Sony Xperia Z2 review: first look
Sony has carved out a niche for itself over the past couple of years with its waterproof range of smartphones; its latest flagship, the Sony Xperia Z2, builds on that position of strength. Like the Samsung Galaxy S5, however, it doesn’t deliver anything particularly radical, with Sony preferring to make smaller, evolutionary changes over its predecessor, the Xperia Z1.
It has a very slightly bigger screen: at 5.2in compared to the Z1’s 5in, but even taking that into account, there’s very little difference between the two phones. The Z2 has the same tempered glass front and rear; the detailing on the edges and corners is identical; and the camera, flash and buttons around the edges of the phone are exactly as you’d find them on the Z1.
The Z2 is also water- and dust-proofed (to the IP58 standard), with sealed flaps all around as you’d find in the rest of the Xperia smartphone range. The camera remains at a resolution of 20.7 megapixels on a 1/2.3in sensor.
So what’s different?
Remarkably, Sony’s engineers have managed to reduce the size of the chassis a touch so it’s slightly slimmer and lighter than the Z1. In fact, it’s 0.3mm thinner at 8.2mm from front to back, and weighs 163g to the Z1’s 170g. That’s pretty impressive for a 5.2in smartphone, especially considering there’s a bigger 3,200mAh battery (up by 200mAh) squeezed into the Z2’s slender confines.
The 1,080 x 1,920 display now uses IPS technology, and delivers punchy colours and plenty of contrast. It should fix the washed-out look we’ve become used to with Xperia devices over the years; we’ll have to get hold of a review sample before we pass final judgement, but in the hyper-bright lighting of Sony’s stand at Mobile World Congress it did a good job of remaining readable.
As you might expect, core specifications have been beefed up. Under the hood, the Z2 houses the latest quad-core, 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, coupled with 3GB of RAM. There’s also 16GB of base storage and a microSDXC slot for expansion. At first impression it feels exceedingly snappy in use, despite Sony’s widget-heavy Android 4.4 overlay. You probably won’t see a huge boost in gaming performance, however; the Z2’s Adreno 330 graphics are the same as its predecessor’s.
Though the camera resolution hasn’t changed, it does have a handful of new features. The first of these is Sony’s SteadyShot digital image stabilisation technology, which the company claims is more effective than other manufacturers’ optical stabilisation systems. It can record 4K video, and the new Timeshift Video feature enables the capture of video in 720p at 120fps, so you can slow parts of the action down later.
As always, assessing camera quality on a trade-show floor is difficult – we’ll wait for a proper test shoot to deliver our verdict – but we expect the Sony Xperia Z2 will have a hard time competing with the Samsung Galaxy S5’s hybrid contrast/phase detect autofocus. And while the ability to record 4K video effectively future-proofs your home videos, so few people own 4K viewing devices at the moment that we can’t see it being a big draw.
More enticing is Sony’s noise-cancelling technology for audio playback. By monitoring external noise levels through microphones built into the bundled headphones, the Z2 is able to digitally “cancel” it for a cleaner sound. It works in a similar way to a pair of active noise-cancelling Sennheiser or Bose over-the-ear headphones; with the processing taking place on the phone, however, we do worry about the impact it will have on battery life.
The Xperia Z2 is certainly an improvement over the Z1. It has a larger display, a slimmer, lighter chassis, a bigger battery and expanded camera features. However, we’re not convinced that there’s quite enough here for the Z2 to edge in front of the Galaxy S5.