Sony’s Xperia Z2
Sony Xperia Z2 is an update to the Z1, Sony’s so-called flagship phone released just six months ago. It’s slimmer, lighter and stretches the screen, with the addition of 4K video capture. All the same, with so many new phones all being released at once, the Z2’s release seems premature. It looks like a stopgap compromise product put out early with a view to not letting the competition get too far ahead. If size is not an issue for you I recommend you hit the store and weigh it up yourself. Bulky though it is, the Xperia Z2 is the complete high-end smartphone package. It’s built with durable premium synthetic materials, takes rather a good photograph and will last all day on a single charge.
Very impatient and defensive, the Sony folks were really on the cusp of something special here, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the next one may finally be the one to take on and defeat Samsung and Apple. Design-wise, Sony has wisely stuck to its “omni-balance” design for the Xperia Z2, with front and back slabs of glass surrounded by aluminum edging. It looks simple and well designed and feels solid in the hand. Heft is relative, of course, but this thing is weighty. This slab-like design, as with the PS4 controller, is a Sony signature. The screen and back glass plates are sunk into the aluminum edging, keeping them off whatever’s below, and its ridged metal overhang makes it much easier to grip than its predecessor. At 163 grams, it’s actually not that heavy, it’s just the grip design!
As a sports reporter I often get caught in the elements a lot. I love that Sony’s smartphones and tablets are all waterproof. Its IP 68 rating means it will resist a 1.5m submersion for up to 30 minutes. Nice! Additionally, if the headphone port is open, the micro-USB charging port and the microSD and micro-SIM slots are protected by rubber-sealed doors. The gaskets fit snugly. The Z2 has Sony’s magnetic charging port, for those that want to avoid having to hook up the phone via micro-USB each night. You can slot the phone into a charging dock, although it will have to be purchased separately.
The Xperia Z2 has by far the biggest screen of the big new three flagship smartphones. Its 5.2in size means the device is very wide indeed: a good 5mm wider than the HTC One. All well and good, but on sweaty summer days on the beach or at a baseball game or party, remember what I’m telling you now. Keeping a grip on the Z2 and reaching its entire screen area with one hand is pain in the ass.
Size-wise, the Z2’s screen is fantastic. It has very wide viewing angles, and colors are crisp and realistic-looking. Above all, it makes texting easy on the eyes. The gap between the glass cover and the display beneath is very thin so that the screen feels much closer to your fingers as you touch it, much like the iPhone. With 16gb of storage and 3 GBs of Ram, the Sony Xperia Z2 uses the same chip from Qualcomm (the Snapdragon 801) as the previously reviewed Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One to make it just as quick. Powerful, fast and lag-free, it’s graphically intensive games run smoothly while apps launch almost instantaneously.
It also has a juiced-up battery good for 36 hours of use. The large 3,200 mAh battery – 400w and twice the size of the iPhone 5S’s 1,570mAh battery – can be extended much further when you activate Sony’s Stamina mode, where a battery that’s 50% full will provide an estimated three days of life by freezing background apps and turning off Wi-Fi and mobile data when the screen is off. A separate “low battery” mode is also available which will turn power-hungry features off to eke out even more time once the battery charge is below 20%. Additionally, if you’re storage-obsessed, the Z2 also has a microSD card slot for adding up to 64GB more storage for movies, photos and music.
Sony’s apps also come preinstalled on the Z2, including the Walkman app and Sony’s music and movie subscription services. They’re decent, but can be safely ignored if a user already has Netflix subscription or other preferred app or service. An app definitely worth mentioning is Sony’s Smart Connect, which automatically puts the Z2 on silent when plugged into the mains at night – or at any other time. You can define a whole host of custom actions to speed up everyday tasks such as switching from silent vibrate to a “loud” sound profile when you plug in headphones, or turning on Wi-Fi when you get to work.
Finally, the Xperia Z2’s point-and-shoot camera is one of the best available. Its 20.7-megapixel sensor might seem like overkill on a smartphone, but, really, the images you get are sharp. It will automatically make your photo settings. You simply touch to focus or use the dedicated shutter button using “Superior Auto” mode. Alternatively, Manual mode provides adjustments for a whole host of settings including the white balance, ISO, HDR and meters.
There are also beaucoup fancy camera apps that allow fun effects like background defocus, the “Timeshift” burst mode (which captures about 30 frames per second) to capture a series of images in rapid succession before and after the user hits the shutter button to grab the best shot. There are also lots of video camera features, including the ability to capture 4K ultra-high-definition video and slow motion. Sony has also brought its SteadyShot image stabilization technology from its camcorder range, which makes shooting handheld video on the Z2 much easier, removing the shakes.
Last, but not least, stay calm, be patient and await the arrival of the Apple iPhone 6!