Hands-on: Sony's gorgeous Xperia Z4 Tablet is exactly why it shouldn't stop making mobile devices

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Rather than announcing a brand-new flagship phone at Mobile World Congress, Sony instead revealed a tablet with a name based off of what would have been its next-generation flagship phone. It makes no sense, right? Especially since there’s been so much rumbling lately about whether or not Sony will even continue to make mobile devices.

Regardless, Sony continues to demonstrate sheer excellence in mobile design. The Xperia Z4 Tablet is light and thin and gorgeous, with an Android interface that Sony hardly touched at all. A tablet this well-made is sure to be a solid player in the mobile realm—but only if Sony is aggressive about advertising its existence.

Thin is still in

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The Xperia Z4 Tablet sports the same signature design of Sony's last few tablet generations, but with a few internal and external tweaks.

Sony’s always had a leg up on other manufacturers in the design department. The Xperia Z4 Tablet is a prime example of the company’s dedication to a very specific design style, simply iterated over time.

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That's thin. Thin enough.

The Xperia Z4 Tablet’s thin chassis has plenty to boast about. Though it’s a relatively large tablet with a 10.1-inch display and a bountiful bezel, its wideness is offset by the fact that it seems to barely weigh anything at all. That thinness could incite some worry, though: it’s slightly bendable, which makes me question the beautiful device's durability.

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A display that looks good at any angle.

The main draw of the Z4 tablet is its high-resolution 2K screen. On paper, it’s technically brighter than tablets like Apple’s iPad Air and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S devices, and in person it’s just stunning. There’s no light leakage anywhere on the display and its color profile remains vibrant and true from top to bottom.

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It's so light. Almost too light.

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It's still got those flaps that cover the ports, too.

It helps, too, that Sony is heavily invested in entertainment, because it forces the company to focus on making products that make its movies and music catalogue standout—a use the Xperia Z4 Tablet is directly aimed at, with dual front speakers and PS4 Remote Play capabilities baked in. I tend to use my use a tablet as a miniature entertainment set, anyway.

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The attachable keyboard adds a slight bit of heft to the Xperia Z4 Tablet.

Sony is also bundling an attachable Bluetooth keyboard with the Xperia Z4 Tablet. Though it adds a little bit of heft to the overall package, it transforms the Z4 Tablet into a laptop doppelganger.

It’s a definite dig at Microsoft’s Surface, but let's be honest: Android isn't much of a competitor to Windows in the workplace. Google's operating system isn’t really made for productivity, even if Sony did transform the Android interface a bit to play nice with its keyboard. The Bluetooth keyboard has a little trackpad, too.

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The keyboard has dedicated navigation buttons for Android.

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Sony gave Lollipop a bit of oomph to play nice with its Bluetooth keyboard.

What Android is like when it’s barely touched

I’ve always appreciated Sony’s way of packaging Android. While it does still pack the tablet with its own suite of apps—in addition to Google’s, naturally—they’re relatively harmless compared to the bloatware packed by some other OEMs.

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This is how to do Lollipop: take a native feature from stock Android that needs a little tweak, and add it in there without compromising Google's vision for the OS.

Forget the screen and the thinness: My favorite part of the Xperia Z4 Tablet is Sony’s rendition of Lollipop. It’s exactly what I wish Samsung and HTC would do with their devices, rather than skinning Android so heavily that it’s a complete departure from the norm.

Sony added in helpful features without trumping on Google’s Android aesthetic. For instance, you can edit the Quick Settings that show up in the Notifications Shade. Sony also added features that do things like enhance the speaker quality and promote better battery efficiency, and the options are all neatly tucked away in the Settings menu.

I really liked the Xperia Z4 Tablet in my brief time with it, just like I enjoyed the Sony tablets that preceded it. While I was handling the device, a woman actually walked by me and said loudly, “Sony is so good at design.” It’s true, and it would be a shame if the company doesn’t continue trying its hand at increasing its sales—and its marketshare—in the mobile sphere.

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