Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Review


Roughly two months ago, Sony unwrapped its latest trio of devices – apart from the newest Xperia Z3 flagship and its smaller-sized iteration, the Xperia Z3 Compact, the company also announced a new 8-inch tablet from the same device family. Dubbed the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, it's Sony's second slate for 2014, packing top-of-the-line hardware specs in a svelte water-tight body, alongside some of Sony's newest software features (such as Ultra Stamina mode) that arrived with the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact. On paper, it looks as if this 8” tablet could be among the best slates money can buy you at the moment, but is this truly the case with the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact? Let's delve in and find out.

In the box:

  • tablet
  • wall charger
  • microUSB charging cable
  • warranty and information leaflets


A compact, light as a feather body meets Sony's OmniBalance design sans the premium feel

Sony's previous tablet, the 6.4mm-thin Xperia Z2 Tablet was the slimmest tablet available. Well, it has been now dethroned by the 6.1mm Apple iPad Air 2 and a slew of others, but Sony's craftsmanship has once again proved that the company can continuously amp up its game. At 6.4mm, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is still among the most slender and compact 8-inch slates in the wild. It also tips the scales at merely 9.52 oz (270 g), which makes it as light as a feather. The slate is slightly tall, though, at 8.40” (213.4 mm), yet rather narrow at 4.87” (123.6mm). This makes it an exquisite catwalk star that is not afraid of the water, as it is IP65/68-certified, which is one of the highest ingress protection levels. This means that it will survive a water dip for up to 30 minutes in depths of no more than 1.5 meters.

Once you take the Z3 Tablet Compact in the hand, you'll most probably feel as if you are holding a blown-up version of the Xperia Z3 smartphone. The OmniBalance design is omnipresent, yet the tablet does not have an all-glass back like the Xperia Z3/Z3 Compact, for better or for the worse. The rear of Sony's newest slate employs a soft plastic, which is pleasant to touch, provides a fair amount of grip, and virtually holds zero fingerprints. The same soft plastic material also encircles slight bits of the side frames of the device. Sony says that the very corners of the device are made of stainless steel, though they're indistinguishable from the gray plastic that is used in the side frames. The 6.4mm-thin side frames are definitely not as grippy as the back of the slate, mind you. The front of the tablet is, unsurprisingly, adorned with an all-glass panel. As a whole, holding and operating the slate is a pleasant experience.

One can find the speakers of the device at its top and bottom, neatly hidden between the side frames and the glass panel. At the right side of the tablet, we can find the power button and the volume rocker. Both are protruding outside the frame and are easy to find, yet the power button is a bit more wobbly than we'd like it to be. The audio jack can be found at the top of the right side frame of the tablet. In the meantime, the left side frame of the device provides access to the microSD and nano SIM slots, while the microUSB port is on the bottom frame of the 8-incher. All of these are protected by water-tight detachable flaps, which snap out easily despite the snug fitting in their respective housings. However, the slate does not feel as premium as some of its rivals (iPad mini, for example) – Sony could have done better. For example, adopting the glass back of the Xperia Z3/Z3 Compact would have been a more premium solution.

It's not impossible to hold the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact with one hand in portrait orientation. However, it's extremely comfortable to hold the razor-thin device in landscape mode with both of your hands, as you can rest your thumbs at the bezels. Due to the small weight, toting it with a single hand in landscape orientation is convenient as well, though a little unwieldy.


A mixed bag which performs surprisingly well in certain aspects, yet leaves a lot to be desired

The 8-inch IPS LCD display of the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact has a resolution of 1200 x 1920 pixels. This works out a rather good pixel density of 283ppi, which is far from from some of the more pixel-rich rivals, yet Z3 Tablet Compact's Triluminos display is sharp enough and we had a relatively hard time discerning any individual pixels.

The display once again employs Sony's Live Color LED technology, which promises a wider color range with better vibrancy and luminance aboard. The display is (typical for the Z3 line) once again way colder than we'd like it to be - with a color temperature of 9034K (far from the 6500K reference), the white is predominantly bluish. At the same time, its color accuracy is completely disappointing – its readings fail to match with almost all of the targets on the sRGB chart.

The default display mode, X-Reality, promises to deliver vibrant and sharp-looking images with enhanced contrast, but enabling or disabling it won't fix the domination of the blue color by a margin. It's also unnatural of Sony to expect its customers to tinker with the unfamiliar (for most) white balance settings of the display. All in all, the display bears a hefty improvement over Xperia Z2 Tablet's one (mostly in the viewing angles segment), yet it leaves a lot to be desired.

The display reflects quite a bit of light. Fortunately, it's bright enough – the slate achieved a maximum brightness of 590 nits during our benchmarks (as a side comparison the Apple iPad mini 2 stands at 450 nits), which means that using the tablet under direct sunlight is a hassle-free experience. The minimum brightness, on the other hand, stands at 14 nits and this will definitely make your eyes squint if you are using it right before you fall to sleep. The viewing angles of Z3 Tablet's Compact are excellent, and you'll hardly experience any color distortions.



1. android961

Posts: 4; Member since: Nov 03, 2014

Everything is great... But why is every tablet and phone brand (except HTC) with android packing low audio headphone output volume??

9. mixedfish

Posts: 1570; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

Because output wattage means nothing without context. I never liked phonearea use of this as a measure of 'quality'. There is no context with what that means: is the signal clean free of distortion or just loud? What kind of headphone are you plugging in, one with high impedance?

25. Adamcs

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 05, 2014

I have just picked up my z3 and uploaded the same music files onto it that I have on my ipad2 (3 years old). One of the main reasons I have bought the z3 is the music experienc. Naturally, I have had high expectations. Here's what I have found out so far (same files with the same beyerdynamic iems) The same MP3 songs sound better on the ipad 2 than on the z3. Sadly, as I do much want to like the z3 (with everything turned on) Then I uploaded the same songs but in flac format onto the z3. So, it was mp3 on ipad 2 vs flac on z3. This time it was a close call, but I would still give a slight advantage to the ipad. I am pretty sad, now, and pondering returning the z3. I dumped my iPhone for a droid maxx last year and I never regretted it for a second. But it's a different ballgame at with the tablets. The other thing - I was aware of - is the 16:9 aspect ratio. So far, I seem to prefer the 4:3. I have 3 choices, keep the z3, buy an ipad or go for the nexus 9.

28. romeo1

Posts: 825; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

what do you mean with sounds better? And did you use a high res headphone? Cause there is no denying high res audio on sounds better as you hear all frequencies. Also if you have dsee hx on it gets better. And if a lower volume isn't a big problem for you, clearaudio+ automatically chooses the right settings for the music you are playing but the volume is lower. Than you have the surround effects that can make it sound like you are in a big area. There are allot of options that can make the sound as you like it. The equaliser can be used if you like but i usually leave everything off except dsee hx as i use it on amp's where i control the sound with the systems at home or in the car.

29. Adamcs

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 05, 2014

I did try every option. Beyerdynamic mmx 102 is not necessarily a pair of high res headphones, but not bad either. When Clearaudio+ is on the other sound effect, including dsee hx are automatically turned off, btw. I have also tried the surround effects, they are not bad. Still - having an audiophile system at home - all I can say is at best they are close. That is not a big compliment for the Sony. Even if the z3 sounded better after some tweaking with sounds effects, the ipad 2 sounds a lot better out of the box. I was referring to headphones, of course. I do have an excellent dac at home through which - and the amp - it sounds amazing, but then the music is passed through and the dac makes the sound not the dac of the z3. Still, I could accept it. The deal breaker for me - should I return it - would be the 16:9 aspect ratio. I cannot seem to come to terms with it. I almost never watch movies on my tablets, but surf the net and work a lot (writing emails and working with documents). I am really missing the extra display space. That said, I don't want to go back to its, so that narrows the choices to 2. Either keeping the sony or switch to the nexus 9, which is fortunately 4:3.

30. romeo1

Posts: 825; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

I know the clearaudio+ turns off the other sound effects but i said it because allot of people don't have high res headsets. A headset with high res audio should be able to get to 96khz and makes allot of difference for the audiophiles under us. I bought the mdr1a wich does a really good job imo. For me the sound out of the box doesn't really matter as everybody has their own taste. I always tweek it to my liking. But if you prefer the 4:3 ratio you should get a other tablet ofcourse. I prefer the 16:9 as i love to watch movies and series on my tablet. Im also using it for work emails/documents but if im at the office or at home i use the z2 tablet for documets with the keyboard.

2. android_hitman unregistered

OMG! It scored higher than Ipad Mini 3! What happened PA ? :)

4. RuiBacelar

Posts: 153; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

Something has changed....something really dark's out there.

5. bugsbunny00

Posts: 2267; Member since: Jun 07, 2013

mini 3 is just the same ol' mini 2 no change.

3. lee480 unregistered

PA doesn't even consider Sony as a major manufacturer. They called Lumia sales a record and Sony sales meh when more Xperia was sold lol. Look at the left bar, you need to click other manufacturers to see Sony's name. Lololol

14. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2281; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

PA probably expected more sales from a major manufacturer.

6. mawhob2222

Posts: 219; Member since: Mar 22, 2014


7. pwnarena

Posts: 1129; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

sony forgot to pay the review fees again.

16. mawhob2222

Posts: 219; Member since: Mar 22, 2014


8. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

Let the Sony hate begin.

10. trqster

Posts: 177; Member since: May 17, 2013

Great tablet from Sony! A real worthy iPad Mini competitor. To be "perfect" and full justify its price though it'd have to have a QHD "retina-like" resolution screen and a snapdragon 805 SOC.

11. bayhuy

Posts: 320; Member since: Jun 23, 2011

Nexus 9 - bigger and better display, better audio, most powerful SoC on android tablet, Lollipop, timely updates...and cheaper for 16GB Wi-Fi...

12. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

Depending on the country. Here in my country (East Malaysia), the base model Nexus 9 will be as expensive as other tablets or maybe more because the lack of distribution by Google. And knowing Sony, they priced their devices cheaper in Asia than other countries. Typical Sony if you ask me. Oh yeah, Micro SD Card.

13. pyradark

Posts: 895; Member since: Jun 10, 2012

Z3 Tablet Compact - Waterproof, 3GB Ram, thin and light, bright display, still gets update, microsd up to 128GB, best audio quality and features, Ps4 remote play and for its price you get premium quality tab. Not plastic.

24. tonkemaskin

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

16 gb tablet without an SD card option is not a tablet option i would entertain.

15. EspressoBrownie

Posts: 15; Member since: May 08, 2014

Z3TC should've gotten a higher score. Compared to the rest it easily is within top 5 or top 3. Time to ditch my iPad.

17. vuyonc

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

It would have been perfect if it had a more accurate display and faster charging. Otherwise, it's a hoot :)

18. Dannybuoy

Posts: 3; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

I don't get the problem with colour temperature. It can be changed to how you like it within the settings. A moot point for me at least. I'm really liking mine. I've come from a 1st gen iPad Mini and it's a much better experience in my opinion. Yeah it charges slowly but I guess it should allow fast charging as it shares the same architecture as the Z3. I also own a Z3 and picked up a PortaPow fast charge cable from Amazon for a few quid that really does improve the charge time considerably. I'm yet to try Remote Play on my PS4 but it seemed to work well on the Z3. So far, so impressed

19. romeo1

Posts: 825; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

Loving it. I got the 16gb lte version and am using it as my phone with the brh10 but am going to change it with the sbh52. Battery life is great and the screen looks great. Audio is also very good. Its light and comfortable holding with 1 hand using the 1handed keyboard and with 2 hands you can type very comfortable. The camera is good enough for me as i don't use it that often only for making pdf in the light or private pictures. Only thing i don't like is that you can't call hands on(?) but thats why i bought the brh10.(the sbh52 is more useful as you could see who is calling and you can search for contacts without using the speach function. But im confused about the charging time as i just put mine on the charger and within the hour it was on 56% with the magnetic charger dock. Maybe it charges the last couple of percents slower?

20. 21babydoll12 unregistered

Nope, the magnetic charger will charge faster. My Z1 is the same.

21. romeo1

Posts: 825; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

Are you serious? Cause with my z2 tablet it didn't but them again i never tried it after the first couple of times as i got the magnetic dock. I'll try it out this week on both devices

22. Scorpion

Posts: 103; Member since: Apr 28, 2012

Looks like SONY have found the right formula for it's tablets. Alas they are making the same mistake Microsoft is - Pricing. Underdogs don't have the luxury of large profit margins, unless they want to become a Japan only brand....

23. tonkemaskin

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

I don't know how the reviewer is proportioned, but I am holding my Z3 Tablet Compact quite conformably in one hand in portrait mode. My hands aren't huge and my stubby fingers are holding both sides without strain. I'm quite liking it so far. I'm looking forward to getting a nanosim for it.

26. siddaggarwal

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 05, 2014

Dear SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME!!!!..since April 2010 i've been looking for an IPAD or IPAD MINI sized tablet that can make regular phone calls and text messages like regular cell phones/smartphones....all the US VERSIONS of samsung galaxy tabs and other tablets have been stripped of the GSM antenna capability so they dont have phone calls...i see the phone logo on this device and i see it on all the ads for the compact tablet but can this tablet make regular phone calls and receive calls/texts and send texts? Can i put my phone number on this device and use it with AT&T or any other major big 4 network? please answer this CNET or someone else.....all i hear from Sony reps is I'm not sure or check the website.....i've read somewhere u MUST use bluetooth but I think all these tablets should have this capability regardless where i can hold up the phone to my face and speak and also use speakerphone if i want. Please let me know SOMEONE!!!!! Does the micro SD automatically mean that it can do phone features (GSM calling, SMS)? I know the big 4 wireless companies in america want to keep iphones and ipads separate to generate 2 different streams of revenue but I think its time to merge them!

27. romeo1

Posts: 825; Member since: Jan 06, 2012

I use it as my phone. Im not sure about which carriers it supports in the us but for that you need to check the bands of the phone/tablet and the carrier. You can make calls sent texst and everything a normal phone can do. You can hold the phone against your ear and make phonecalls but it is using the loudspeaker as speaker so if its quiet and you have the sound on the lowest people can hear who you are talking to. With the sbh52 and brh10 you can make real handheld calls. But with everything else its like a phone only bigger and better imo
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
  • Display 8.0" 1200 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 8.1 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 16GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 4500 mAh(23h 3G talk time)

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