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Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2

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Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Which tablet is best?

iPad Air 2 or Xperia Z4 Tablet? Which slim tablet is the one to own? We compare the specs

The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet and iPad Air 2 are two of the best slates in the business right now. That's mostly down to an impressive specs list, beautiful displays and plenty of additional extras.

But if you had money to spend on one, which one should you go for? We've reviewed and lived with both super slim tablets and these are the key differences you need to know about before taking the credit card out of your wallet.

Watch our Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet hands-on video

Related: iPad Air 3

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Design

Xperia Z4 Tablet: 392g, 6.1mm thick, plastic body with aluminium trim


iPad Air 2: 437g, 6.1mm thick, metal unibody

If there's something Sony and Apple get right here, it's design. The iPad Air 2 and Xperia are both 6.1mm thick and we can’t imagine tablets getting much thinner. Although we're sure the likes of Samsung will try.

Related: iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S6

Apple’s dedication to aluminium rears for its tablets means it’s not quite as light as the largely plastic Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet, though. The Sony tablet does weigh an impressively light 392g, so it's around 40g lighter than the iPad Air 2.

Weight isn’t the top thing to consider here, though. The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is a bit longer than the iPad Air 2 as it has a widescreen display. The iPad Air 2 doesn’t. It makes the weight difference all the more miraculous.

The iPad Air 2’s silhouette measures 240 x 169.5mm while the Sony is 254 x 167mm. It’s not a huge difference, but does give the Xperia Z4 Tablet a different feel.

One clear hardware win for the Sony is waterproofing. it has an IP65 and IP68 certification, which means you can drop it in the bath with no worries. The iPad Air 2 would probably die should it got dunked, so we don't recommend that you try it.

As technically impressive as the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is, the iPad Air 2 feels at least a tiny bit nicer in our opinion. At first, the lightness of the Z4 tablet is a little jarring, while the iPad Air 2 has a reassuringly sturdy feel.

It also features a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, the same one found in the iPhone 6, which lets you unlock the tablet and open certain apps – Natwest banking and 1Password for example – securely with zero fuss.


Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Screen

Xperia Z4 Tablet: 10.1-inch 2560 x 1600 pixel IPS with Triluminous LCD


iPad Air 2: 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 pixel IPS Retina Display

The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet has a completely different screen setup to the iPad Air 2. It has a widescreen 16:10 aspect where all iPads have 4:3 screens. That’s what gets you that classic squat iPad look.

Related: Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 vs iPad Air 2

Which is better? It’s very much a case of personal preference, but for general use we find 4:3 displays superior, giving you the impression of larger display size while keeping the hardware manageable. Even the Nexus 9 adopted the aspect last year. Of course, if you’re going to be watching a lot of films, a widescreen display is generally more accommodating. Though, if you're going to be doing a lot of reading, browsing, playing games and using apps then this is where 4:3 really shines.

The style is very different, but the quality is quite similar. They have IPS LCD displays and fairly similar pixel density, which is a pretty good guide of how sharp a screen will look. The iPad Air 2 offers 264ppi, the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet a slightly higher 299ppi.

It’s the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet that pushes at the limits of IPS LCD, too. It uses Triluminous tech to boost colour performance to 130 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, providing OLED-like colour richness. This involves using quantum dot tech to boost colour saturation.

Still, the iPad Air 2 is pretty strong here too, offering very tasteful screen calibration for a very natural look.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Storage

Xperia Z4 Tablet: 32GB, microSD


iPad Air 2: 16/64/128GB

The iPad Air 2 is the only mainstream tablet you can currently buy with 128GB of internal memory. That’s an awful lot: more laptop-like than tablet-grade. It also comes in 16GB and 64GB editions, although 16GB really doesn’t go very far, especially if you like playing games. iOS 9 should help make apps smaller as developers will no longer need to include all the assets for every iOS device, just the one you're using, but we'd still struggle to recommend picking up the 16GB variety.

There’s less choice with the Xperia Z4 Tablet, but bags more flexibility. The tablet has 32GB of its own memory, plus an SDXC-compatible microSD slot that’ll take cards up to 128GB.

Related: Android Stagefright Bug: What is it?

It’s a much cheaper upgrade than stepping up to a 128GB iPad Air 2. Apple charges you £160 extra, where you can get a 128GB card for about £60. Then you end up with a jaw-dropping 160GB storage too. Not bad, eh?

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: CPU and Power

Xperia Z4 Tablet: Snapdragon 810 oct-core 2GHz, 3GB RAM


iPad Air 2: Apple A8X tri-core 1.5GHz, 2GB RAM

At first glance, it seems like the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet flattens the iPad Air 2 on power. It has an eight-core Snapdragon 810 CPU with 3GB RAM while the iPad Air has a three-core 1.5GHz CPU and 2GB RAM.

However, some benchmarks actually show that the iPad Air 2 is more powerful. Check out the Geekbench 3 score: the iPad Air 2 can score upwards of 4500 while around 4000 points is the best we’ve seen out of a Snapdragon 810 so far. They are both incredibly powerful, but it actually looks like Apple wins this round.

Of course, to an extent these sorts of navel-gazing CPU comparisons aren’t that useful when the devices are still roughly in the same ballpark. What matters is that these are both chipsets at the top of their respective games, meaning they’ll be used to tailor the very best visuals in games, at least for now.

Related: Best Tablets to buy 2015


Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Software

Xperia Z4 Tablet: Android 5.0 Lollipop

iPad Air 2: iOS 8.4

For us, iOS is still the king when it comes to tablet software. It has more, and arguably better, apps, a slicker experience and with iOS 9 it will finally have multitasking features that will let you do multiple things at once. If you've ever wanted to have both the email app and Safari open at the same time, you won't have much longer to wait as iOS 9 is in public beta now and set for a full release later in the year.

Thankfully, Sony has kept its tinkering of Android to a minimum. Instead of tweaking every part of the OS, it has merely added some handy tablet enhancements on top of Lollipop. For instance, when you attach the included keyboard dock a Chromebook-esque app launcher will appear, letting you quickly jump from app to app. You can also open apps in mini windows, great if you're a keen multi-tasker.

Related: Octa-core vs Quad-core: What's the difference?

Another awesome feature Sony has up its sleeve is PS4 Remote Play. While it's not a completely new addition – a couple of Xperia phones have previously had it along with the Z3 Compact tablet – it definitely suits the Z4 tablet the most. You've got that big, high-res screen to play with, plus plenty of power. If you've got a decent internet connection and a PS4, it could be the feature that makes the Z4 Tablet stand out from the ever increasing Android pack.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Camera

Xperia Z4 Tablet: 8.1MP front, 5.1MP rear


iPad Air 2: 8MP front, 1.2MP rear

These tablets each have a camera on the front, and another on the back. And the rear ones at least are almost the same resolution. The Sony has an 8.1-megapixel rear camera, the iPad Air 2 an 8-megapixel one. Both brand's have also tried harder than ever before to make the cameras better than the usual poor standard we're used to on tablets.

Sony has kitted the Z4 Tablet out with a new HDR mode, plus some image stabilisation tech that ensures night time shots don't turn into a blurry mess. General, well lit snaps look fine, but they tend to be a little hazy and without very much detail. There's also a few AR apps to play around with, including a particularly odd one that superimposes a cat over your face. Because, well why not?

Apple has basically taken the camera from 2013's iPhone 5S and plonked it right into the iPad Air 2. The 8-meg shooter is much better than the version used on the previous iPad Air, with better detail, colour accuracy and low-light performance.

We'd give the award in this section to the iPad, simply because the photos it takes are far more detailed than those snapped with the Z4 Tablet.

For selfies though, the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is the clear winner, with a 5.1-megapixel camera to the iPad Air 2’s rather basic 1.2-megapixel one. While just about every company has started to put a bit more focus on the selfie camera, Apple is yet to cotton onto the trend.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Speakers

Xperia Z4 Tablet: Stereo, side positioning


iPad Air 2: Dual speakers, bottom edge positioning

Despite being incredibly thin, the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet still manages to fit in a pair of speakers. They sit at each end, giving you a convincing stereo image when the tablet is held in landscape, as you would do when watching a film.

iPad Air 2

As a tablet designed to be held in portrait, it’s no surprise that the iPad Air 2 has speakers on its bottom rather than the sides. They’re pretty good, but this means you don’t really get a stereo image. The two speakers are there more for better sound quality than for a stereo effect.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Connectivity

Xperia Z4 Tablet: Wi-Fi up to ac, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, optional 4G, MHL


iPad Air 2: Wi-Fi up to ac, Bluetooth 4.0, optional 4G

Just as the iPad’s slightly restrictive style means you don’t get things like a microSD memory card slot, the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet has better connectivity than the iPad Air 2. The extras you get include NFC, Bluetooth 4.1 instead of Bluetooth 4.0 and MHL. This means you can output video to a TV if you get the right adapter. You can output the iPad Air 2 to your television through a rather pricey dongle, or with AirPlay combined with the ageing Apple TV.

iPad Air 2

Both tablets are available in 3G/4G versions, although as ever you’ll have to pay a bit more for the privilege.

They have ac-grade Wi-Fi too. This provides better range and performance when used with a Wi-Fi ac router.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet vs iPad Air 2: Battery

Xperia Z4 Tablet: 6000mAh


iPad Air 2: 7340mAh

The top Android phones tend to outperform iPhones in battery life, but the roles are reversed when we look at tablets. Android tablets very rarely touch the battery performance of iPads, and sure enough the iPad Air 2 has a significantly larger battery than the Z4 Tablet. It has a 7340mAh unit while the Sony uses a 6000mAh battery.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

Those numbers really do show as we've found the iPad Air 2 can go a lot longer without needing a recharge than the Xperia Z4 Tablet. Using both over the course of a week, we had to charge Sony's offering three times, while Apple's iPad Air 2 only needed a single charge.

This could be down to a number of things; optimisation being the most likely one. Apple seems to have a knack for getting the combination of software and hardware to work together.

Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is one of the only large tablets that offers up a compelling alternative to Apple's iPad Air 2. It's also among the top Android tablets on the market, thanks to the fantastic display, super-thin build, clever PS4 Remote Play and simple Android skin. It's just a notch off perfect though. We'd have liked to see the battery go a bit further and for the price to be more inviting.

Apple's iPad Air 2 is, simply put, the best iPad yet. While it might not be the biggest jump from the original Air, it has been refined and additional features like the Touch ID sensor and the gapless display just make it even better.

If we had to choose one, we'd go for the iPad Air 2. That's unless you have a particular aversion to iOS or really want to stream PS4 games to your tablet.

Matthew Bunton

March 19, 2015, 3:51 pm

The Z4 hands down for me I enjoy freedom with my devices and dislike the whole Apple bubble.

I'm still happy with my Z2 tablet though so I might wait until next years revision.

Ε.Υ.Π.M

March 19, 2015, 8:32 pm

There are some great tech extras in the Sony Xperia Z4 .... So we go for Z4 :D

Tom Perry

March 20, 2015, 6:28 am

This article is unbelievably pro-apple despite Sony winning almost completely. You can get a good proper keyboard for the sony, better than the Microsoft one and with apple still missing ome

Chad

March 23, 2015, 7:37 am

1. The difference between 264ppi and 299ppi is not slight, not by a long shot
2. "The Sony screen is supported by all these amazing technologies to provide next gen viewing experience, but iPad looks nice too"
3. Care to elaborate on the oh so famous Apple tablet ecosystem that you think is better?
4. "Look at all these tech features Sony incorporated, and apple offers none of us! It's so casual! We therefore think the iPad is the winner here!"

Dear god was this actually supposed to be a proper tech review...I'm seriously starting to think Apple just hands envelopes of money and manuscript to these "tech journalists" and they just say what they're told to say. Note the universal blurry marketing buzzwords like "ecosystem" and "fantastic" and "beautiful" and the lack of actual descriptions and comparison. Oh except for the single core test score, which is the only quantifiable aspect that the iPad won, how about multiple core test scores? pixel density? Sound tests on the speakers? Water resistance? Upgradability?

Leguro

March 30, 2015, 8:52 pm

How unusual. A fanboy flaming about how much he hates Apple and loves android. And those geeobench numbers ARE multi-core results... Look it up before you cry about it.

Dead Words

August 11, 2015, 4:31 pm

I'd like to point out that you swapped the camera resolutions for each tablets, saying that they have 8/.1 megapixel front facing cameras and lower resolution rear cameras.

Dead Words

August 11, 2015, 4:43 pm

I would have to go for the Z4. I'm just a fan of Android (I find iOS too basic and boring to use) and Sony seems to have done good with their skin this time around.
Also, I quite like the look of the Z4. There's just something refreshing about it's unashamed use of plastic, and it's not the cheap plastic used on Samsung devices in the past. The iPad Air 2 looks rather nice, clad all in aluminum, but at the same time, it's lacking some of the design touches that help break up the design and catch your eye more. It's just a tiny bit too unassuming. It's not like the HTC One M8 from last year that just caught your eye and held your attention.
I think the Z4 screen performs better as well. Yes, the Air 2 has a great, natural looking screen, but it can't go as far as the Z4 can, and it's not quite as sharp.
Performance wise, well they both do what they need to. That's not the issue. If it was just down to performance I wouldn't mind which one I got.
Camera wise...well why would I ever use the rear camera? I don't care if the rear camera is better on the Air 2, as I'd only ever use the front facing camera for Skype, and only very rarely. So here, the Z4 wins as well.
Battery life...now here's one place I thought Sony would excel, and the only place I see Apple actually winning this fight. Sony has always been notorious for offering great battery life and huge batteries in their devices, why slip up now? It's just bizarre. I wish the Z4 had better battery life, but at this point it's not enough to have me choose the Air 2.
Overall, I'd have to say the Z4 is a far better tablet. Yes, Apple has their "ecosystem" and better battery life, but the Z4 has a better screen, more enjoyable software, similar performance, better accessories, better connectivity, better front facing camera, and (in my opinion) a better design. So...where's the part where I'm suddenly converted to an Apple fan?

Alle

August 23, 2015, 8:12 am

Hahahaha this review.... Sony wins on almost everything but ipad Air wins anyways. Hahahahaha i love these Apple paid reviews :D

David Bridge

October 20, 2015, 9:40 pm

Cant help but second this opinion.

Ive owned both and the ipad ends up on ebay.

Josh

May 1, 2016, 3:41 pm

So to sum up this review....

Z4 is lighter, better resolution, better cameras,
waterproof, more connectivity options, virtually limitless storage, uses
Triluminous tech, it actually got a slightly higher score on Geekbench 3
than the ipad air 2, and has a better aspect ratio.

What does the ipad get better? A longer battery life and about $80 cheaper. Oh! Also, your friend probably bought one so... you should buy one too.

I don't really feel like I should trust Trusted Reviews on this one.

Paul Winn

May 18, 2016, 11:11 pm

I've had a Sony Z4 tablet for about 4 months. While it was in my bag next to me in the car the screen developed a crack across it - I may have lent on it, but it didn't signify and it certainly wasn't being abused. The touch screen stopped working near the crack. On the same trip another crack developed down the middle. Now the screen fails to respond at all. The Sony flexes a great deal and the glass seems to be a large part of its strength. Until the cracked screen developed, I liked it. But I've had cracked screens before on tablets and smart phones and always been able to continue using them. I'm looking for an ipad air now as a replacement. They seem much sturdier. Sony seem to have developed this micro thin tablet at the very important expense of frame strength.

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