iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet comparison review

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: build and design

Apple's iPad Air is known for its incredibly lightweight and thin design, so it may come as a surprise that the Xperia Z2 Tablet, despite having a slightly bigger display at 10.1in compared with the iPad Air's 9.7in, is actually thinner and lighter than the iPad Air.

Believed to be the thinnest and lightest 10in tablet in the world, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is just 6.4mm thick and weighs 429g, whereas the iPad Air weighs slightly more at 469g and is 7.5mm thick.

While we think the overall look and feel of the Xperia Z2 Tablet is stylish and high quality and are impressed by its incredibly light weight, it still doesn't ooze style, sophistication and coolness like the iPad Air does. The bezels on the Xperia Z2 Tablet are pretty enormous, and it's a simple, squared device that is just not as appealing as the iPad Air, in our opinion.

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: price

The iPad Air and Xperia Z2 Tablet match up closely when it comes to price. Both tablets start at £399 for the 16GB WiFi-only models, or £499 for the 16GB WiFi plus 4G models. That makes it difficult to choose a clear winner when it comes to value. The iPad Air's 32GB model is £30 more than Sony's Xperia Z2 Tablet equivalent, though.

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: screen

While both classified as 10in tablets, the iPad Air and Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet's screens do differ. The iPad Air has a smaller display, at 9.7in, while the Z2 Tablet has a bigger, 10.1in display.

The iPad Air has a higher pixel density, though, with a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels which makes it 264 pixels per inch (ppi). The Xperia Z2 Tablet's resolution is 1920 by 1200 pixels, which equates to 224 ppi, so the iPad Air's higher pixel density means you'll get a slightly sharper, more detailed picture.

Beyond that, both the tablets have the same IPS LCD display technology and are able to show 16,777,216 colours each, which means both the iPad Air and Z2 Tablet are excellent devices to use for watching movies and television shows, or viewing image slideshows, for example.

Read our alternatives to the iPad with Retina display, 4th generation iPad

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: processor, performance

In theory, the Xperia Z2 Tablet should trump the iPad Air when it comes to performance, as it has more impressive hardware specifications in terms of processors and memory.

The iPad Air sports an Apple-exclusive A7 chip with a 64-bit architecture, which is certainly a speedy processor, but it's a dual-core at 1400 MHz, whereas the Xperia Z2 has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor running at 2,300MHz. The Z2 also has 3GB of RAM compared with the iPad Air's 1GB.

That said, both the iPad Air and the Xperia Z2 have such excellent performance specs that it's unlikely you'll notice much difference between the two. Both are fast and responsive, even during heavy-duty tasks.

We've put both tablets through some benchmark tests to give you an idea of where they rank against each other. It's worth noting, though, that these are synthetic tests designed to give you a number, not hard-and-fast rankings.

In the GFXBench test, which benchmarks graphics performance, the Xperia Z2 tablet managed to beat the iPad Air. Averaged over three runs of the T-Rex (onscreen) test, the Z2 tablet scored 1,530 frames at 27fps, while the iPad Air averaged at 1,187 and 21fps. However, both of these tablets can run even the most demanding of games, so you should find that both are exceptional when it comes to graphics performance.

The GeekBench 3 test for the Xperia Z2 just tops Apple's iPad Air results. Designed to test the overall performance of a tablet, the Z2 scored an impressive 2719 in the multi-core test, compared with the iPad Air's 2703. In the single-core test, though, the iPad Air trumped the Xperia Z2 with a score of 1487 compared with the Z2's 967.

In the SunSpider Javascript test, which measures your browser's ability to handle Javascript, the iPad Air blitzed the Xperia Z2 Tablet. Lower is better in this test, so the iPad Air's score of 400ms beats the Xperia Z2 Tablet's 1099ms by a long way.

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet: storage

The iPad Air is available from a 16GB model all the way up to 128GB, though it'll set you back more than £600 for the latter. The Xperia Z2 tablet, on the other hand, is only available up to 32GB, though it does have a MicroSD slot that lets you add up to 64GB of storage.

So, unless you really need the whopping 128GB iPad Air, you'll find that the iPad Air and Xperia Z2 can offer similar capabilities when it comes to storage.

That said, you won't be able to add further storage to your iPad Air, so you'll need to pick the capacity you think will suit you when you purchase it and the price skyrockets pretty quickly as you begin increasing the built-in storage. With the Xperia Z2, you can add storage at a later date at a reasonably low cost. A 32GB MicroSD card can cost you around £20, or even less if you shop around.

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 tablet: camera

We're still not keen on the idea of using a tablet as a camera, aside from video calling, of course, so the specifications of the camera aren't of critical importance to us. However, for some consumers who enjoy tablet photography, it could be the deciding factor.

Apple's iPad Air falls down against the Xperia Z2 Tablet when it comes to the camera. The Z2 boasts an 8.1 megapixel camera with a variety of modes and features including panorama, self timer, smile detection and white balance presets in addition to the autofocus, face detection and HDR that it shares with the iPad Air.

The Z2 Tablet's front-facing camera is also better than the iPad Air's at 2.2 megapixels compared with Apple's 1.2 megapixel offering.

Both the iPad Air and the Z2 Tablet have the ability to capture 1080p HD video, though.

Overall, if the camera on your tablet is a really big deal then you might want to consider the Z2 Tablet, but for us, the iPad Air's camera is perfectly sufficient for our needs so we'd still choose the iPad Air.

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 tablet: software

When it comes to software, the iPad Air runs Apple's gorgeous iOS 7, with default apps and additional features including iCloud, Safari, Apple Maps, FaceTime, Game Center, Newsstand and iTunes. Apple also offers Find My iPhone, Find My Friends services.

We love iOS 7, and also love the apps available on the iOS App Store for the iPad, though the Google Play Store is catching up in terms of numbers. We'd choose iOS 7 any day over the Sony Xperia Z2's Android 4.4 KitKat, additionally because we already own many iOS apps and wouldn't want to have to buy them again for Android.

That said, KitKat is the most recent Android software to be released, and is not yet available on all devices, so we're pleased to see that Sony had adopted it. Sony also has the WALKMAN app complete with ClearAudio+ designed for better audio quality, and Music Unlimited, a service similar to Apple's iTunes Radio (which has yet to arrive in the UK).

There's also the PlayStation Mobile app which lets you download new games directly from the PlayStation Store, and the compatibility with the DualShock 3 controller for an enhanced gaming experience.

While Apple's iPad Air has AirPlay Mirroring (which requires a £99 Apple TV) Sony's Xperia Z2 Tablet has screen mirroring and a 'Throw' feature that lets you virtually flick your content onto your TV screen so long as your TV has DLNA or Bluetooth capabilties.

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 tablet: battery life

In terms of battery life, we've yet to test out the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet's battery ourself, so we'll base this on Sony's own estimations for now.

Sony says that the Xperia Z2's 600mAh battery will last for more than 50 days on standby, but, while in use, it has a mode called 'Stamina Mode' which can significantly prolong the battery life of the device. In Stamina Mode, the Z2 recognises when you're not using the display and automatically turns off unneeded functions that'll begin running again only when you activate the screen.

With this taken into consideration, Sony touts up to 188 hours of music listening time and up to 13 hours of video playback time for the device.

You can charge the Z2 Tablet using microUSB or, alternatively, the wireless magnetic charging pat situated on the bottom of the device. You'll need to have a compatible accessory such as Sony's speaker dock in order to take advantage of the wireless capabilities, though.

Meanwhile, the iPad Air has an 8820mAh battery, which is pretty huge but still smaller than the battery found in its predecessors. Apple says that it'll last for up to 10 hours of web browsing, listening to music or watching videos.

Overall, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet should last longer than the iPad Air in theory, but we'll need to put the two tablets through head-to-head tests to determine the true result soon.

iPad Air vs Sony Xperia Z2 tablet: other features

Really, the only other feature important to note is the durability of the two tablets, which is significantly different due to the Xperia Z2's waterproof and dust resistant nature. Sony's tablet is waterproof and dust resistant to an IP55 and IP58 standard, and has covers for all ports that could potentially let water in.

The iPad Air, on the other hand, is not waterproof or dust resistant, so if you're known for being clumsy you may want to consider whether the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is a more suitable option. Of course, you could always buy a waterproof case for the iPad Air if you've got your heart set on it.

OUR VERDICT

As users of Apple products including Macs and iPhones, the iPad Air is the natural and more fitting choice for us. We'd choose the iPad Air not only due to its stunning design and easy to use software, but also because it ties in well with the our Apple ecosystem including iCloud, our purchased apps and our AirPlay compatible speakers.

However, it's clear that Apple is not absolutely ahead of the game with the iPad Air, and that the successor to its most recent tablet should bring something new to the table that can blow the likes of the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet out of the water. After all, its camera, weight, thickness, and even processor and battery life are better than the iPad Air, at least on paper for the latter.

The Xperia Z2 Tablet is definitely a solid rival that could cause some minor concern for Apple, so let's hope the company is innovating hard behind the scenes to launch something that enables us to write a comparison review in the future that can recommend the iPad without a shadow of a doubt, because right now, it's tricky to be completely convinced that Apple's ahead of the game.

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