Review: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Sony’s latest Android tablet is a worthy successor to the Xperia Z, with unique features, an incredibly thin and light design and a gorgeous screen. But battery life is not as good as it could be.
The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet ($529 16GB) is a remarkably thin and light device. At 426 grams, the Z2 is significantly lighter than the comparably equipped Apple iPad Air (469 grams) even though it has larger overall dimensions.
The chassis exterior is coated in a rubberized finish on the back and uses edge-to-edge scratch-resistant glass on the front. The sides (what little there are of them) is finished in a metal-look plastic material. Unlike the iPad, there is no metal shell.
Although this results in an amazingly light device, the problem with this design is that the Xperia Z2 gets all of its rigidity from the internal framework and the glass screen itself. Which it to say, you can actually flex the tablet without exerting much pressure at all. I suppose this isn’t necessarily an issue of quality – I wasn’t able to come even close to damaging it through normal use—but it doesn’t give you a tremendous feeling of confidence.
Confirmed: Amazon is launching an Android tablet
In the consumer tech world this year, there have been a few persistent rumours: An Apple television, the iPhone 5 and an Amazon tablet to compete with the iPad.
Today, one of those rumours has been put to rest. There will indeed be an Amazon tablet and TechCrunch.com blogger MG Siegler was fortunate enough to get some hands-on time with the device.
The good news for those who have been fearing that Amazon was simply going to launch a me-too device (as so many other companies have done with their uninspired Android tablets) is that they have boldly taken a different direction, at least as far as the operating system is concerned.
According to Siegler, although it is based on Google’s Android OS, the new Kindle (yes, it gets the same name as Amazon’s existing e-readers) has a user interface that is like no other implementation of Android that we’ve seen to-date.
The 7″ capacitive touchscreen unit which apparently bears a striking resemblance to RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook, is running a completely overhauled version of Android 2.2. The customization runs far deeper than other Android skins such as HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz. Even the Android Market has been stripped out in favour of – you guessed it – Amazon’s recently launched App Store.
For more details on the hardware side of the story, check out Siegler’s post. There aren’t any photos unfortunately, but his description tells the story of a capable, if bare-bones tablet that will not only make potential iPad buyers hesitate but should also set off alarm bells at places like Barnes and Noble and Sony.
What fascinates me about Amazon’s move into the tablet space is the way they have fused the hard work done by the Android team at Google with their own in-house design talent. Without having seen it, I’m already confident that Amazon has created a user experience that is consistent with their brand, and not something generic. Replacing the Android Market is not only a smart thing to do from a revenue point of view, it addresses one of the biggest critiques that has been leveled at Google’s app market – specifically a lack of oversight on which apps get approved and the significant security risks that have resulted from this easy-going policy.
You can bet that Amazon, much the same as Apple, will exert a great deal of control over their app store to avoid just this kind of situation.
So, will a $250 Amazon Kindle tablet take the tech world by storm? Will it finally present the iPad with some serious competition? Or will it merely cannibalize sales of their existing e-ink readers? Far too soon to tell. But it’s going to be a very interesting holiday season, don’t you think?
Ridiculous tech-cessory of the week: iPad Pants
The source of the amusement this time round is CrunchGear, who picked up on a thoroughly ridiculous concept: the iPad Tactical Pants.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good set of pants – particularly if they’re festooned with a variety of pockets – but there is practical limit to just how much gear you can reasonably tote around with you before you risk hurting yourself, or worse, your favourite gadgets.
The pair of Tactical Pants pictured above is a model known as “Kitanica.” And as the image shows, trying to pocket your brand new iPad 2 in this $160 garment (and then subsequently performing the ill-advised act of sitting) could easily lead to a $500 replacement bill. Yikes.
But it’s not all bad news for those of you who are determined to keep your tablet pal with you at all times. The team at TacticalPants.com have identified several other models of pants that are better suited to iPad-totage, namely the Genuine Gear variety which appears to offer a somewhat saner side-pocket location.
So with Father’s Day rapidly approaching, you now have one more option to show dear ol’ Dad how much you love/love-to-mock him.
[Source: TacticalPants.com] [Via: CrunchGear]
In photos: Sony’s Android tablets, the S1 and S2
Sony Canada confirms that these sleek-looking devices are indeed headed our way. No word on price so far, but they’re due to hit stores “in the fall,” but definitely in time for the holiday season. Obviously as soon as we get our hands on one (or both), we’ll let you know how they stack up against the iPad, PlayBook but more importantly, the other Android tablets beginning to flood the market.
Motorola Xoom Wi-Fi hits Canada in April
The device that won best of show for this year’s CES, is finally destined for Canada, at least in Wi-Fi flavour.
According to a Motorola press release sent out today, the Android Honeycomb-powered tablet will be in retail “beginning April 2011.” If that wasn’t vague enough, there was no pricing info included either.
Beyond just a repeat of the specs for the Xoom, which most people are probably familiar with by now, the only new info that was offered was a list of the accessories that will be available at launch:
- Standard Dock for watching videos on the Xoom while you listen through external speakers
- A Speaker HD Dock “for sending HD content directly to a TV or clearly listening to music through two built-in speakers”
- A Bluetooth keyboard with Android-specific shortcut keys
And – you guessed it – no pricing on these items either.
So stay tuned. Oh BTW, the 3G version is coming “mid-year”.
Update 2:54 p.m.: Okay looks like we have a price by way of a TELUS press release… $599. Interestingly, nowhere do they say that they have an exclusive on the Xoom, so hopefully more retailers will join the fray before the April launch.
Update Mar 22: You can pre-order the Xoom on FutureShop or BestBuy, both sites selling for $599 for the 32GB version. For some reason Motorola hasn’t seen fit to offer a 16GB version to match the 16GB iPad 2, though some rumours suggest this may yet change.
Samsung Sliding PC: Best of both worlds?
Android! iPad! PlayBook! These are the buzzwords being shouted this year and they were especially loud at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. There’s good reason for this. Tablets, in case you’ve been sitting under the proverbial rock, are hot, and everyone’s looking to get in on the action. But in all the excitement, more than a few people are asking a very good question: Can I really stop using my laptop or desktop and migrate all of my computing tasks to a tablet? The answer for now at least, is no – not completely. The tablet form factor itself lacks a built-in keyboard which many consider a deal-breaker in terms of doing “real work”, while the operating systems being used (Android, iOS, QNX) aren’t compatible with any of your existing Windows or Mac OS software or peripherals.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. The tablet category, while not technically new, is still very much in its infancy and it will be a few more years before people can give up their existing computers in favour of these lighter gadgets. But for those who are determined to take advantage of the increased portability and touch-screen UI of a tablet without sacrificing full PC functionality, Samsung may have the answer. Their 7-series Sliding PC is a Windows 7 netbook that has all of the typical netbook specs, but when you tuck the sliding keyboard behind the screen, the device becomes a somewhat heavy but nonetheless quite usable tablet.
Personally, I think people should probably skip this device, assuming it ever hits store shelves. In trying to be all things to all people, it ends up being neither. If you want a tablet, this machine is heavy and laden with an OS that is not designed from the ground-up as mobile computing platform. If you want a netbook, this machine offers a few nice perks such as micro-HDMI and 3G, but you can expect it to cost a lot more that the average $300 netbook. Although Samsung wouldn’t give us a date or a price at the show, Engadget was able to squeeze it out of them.
Motorola XOOM: The first real iPad competitor?
At a CES that was packed to the rafters with Android tablets – each one looking to capture a piece of the exploding market created and kick-started by Apple – there were few that managed to stand out from the crowd. But Motorola’s XOOM was an exception. Boasting a dual-core processor, unusual 16:10 screen ratio, the first implementation of Google’s “Honeycomb” version of Android (built specifically for tablets) and excellent battery life, the Xoom was named Best of Show. Check out this video to learn a little more about this device that will be hitting the market later this year.
Up-close and personal with the BlackBerry PlayBook
One thing’s for sure: Android has become the de-facto operating system for every manufacturer looking to market a tablet device this year (other than Apple). There was one notable exception however, and it came in the form of RIM’s 7-inch PlayBook – a device that runs a brand new OS from QNX and which RIM claims is the only example of “true” multi-tasking in the tablet world. Will it be enough to beat the iPad and Motorola’s recently hailed Xoom?
Vizio announces Android tablet and smartphone
Well you can go ahead and colour me surprised! Here’s a company that has barely made an impression on the Canadian market with its line-up of value-priced HDTVs – Vizio – suddenly announcing that they’re getting into two brand new product categories: tablets and smartphones.
We’re a little shy on the details right now… hopefully we’ll learn more once we get down to Las Vegas and see these devices in-person, but here’s what we can share from the press release:
“Both the VIA phone and tablet feature the highest performance coupled with innovative features that tie them into the media consumption experience,” said Matthew McRae, Chief Technology Officer at VIZIO. “And by integrating the VIA Plus user experience also found on our next generation TVs and Blu-ray devices, VIZIO is delivering the multi-screen, unified ecosystem others have talked about for years and never delivered.”
The VIZIO VIA Phone features a 1 GHz processor, 4″ high-resolution capacitive touch screen, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, a MicroSD card slot for memory expansion and HDMI output with HD video playback. It also features a front-facing camera for video chats and a 5 megapixel rear camera for photos and HD video capture.
The VIZIO VIA Tablet also features a 1 GHz processor, with an 8″ high-resolution capacitive touch screen, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, a MicroSD card slot for additional memory expansion, HDMI output with HD video playback, and a front-facing camera for video chats. It also boasts a unique three-speaker design for stereo audio in both portrait and landscape modes.
Both devices include a built-in IR blaster with universal remote control app for quick access to the entire home theater or nearly any other CE device in the home. Both run on the Android Platform, which will also allow users to access thousands of apps through Android Market.
“As part of the VIA Plus ecosystem, the VIA phone and tablet are natural extensions of the HD entertainment experience that historically has centered around the TV,” added Mr. McRae. “Whether consumers are looking to enjoy content on the big screen, on their tablet or on a mobile phone, VIA Plus delivers on the promise of Entertainment Freedom for All by creating a rich and consistent user experience across all devices that’s accessible to everyone, from the power user to the casual browser.”
In case you’re wondering what all the references to “VIA” are all about, that’s the name Vizio has given to their internet-enabled suite of on-screen TV apps – which you can interact with “via” the included QWERTY remote-control.
This represents a very important development in the HDTV market insofar as I believe it makes Vizio the first manufacturer to extend their internet-based TV experience onto two other companion devices, all running the same platform and all under the same brand. Samsung has come close with their 9000-series HDTV, but their version of this integration uses a “smart remote”, not the kind of the device caliber as these new units from Vizio. Don’t forget, Vizio recently announced that they will be first to market with a 3D system that uses conventional movie-theatre glasses instead of the more expensive and bulkier active-shutter units that nearly ever other maker is shipping.
Not bad for a company few of us had ever heard of two years ago.