Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact – the portable, lifeproof compact tablet

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At just 6.4mm thick and weighing 270 grammes, Sony claims that its Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is the world’s slimmest and lightest. There are plenty of features though and it comes equipped with a Qualcomm quad-core 2.5GHz processor, 3GB of RAM, Adreno 330 graphics and 16GB of storage expandable via a microSD card up to 128GB.

It has an 8-inch 1920 x 1200 screen using tempered glass with an anti-fingerprint coating. Added to all that is PS4 Remote Play allowing you to run PlayStation 4 games and the fact that it’s dust and water proof.

Many of these features are shared with the Xperia Z3 smartphone but the Z3 Tablet Compact has a larger-capacity 4,500mAh battery and a lower spec main camera, 8.1Mp (full-HD video) at the back and 2.1Mp at the front. It does come with Sony’s camera features like Movie Creator, Sound Photo and AR Fun though.

It’s the spec that concerns PC Advisor which notes,

“It’s great to see Sony finally make a smaller tablet and the 8in form factor is proving to be increasingly popular. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is super thin and light and is waterproof to boot. Hardware is decent but not mind-blowing so rivals like the Galaxy Tab S offer more gadgetry. Software is easy going with one key new feature in the form of PS4 Remote Play.”

TechRadar is impressed by the size but critical of the screen spec, “On the one hand, it’s taking the best of Sony’s smartphone tech and spreading it smoothly through a slim and lightweight tablet that’s far less cumbersome than the likes of the (already pretty portable) Xperia Z2 tablet.

“On the other hand, it’s being brought out with an eight-inch screen that’s nowhere near as sharp as the competition in the smaller slate arena, which will instantly put some users off purchase, given that spec comparison is still one of the primary ways to decide which tablet to go for.”

However, it does go on to say, “…the strides Sony has made in display technology, this year included, mean that even a low-res display is boosted to look better.” Sony’s Triluminos technology helps with games and video footage but the resolution is likely to show itself with less sharp letters when loading web pages.

There’s some damning with faint praise going on over at Trusted Reviews, “Longwinded name aside, this is a reasonably impressive offering. A sleek, stylish body belies a veritable feast of high-end components. That said, this tablet is hardly breaking new ground. A Full HD display joins a quad-core CPU and an 8-megapixel rear-mounted camera on the strong specs sheet.”

It does seem impressed by the screen’s response though,

“Capable of diffusing glare in bright, direct sunlight, the Tablet Compact’s screen was highly responsive during early tests. It swiftly skipped through menu screens and effortlessly handled all manner of multi-finger gesture controls.”

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The Xperia Z3 Tablet is available to pre-order from the Sony website with prices starting at £329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, an extra 16GB of memory adds £50 but opt for the LTE/4G version and you’ll pay a hefty £429.

Wired concluded its preview by saying, “If the price is right, this slim slate could be one of the best tablet offerings on the market.” We’ve a feeling that, certainly for the 4G model, Sony’s pricing may be just a little high.

Sony’s Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact – their latest and greatest smartphones

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Sony has done a nice job of creating a little elbow-room for itself in the Smartphone market, aided initially by its key differentiator – waterproofing. Anyone who has inadvertently dropped a phone down a toilet or encountered some other aqua-based mishap will have considered the Xperia Z – the world’s first waterproof phone, and that powerful yet rather angular behemoth has spawned some impressive successors that are slowly smoothing out those edges.

Here we have the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact, a choice for those who are leaning towards the “phablet” market and those would prefer something that can be used comfortably with one hand.

Accordingly the larger model features a 5.2” (1920×1080) display compared to the Compact’s 4.6” (1280×720), but otherwise the devices are fairly similar. Both offer the headline waterproofing and dust tightening (IP65 and IP68 rated, if you want to find out exactly how secure this is), both feature a whopping 20.7MB camera and 2.2MP front-facer, both run KitKat 4.4 and both have a Snapdragon 2.5GHz Qualcomm quad-core to keep things ticking over.

Also of note is the PS4 Remote Play feature – these are the only smartphones with this built in, and it allows you to connect to and control games via your handheld or play them on the smaller screen by utilising a DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controller in between. You can even watch friends play games remotely on the screen if you so wish.

Interesting – two phones that simply offer a choice of size without dumbing down the interiors or key features. Let’s take a look to see what else Sony has in store.

TechRadar is impressed by the compact, saying that it’s “more powerful, better built and with an improved screen over its predecessor, there’s a lot to attract consumers here.”  Of particular appeal is the design, which has a premium feel and fits well in the hand, and the battery. Using an intelligent screen that “remembers” images, battery life can apparently be extended to three days without charge. Overall, TechRadar is highly pleased with the device:

an astonishingly capable device that takes over from the first Compact and shows the world how it should be done. There are very few flaws, the screen aside, and it could even rival its bigger brother as the top dog thanks to the lower price tag.

Stuff takes a look at the Z3 and is impressed by its design:

The aluminium and tempered glass OmniBalance design now has rounded sides and, while it’s still an angular body and won’t sit completely snug in the palm like a One (M8), it’s enough to make it much more comfortable.

It’s also lighter than the Z2 and slightly smaller and thinner, which helps it fit a tad better. The display is impressive – 20% brighter than the Z2 in fact, and the camera has undergone a range of tweaks and improvements. These include “a new 25mm G lens for wide angle shots and improved SteadyShot for video” and a sensor with “light sensitivity up to IS0 12800. By comparison most phones will go up to ISO 800 or so before giving up” to improve low-light shots. It concludes with an impressive statement that sums up Sony’s capabilities as a jack of all trades:

This is a smartphone that deserves attention. It’s supremely specced in all the right places and shows that Sony does care about how people use its gadgets. And it may just be the best all-rounder you can buy.

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Despite the clear capabilities of both models, the Compact is getting more attention in the press at the moment, possibly because the market for larger displays is smaller. The Verge says that out of the two “the Z3 Compact is the real star of Sony’s IFA 2014 lineup.” It highlights the fact that while the same size as the Z1 Compact, it has a bigger 4.6” display, is 9% thinner and 6% lighter – in fact it calls the size and feel just about perfect for the vast majority of people. When you throw in the improved waterproofing and toughened exterior, which takes it a level above that of the S5, it seems like the Compact, at least, has all the potential to be a big success.

 

Sony Xperia Z1: First Impressions Round Up

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Since Sony bought Ericsson’s stake in Sony Ericsson in 2011, the company’s Android handsets have improved significantly, with the new Xperia Z1 the most accomplished to date.

Unveiled at this week’s IFA tech show in Berlin, Sony’s new flagship Android handset has a lot going for it: it’s fully waterproof, comes with a gargantuan 20.7 megapixel camera, featuring Sony’s award winning ‘G Lens’, and has a stunning 1080p full HD screen utilising Sony’s Triliminos display technology.

As far as high-end phone specs go it’s very much on the money, the main headline takeaway is, of course, the 20.7 megapixel camera, which uses Sony’s ‘G Lens’ which has been designed to take clear and colourful photographs. Whilst the camera might be overkill for a phone it does includes a F2.0 Sony G Lens with a 27mm wide angle and a 3x zoom, which Sony’s boss Ken Hirai stated offers “zero loss of quality.”

The camera also comes with a host of new applications and social features including the ability to share videos in real-time with Facebook.

Looks-wise the Xperia Z1 takes a lot of design cues from its cousin, the Xperia Z, this time, however, it is made up from a one-piece aluminum frame that is finished in black, white, or purple. The front and rear of the handset is finished with glass giving it a sturdy, premium feel – something lacking with a lot of other Android handsets. Overall the handset is slightly thicker, longer and heavier than a Samsung S4, but for the extra horsepower and features you’re getting it’s certainly not a deal breaker.

Measuring 5-inches the new Xperia Z1 features a super-snappy quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, running at an impressive 2.2 GHz alongside 2 GB of RAM. There’s 16 GB of onboard storage and the ability to upgrade via SD to 64GB, are you listening HTC? The handset is also 4G LTE compatible meaning it’s perfect for anyone who is planning to join one of the new super-fast 4G networks.

Elsewhere Sony has bestowed the handset with a capacious 3000 mAh battery, and has also added BatterySTAMINA Mode that automatically turns off certain functions to save juice when you’re not using them and restarts them when you do.

At 170gram it’s light enough without ever feeling too flimsy, and the stunning 1080p ‘Triluminous’ display certainly makes any pictures or videos taken on the camera stand out with deep blacks and eye-piercing colours.

One of the major bugbears with many Android handsets is the manufacturers need to fill their handsets with unnecessary bloatware and changed to the user interface. Thankfully, Sony’s changes to Android 4.2.2 don’t seem too overbearing from first impressions and to the untrained eye you’d be hard pressed to notice them.

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In a similar vein to the Xperia Z, the Z1 is fully waterproof so you can dunk the handset in 1.5 metres of water for an impressive 30 minutes. This time, however, Sony has made Z1’s headphone jack waterproof itself, meaning you don’t need to undo the flap every time you want to listen to music – which is a clever revision to this year’s version.

Overall Sony’s Xperia Z1 is an accomplished handset with some significant features that other handsets just don’t offer. If you’re the type of person that spends a lot of time outdoors and requires a sturdy waterproof handset with a killer specs list, and best in-class camera, then the Xperia Z1 is a no-brainer.

The guys over at IT Portal pointed out that the Xperia Z1’s spec sheet is “exactly where it needs to be at the premium end of the smartphone scale, replete with a stunning 5in Full HD screen, a powerful 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor from Qualcomm, and a 20.7-megapixel camera which leverages Sony’s famed digital imaging technology.”

Meanwhile in their hands-on, the Independent said:

“At first glance, it’s very similar to the Xperia Z, though a touch bigger in every direction – which is worrying as the Z was quite big enough, thank you. The same design language is evident here: glass front and back, matte frame and engraved power button gleaming on the side.”

In relation to its waterproof nature, the team at Cnet wrote:

“If you’ve destroyed a phone by dropping it in the toilet — or by making calls in the rain — the Z1 might be the phone for you. It keeps water out by sealing its ports with smaller flaps. While the Xperia Z placed a flap over the headphone jack, the Z1 has simply made the jack itself waterproof, meaning you don’t need to undo it every time you want to plug your headphones in.”

Price and availability of the Xperia Z1 has yet to be announced.

Xperia ray, Xperia active and Sony Ericsson txt

Sony Ericsson has unveiled yet three more new handsets, the Xperia Ray, the Xperia Active and the Sony Ericsson txt. Does the mobile giant’s latest line offer anything new or simply mirror the features and design of their predecessors?

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Like most new gadgets hitting the market, the Xperia Ray, with its sleek aluminium frame, is aimed at the more style conscious consumers. This thin and elegant Android phone features a 3.3” touch screen and an 8.1 megapixel camera that is capable of capturing 720p video – Quite an internal package considering this handset weighs in at just 100g.

Whilst the Xperia Ray has been designed for the more fashion conscious amongst us, the Xperia active is for the sportier techie junkies out there. Not only is the Active scratch-resistant, dust proof and water resistant, but it also has wet finger tracking support, meaning its touchscreen will function normally when operated with sweaty fingers – a great addition if you are inclined to want to use your smartphone straight after an arduous and gruelling workout.

Maintaining its sports conscious capabilities, the Xperia Active runs on the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread, is compatible with ANT+ technology for real-time heart rate monitoring, a feature that many other Sony Ericsson handsets possess.

Other conventional components apply, including a 3” touchscreen and a 5 megapixel camera with HD functionality.

In-keeping with Sony Ericsson’s latest ‘theme-based’ handsets, the Sony Ericsson txt is aimed at the socially-orientated consumer. A full hardware QWERTY keyboard replaces a touchscreen and the txt features an SMS shortcut for instant texting option and a “friends” app alerting you of the social updates of your top five friends, making the Sony Ericsson txt the perfect companion for texting junkies and the social media addicted.

Although it’s not just three new smartphones that Sony Ericsson has launched. Other ‘smart extras’ include the Sony Ericsson Smart Extras LiveDock, a docking station that enables users to utilise their Sony Ericsson smartphone into their home, and the Sony Ericsson Smart Extras LiveSound, headphones that provide a seamless audio experience whilst enabling consumers to remotely access applications from the phone through LiveKey control.

Minuscule over massive: Xperia mini and the Xperia mini pro

Bigger is better, they say – or is it? When it comes to technology and gadgets, minuscule is usually chosen over massive, so when Sony Ericsson tells you that they’re launching the world’s smallest HD recording video smartphone, you’ve got to open your eyes and ears and take notice.

The phone manufacturer have unveiled two new additions to their Xperia smartphone range – the Xperia mini and the Xperia mini pro.

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They both run on Google Android’s Gingerbread 2.3 via a 1GHZ Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, meaning that they are self-proclaimed “turbo charged” pieces of well-oiled machinery.

The jewel in the crown, perhaps, amidst all the app-laden japery, is that the Xperia mini holds the moniker of the world’s smallest Android smartphone with HD video recording. The Xperia mini pro, however, errs on the side of the office pen-pusher rather than the avid videomaker, with a fold-out keyboard and pre-installed antivirus and office software.

The enterprising chaps at Sony Ericsson have also unleashed ‘Facebook in Xperia’, which will allow users of the new smartphones even greater interactivity with Facebook whilst on their phone. Want to tell people about the song you’re listening to on the phone’s media player? Well, you can ‘like’ it straight from the player. It claims to offer a high level of integration between the social networking website and the phone’s functions, but we’re left however pondering how often it might actually be utilised.

New smartphones unveiled at CES 2011

This year you weren’t anyone if you didn’t announce a new smart phone, the majority of which are now powered (or based upon) the Android operating system. Being “Latest Gadgets” rather than “Latest Phones” meant that we only focused on the phones that caught our eye, rather than trying to provide a complete list of all the phones launched at this year’s show. So, without further ado, here are the ones that made us sit up and take notice (and not always for the right reason!).

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Smartphone

 

First up is the ‘visually brilliant’ Xperia arc. This is the firm’s first phone to feature a mobile version of the Bravia engine and comes with the latest version of Android. The phone comes complete with a HDMI output to view your videos and photos on your TV as well as ‘Sony Exmor R’ for mobile which helps with low-light photography. Being in a brightly lit exhibition hall didn’t give us much opportunity to test this particular feature, but we did have a quick play with the rest of the phone.  Unfortunately our first impression wasn’t overly positive, we found the interface to be rather slow and the design of the phone (as seen in our candid snapshots above – click to enlarge) wasn’t anything to write home about.

The ‘Nexus S’ by Samsung/Google

Next up is the latest phone from Google, featuring Android 2.3, full integration (as you’d expect) with Google Mobiles Services and a Super AMOLED display. The phone’s design was perfectly acceptable and comfortable to hold. The feedback vibration when using the screen was reassuring rather than annoying. In terms of usability and speed – we initially found the phone to be extremely laggy and attempting to view a sample video resulted in a black screen. However, all of this was rectified by a Samsung employee who performed the classic ‘turn it off and on again’ routine. Having done this, we found the Nexus to be much quicker and more responsive than the ‘arc’. The Nexus S will also come with support for Flash 10.1 and HTML 5 to enable ‘full use’ of web sites.

Motorola ‘Atrix’

Motorola, ever so modestly, introduced their new Atrix phone as the “World’s most powerful smartphone”. The Atrix comes with a dual core processor which promises faster, smoother graphics and web browsing. It also comes with the World’s first qHD display and a web browser that supports Flash – something which, unsurprisingly, all manufacturers are shouting from the roof tops in order to try and get one over on Steve Jobs and Co.
The unusual and somewhat intriguing (in our opinion at least!) part of the Atrix offering is what the firm calls a ‘revolutionary webtop application’. This is basically a latop/docking station for your Atrix which gives you a bigger screen and full-size QWERTY keyboard. The idea is that you have one of these “I can’t believe it’s not a laptop” devices at home and work and then carry all your files on your phone. Unfortunately the design of the laptop appeared to be very basic and it had a distinctly plasticky feel to it. Motorola aren’t known for their laptops (as far as we know!) and we’re not sure that venturing in to this field is the way to go. However, stranger things have happened – so we’re prepared to eat our hat if this turns out to be the future of mobile computing!

‘Revolution’ by LG

Like most firms, LG announced a whole range of new smart phones at this year’s CES, but again we’ve just focused on the one that caught our eye. In this case it was the ‘Revolution’ which will initially be available on the Verizon network in the US. However we imagine that we’ll see it at some point in the future in the UK but perhaps under a different guise or product name.

The main headline offering from the Revolution is its support for full HD streaming, playback and recording. This means you can wirelessly stream content from your phone to any compatible TV – and we were told this doesn’t just include LG sets. In addition to HD support, the Revolution comes with all the features you’ve come to expect, such as dual cameras for video calling, a 5M AF camera with LED flash, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. A nice additional touch is that the Revolution comes with a wireless charger which we didn’t see in action but imagine will become more common place in the year to come.

Hands on with the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10

I was invited down to a Sony Ericsson launch event to have some hands on time with the new Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 in the company of a rugby player and a fashion model. The Rugby player and Model didn’t have much to say about the fragmentation of the Android OS but fortunately there were some very enthusiastic product experts on hand to answer most of my questions.

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My first impression of the device was “my that is a big screen”. A 262,144 colour TFT touchscreen 4.0 inches , 480 x 854 pixels (WVGA), scratch-resistant screen to be exact. The camera isn’t bad either -8.1 megapixels, GEO tagging, smile detection (this didn’t work for me despite going ear to ear Cheshire cat style). Intelligent face recognition identifies up to five faces in any picture, automatically connecting them with your phonebook. This actually seemed like a pretty neat figure, although face recognition systems in Picasa and Aperture have left me a little jaded towards the technology (I was once shown a picture of an old white lady in her 50s and asked “Is this you?”) Everything else was what you’d expect from a high end smart phone – apps, connectivity, music etc.

The headline features for me (aside from the lovely screen) were the “streams” for media and communication. Timescape™ manages all your communication with one person in one place allowing you to browse through your conversations in Facebook, Twitter, photos, emails, and texts all in one go. It actually looked reasonably nifty and the employee I spoke to assured me it made sense as a means of keeping in touch with people you contact often across various social networks. The Mediascape was an interactive way to browse music, photos and videos and allows you to access local and online content (YouTube and something called PlayNow). It reminded me a little of the Cooliris plugin/extenstion for Firefox/Chrome

Fortunately the tech press has grown up a little over the past few years so we no longer have to scream “iPhone Killer???” at every touchscreen smartphone. Which is fortunate as this clearly isn’t. It is however a fairly decent smartphone with a rich featureset, great camera and fabulous screen. And the Android Mobile OS is clearly going to be the site of some interesting developments. The Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 is out now.