Sony Xperia Z2 review
There's not a lot of information on AC about this phone since Sony doesn't have much of a USA carrier presence so I thought I'd list the key features and impressions after my relative at Sony was kind enough to let me have hers for a month. Without further ado, let's get right to it.
Design and Hardware
Just to get this out of the way, here's the hard specs for comparison purposes for potential shoppers. More noteworthy specs are highlighted in bold
SONY XPERIA Z2
Dimensions 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2mm
Screen size 5.2 inches
Screen resolution 1,920 x 1,080
Screen type Triluminos LCD with 16.7 million colors
Battery 3,200mAh Li-ion (non-removable)
Ruggedness IP55 and IP58 waterproof and dustproof
Internal storage 16GB (12GB free)
External storage MicroSDXC
Rear camera 20.7MP (1/2.3-inch sensor, f/2.0 lens with 27mm equiv. focal length)
Front-facing cam 2MP stills, 1080p video
Video capture 1080p, 4K
HSPA+ (850/900/1700/1900/2100); GSM GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 20)
Bluetooth v4.0, aptX, A2DP
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (MSM8974AB)
CPU 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330
Entertainment MHL, USB OTG, WiFi Direct, DLNA, Miracast, FM radio
WiFi Dual-band, 802.11a/ac/b/g/n
Wireless Charging No
Xperia phones since early last year are modeled after something Sony calls its Omnibalance Design which has proven to be a love it or hate it among reviewers. In appearance it's a sleek one-piece aluminium frame with glass panels balanced with symmetry in design. On the downside, if you're looking for a more ergonomic "natural" hand-fit feeling phone, this isn't in that category. The bezels I'm going to call a wash either way. Personally I've really grown to enjoy having them there because this design really lends itself well to holding in landscape for watching or recording videos as well as gameplay. Fear not about this phones durability, its glass panels are quite rugged, even moreso than the previous Z and Z1 which I've dropped numerous times over the last year without any breaks or shatters. Last but not least is the IP55/IP58 rating, which makes this smartphone both waterproof and resistant to dust particles.
The 5.2" display Z2 sports several nice display features. The Z1 criticized for some weaknesses in this department, so Sony has replaced it with something infinitely better: an entirely new, enlarged 1080p panel that has much better brightness, contrast and viewing angles. Features include the TRILUMINOS Display technology unique to Sony which uses LEDs, which emit purer reds and greens, creating a brighter and more uniform light that captures the true colours.
Live Colour LED is a brand new technology integrated only into Sony devices as well. This new innovation combines red and green phosphor with blue LEDs and customised colour filters to produce a brighter and more uniform light. Capturing true colours without the risk of oversaturation found in SAMOLED displays.
Sony also provides you the option to use or disable their X-Reality Engine for viewing photos and videos. It analyses each image to optimize colours, sharpness and contrast, as well as reduce noise. Despite all of this, I've had a chance to compare the Z2 display against other 2014 flagships and in many (although not all) cases haven't really been able to honestly say there's much of a difference in display quality between them. My best advice here would be to tell you to see for yourself which you prefer.
Here's where Sony really takes the cake this year, producing a mobile camera that's arguably the best you can find on a smartphone. Rather than get into a review of it here because I am by no means a photographer, I'm going to link you to two of the most trusted and recognized sources for digital photography reviews. Much better than relying on John Q Public at the Verge or Engadget or whatever because those guys aren't photographers.
DxOMark Mobile report: Sony Xperia Z2 takes top spot
Sony Xperia Z2 overview: Revised model takes first place in Mobile rankings
The Z2 also does 4k video recording but currently there's been some overheating issues when taking longer videos in this mode I hope to see resolved soon.
One thing you can say about Sony is that they make a beautiful UI for Android. It's close to stock but also manages to make great additions that compliment rather than ruin the experience. It's fast, fluid, and has some neat features. The core communication apps like the messaging, phone, contacts are very refined and well built with good features that are much better in my opinion that Google's own offerings (ugh Hangouts SMS!) Sony also offers "themes" which are really great for changing things up. For example, there's already an Android L theme that will change your navigation buttons to the new L ones, and these themes go deep right across your system, making changes to your settings menus, system app colors and more. No root required! Sony's notification panel is elegant looking. That's the word I'd use to describe all aspects of Sony UI: It's elegant. There's no mistake that this is a premium device here. Like the physical construction of the phone, the software also makes you feel like this phone is dressed to attend a formal gala event.
Other aspects of the software I feel deserve mention are things like support for MHL. OTG, Miracast etc. Xperia Smart Connect also acts like a kind of Tasker for accessories, automatically starting your music app (any defeault player too, not just Sony's) and making volume changes every time you plug in headphones. You can set it to do things whenever it connects to chargers and other devices as well. There's a ton of connectivity possibilities supported by Sony on this phone for all kinds of media devices, and Sony themselves have a healthy selection of accessories that go with their phones.
Sony's Walkman app deserves a special mention here. For a stock music player, Walkman is something I'd expect to pay for in Play Store and definitely superior to Google's own music app. Sony's proprietary movie and photo album apps are pretty good too but nothing to get excited about.
There's also the ability to wake up the screen with a double tap, but unlike LG's version you can't also sleep the screen without pressing the power button. I settled for just setting my screen to sleep after X number of minutes like I do on all my other devices.
It wouldn't be fair of me to not mention bloatware. Yep, like any other carrier branded OEM phone, Sony has some too. Luckily they've been reasonably light on it so you'll have to delve into settings and disable a few apps you don't want. Another thing I liked was that Sony, like Google has moved all of it's own apps like Walkman for example off of the OS and allow you to directly update them through Sony's Update Center rather than wait for a full update to the OS.
Keyboard prediction is really good. I've found it's predictive ability a little better than Google Keyboard.
As mentioned above, you've got MHL, USB OTG, Miracast, DLNA and of course all the usual stuff like NFC, Bluetooth etc. The radios all seemed to perform well. What I also like about Sony is their phones support a LOT of LTE bands compared to the competition, making this a truly world phone. Another really cool feature I almost failed to mention for you PS4 gamers is that Sony is apparently going to be doing some really cool integration between their Playstation 4 cloud gaming and mobile devices. No details yet unless you guys can find something I haven't.
I've already said anough about the Walkman app, here's some other goodies.
Front facing stereo speakers. Not quite as good as HTC's Boomsound but still very good. Call quality was also good, and Sony also has built - taken from their own description - "Digital noise cancellation that reduces up to 98% of all ambient sounds. Based on a technology known as Active noise control, this technique removes the lower-frequency parts of the noise, preventing high-frequency noise from ever reaching the ear." Since the noise-cancelling technology is built into the phone, you can also get this on earphones that support it. There's also a couple of options in the sound settings for ClearAudio+ which is basically another noise reduction technology and you can also normalize the volume output for all your songs from different mp3's so they match.
The combination of the Snapdragon 801 chip along with a 3200 MaH battery is a good one. Sony also has several built in battery saving features in the settings. For example, you can set it to something called Stamina mode which minimizes battery drain. It recognizes when you’re not using your display and automatically turns off the functions you don’t need, while keeping the notifications you want. As soon as you press the power button to wake up your screen, everything is up and running again.
This phone should most definitely be on anyone's shopping list as a major contender. Sony's excellent craftsmanship and UI keep getting better and better, as well as their selection of actually useful features that don't fall into the category of gimmicky. This phone literally ticks all of my boxes in a smartphone. This is not one of those phones that you can accuse of not being worthy of the price tag that comes with OEM branded android devices. I've probably forgotten a few things so feel free to add any features I overlooked. Cheers!