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Sony Xperia Tablet Z vs Apple iPad (Retina) comparison

By Andrei Girbea , updated on August 9, 2014

If you’re in a market for a premium 10 inch tablet these days, you should definitely have the Retina iPad on your shortlist, but also the new Sony Xperia Tablet Z, one of the best Android slates of the moment.

What’s going on everyone, Mike here and in this article I’ll tell you which of these two is the better pick and why.

Let’s start with the looks. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the iPad, with its aluminum body and sharp sides, a tablet that feels like a true high end device. The new Sony tablet is however at least as beautiful.

Sony didn’t use metal for the case, but instead went for a grippy and smooth plastic back and some hard plastic reinforced edges. These, and the pointy corners, don’t make the Tablet Z the most comfortable device I’ve hold on my hands, but the light weight does compensate for that.

The new Z slate weighs less than 500 grams, while the iPad is 150 grams heavier and because of that, the Sony is one of the few tablets in its class that you can actually hold with a single hand for a longer period of time. You’re hand will still get tired eventually, but that happens a lot faster with the iPad and all the other 10 inchish devices.

The Z is also very slender, with a 6.9 mm waist. In fact, it’s thinner than a modern glossy magazine. The Apple slate is significantly thicker on paper, but because of those sloped sides, it doesn’t actually feel bulkier in any way.

That aside, it’s worth mentioning that the Sony Vaio Z is IP57 certified, which means you can actually submerge it in water up to several feet deep, for even tens of minutes. The screen won’t work while under water, so this is not something you can use while snorkeling. But you can always take it with you at the beach or at the pool without worrying that it could get splashed or damaged. And that’s a nice touch.

However, because the tablet is IPD 57 certified, the ports are all hidden behind some plastic covers and that means that, on one hand, they can break in time, and on the other, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to access those ports when you want to. But hey, that’s the price you have to pay for a waterproof tablet.

The Xperia Z is waterproof

The Xperia Z is waterproof

Anyway, speaking about those ports, you’ll find a microUSB connector, a microSD and a Sim slot on the Z, plus the headphone jack and the standard Power button and volume rocker. The iPad takes a more minimalistic approach and only offers that Lightning connector, besides the already classic buttons, SIM slot for the cellular version and the screen-rotation lock knob.

I mentioned that you can use the Z outside and the bright screen helps as well. The Sony tablet comes with a 10.1 inch Full HD display that offers very sharp details, plus decent colors and contrast, mostly when you’ll have Sony’s Bravia Engine 2 technology activated, meant to enhance your everyday experience.

But while the screen on the Z is good, the one on the iPad is superior. It’s a bit sharper, due to its higher resolution, but you won’t actually notice that in everyday use. However, it does display more accurate colors, while the Z does have a warmer tint, especially visible when showing whites. Even so, unless you’re really picky like I am, you’ll be satisfied with any of these.

Android vs iOS – with extras

What really sets them apart are the things you can do with them. Hardware wise, the Z is a bit outdated, considering it’s a device launched in 2013 with a mid-2012 platform. But it’s not slow by any means. And neither is the iPad. We’re not getting into benchmarks, I don’t care much about those, but I do care about the overall snappiness and responsiveness of these slates.

And here’s where the Android vs iOS part of the story comes in play. The Z runs Android Jellybean, with some light, but welcomed tweaks from Sony. There’s a different lock screen with a window blinds effect, there’s a new app drawer that lets you sort the apps in several different ways, there’s a different app dock placed in the upper-left side of the screen and both the system tray buttons and the Menu controls have been repositioned.

iOS vs Android - the never-ending story

iOS vs Android – the never-ending story

On top of that, you get close integration with a bunch of Sony software, like the Music and Video Unlimited services, plus the remote control shortcut and those small apps, quickly accessible via the buttons in the lower-mid part of the homescreen. Besides that, you get all the Google services and apps, like with all Android devices.

The iPad offers much simpler interface, with less room for customization or changes. It allows access to the classic Apple services, like iTunes, Safari or iBooks, plus the App Store.

And here’s where the iPad still reigns supreme over any 10 inch Android slate: the ecosystem and third party app support is a lot better for the iPad, while on the Z, many of the third party apps available in Google Play don’t scale well on large screen devices. Even those optimized for 10 inch tablet will look better on the iPad than they do on Android. Closely watch the textures in some popular games for instance, like GTA Vice City or Real Racing 3 and you’ll see how smooth everything looks and works on the iPad, while on the Z you get lower quality textures and even a lot more stuttering.

Better games and 3rd party apps available for the iPad

Better games and 3rd party apps available for the iPad

Both are great multimedia tablets

At the end of the day though, both these devices can do plenty of things. Yes, third party app support is better for the iPad and at the same time, Apple’s slate does offer a smoother everyday experience, but you can use them both just fine for browsing, chatting, editing documents, checking your emails and even for multimedia. The Tablet Z does offer support for more types of video files, including 1080p mkvs, and many of you will appreciate that. On the other hand though, the two speakers on the Z, placed on the corners, aren’t as loud or as clear as the single one on the iPad.

And that’s because the Z is waterproof. The iP57 certification has a negative impact on the microphones as well, as they are a bit oversensitive, something the other person at the end of a Skype call will quickly find out. Speaking of that, the Sony slate comes with a 2.2 MPx front-camera capable of taking 1080p clips. Even so, the 720p shooter on the iPad does offer sharper captures and that, combined with the better mics, do make the Apple slate far better for video chatting and calls.

These two devices both offer main shooters at the back as well, an 8 MPx one on the Sony, and only a 5 MPx camera on the iPad. Sony offers a more complex camera interface for the Z, with plenty of shooting modes, functions and settings to choose between, while on the Retina iPad you can barely tweak anything. But the end results, the pics and videos, are still sharper and overall just better on the iPad, at least in my opinion. See the video for more details on that.

Of course, we can’t finish this post without mentioning the battery life. The iPad comes with a battery nearly 2 times the size of the one inside the Tablet Z. Luckily, that doesn’t mean that you’ll get twice the battery life with the Apple slate, but it still outperforms the Z in most, if not all situations. With average use though, both will go through the day, the iPad with more to spare. The latter will also last longer when watching videos and playing games.

Alright, these are the important aspects worth mentioning when looking at these two devices. There are of course other small details that I could add, like the fact that the Tablet Z offers an FM radio and NFC, the fact that the iPad’s screen has a much better oleophobic treatment and so on. But I’ve tried to keep this short, so if you think other things were worth mentioning or if you have any questions, leave those in the comments below.

Wrap up – which one to choose?

Wrapping it up, the Sony Tablet Z is one of the best 10 inch Android slates, if not THE best. However, with a starting price of $500, is more expensive than all of its competitors. In fact, it costs just as much as the iPad. And it just doesn’t offer the same solid everyday experience you’re getting with the Apple slate right now.

Both are excellent tabs, but the iPad still comes on top due to the superior iOS ecosystem

Both are excellent tabs, but the iPad still comes on top, mainly due to the superior iOS ecosystem

That’s not necessarily Sony’s fault though. Yes, they could have picked a more recent hardware platform for the Z and that would have made it snappier. But even so, the app support would have still been problematic. and that’s what really hurts large Android devices these days. Still, if you don’t care much about that and just want and beautiful, light and waterproof slate, the Z won’t disappoint. If you do, the iPad is still my recommended choice, or if you’re on a budget, you should look at the Nexus 10 and the Asus Tabs.

OK, and that’s about it for now. Let me know what do you think about these tablets and what would you choose right now if you had at least 500 bucks to spend for a brand new slate. I’m looking forward to your replies and as always, if you enjoyed the post and the videos, leave a Like on Youtube and share the clip, it helps me keep doing articles like this one.

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Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief at This project was born as part of my search for capable mini-laptops that I could easily lug around to work, and still provide the performance that I'd need on a daily basis. I'm primarily using such ultracompact devices and have been testing them since 2006.


  1. John

    August 20, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the great comparison. It would help me decide between the two if you could help me with one issue. The sony is attractive because of the memory expansion, but I think I might be able to deal with the lack of a microSD slot on the iPad by using a cloud storage system like dropbox. But, my experience with iOS is that transferring files to and from the iOS device is a pain in the ass compared to Android. So, I want to know if there is an easy way to transfer files to and from the iPad device, the same way you can simply connect the Android devices and drag and drop files into the directory. Can you let me know what you think about this? Also, I don’t want to jailbreak the iPad if I were to buy it. Thanks

    • Andrei Girbea

      August 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      hey John. there is not drag and drop method that i know of. you can use some third party software to put content easier on your device (even wirelessly), like AVCHD. but i don’t know if these work with music and I if you’ll add content like this, you won’t see them in the native iOS apps (Movies, Music, etc)

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