|+ Fabulous performance||- Snapper offers too much post-processing|
|+ Excellent build quality||- Gets too hot when recording 4K video|
|+ More waterproof than others||- Bulky and uncomfortable to hold.|
Verdict: The Sony Xperia Z2 is a top-notch smartphone with a list of specs that beats the likes of the HTC and Samsung’s flagship devices. The OS proves easy to use, and the snapper performs beautifully in optimum conditions. Performance is excellent and the display is impressive. The Z2 is a tad bulky, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but apart from that this is a decent rival to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8).
Sony has its second attempt at producing a flagship Android device with the Xperia Z1. This new smartphone possesses the same 20.7-MP snapper and Full-HD resolution, but is slimmer, less weighty and offers more waterproof protection. With rivals such as the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5, the Xperia has a lot to live up to…
Like the Z1, the Z2 features Sony’s ‘Omnibalance’ design. The body is made of aluminium, with glass panels on both back and front. Tethered flaps cover the SIM, USB and micro SD ports – a tad annoying, but necessary to give the Z2 the ability to be waterproof at up to 5m, for a period of up to 30 minutes.
The headphone jack features a special coating, so doesn’t need one of these covers, while the charging port is magnetic – you will, however need to buy Sony’s charging dock separately.
The body is black at a glance, but has a blue-purple edge to it. In the hand it feels like a solid device, something that the Samsung Galaxy S5 with its plastic feel, can’t rival – but it has a square, chunky design that won’t appeal to everyone. It is a large device and can feel rather unwieldy on occasion.
A noticeable feature is its loud vibration motor - if you turn your phone to vibrate to keep it silent you’re out of luck – you’ll hear this one vibrating on the other side of the room. And we’re not talking about if it vibrates against the desk, it is actually the noise of the motor that is so noticeable.
Each time you tap on the keyboard, the motor whirrs until you finish your word. It feels as if the smartphone is not able to switch the motor off quickly.
The Z2 is nothing but chunky – measuring 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm and weighing163g.
It will not be easy for everyone to hold in one hand. Without rounded edges, it doesn’t feel comfortable – and it’s a pity that Sony didn’t make the body a little smaller – the bezels on top and below the display could easily be thinner.
Nevertheless it is a really well made product with a subtle, businesslike metal finish. The back of the device is covered in glass, which looks smart but is a fingerprint magnet – and it is really slippery. It may be a small thing but it can be quite a problem if your phone slips off the side of the sofa onto a hard floor. But as we said, this a beautifully made piece of kit – that aluminium body has minimal flex and its brushed metal coating avoids the flashy look of the iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5.
Its flashing notification light is reminiscent of the light seen on a PlayStation 4 controller.
The display on the Z2 is disappointing – yes, it offers bright colours and good saturation but the brightness just isn’t good enough for using outdoors. Sony says the phone has a Triluminos screen with X Reality technology, which is the technology used in Sony Bravia TVs. This boosts colours for films and photos but it also produces bolder colours and improved saturation, which can make images look artificial. The good news is that you can switch off X reality in the settings menu.
If you’re looking at the screen in a dark room, the Z2 display looks great – thanks to the 5.2in screen it was even possible to watch Netflix lying in bed – but outside it is hard to view – it seems far more reflective than its HTC, Apple and Samsung rivals.
Any bright light also created an odd effect that saw a reflection of a grid of pixels behind the display. What causes it is unclear – perhaps it’s the touch sensitive panel – but it was very clear in bright sunlight and is not something we have seen before.
Also the dots that sit below the Walkman app icon are visible across the whole display in certain light. Despite these problems, the display is clear and bright with decent viewing angles – it’s just a pity it is not less reflective.
The Xperia Z2 runs on Android 4.4.2. with Sony’s visual modifications over the top, offering app icons, alterations to the home screen, snapper and settings menu. They’re not as obvious as those on the Galaxy S5, but will be comfortably familiar to Samsung regulars. It looks good and is easy enough to set up and use.
There’s a good choice of home screen widgets on offer, plus you get access to the PlayStation Mobile store for games on the run. There is some duplication of apps as Sony has doubled up on apps already offered by Google for Android. For instance, Sony offers its Walkman music player, while Google has Play Music; or Video Unlimited, Movies and Play Movies & TV.
Thus far in the review, the Z2 hadn’t really done much to hugely impress us, although it hadn’t done anything wrong – and we were still preferring the HTC One (M8) and Galaxy S5. But moving on to the 20.7MP snapper with 4K video recording and image stabilisation on offer, the Z2 started to win us over.
The snapper has as its default the Superior Automatic shooting mode, which actually captures snaps at eight megapixels. It is necessary to switch to manual in order to get the full 20.7 megapixels. In actual fact manual mode is quite simple to use – though it’s a shame you have to switch each time you fire up the camera app. You can have everything from white balance, flash, scene mode and exposure set to automatic unless you want to delve into settings and tweak them.
Other tweaks include Background defocus – something of a trend on smartphone cameras at the moment – which offers a shallow depth of field effect; this gives you that blurred background you see on portraits. This also needs to be set each time you’ll fire up the snapper. Another mode lets the user take snaps and video with virtual scenes – for instance you can have dinosaurs wandering across your living room. There is also a facility to grab six-second videos – great for sharing on Vine.
The big feature of the Z2 is the 4K video shooting facility – even though we don’t have an Ultra HD TV to view the video on we wanted to see how this technology of the future performed. It looks fantastic and you can zoom in without losing quality – it still remains at Full HD resolution. However, there is an issue…
We had been recording for only a couple of minutes when the Z2 popped up a message warning us that it was too hot and the snapper would shut down. After a second the app did indeed switch off and we realised the handset had actually got rather warm.
We went back to Sony, which said it knew about the problem and told us: “Shooting movies in high quality 4K resolution can make significant demands on your phone's processor and battery life, as well as phone memory.
“Therefore for the best experience, we recommend you install a high capacity SD card...and shoot 4K video in short bursts of no longer than a few minutes at a time."
We did just that we but we suffered from exactly the same problem. It is unlikely that this could be improved by a software update, so it means that you will only be able to grab two-minute long 4K videos.
What we do really like, however, is the inclusion of a dedicated, two-stage key for grabbing shots. It is also possible to grab 720p quality slow-motion video at 120 frames per second – it’s fun to experiment with this
Image quality meanwhile is really impressive – our snaps proved crisp, with good saturation and realistic colours, once we’d switched off X Reality. In shadowed areas, there is some noise on images – more than we have seen in its rivals, which we put down to too much post-processing to the images. It produced some inconsistencies as images could be over processed with noisy shadows and grains, but then the next snap could be beautiful and impressive.
Under the hood sits a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core chip – the same one found in the One (M8) and Galaxy S5. It clocked at 2.3GHz and is twinned with a massive 3GB of RAM.
Looking at the Sony’s performance on paper, it wins hands-down, but in practise it is neck and neck with its flagship rivals. The user interface runs smoothly and apps fire up and shut down speedily.
To test this, we fired up Real Racing 3 on the Z2, the S5, and the One (M8) and the Z2 was first past the post, followed closely by the others – there was only a couple of seconds between them. In real-life use it would be hard to tell them apart.
Internal memory is only 16GB, but this can be expanded up to 128GB via the microSD card slot.
The Z2 battery is a 3,200mAh model, which is bigger than most found on smartphones and you should get through a day of heavy use with no problems. As we write this, the Z2 has 48% charge left and claims it will last 22 hours, or in standby mode up to one day and 14 hours.
The Z2 offers a number of battery-saving measures, limiting mobile data and Wi-Fi, and other tweaks, to hold on to that last little bit of charge. We switched on Stamina Mode and that 48% battery charge lasted us an impressive two days and 13 hours with regular use.
The Z2 has the most RAM, the largest battery, biggest display, best waterproofing and a snapper with the highest megapixel offering of any phone on the market at the moment. On paper at least, it should have knocked the opposition out of the water, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to its promise.
Its large, square, chunky body is one issue, although not a deal breaker – but it won’t appeal to everyone on the aesthetics front.
If you loved the Xperia Z and Z1, you’ll also like the Z2 – and Sony has certainly included plenty of multimedia apps and other offerings to put the Z2 ahead of the market. The snapper is impressive, mostly, and the waterproofing is the best you’ll see on a mass-market smartphone. It is a really great device, but it just didn’t wow us as it should have.
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Dimensions : 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2mm |
Weight: 163 grams
Screen size: 5.2” FHD IPS LCD (1920 x 1080)
Screen Resolution: 1920 x 1080 display resolution
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 424
Processor: 2.3GHz Quad core application processor
RAM: 3 GB
On-board Memory: 16GB (microSD support)
Camera: 20.7MP (rear) 2160p@30fps 1080p@60fps, digital image stabilisation
Operating system: Android 4.4.2
Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes/ Yes
Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ Yes
Battery capacity: 3200mAh
Colours: Black, White, Purple
Launch Date: 1st May
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