Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact review: Outstanding multimedia experience at a price

Matthew loves using his Xperia Z3 smartphone and took the companion tablet for a spin the last few weeks. High end Sony design elements are present, but it will cost you.

The Sony Xperia Z3 is one of my favorite smartphones, check out my review, so I was looking forward to spending time with the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact.

Sony took many elements of the sleek Z3 design and brought them to an eight inch Android tablet. It's thin, light, waterprooof, focused on audio and video experiences, optimized for PS4 gaming, and one of the best Android tablets you can find today. It is an iPad mini competitor and worth considering if you want an Android tablet.

Check out the full CNET review and video walkthrough of the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact.

Specifications

  • Operating system: Android KitKat 4.4
  • Processors: Snapdragon 2.5 GHz quad-core CPU
  • Display: 8 inch 1920 x 1200 pixels Triluminos with X-Reality
  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Storage capacity: 32GB internal storage with microSD card slot
  • Cameras: 8.1 megapixel rear and 2.2 megapixel front facing
  • Battery capacity: 4500 mAh with support for magnetic wireless dock
  • Dimensions: 213 x 124 x 6.4 mm and just 270 grams

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has front facing stereo speakers, is IP65/68 waterproof and dust tight rated, and supports the excellent Sony noise-cancelling earbuds.

It is not an inexpensive tablet, but even at the $499.99 price I have been considering it as a companion to my Z3 and Sony SmartWatch 3. Rather than buy a waterproof ebook reader, I could use this to read in the tub or at the beach.

On the hardware

When I first picked up the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (that name is way too long) I was immediately impressed by how thin the tablet is. 6.4mm is less than most phones today. Sony was able to do this on the Z3 Tablet Compact while still making the tablet feel fairly solid. It will bend a little bit as you apply force, but I never heard any creaking.

The front is all glass, the sides are silver plastic, the corners are metal, and the back is matte plastic. I tested the white version, but there is also a black model available.

There are doors for the microSD and microUSB ports that must be closed to maintain the waterproof rating. The volume button and typical Sony power button are on the right with the 3.5mm headphone jack up near the top. This headphone jack supports the same Sony noise-cancelling earbuds as soon on the Xperia Z3 smartphone, which is an awesome feature for commuters and those who fly.

The microSD card slot and the magnetic wireless dock connector are on the left side with the microUSB port on the bottom left side.

There are front facing speakers positioned at the very edge of the top and bottom of the front that sound good enough to enjoy movies and music without headphones.

There is a front facing camera above the display on the right side of the Sony name. The rear camera is centered near the top on the back. I was not impressed with the rear camera performance, but never use the rear camera on my tablets so it is personally not an issue for me.

I liked the design better than the Nexus 9 and when you consider you can add a 128GB microSD card while enjoying a better media experience on the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact it seems the $20 difference in price is worth it.

Pros Cons
Excellent thin, light, well-constructed design Poor performing rear camera
High end audio and video experience Overwhelming Sony widgets out of the box
Waterproof and dust proof design Expensive compared to the iPad mini
Wireless charging support with dock accessory
Long battery life

On the software

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact comes loaded with Android 4.4 KitKat. Just like the Z3 smartphone, Sony has a minimal custom user interface so you get a nearly pure Google Android experience.

The additions by Sony are actually improvements in terms of quick controls, widgets, and functionality of the application launcher. When you first start up the device I think Sony puts too many of their own widgets into the face of the user, but these can easily be removed as well.

You will find some Sony apps and services, such as PlayStation, Movies, Walkman, camera modes, and Lifelog. The Movies app is a bit unnecessary given you also have Google Play Movies, but Sony offers specials and it is understandable to see its services available to consumers as well.

The tablet performed flawlessly with games, movies, music, and more. I was able to quickly switch between apps and never saw any lagging in the UI. Settings were easy to access and manage while customizability is also supported.

Like the Z3 phone, the Tablet Compact is fantastic for movies and music. The front facing speakers sound great, the headphone jack supports noise-cancelling, and the display looks fantastic when you watch movies.

I would like to see support for using more than one application at a time on the display, like multi-window on Samsung tablets. Tablets with seven inch or large displays should have this capability for better efficiency and use.

Pricing and availability

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is available now for $499.99 from the Sony store. This is for the model with 32GB internal storage. You can also find the 16GB international model for about $425 on Amazon if you want to save some money and give up some storage capacity.

The competition

The Nexus 9 is available for $479 with 32GB internal storage so is priced similarly. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.09 is priced at $250, so may be the best Android option available at a low price. The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has higher end specs and is available for $399.99.

The iPad mini 2 32GB model is just $349 while a 16GB iPad mini 3 is priced at $399. A 64GB iPad mini 3 costs $499.

It's interesting to see a couple of these high end Andoid tablets priced higher than iPads today, but there is much more storage capability when you have microSD card support.

Amazon Kindle Fire tablets are priced quite low so you really need to decide why you need a tablet. If it is primarily for entertainment purposes, then the price of the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact may be tough to justify.

Conclusion

The Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is an excellent Android tablet, but is likely priced $80 to $100 too high for mass consumer sales. The audio and video experience is excellent, it was a joy to carry such a light tablet, and it has just about everything one could want in a tablet.

Contributor's rating: 8 out of 10

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