Gadget fans keen to snap up the latest and most powerful tech should be getting excited this week, as Sony has confirmed its new Xperia Z2 tablet is hitting shelves up and down the UK.
Prices start at £399 for the base model – which comes with 16GB of storage and Wi-Fi connectivity only. If you want a bit more space for your games, movies and photos, a 32GB Wi-Fi model will set you back £449, while if you want to keep in touch wherever you are, a 16GB model with 4G LTE connectivity will require you to part with £499.
That puts the Xperia Z2 Tablet right into iPad Air territory, so if you're looking at the options and wondering whether Sony's Android-powered gadget can really keep pace with the market-leading Apple's many attractions, you might need some convincing to shell out for the new item.
Big specs, tiny package
Happily however, the Sony Xperia Z2 promises to deliver a top-of-the-line experience to match its premium price tag. And on paper, at least, it's certainly got the muscle to compete with its key rivals. Under the hood, you'll find a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor – which makes it one of the first tablets to come with the upgraded CPU announced last month.
This means it can offer improved graphics for gaming, faster image processing and faster access to its storage. And aside from the new processor, the Xperia Z2 Tablet offers 3GB of ram and an 8.1MP camera.
But what's really impressive about the gadget is not the power of its insides, but how it packages it. Sony claims that the slate is both the thinnest and lightest 10.1 inch tablet on the market, weighing in at just 426 grams and a tiny 6.4mm thick. On the other hand, Apple's slightly smaller iPad Air – which wowed journalists last year with its own slimmed down dimensions – is 469g for its Wi-Fi-only model and 7.5mm thick. Hardly a brick, but still losing out significantly to Sony's latest offering.
Like previous entries in the Xperia range, the Z2 Tablet is also claimed to be completely waterproof, so if you do happen to have butterfingers when watching TV in the bath or taking pictures in the swimming pool, you won't end up with a £400 paperweight.
What are they saying?
But as we all know, that's just on paper. And if you want a tablet that only works on paper, you should head down to WHSmith and pick up a pad of A4 for a fiver. What really matters is how the Sony Xperia Z2 performs in the real-world. And as you might expect for one of the world's biggest tech firms, the gadget doesn't disappoint.
First-look reviews when the Xperia Z2 Tablet broke cover at last month's Mobile World Congress (MWC) show were almost unanimous in their praise for the gadget, with Sony taking home several accolades for its latest offering, including TechRadar's Best Tablet award – following in the footsteps of its older sibling, which took home the same prize in 2013.
The publication's phones and tablets editor Gareth Beavis said: "Last year's winner made a lot better, with beefed up internals and a greatly enhanced screen. The iPad Air has set a high bar to beat, but the technology on the Xperia Z2 Tablet, like powerful front facing speakers, means it has a great chance."
Several reviewers also commented on the design of the tablet, with PC Advisor one of many to praise its "sleek, stylish" look and feel, while IT Pro Portal observed still images do not do the Xperia Z2 Tablet justice. Naming the gadget one of its top five devices of MWC, it stated: "You have to actually hold it to appreciate the unreal design feat that has been accomplished here."
Cream of the crop?
One thing that many commentators are in agreement on is the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is one of the very best tablet designs currently on the market. But with the year still young and many competitors already shaping up their own next-generation devices, how long can it keep this crown?
A few notes of caution have observed that the gadget is more of an update to Sony's previous offering rather than anything revolutionary and – while it does everything that's asked of it extremely well – it is lacking in genuinely innovative features that could give it the wow factor. But even so, with its stunning design and powerful performance, it should be something that anyone looking for a premium tablet right now needs to consider.