Interface and functionality

Android 4.4.2 KitKat, in a form customized by Sony, of course, runs on the Xperia Z2 Tablet, while the iPad Air relies on Apple's iOS 7.1 operating system. There's quite a lot that sets these two platforms apart. On one hand, Android is well-known for being highly customizable, and sure enough, the appearance of the Z2 Tablet's UI can be personalized with widgets, live wallpapers, and a number of themes. iOS, on the other hand, is simpler to use and much less cluttered, with a cleaner presentation and subtle translucency effects seen throughout. Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and while some might like the versatility of Android, others might be happier with the straight-forward approach employed by iOS.

Sony's custom Android UI builds on top of the stock layout of the platform, so the app drawer, notifications panel, and other UI elements are located exactly where an experienced user would expect them to be. Visually, the interface is consistent, with the same design language applied to menus and stock applications. Among the benefits you get with Sony's interface is the set of Small Apps, which let you multitask by having one or several of these hovering in a window above the UI. The solution isn't new, but it works pretty well and we don't mind having it at our disposal. You get just a few Small Apps loaded out of the box, but additional ones are available for download.

As for the iPad Air, if you've ever used an iOS device before, then you'll be feeling right at home the very instant you turn the device on. And if you're a newbie, you should be able to get the hang of it in no time – that's the beauty of Apple's mobile platform. As simple as the UI layout may seem, you do get a handful of useful features, such as the built-in navigation gestures for minimizing and switching between apps, as well as the Control Center panel, which lets you quickly launch specific tools or toggle various settings on or off.

Processor and memory

Kudos to Sony for stuffing the Xperia Z2 Tablet with one of the best silicons that Qualcomm has to offer – the Snapdragon 801, model MSM8974-AB. This quad-core beast of a SoC can sprint at speeds of up to 2.3 GHz and has no problems with handling anything from heavy web-browsing, 3D games, or decoding Full HD resolution movies. What's more, there's a whopping 3GB of RAM inside the slate, which explains why multitasking on the Xperia Z2 Tablet is silky-smooth.

There's an Apple-designed A7 chip with 64-bit architecture inside the iPad Air. On paper, the SoC may seem somewhat inferior to the Snapdragon 801, with its lower clock speed and the less RAM at its disposal, but things sure don't look that way in reality. Quite the opposite - the iPad Air just flies with all tasks, including the processor-intensive ones like 3D gaming. In fact, we find it slightly more responsive than Sony's slate while navigating through the UI. All in all, neither the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet nor the iPad Air would disappoint anyone with their flawless performance.

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet packs 16GB of on-board storage, and if that seems insufficient for your needs, you have the option to add up to 128 gigs extra with the help of a microSD card. The iPad, on the other hand, doesn't let us expand its physical storage. That is a bummer, especially when the 32-, 64-, and 128-gigabyte iPad Air models respectively cost $100, $200, and $300 more than the 16GB one.

Internet browser and connectivity

Chrome is the default browser found on the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet and it gets its job done flawlessly. Web sites load quickly and navigation is very smooth even when we have a heavy web page opened. Since this is a tablet we're handling, we're not surprised to see the browser's enabled support for tabbed browsing, letting us quickly switch between opened tabs. Speaking of which, Chrome has the wonderful feature of synchronizing bookmarks and other data between devices. Even tabs we have opened on a laptop computer can be retrieved from Chrome running on the Z2 Tablet.

Similarly, Safari running on the iPad Air delivers lightning-fast performance. Having multiple tabs is also an option, and browsing data is synchronized with the cloud so that it is available to other iOS devices that the user is logged in on.

Connectivity-wise, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet has both a Wi-Fi-only version and a 3G/4G LTE variant. Cellular data aside, both share the same set of connectivity interfaces, including Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, A-GPS, and NFC. The iPad Air is available in Wi-Fi-only form, and for those who need cellular data, there's an LTE model available as well. A notable difference between the two iPad Air models is that GPS is only available on the latter, while the former relies solely on Apple's location services, which can't offer the same level of preciseness. NFC is absent from the iPad Air, as is the case with all of Apple's current gadgets. What's present, on the other hand, is Bluetooth 4.0, dual-channel Wi-Fi with MIMO antennas, and Apple's awesome AirDrop feature, which lets us quickly and easily share files between nearby iOS devices.

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