• Sony Xperia Z2 Review

    The Sony Xperia Z2 is the third iteration in the the Xperia Z line of handsets from Sony. So with two handsets already under their belt, the Z2 should be a well rounded & strong performer. The slab like design is continued from the original Z.

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    Sony Xperia Z2

    Corners have been softened somewhat to make the device feel less rough in hand. The bold design and the use of glass front and rear panels with aluminium frame give the Z2 an air of quality that stands out when lined up next to the competition. The IP 55/58 rating goes that one step further to make this device stand out. It can withstand immersion in fresh water at a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. All told the device weighs in 7 grams lighter than its predecessor at 163g, but 18g heavier than the less premium feeling S5. Is a device over 150g too heavy? Whilst the Z2 boasts 4K video recording it doesn’t yet boast a 4K screen..What it does offer is a full HD 5.2″ IPS display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with 423PPI. Combine this with the improved viewing angles over the Z1, the Triluminous and X-Reality technology and the result is colours that appear vivid and rich giving you what is hopefully one of the best mobile viewing experiences. At 5.2″ it might be a bit big for some, but if you want the big screen experience on the move then this is the sacrifice that has to be made. The ‘anti-shatter film’ included on other devices, was prone to attracting dust and scratches. Sony have listen and it has now been removed on the device, so the addition of a screen protector will be at your discretion. With Android 4.4 KitKat out the box no-one can criticise Sony for being behind here. Its not stock; but it is considerably closer to this than the likes of Samsung and even HTC devices. These tweaks and apps inevitably add a bit of bloatware to the device, but they can always be hidden or even removed. Of the 16GB on board, nearer 12GB is actually usable, much better than the 8 or 9GB offered by their Korean counterparts, but a microSD memory card slot exists for those who need it. Being a flagship Sony product the device is PlayStation Mobile certified so you can enjoy some of the best titles on the move. Pair up a Playstation controller, a DK36 Dock and HDTV and you have a excellent mobile gaming setup. The Z2 is a powerhouse and with 3GB of RAM supporting the 2.3GHz quad core processor multi-tasking is effortless and lag is not really a phrase you will be considering when operating this phone. The Z2 sports some interesting additions of which many have been seen on competitors devices. Glove mode, as the name implies enhances the screen sensitivity so that you can use the phone in colder climates with gloves on.. Smart backlight control keeps the screen on when you look at the phone, no need to actually touch the handset. Smart call handling allows you to answer a call by bringing the phone to the ear, reject a call by shaking it and silence a call by turning the phone over. Tap to wake up turns the screen on after a double tap on the display. Do any of these sound familiar? Where once was it was common to slide open the notification bar and be presented with notifications and shortcuts, this is now split by a ‘quick settings’ and ‘notifications’ tab. It defaults to the notifications, but settings is just a tap away. Shortcuts and their order can all be customised to your liking. A number of small apps are included on the Z2. Press and hold on the running apps key and at the bottom you are presented with list of apps such as a calculator, stopwatch, and sound These small apps sit in windows on top of Android and can be moved about on screen and retain their position on top of Android even as the phone is being used in the background. Only upon closing them will they disappear. As you would expect, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, DLNA, Miracast, 3G & 4G are all standard so your basic functions of internet connectivity to music streaming to street level navigation are covered. Use the DK36 magnetic charging dock to charge your device without the need to open the slightly fiddly port covers. MHL is a technology that with the appropriate cable/adapter can output the display of the phone to a HD enabled display. The Z2 is one of the first devices to offer MHL 3.0. This means 4K output from the phone, so the 4K video captured on the camera can be actually output in full 4K Ultra HD rather than the more common 1080p. The current negative at the time of reviewing is that the the adapter which actually allows 4K output is not available as yet. Thankfully the port is backwards compatible to 1080p output will have to be the norm for now. There is little in the way of anything missing in terms of connectivity apart from wireless charging; but you can add this with a wireless charging cover. It would be unfair to say the audio quality has been bad on Sony device of past, just not as good as we would like. There are now dual front facing stereo speakers which make a massive difference and put it close to the HTC One. Whilst the Z2 was the slightly louder of the two in our tests, it was evident that the HTC has marginally better audio quality with more realistic tones. The Z2 speakers are a marked improvement though and do not dominate the front panel like the HTC One. The undisputed king of the smartphone camera’s is Nokia’s Lumia 1020. The Z2 sits proudly against the competition thanks to its 20.7 megapixel camera with 27mm F2.0 aperture Sony G Lens. The camera is the same one that comes on the Z1 and Z1 Compact, or so it appears at first. The camera has come under some criticism for not actually producing the quality of shot you would expect given Sony’s promotion of its capabilities. The quality of the resulting shot can sometimes be unpredictable on the Z1, but this isn’t the case so much on the Z2. Low light shots are where the biggest improvement seems to have been made, there was evidently less noise. Colour might seem a little oversaturated for some, but editing of images on Android is infinitely more possible than it used to be. Unlike the standard camera interface on Android devices Sony have put a lot of work in here. The camera includes many features we have seen before including InfoEye, Social Live, AR mode and more. However the Z2 has a couple of additions to win you over. You now have full 4K Ultra HD video recording. You may not need or want it, but 4K footage scaled down to a 1080p display is better than 1080p footage on a 1080p display as silly as it sounds. 4K is memory intensive though. Timeshift video allows you to shoot video at 120 frames per second, but only in 720p HD. You might not need this on a daily basis but it is a cool feature and will certainly add some fun and drama to certain clips. There are many creative image types under the creative effect option within the camera. Give your images and video a sketch, nostalgic, vivid, mosaic and old film tone amongst many more. You are unlikely to regularly jump for these options but they should be used as they liven up many images. Background defocus is another useful addition meaning you can simulate a shallow depth of field and add the more artistic flare to shots. Optical Image Stabalisation is not something found on the Z2, but Steadyshot looks to give an equivalent effect. Shooting in Superior Auto mode is going to be commonplace for many, it detects the scene to give the best settings for that. Whilst the advantages speak for themselves the image size is adjusted automatically, so to get the full 20.7 megapixel experience you need to use manual mode. The dedicated camera key can be held down for quick access to the camera and the volume keys used as zoom controls. The 3200mAh battery on the Z2 is 200mAh bigger than the Z1. There is little difference in the hardware and further improvements in Sony’s STAMINA battery technology should allow a slightly longer usage time. Daily charges are commonplace on a high end smartphone, but Sony have proven with STAMINA mode that this can be a thing of the past, yet more demanding users may struggle to get 2 full days use out of it. Sony offer a concise but relevant range of official accessories for the Z2. Rival brands often announce accessories that never make it to market, but Sony appear to ensure that this happens, which is a real positive if you are looking to opt for the Z2, the value of accessories are often underrated. Depending on your market, whether you are buying on contract or SIM Free will all depend on the price. At the time of recording the Z2 was similarly, if not slightly cheaper than its closest rival the Samsung Galaxy S5. Sony have yet again managed to produce a device that impresses. Yes, there are some minor niggles, but find me one without any. The Xperia Z2 is a progression on the Xperia Z1 and a good one at that. there are obvious improvements from the screen to the speakers to the camera. Original Xperia Z owners will see a marked improvement and it is a justifiable upgrade, whilst current Samsung S4 or HTC One owners are left in a position of deciding whether the Z2 offers what you need. You are certainly not going to be disappointed. The smartphone market is more challenging than ever. Whilst the Moto X and G are not up there on specs, they are not far behind and much cheaper; which makes buyers question whether the extra couple of hundred pounds is worth it. Where 2013 was dominated by massive sales for Samsung, Sony rightfully deserve a considerably bigger slice of that pie in 2014 because the Z2 is an excellent piece of hardware that many will not regret spending their hard earned money on.

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