This is my full review of the Sony Xperia Z2, Sony’s latest flagship smartphone and successor to the Xperia Z1.
The first Z was launched about a year ago and set out a few solid principles (a foundation for what was to come next, if you want to): premium feel and looks, waterproof case, powerful hardware, leading edge camera. On paper it was astonishing, in real-life, not that much. The Z1 followed a few months after (in September, 2013), addressing some of the Z’s issues.
And now (February, 2014) Sony have released the Xperia Z2, a more refined version of the same recipe, and spoiler alert, their best smartphone to date.
Sony Xperia Z2 Video Review
Design and looks
In fact, the Z2 and the Z1 are close in many ways. On a first look, it’s almost impossible to actually set them apart, as the Z2 inherits the same design lines of its predecessor, with the glass covered front and rear faces, the subtly curved metallic sides and the lean, monolithic shape. As a result, the Z2 feels just as premium as the Z1 did.
There is a price for all these though: the Z2 is not a compact or light device, although it has lost some weight over the Z1, tipping the scales at just over 160 grams. It’s also milimmetrically longer than the Z1, and that’s because it houses a larger screen. But it’s not wider or thicker. In fact, Sony worked on reducing the bezels in order to keep this device as compact as possible. Even so, the Z2 is large when compared to other premium Android handsets, and that alone might steer some of you away from it.
In Sony’s tradition, the Z2 is still IP certified, dust and waterproof. That’s why the glass surfaces are still covered by a thin plastic film out of the box, but one that’s hardly intrusive. And that’s why the main ports are still protected by plastic caps, which feel somewhat better made than on the Z1 though.
The element-proofness has been a differentiator for the Zs from the beginning, although I for one was never a big fan of it. It has a negative effect on the speakers, call-quality and even on the everyday use experience, without any real benefit. I mean, WHY would I really want a waterproof phone? It’s not like I’m taking showers with my phone or spend all my time at the pool or something. A more practical approach or perhaps a more ruggedized body would have certainly made the Z2 more appealing for me. All covered in glass as it is today, I found myself continuously worried I might drop and shatter it. Not to mention about always having to wipe it clean, as smudges and fingerprints are a complete pain with this one.
But enough ranting, Sony stick to this design lines and I’m sure plenty of you like it. So let’s move on to what’s actually changed on the Z2.
On the front face, you’ll notice two very narrow cuts towards the top and bottom edges of the glass. They’re not only hiding the earpiece, main microphone and the redesigned notification LED, now longer and brighter than before, but there’s also a set of stereo front-facing speakers behind them. As a result, the sound coming out of the Z2 is not bad at all, although still not very punchy.
On the back, the main shooter and the Flash are the only elements piercing the Glass. Even the secondary microphone cut, that was found here on the Z1, has been now moved on the phone’ upper lip. Having a quick look around the Z2’s sides, you’ll find the same buttons as on the previous Z and the same ports. However, they have been slightly switched around, and on the right edge, instead of having two separate plastic caps covering these connectors, there’s a single one now.
All these subtle tweaks are meant to improve your everyday experience with the Z2. But there are other things that have a much greater impact. One of those is the new screen. As i mentioned before, Sony squeezed a larger, 5.2 inch screen on the Z2, as opposed to the 5 incher on the Z1. Aside from that, the Japanese still went with their Triluminos TFT IPS panel and did not up the resolution, but stuck with 1920 x 1080 px instead, which is just fine with me.
Now, actually using this screen is a sheer pleasure. It’s bright, sharp and vibrant, and more importantly, it doesn’t suffer from the same poor viewing angles that crippled the Z1. But there’s still room for improvement here…
All in all though, Sony listened and addressed another one of the Z1’s main issues, although they can do better, as proven by the Xperia Z Ultra’s astonishing display.
Sony Xperia Z2 specs sheet
|Sony Xperia Z2|
|Screen||5.2 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, TFT IPS Triluminos panel|
|Hardware||Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 2.3 GHz + Adreno 330 graphics|
|Memory||3 GB RAM|
|Connectivity||4G/LTE, Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC|
|Cameras||20.7 MPx back camera, 2.1 MPx front camera|
|OS||Android 4.4 KitKat|
|Size||147 x 74 x 8.4 mm|
|Others||available in several different colors, stereo speakers, 4K video recording|
Software, hardware and everyday performance
Moving on, you probably noticed by now that there’s a slightly changed version of Android on the Xperia Z2. And that’s because it comes with Android 4.4 KitKat and all its graphic and functional tweaks. Aesthetically, most UI elements are simpler and cleaner and of course, the wallpapers do stretch under the Main Navigation buttons and system tray on the Homescreens.
Looks aside, KitKat also runs smoother than JellyBean, and as a result, the Xperia Z2 is blazing fast, even when compared to the Z1, with whom it shares nearly th e same hardware. In fact, both devices run on Snapdragon 800 platforms, with a slight frequency bump for the Z2 and an extra 1 GB of RAM, for a total of 3. And since we are talking about hardware, I should mention that there are still only 16 GB of storage space on the Z2, and just under 12 GBs of those are usable for your apps and content. Of course, that can be expanded with microSD cards, if needed.
Let’s get back to the software for a little bit. The Xperia Z2 runs a lightly skinned Android version and bundles a few proprietary apps and services. Looking back at Sony’s JellyBean implementation, the themes have been slightly changed, the multitasking pane has received the option to close all apps at once, while the notification pane has been split in two tabs, one for actual updates, and one with a set of Quick Toggles. You can tweak the toggles displayed in here from the settings.
In fact, if you’ll dig through the settings, you’ll find some of the Z2’s new extra features. For instance, the screen now offers a Gloves On mode and can be tapped twice if you want to wake up the device without having to press the Power Button. Then, the Z2 supports motion gestures for answering, rejecting or muting calls, which if I’m not mistaken, were not available on the Z1. Last but not least, the audiophiles among you will be happy to know that the Z2 can push high-quality audio towards an external sound-system, via USB compatible DAC amplifiers.
Aside from these and those extras brought by KitKat, like the smarter Dialer, Google Now integration and so on, all the other classic Sony tweaks and services are still available on the Z2. Apps like WalkMan, PlayStation or Album and features like the Small Apps or the easily customizable App Drawer are present on this new Xperia.
Since I mentioned the dialer, I do have to tell you that Sony slightly addressed the muffled ear-piece issue as well, which is now somewhat louder and clearer. Even so, the Z2 is not the ideal smartphone for taking or receiving calls, so if you plan on using it for that, I suggest looking at a Bluetooth headset as well.
Anyway, let’s move on and turn our attention onto the cameras. On a first look, not much has changed here either. There’s the same 2 Mpx front shooter and the same 20.7 MPx main-camera on the back.
The camera interface was inherited from the Z1 as well, with all its modes and tweaks. Unfortunately though, something else was inherited from the Z1: the buggy Superior Auto mode, which mushes-out plenty of details from pictures. On top of that, the camera really struggles to focus in dim light, both with the Flash ON or OFF. Switching to the Manual Mode solves some of the problems, but requires tweaking each time you want to take a pic. And that’s not good enough for me, I want a fast and reliable all-round camera on my phone. And unfortunately for Sony, the Z2 does not entirely deliver here.
I’ve included a few pics below for you to analyze, coming straight out of the camera; they haven’t been resized or edited in any way.
And here’s a quick comparison with other devices.
When it comes to taking videos though, the Z2 is a lot better. It can take regular 1080p clips, 4K recordings and even slow-motions, with the easy to use TimeShift Video Mode. So nothing to complain about in here.
Before we wrap this out, I should also mention a few things about the battery. On paper, the Z2’s battery is only slightly larger than the one on the previous Z. In practice, the Z2 lasts longer on a charge. I haven’t conducted thorough battery tests, but the Z2 was able to go through the day with some serious use and over 4 hours of active screen time, with Cellular Data On all of the time and a few email and social media accounts constantly updating in the back. And that’s not bad at all.
So at the end of the day, the Xperia Z2 is no-doubt the best Smartphone Sony has delivered to-date. And it proves one thing: Sony listens and acts. Many complained about the speakers, the screen and the battery life of the Z1. And here they are, addressing those. They also bumped up the specs, brought the OS to date, squeezed a larger screen inside pretty much the same body and even worked on camera performance, although that still requires further tweaking. I truly respect them for this and I wish more companies would do it.
But is the Xperia Z2 worth buying? Well, if you like Sony’s design elements and particularities, then yes, for sure.
However, keep one thing in mind: the Z2 is only the first flagship to be released this year. The Samsung Galaxy S5, the new HTC One or the LG G3 are around the corner though, and I for one would like to know how all these fare against each other before putting my money on any of them.
Of course, I will cover all of them here on the site and on the Youtube channel, so stay close. But in the meantime, the comments section is open, so let me know what do you think about this Sony Xperia Z2 down below.