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Whenever a major new smartphone or tablet is released, there’s an almost immediate inquisition by consumers and tech enthusiasts into the most minute of physical details. The amount of ink that is spent discussing the millimetres saved here or shaved off the bezel there might seem gratuitous, but it’s actually far more important than you might think, particularly where tablets are concerned.

It’s amazing how small differences can have a huge impact on whether a product becomes invaluable to someone or not – does it fit in their jacket pocket? Can it last for the commute home from work? Is it light enough to carry wherever you go? In each case it’s a few millimetres and milligrams here or there that decide whether the tablet is a daily companion or not.

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With Xperia Z4 Tablet we wanted to create a product that pushes the physical design to the very limits of what is currently possible – something that is as durable as possible (both in physical terms and in terms of battery stamina), and something that was as flexible as possible, in the way it fits into customers’ lives. This meant making it thinner and lighter. It also meant balancing those considerations with physical durability and battery performance.

The challenges around slimness and weight led us to switch from a three-layer structure, with top and bottom plates attached to a frame (as used for Xperia Tablet Z) to an insert moulded unibody. This new construction is not only lighter, but also more rigid (around 20%).  The same challenges also led to us rethinking the way we structure components like the battery. In earlier tablets we used to have two cells alongside each other with printed circuit boards (PCB) between, but by optimizing the layout and eliminating unwanted space we were able to reduce the thinness and increase the rigidity of the device.

These may sound like technical, peripheral developments and in some respects they are, but the cumulative effect is anything but peripheral. For every millimetre or gram we save, more people will make more use of their products. For every minute decrease in the size of the bezel, more people will feel that moment of “kando” when they first hold the product. That’s not peripheral, it’s fundamental.

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Yuichiro Saito

Senior R&D Project Manager at Sony Mobile