Sony Xperia Z2 review
A worthy alternative to Samsung's Galaxy S5
- 20.7MP Camera
- Powerful CPU and RAM
- 4.4 KitKat
- Big in size
Sony’s Xperia Z2 is a genuine contender in the competitive smartphone market. Sony’s hallmarks are all there — the solid camera, excellent screen and refined software. Years of refinement has led to a product where the basics are spot on, and then there’s its competitive advantage: its waterproof credentials.
Sony’s Xperia Z2 is a genuine threat to the flagships from Apple, HTC and Samsung. The camera has 20 megapixels, the screen is Full HD and the smartphone can take on more water than any other flagship. But are these features enough to make the Z2 stand out when the market is this competitive?
Big, black and beautiful
The Xperia Z2 is not a case of love at first sight. Cumbersome proportions and an unnaturally rigid design language prevails here. This design isn’t exactly new from Sony, but over the years the company has made subtle revisions — revisions that greatly improve the feel of the Z2. The corners, for instance, feel more rounded and less recessed for a more comfortable fit in the palm.
Glass remains a premium material featured heavily. It adorns the front and the back elegantly, and gives whatever colour you choose an added sense of depth. The material places emphasis on the smooth panels. It looks simple, but a great deal of work goes into making incongruent electronics form perfectly flat surfaces.
The extra RAM delivers real multitasking benefits
The Xperia Z2’s showpiece is a 5.2in, 1920x1080 resolution screen, which benefits from a mobile version of Sony’s proprietary television software. Having the screen incrementally larger than Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and HTC’s One (M8) lowers the Z2’s pixel-per-inch density to 424. Regardless, the Z2’s screen still proves outstanding in both colour reproduction and touch sensitivity.
Flanking the screen on either side are stereo speakers. The speakers — practically crevices two millimetres wide — nestle right at the top and bottom of the Xperia Z2. They resemble surgical incisions as opposed to familiar speaker grilles and the sound produced is commendable, but it is not better than the Samsung Galaxy S5 and is a far cry from the HTC One (M8).
Then you receive a notification and the top speaker pulses in a wide array of colours.
Picking it up reveals the back of the top speaker is an LED notification strip. White is for an incoming call. Blue is for Facebook. Yellow is for SnapChat. Red is for a flat battery. Green is for a full one. Intelligible design has imbued this humble notification light with lovable charm.
Note: UniqueMobile, who provided Good Gear Guide with a review unit, is currently selling the Xperia Z2. The article will be updated when Sony provides an Australian unit.
Sony’s tasteful design extends beyond the construction right through to the software. The Xperia Z2 runs a version of Android 4.4 KitKat dressed intuitively in Sony’s custom overlay. The software dons the kind of clean lines modelled by the phone’s hardware. The result is a smartphone that has well defined character inside and out.
Multimedia users will value the software’s fantastic approach to photos and music, which, as far as we’re concerned, are the best multimedia suite of any Android smartphone. Simplistic interfaces are dressed aesthetically and prove highly functional.
Read more: Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet review
The best multimedia suite of any Android smartphone
Take the gallery ‘Album’ for instance. Zooming in or out causes the number of preview icons to increase or decrease — all of this happens quickly and with fun animations. Then there’s the menu, which follows Google’s design language, but because the Android OS used on the Xperia Z2 follows Google’s example tightly, these elements feel like an organic part of the software.
Much of the charm stems from the software’s quick nature, owed in part to the spiffy hardware at work behind the scenes.
Power meets economy
The Xperia Z2 does hardware a little differently to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8). Whereas the two rivals have opted for a 2.5GHz quad-core CPU and 2GB of RAM, the Xperia Z2 comes with a 2.3GHZ quad-core CPU and 3GB of RAM. We actually believe the Xperia Z2’s arrangement is better for it. The difference between CPU clock speeds is negligible, but the extra RAM delivers real multitasking benefits, especially as the smartphone ages.
The Xperia Z2 features one of the best smartphone cameras
Internal storage is 16GB, but the expandable microSDXC slot can accommodate a further 128GB of storage. We recommend investing in an expandable memory card if you purchase the Xperia Z2.
Powering the Sony smartphone is a large 3200 milliamp-hour battery backed by efficient power modes. Our testing methodology involves increasing the brightness to max, turning on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, and using the smartphone intensively until the battery drains. We used the Xperia Z2 to make phone calls, send texts, take pictures, record videos, play music, watch YouTube videos, download a movie, navigate over GPS and to generate a Wi-Fi hotspot. A full charge under these inefficient conditions kept the smartphone going for more than 18 hours, and even then it had 10 per cent of charge remaining.
When we enabled some of the battery saving modes, automated the brightness and disabled location and Bluetooth when not needed, the smartphone lasted just more than a whole day.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2 review
20.7MP photos, 4K Video
Gracing the rear of the Xperia Z2 is Sony’s renowned 20.7MP camera. Daytime photos are snapped with ease, while the sensor has a fluent understanding of low light situations. Photos of Sydney’s Opera house were taken from a moving ferry, and on the Full HD smartphone screen, they looked better than anything we’ve seen on a smartphone.
Today’s smartphones don’t have the storage for 4K
Our tune changed slightly when we blew the photo up to its native resolution. Smartphones tend to exhibit a fair bit of image noise during night time photography. Fortunately the high resolution grants the impression photos captured by the Z2 are clear when they are not enlarged. Rivals like the HTC one (M8) and Apple iPhone 5S don’t have this luxury.
The Xperia Z2 features one of the best smartphone cameras in spite of these shortcomings. We have yet to see a smartphone perform well in every scenario, but the Xperia Z2 sits alongside the iPhone 5S, the Nokia 1020 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 in coming close.
Read more: Sony SRS-X5 bluetooth speaker review
Frankly, we wouldn’t bother with the novelty of 4K
Videos can be recorded in 4K resolution; however, our prototype unit — sourced from overseas — struggled to record these videos due to a shortage of space. It appears more than 2GB of free internal memory is needed for the Xperia Z2 to record video supportive of the data-intensive format. (Sony claims this is not an issue with Australian Xperia Z2s. Good Gear Guide will update this review when we receive an Australian review unit.)
Frankly, we wouldn’t bother with the novelty of 4K. Videos recorded in Full HD and ordinary HD are a fine trade off between pristine quality and fair file sizes. Today’s smartphones might have cameras supportive of 4K, but they don’t have the storage.
Videos recorded in Full HD were rendered with vibrant colour and clarity, even when viewed on a Full HD television. The camera quickly and continually auto-focussed to accommodate a wide range of lighting conditions. Even under water shooting.
Just add water
Sony’s Xperia range has garnered a reputation for surviving encounters with water. The Z2 doesn’t let the Xperia range of devices down with its IP55 and IP58 certification, which makes it resistant to dust and capable of being dunked in freshwater 1.5 metres deep for thirty minutes.
Good Gear Guide thoroughly tested the Xperia Z2’s water credentials. We’re not saying we had a shower with the smartphone, but we’re not-not saying that either. Other tests include holding it under a running tap and keeping it submerged in our test-tank for a cool thirty-one minutes.
Each time the Xperia Z2 emerged without problem. Waterproofing devices is a trick Sony has been doing for a while now — Sony cameras perform it fluently — and with the Xperia Z2, it shows.
Sony’s Xperia Z2 is a genuine contender in the competitive smartphone market. Sony’s hallmarks are all there — the solid camera, excellent screen and mature software. Years of refinement has led to a product where the basics are spot on, and then there’s its party trick.
No other mainstream smartphone can take as much water on as the Xperia Z2. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 comes close, but not close enough. Whereas Samsung’s flagship does many things well, the Xperia Z2 does all things better.
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