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