The more things change, the more they stay the same. That truism certainly doesn't apply to technology. Remember when the Google Nexus 10 was the cool Android 10" tablet that tempted you with credit card debt for the holiday 2012 season? Six months later the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is challenging it. Yep, Sony's tablets have been nice enough but they weren't real competitors for the top spot, but that's changed with the Tablet Z. On paper, it beats the Nexus 10 for everything except display resolution, where the Nexus 10's monumental 2560 x 1600 resolution is still king. Of course, there's more to a product than raw specs, and we'd be remiss if we didn't stick up for our lovely Nexus 10 by mentioning it offers a pure Android experience with no bloat and will get Android OS updates first.
Design and Ergonomics
Sony's doing what they're best at here: creating computing products that are significantly slimmer and lighter that you'd think possible. The Xperia Tablet Z is amazingly thin at 0.27" and it's the lightest 10" tablet at 1.09 pounds. The Nexus 10 is 0.35" and 1.33 lbs. and yes, you can really feel the difference in weight. The Sony doesn't feel heavy as an hour reading session progresses while the Nexus 10 does (granted neither feel as hefty as the Retina iPad).
The Xperia Tablet Z is waterproof and dustproof; it's not a fragile skinny flower. The casing is polycarbonate plastic, which is durable enough but doesn't add class. The Nexus 10 has a rugged rubbery coating over plastic and I love the way it feels. The Nexus 10's rounded edges are also more comfy than the right angle sides on the Sony.
Winner: Sony Xperia Tablet Z for thinness, lightness and IP57 water and dust resistance.
This will surprise you: we prefer the Sony Xperia Tablet Z's 1920 x 1200 display to the Nexus 10's 2560 x 1600 display. Full HD+ is quite high resolution and the Sony's display is thus very sharp with no jaggy text. Obviously for those who have keen eyes, the Nexus 10's display yields even more perfectly formed text, but I suspect for most eyes, they both look exceedingly sharp. The Xperia Tablet Z pulls ahead for colors and contrast. Sony's Mobile Bravia 2 engine and OptiContrast aren't just marketing terms: colors are rich and vibrant and they make my Nexus 10's colors look a little dull. Contrast on the Sony is likewise higher with deeper blacks. It simply looks better when watching HD movies, viewing photos and playing graphically rich games.
Winner: Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Performance and Horsepower
The Xperia Tablet Z has an advantage because it's 6 months younger, and that's a significant amount of time. Before we go deeper, both of these tablets are very fast and can handle full HD video playback, the most demanding 3D games along with simpler tasks like web browser. They're two of the fastest tablets on the market, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 chasing their heels in third position. But for those who are interested in feeds and speeds, the 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU in the Sony does better on most benchmarks. It takes Quadrant, AnTuTu, 3DMark but loses to the Nexus 10 on Geekbench 2 and GLBenchmark 2.7.
The Nexus 10 gains points for having a newer ARM 15 architecture Exynos vs. the ARM 9 on the Snapdragon, and its MALI T604 graphics processor is no slouch even if the Adreno 320 does win in 3DMark. To be fair, the Nexus 10 is driving more pixels, and that will drag down benchmarks run at native resolution.
Winner: Sony Xperia Tablet Z, but the Nexus 10 is a strong competitor and both are very fast.
Do you want a customized experience that's newbie friendly or are you experienced and in love with pure Android? Nexus devices runs completely stock Android with no UI overlays or added programs. The Sony Xperia Tablet Z has a lightly customized UI and quite a few added apps and features. We really like some of these like the consumer IR port with AV Remote app that can control your home theater gear and small apps (resizable apps that float in windows to make multi-tasking easier). Sony pre-installs an MS Office viewer, their own streaming media apps, Crackle, PlayStation Mobile and more. The UI customizations particularly can impact performance, though overall Sony's doesn't slow things much. That said, nothing runs as fast as a vanilla Android. Both run Android 4.x Jelly Bean, but the Nexus 10 has a slightly newer version (4.2.2 vs. 4.1.2 on the Sony). Both are rootable and you can install custom ROMs.
There's no winner here, it's a matter of which you prefer.
There's much more to cover, so watch our Sony Xperia Tablet Z vs. Nexus 10 Comparison Smackdown: