperia branding and the camera lens in the top right corner, while only the Sony logo is visible on the all-glass front. If you like pretty patterns and swirling colours this won't be for you, but the stark, minimalist design looks extremely smart. I had numerous people wander over to take a look during my testing.
The back panel is made from a rubberised material. It looks sleek -- particularly when you catch the light and notice the incredibly subtle blue sparkles -- but it's an absolute magnet for every single splodge of grease on your fingers. It quickly goes from being an elegant piece of design brilliance to a greasy, smeary slab. You'll want to keep a pack of wet wipes -- dry tissue doesn't really do it -- on standby if you plan on showing it off.
A great feature of the tablet Z is that it's fully waterproof. Rather than being simply 'splash-proof', the Z can be submerged to a depth of one metre for up to 30 minutes. You can use the slate in the rainy British weather or watch Netflix in the bath, safe in the knowledge that it won't die if you drop it in the water.
It manages this feat by hiding the ports behind flaps with rubber seals. To keep the Z fully immune to liquid attacks you'll need to make sure that all flaps are properly shut before it takes a dunking. It makes quick access to ports more of a faff, but it's a small price to pay for waterproofing.
It makes the Z a good choice for the domestic gods and goddesses among you. If, like me, you regularly use a tablet as a recipe book in the kitchen, you'll be familiar with the splatters and smears the screen receives when trying to swipe through pages with sauce-covered fingers. You can simply chuck the Z in with the rest of the washing up and scrub it clean -- it's almost certainly not dishwasher safe, though.
The Z's 10.1-inch display boasts a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution. That makes it Full HD, but with extra pixels to allow for navigation buttons to be displayed, while still letting HD content display at max resolution.
The resolution and physical size results in a pixel density of 224 pixels per inch (ppi), which undercuts slightly the Retina display iPad's 264ppi. Side by side though, you'd probably struggle to really tell much difference. Text is incredibly crisp and icons on the homescreen are pin sharp.
Google's Nexus 10 has both slates beaten hands down when it comes to resolution though. Its display boasts a 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution, giving a pixel density of 299ppi. While the Nexus 10 is the clear choice for showing off high-resolution images at their best, for the day to day essentials, you probably won't notice much difference.
The Xperia Z certainly has sufficient clarity to make reading ebooks and magazines comfortable, and its meagre weight won't make your hand ache too quickly either.
Images and HD videos looked good, thanks to the rich colours and deep black levels. It doesn't have quite the same retina-burning vividness of Samsung's Super AMOLED displays, but it's well suited to catching the new series of Arrested Development on Netflix, or renting a couple of good movies from the Google Play store.
The tablet Z comes running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which is the most recent but one version of Google's mobile operating system. It's a disappointment not to see the more recent version 4.2 on board -- particularly as it's a top-end device -- but it's not too outdated.
While the core interface of Jelly Bean is the same as you'll find on other Android devices, Sony has stirred in a few extra nuggets into the mix. You'll get five homescreens to fill up with apps, with four slots on a top bar providing access to your favourite apps, regardless of which screen you're on. Apps you don't want on the homescreens are pushed into a grid of app, across multiple pages. You can change the order to be alphabetical, most used or a custom layout, making it easier to get to the apps you want.
You'll find Sony's music and video Unlimited streaming services on board as standard as well as a TV remote control app. Using the infrared sensor on the outside, the Z can perform most standard TV remote functions. Setup was easy and it worked well in my testing. It's not a crucial feature by any means, but a 10-inch tablet is harder to lose than a remote control.
You'll also have access to a dedicated PlayStation Mobile games store. It does however require you to download the app from Sony's site, rather than the app store, which forces you to change your tablet's settings to 'allow installation of apps from unknown sources'. That's a potentially risky move if you're not keeping a close eye on everything you download, so I'd recommend revoking that access once it's installed.
The game store itself is nothing to get excited about though. There are plenty of titles to choose from, but none of the big name apps you'd hope to see from a PlayStation store. Super Crate Box and Tractor Trails are among some of the games available, but those of you hoping for classic PS One titles like Final Fantasy 7 or Coolboarders will be out of luck.
You're also able to hook up a PlayStation 3 controller to the tablet to use it for your games. Annoyingly, while it connects over Bluetooth, you will need a micro-to mini-USB adaptor to start the connection. I found it to work well on Beach Buggy Blitz, but few of my other games supported it. Neither Real Racing 3, Riptide GP, Shadowgun: Deadzone or N.O.V.A 3 were compatible with the controller, but I did manage to get Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to work.
Processor and performance
The Z is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, clocked at a hearty 1.5GHz. That's backed up by 2GB of RAM, resulting in a pretty spicy lineup of specs overall.
I found the performance to be generally pleasing. Swiping around the Android interface was swift and free of any kind of lag or stuttering. Opening apps or the camera was quick and it didn't struggle at all with switching between apps using the multi-tasking bar. I certainly wasn't left with the impression that Sony's tweaks to the software had bogged down the processor at all.
It gave a score of 2,061 on the Geekbench benchmark test which is an admirable, if not exactly mind-blowing score. That's roughly the same as the result the Xperia Z smart phone gave, while falling short of the astounding 3,087 achieved by the Samsung Galaxy S4. The Nexus 10's dual-core chip managed to achieve 2,376 on the same test -- side by side, you probably won't notice much difference in performance between the two though.
It turned its hand very to gaming though. Real Racing 3 played extremely smoothly, as did the graphically demanding N.O.V.A 3, with no juddering of graphics even in the more demanding scenes. If you're a keen gamer, then rest assured the Z has plenty of juice to tackle the current big names in the Play store and is well poised to handle the next wave of super-games.
Despite the super-skinny frame, the Z is still able to stuff an 8.1-megapixel camera into the back. It's not the same 13-megapixel snapper you'll find on the Xperia Z phone, but it uses Sony's Exmor R technology which has previously been put to good use so I was looking forward to seeing what the tablet can do.
I was left somewhat underwhelmed though. On my indoor test shot, the camera didn't achieve a brilliant overall exposure, with the bright window being completely blown out. It suffered from image noise too, which resulted in unimpressive clarity. The edges of the pool cues and the sofa in the background are very fuzzy at full screen.
It's not a terrible effort though, and I've certainly seen much worse on tablets. It's not going to replace your dedicated camera, but it will do fine for snaps of your pets or your food, which is about all you can really ask from a slate.
The camera offers various scene modes as well as a bunch of filters to help you get all arty. They won't appeal to the shutterbugs among you, but might help jazz up your Twitter stream a little. You'll still want to grab Instagram or Snapseed if you want to tweak your photos properly.
It seems that Sony has had to take a slice out of the battery in order to make the Z so skinny. I found the battery to be very poor during many tasks. Even Web browsing on Wi-Fi networks demanded huge slurps of juice and gaming was a serious drain.
Worse still, it charges slowly. When playing N.O.V.A 3, the drain from playing the game was more than the battery was gaining from charging, meaning the power ebbed away even when plugged in. If you want to settle into a long gaming session, make sure you start with a full charge and keep it plugged into a good charger.
On the plus side, it does hold its charge well in standby mode. If you only dip in and out -- checking email or sending a Tweet -- the battery will cope fine. If you take it off charge in the morning, you shouldn't expect it to have lost more than a few per cent by the afternoon if it's on standby.
The Sony Xperia Tablet Z might not boast the same high-resolution screen, speed and raw power of its rivals, but its skinny design makes it possibly the most attractive Android slate around. The waterproofing is a huge bonus too, particularly if you've ever found yourself wanting to watch Netflix in the bath.