Now that the Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has been revealed, we compare it to Google's new Nexus 7 to see which is the best
Sony has introduced the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact at an IFA press conference in Berlin, marking the first time the company has made a compact device rather than continue with larger 10in tablets. As well as the smaller screen, it’s also a significant upgrade over the existing Xperia Z2 Tablet, so should appeal to fans of high-end tablets that (just about) fit in a pocket.
However, specifications only tell half the story, and with Google’s Nexus 7 still one of the best all-round Android tablets, we’ve pitted the two against each other to see which one you should buy.
This is purely a specification comparison, to highlight the differences as they stand on paper. We’ve included benchmark figures where we’ve got them to show any performance gaps, but until we get the Xperia Z3 Compact Tablet in for a full review we can’t judge things like battery life, screen quality and camera image quality. We’ll have to wait for an official release to give a final verdict, but in the meantime you can decide whether the Z3 Tablet Compact is worth waiting for, or whether a Nexus would be a better buy.
The Nexus 7 proved plastic doesn’t have to mean cheap; the tablet’s rubberised finish, thin screen bezels and superb build quality are all signs of a much more expensive tablet, and although it won’t catch your eye like the all-metal iPad Mini, it’s still a very stylish piece of tech.
Sat side by side with the Xperia, however, and it’s clear tablet design has come on a long way in two short years. Sony’s Omnibalance design is sleek and incredibly compact, meaning you can (just about) squeeze it into your pocket despite the larger screen size. The matt black plastic finish on the back of the tablet helps prevent fingerprints and provides ample grip, so you can comfortably hold it in one hand, while nylon corners provide a little extra protection against drops and knocks.
Both models are available in white and black colours, although the Nexus retains its black front should you opt for the white finish – only the back acutally comes in white, while the Sony tablet is entirely white front and back. The Sony also has the added benefit of being dust and water-proof, meaning it will survive a dunking in the sink and can be rinsed off – making it ideal for use in the kitchen.
Screen resolution has been a hot topic ever since Apple first introduced its “retina display” technology. Rather than race to squeeze in more pixels, however, Sony has opted to focus on picture quality and stick with a tried and tested Full HD resolution for the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. It will arrive with an 8in, 1,920×1,200 resolution screen, which has a pixel density of 283ppi.
That means the Z3 Tablet Compact will compare almost directly with the smaller 7in Nexus 7, which uses the same LCD technology and has a similar 1,920×1,200 resolution, but a higher 323ppi pixel density. Both tablets have a 16:9 aspect ratio, which makes them ideal for watching videos.
The Nexus 7 impressed us with excellent image quality for the price, but we’re hoping Sony will be able to deliver excellent image quality in its own right. Based on our brief time with the tablet, the vibrant colours, ample detail and great contrast mean we can’t wait to put both devices side by side.
However, Sony has gone several steps better with the Z3 Tablet Compact. Qualcomm again supplies the silicon, but this time it’s a quad-core Snapdragon 801, one of the fasted chips available in any Android device to date, and it is paired with 3GB of RAM. The pre-production unit we saw at the launch event scored an impressive 896ms in the same SunSpider test, although we’ll reserve final judgment until we get a final sample running finished firmware.
It remains to be seen how the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact will cope in terms of battery life, however. With a 4,500mAh battery it should last for a reasonable length of time, but we’ll have to wait for a finished review sample to see what impact the quad-core processor and larger LCD display will have compared to Google’s tablet. The Nexus 7, with its 7in screen and dual-core CPU, managed a respectable eight hours in our video rundown test.
Taking photos using a tablet is a sure fire way to irk “serious photographers” and if you’re using a Nexus 7 you shouldn’t expect fantastic results; it has a 5-megapixel sensor with no LED flash, and although it does have autofocus you’ll need excellent lighting conditions to get clear, noise-free images.
Despite poor public perceptions of tablet photographers, Sony has added an 8-megapixel sensor to the Z3 Tablet Compact. It’s a step up from the Nexus and appears to use the same technology as last year’s Z2 Tablet. That means you get Sony’s proprietary imaging tech, a faster autofocus and the Super Auto shooting mode for simple shooting. Until we see sample shots we can’t comment on image quality, but based on the specifications we imagine this will be a win for Sony.
OPERATING SYSTEM, APPS AND CONTENT
The Nexus 7 arrived with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean in the box, but was swiftly upgraded to the latest 4.4 KitKat version with an OTA update. It uses the stock version of Android, so you don’t have to worry about manufacturer-installed skins, custom icons or superfluous features.
The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact will arrive with Android 4.4 KitKat pre-installed, but will be tweaked with Sony’s own custom Xperia user interface and come loaded with a selection of curated apps, including the company’s own Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services. Throw in the Google Play store, with its massive selection of apps, music, movies and eBooks, and you won’t be bored in a hurry, although you won’t be able to watch Amazon Prime Instant Video – Amazon restricts the service to its own Kindle tablets and Apple iPads.
Sony’s tablet will also be able to play PS4 games remotely with a paired DualShock 4 controller, making it one of the few Android devices able to support Remote Play and saving you the need to buy a PS Vita in order to keep playing when the main TV isn’t available.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
After a brief scare towards the end of July when the Google Play Store ran dry, the Nexus 7 is available to buy right now both online and in-store. If you order directly from Google you’ll need to spend £199, but if you’re prepared to shop around you can pick one up for significantly less – Currys is currently selling the 16GB model for an incredible £159.99, which an almost unbeatable price compared to current budget tablets.
Although Sony isn’t yet talking about prices, we’re expecting the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact to arrive for somewhere between £200 and £270 – any more and it will face strong competition from Apple’s retina iPad Mini. We think Sony will price it higher than the Nexus due to the larger screen and faster CPU, but too high and it will erode any reason to buy one. The tablet should launch some time in the Autumn.
Google’s second Nexus 7 was and still is a fantastic tablet for the money; the Full HD display, great performance out of the box and undiluted, stock version of Android give it the edge over much cheaper competition that no other manufacturer has managed to beat to date, but the 7in display is starting to look a little small up against 8in tablets.
Sony’s first compact Xperia tablet has real potential to beat the Nexus thanks to a larger screen, premium looks and faster performance, but until we know the exact price it’s tough to say which one would earn our recommendation. If you can’t wait, you won’t be disappointed with a Nexus, but if it turns out you’ll be able to pick up a Z3 Tablet Compact for only slightly more, we think the Sony tablet might edge it out.