These two tablets are boosting Android’s standing in the tablet market. Photo: Peter Wells
Android tablets have long been second-class citizens compared to Apple’s iPad, but two new devices from Sony and Samsung are challenging this idea. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 and the Sony Xperia Z4 are fantastic handheld computers. Both can connect to 4G, have beautiful screens, and you can upgrade storage on either with a micro SD card. And both units are lighter than Apple’s iPad Air 2. Which will be right for you depends on your budget, how you plan to use your tablet, and what devices you want to connect to them.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
Samsung have chosen a 4×3 form factor, similar to the iPad, but at odds with most other Android devices. As I long time iPad user, I prefer it. It’s better suited to the tasks I normally perform on a tablet: reading, replying to email, browsing the web.
Samsung make some of the best screens in the business, and the AMOLED screen here does not disappoint. Colours are beautiful, with solid blacks for video playback. The screen can be set to a warmer, less blue image that’s easier on the eyes for late-night reading. The Book Cover is simple, but it’s the best I’ve seen on a tablet. The Tab S2 has two small buttons on the back to lock the cover in place, making it one of the thinnest yet most secure covers on a tablet. It’s a little thing, but it’s beautifully executed.
If you already own a Samsung phone, the integration here is solid. Samsung include an app called SideSync, which allows you to connect to and interact with your Samsung phone. And it’s not just notifications shared between devices, you can pull up the screen of your phone on your tablet if you’d like, or perhaps share a large movie file or presentation from your phone to your tablet.
My one complaint with the Tab S2 is the fingerprint reader. The reader is nowhere near as reliable as the one found on Samsung’s high end phones, which is a real shame. A fingerprint reader that works only half the time is more frustrating than no reader at all, so I found myself disabling the feature.
Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet
The Sony Xperia 4 Tablet has a stunning 2k widescreen display, with incredible brightness and colour. You really do need to see the screen in person to appreciate it fully. The widescreen is perfect for video playback – I clocked up many hours of Netflix on this device – but it feels a little cramped for browsing the web and reading email. And when held in profile, the device really does feel like a giant phone, not a tablet.
The battery life is phenomenal, the 6000mAh battery will get you days of usage, or constant video playback from here to Heathrow.
If you own a Sony Playstation 4, you can connect a controller and stream games to the Xperia Tab Z4 via Remote Play. As a test, I streamed GTA V to the Xperia while I lay in bed, and the results were pretty good. My home Wi-Fi was capable of streaming high quality gaming with almost no lag. I can see the benefits of Remote Play for families, but I’m not sure how often I’d use the feature myself.
The Sony Xperia 4 Tablet and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 are both fine challengers to the iPad’s crown. If you’re looking for a widescreen tablet for media and you’re willing to pay a premium, the Sony is a great device. For those on a budget, or those using the tablet mainly as a portable web browsing machine, the Galaxy Tab S2 is your best bet.
The Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is available for $799 (Wi-Fi-only, 32GB) or for $888 for the 4G Model. The 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S2 is $599 (Wifi only, 32GB) and $749 (32GB with 4G).