Sony is steadily climbing up the smartphone market share rankings,
thanks to recent launches that have worked very well in their price
bands. The company has had its ups and downs over the years, with a few
models that have caught on, but no long-running success till very
recently. Samsung is the dominant force in India as far as Android
phones go, and Sony is only just beginning to establish itself as an
alternative, with a distinctive identity that extends through hardware
and software design.
With that said, even though the Xperia Z2 is a
significant improvement over its predecessors, the Z and Z1, there
isn't really any kind of standout feature for the company to shout
about. Samsung's Galaxy S5 has its heart rate monitor and health-related
accessories; HTC has created a dual-camera system for the new One (M8).
That's what Sony is up against, and it will have a hard time pushing the
Xperia Z2 even though all its important features and specifications are
We've already tested the Galaxy S5 and
One (M8), so now it's time to see whether the Xperia Z2 can take them
on, and whether Sony's understated approach helps it or hurts it.
Look and feel
there isn't much to differentiate the Xperia Z2 from its predecessors.
It's almost exactly the same size as the Z1, give or take a few
millimetres here or there, but it is a bit lighter at 163g. Sony hasn't
even freshened up its colour options - you still have only white, black
and purple to choose between. It has the same blunt rectangular shape,
like a slab of glass with slightly chiselled edges and corners.
front and back of our review unit were perfectly black, but the sides
are silver with a very deep purple trim around the edges. It's extremely
subtle and you'll only see it when the light catches it at a particular
angle, which gives the whole phone a bit of character.
face is almost completely black, thanks to the move to on-screen
buttons. There's only a classic Sony logo on top, with the front camera
lens peeking through the black glass next to it. You can barely see the
twin cutouts in the plastic edging which house the front-firing stereo
speakers, except when LEDs in the upper cutout light up to notify you of
calls, messages or charge status.
Sony's distinctive round power
button is in its now-familiar spot in the middle of the right edge, with
the volume rocker and camera shortcut button below it, and a flap above
it protecting the microSD card slot. Sony's magnetic charging connector
is on the opposite side, along with another flap which protects the
Micro-USB charging port and SIM card slot.
The flaps are lined
with rubber, which was necessary to ensure waterproofing and
dustproofing - Sony says the Xperia Z2 has an IP58 rating, which means
it should be able to withstand up to 30 minutes of immersion in up to
1.5m of freshwater. The 3.5mm headset jack on top isn't protected, and
there are microphone holes on the top and bottom, but the rear panel
isn't removable and the battery is sealed inside.
20.7-megapixel camera lens in ringed with silver and placed in the upper
left corner of the rear panel, along with an LED flash. Despite the
fact that all regulatory messages are hidden away on a retractable tab
under the microSD card flap, Sony clearly couldn't resist littering the
back with a logo for the camera, one for NFC, another Sony logo and an
Xperia logo as well. Both the front and back are highly reflective and
pick up fingerprints like crazy.
The Xperia Z2 is a chunky phone,
and it felt solid in our hands. It isn't the most comfortable to hold,
and the edges where glass meets metal are just a bit too rough. Still,
it feels solid and imposing, without being loud. We really like what
Sony's managed to pull off - it's only a slight refinement of its
predecessors' designs, but somehow doesn't feel old.
Features and specifications
seems you can't be a flagship phone in 2014 without a Snapdragon 801
processor (or equivalent). Sony has gone with the flow, but the one in
the Z2 is a tiny fraction slower than the one in the M8, at 2.3GHz
instead of 2.5GHz. On the other hand, there's 3GB of RAM rather than the
2GB HTC went with.
The 16GB of built-in storage can be expanded
by up to 128GB. MicroSD cards of that capacity are rare and expensive
now, but it's nice to know they'll work in the future. Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac
and Bluetooth 4.0 are standard, but Sony also includes NFC. There's no
infrared remote control, which is something both primary competitors
The screen is a large 5.2-inch full-HD display, and Sony
has applied its Bravia-derived "Triluminous" and "X-reality for Mobile"
buzzwords to it. The screen is pretty sharp, and blacks are indeed quite
deep. It isn't the brightest or most vivid in its class, but it's still
a fantastic screen to watch movies and play games on.
equal attention to sound, and there are plenty of buzzword-toting
enhancements. The twin front-firing speakers definitely add an important
dimension to movies and games too, and we wish this was more standard
The other major feature is the 20.7-megapixel
camera. Sony is particularly proud of it, touting the unusually high
pixel count as well as a sensor that's claimed to be 30 percent larger
than standard. We're particularly intrigued by the claim that the Z2's
camera is "on par with [Sony's] compact digital cameras". Pretty much
every parameter is touted as superior - low light performance, contrast,
clarity, depth, colour accuracy, detail, and lack of noise. The dense
sensor is even supposed to be able to replicate optical zoom, by trading
image size for clarity.
Of course there's also 4K video
recording. If Samsung hadn't beaten Sony to market, this would have been
an exclusive feature. If you step down to 720p, you can shoot at up to
120fps and add a dramatic slow-motion effect to your clips.
4.4 brings several important improvements to the user interface, and
Sony's Xperia UI customisations are also pretty extensive. For starters,
the default wallpaper has a "live" swirl that animates on its own as
you swipe between screens, and the whole thing keeps cycling between
colours. It feels unnecessary and is often distracting, but of course
you can just turn this off.
Sony loads up the interface with its
own branded apps and content - one of the first things you see on the
default home screen is a widget called "What's New", which is basically
an advertisement for assorted Sony content, though only themes and
recommended third-party apps show up in India. The constant refreshing
is bound to eat up 3G data, so you might want to get rid of this widget
entirely. On the next home screen, there's a carousel of videos and an
audio player widget, both of which lead to apps preloaded with Sony
content. Two of the four icons in the dock also lead to Sony apps - Liv
and Sony Music Jive, which might appeal to Indian buyers but didn't have
to be so in our faces.
The custom Walkman-branded music player
can handle loads of formats including FLAC, but its design is quite
frustrating. Amongst the several other apps are TrackID, a useful music
identification service; WisePilot, a maps and traffic guide app; Sony
Select, yet another app directory; Smart Connect, a tool to automate
phone behaviour when accessories are plugged in; and Xperia Lounge,
which displays - guess what? - even more Sony promotional content,
except this time including special offers for Xperia device owners.
is the default and only browser. There's also Facebook, Socialife News,
Vine, Line, X4 Video Player, Pixlr Express, Google Drive, Box,
LinkedIn, and a view-only version of MobiSystems OfficeSuite.
might have overdone it with the apps, but the general Xperia UI is
surprisingly similar to stock Android. The notifications shade seems
bare compared to Samsung's and LG's implementations, and even the
Settings app is largely untouched. These are typically areas in which
companies try to offer users more flexibility and personalisation. At
least the app switcher includes four shortcuts to "small apps" - you can
choose from a limited selection including the calculator, browser,
screenshot utility, timer, Gmail, and calendar.
from the hardware described above, Sony has done a fair bit of work
with its camera app. The default mode is Superior Auto, which hides most
options in the interest of simplicity. Manual mode, despite its name,
doesn't offer conventional manual controls, but instead lets you tweak
settings and use different scene modes such as Soft Skin, Anti Motion
Blur, Night Portrait, Document, Fireworks, and even a Gourmet mode,
presumably for Instagram-worthy shots of your dinner.
mode is 4K video - as it turns out, videos shot in the normal camera
modes top out at 1080p. The other modes, or "camera apps", include Vine,
Sweep Panorama, Timeshift Burst, and AR Effect. We've seen many of
these before, and some are definitely less useful than others. AR Mode
is just for silly fun, Background Defocus doesn't always work or look
realistic even though you can tweak it manually, and Social Live is only
for compulsive Facebook sharers.
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Image quality is very
impressive. We were able to take some great shots, including difficult
subjects such as moving cars, birds in flight, and areas half in and
half out of shadow. Colours were accurate and focusing was usually spot
on, but our mileage varied when it came to capturing detail. Close-up
shots fared better than landscapes. We even got some decent
depth-of-field effects without any post-processing trickery. Low-light
shots were impressive - in our limited testing, the flash lit up
subjects evenly and even without it, there wasn't as much noise as we
The camera on the Xperia Z2 is truly impressive, and we
can easily imagine people buying this phone just to have something this
impressive in their pockets all the time.
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raw performance was a mixed bag with the Sony Xperia Z2. We never felt
any slowdowns or lag in general usage, but our CPU-bound benchmarks
produced consistently lower scores on this phone than they did on the
Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8). Variations ranged from slight to
dramatic, but we wouldn't put down the Z2 for this since it's known that
HTC and Samsung have manipulated benchmark scores in the past (and at
least HTC proudly continues to do so now). Even with that in mind, the Xperia Z2 is a phenomenally fast phone, and is right at the top of the charts, ahead of last year's best performers.
tests were much more evenly matched between the three flagship phones.
We did, however, notice the Xperia Z2 getting almost uncomfortably hot
when running demanding tasks.
Audio and video were both excellent,
and the 1080p screen is just large enough to make videos immersive
without compromising on sharpness. Volume was impressive, even if the
sound wasn't all that rich or clear in action scenes heavy EDM tracks.
battery lasted for 11 hours, 42 minutes in our video rundown test. That
should be more than enough to get through a full day's work, including
relatively heavy video and camera usage.
Sony's doing, it seems to be working. The third iteration of its top-end
Xperia Z model is the slickest yet, with all the features that anyone
today might care about, in a package that is as understated as it seems
possible to create. This is undoubtedly one of the most satisfying
phones to own and use.
With that said, it is still a bit too large
for many people's tastes - we hope a Z2 Compact is on its way - and the
squared-off body makes it a bit less comfortable to hold and use than
the Galaxy S5 and One (M8). Those two phones also have their own
defining features, which are admittedly pretty attractive.
doesn't stick its neck out with anything groundbreaking, but it is
probably the most well-rounded of the three (and Sony's launch offers don't hurt either). It's hard to pick between
them, so you'll have to decide based on personal preferences. We're
happy that Sony has delivered such a strong contender - Samsung
definitely isn't the only game in town anymore.
Sony Xperia Z2 in pictures