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Sony Xperia Z2 review: Brilliant display, familiar design, but not flawless

Price

49990

Tech2 Rating

8.5

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Sony's contender for the 2014 flagship battle
1
By Roydon Cerejo /  17 May 2014 , 10:09:20

The Sony Xperia Z2 is the follow up to Sony’s Xperia Z1 which debuted last year. Compared to the other flagships we’ve seen so far, the Z2 takes a more conservative approach as it’s not radically different from the Z1, at least cosmetically. With a price tag of Rs 49,990, the Z2 will compete with the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and the upcoming LG G3. With a Rs 15,000 premium over its predecessor, can the Z2 justify this if you leave aside the bundled goodies?

Design and Build

Sony has done a commendable job with the design and build of the Z2. It’s a clone of the Z1 almost but that’s a good thing as we thought the Z1 was one of Sony’s best efforts. The aluminium chassis makes the handset extremely sturdy and a few knocks won’t really hurt it much. The Z2 also gets the IP 55/58 certification making it amphibious like the Samsung S5.

The SIM and microUSB ports
The SIM and microUSB ports

We have tempered glass on the back and front, which work overtime in keeping scratches away. The same cannot be said for fingerprints though. The surface attracts smudges very easily and is a pain to get off. Having said that, we’re glad Sony has moved away from adding a scratch guard to the display, which used to pick up hairline scratches pretty easily.

The Z2 can easily withstand the elements
The Z2 can easily withstand the elements

All the ports are right where you expect them to be, just like in the old phone. There have been complaints about the improper fit of the glass in the front and our model too had gaps along the bottom edges. This also raised concern of the Z2’s waterproofing capabilities. However, we can confirm that these gaps don’t affect the IP 55 certification as we’ve submerged our unit in bucket of water and it’s still working.

Tempered glass back
Tempered glass back

Around the back, we get the same 20.7MP sensor from the Z1 and the single LED flash. Sony has played it safe with the Z2 and stuck to what worked for them in the past. In a way, this is good thing but not so much if you’re an existing Z1 owner looking to make the switch. We would have liked to see an addition of an IR port or dual-LED flash for that matter.

The new IPS display makes all the difference
The new IPS display makes all the difference

The Z2 also feels a lot longer than it should be. Given that the screen has barely grown in size, there’s a lot of spare bezel at the top and bottom, which makes it slightly difficult to use single handily.

Features

The biggest and most notable change from the Z1 is the new IPS display. At 5.2-inches, it’s 0.2 inches larger than the Z1’s TFT panel and sports the same Full HD resolution. Naturally, colours and brightness levels are a lot better and the display feels lively and vibrant. This makes it ideal for multimedia consumption. Sunlight legibility is also a lot better this time around although it does wash out pretty bad under bright sunlight.

The UI is still familiar but slicker this time around
The UI is still familiar but slicker this time around

The Z2 runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat along with a slightly tweaked Xperia skin. The functions and features are pretty much the same with a few exceptions and tweaks to the theme. The notification bar gets redesigned toggle switches and there are new subtle animations applied to the lock screen, music player, etc. The display setting gets a new ‘Smart backlight control’ feature, which keeps the screen on as long as you’re looking at it.

Strong numbers cross the board
Strong numbers cross the board

Beating underneath is the new Qualcomm Sanpdragon 801 SoC. This is the same MSM8974AB chipset found in the HTC One M8, but is clocked a bit slower at 2.23 GHz. The good news is that the Z2 gets 3GB of RAM which leaves you with about 1.3GB RAM free at any point in time. This more than double of what the S5 leaves you with.

Overheating causes stressful apps to crash
Overheating causes stressful apps to crash

One thing we did notice was that the Z2 heats up pretty quickly when playing back HD videos so shooting stills. This was another issue that many users have been complaining about. It never gets uncomfortably hot to hold but enough for apps to crash and stop working. In fact Sony has a ‘Overheat control’ process that’s always running to monitor the temperature. We had this issue while using some of the Creative Effects in the camera app and while running 3D Mark.

Media

Media playback has always been one of the strong points of Xperia phones and the Z2 is no different. However, they’ve always been lacking when it comes to loud speaker quality and the Z2 manages to plug that gap as well. With stereo speakers mounted on the top and bottom, the Z2 delivers good stereo separation for music and movies.

Media playback is good
Media playback is good

This is exploited to the fullest only with the S-Force Surround enhancement enabled though. Without this, the audio lacks any punch.  FM radio is also present. The stock video player also supports 4K video playback.

Storage wise, you get 11.5GB that’s usable out of the 16GB. You can expand this by up to 128GB, if you can afford it.

Connectivity

The Sony Xperia Z2 is a quad-band 3G and 2G device but sadly, the model sold in India does not support 4G. Other connectivity options includes Wi-Fi ‘ac’, USB Host, Bluetooth v4.0, NFC, GLONASS.

Stock apps work well
Stock apps work well

Sony also bundles a whole bunch of Xperia and third party apps. There’s Sony Music Jive, Big Flix, Sony LIV, Social Life, Sketch, Line, Pixlr Express, Office Suite and What’s New. The latter keeps you updated on the latest games and apps from Sony as well as updates from the Playstation Store. You can also purchase games from your phone and then download them through your PS3.

There's plenty of RAM to spare on the Z2 unlike others
There’s plenty of RAM to spare on the Z2 unlike others

There are bunch of Xperia Connectivity options as well like screen mirroring, DLNA, support for DualShock 3 controller, etc.

Camera

The camera and the interface is pretty much the same as the Z1, with just a few new apps added. One thing you should note is that in ‘Superior Auto’ mode, the Z2 shoots images in 8MP and records video in 1080p by default. Apparently, the sensor captures the full 20MP image but downscales it to 8MP to increase quality. You can shoot in full 20.7MP in ‘Manual’ mode, the results aren’t as good as in Auto mode. You can’t manually select scene modes as well if the resolution is above 8MP, which we thought was a little odd.

The camera UI gets some new apps
The camera UI gets some new apps

The dedicated shutter key makes capturing images a breeze. Amongst the new additions, we get Timeshift Video, which lets you slow down the entire clip or portions of it. Here, you’re restricted to 720p video.

This was shot in Superior Auto mode
This was shot in Superior Auto mode
Another macro shot
Another macro shot
Shot using HDR mode
Shot using HDR mode
The Background Defocus app in action
The Background Defocus app in action

Quality of stills is very good and the 1080p at 60FPS mode works very well too. The big addition here is 4K video recording. Rather than incorporating it within the settings, it’s been added as an app. While the quality is good, there’s a very bad audio lag which is noticeable when you have people talking in the frame. Clearly, the 4K bit was just slapped on at the last moment for that extra tick on the box as it needs improvement.

Battery life

The Z2 gets a slightly bigger battery at 3200mAh which assures you of more than a day’s worth of usage. After our rigorous 8-hour test, we had 39 percent remaining. This was without any of the power saving modes switched on.

Verdict and Price in India

Sony has launched the Xperia Z2 at Rs 49,990. With this, they are also throwing in the SmartBand and a flip cover to sweeten the deal. While this is definitely a much better package than what the others are offering, we feel the price is bloated and here’s why. The Xperia Z1 launched for Rs 42,000 in September last year and is now available for roughly Rs 37,000. The Z2 is only a mild refresh which makes us wonder if Sony has already added the price of the SmartBand and cover to the launch price, while making it out to be a ‘freebie’.

Whatever might be the case, we feel the Xperia Z2 has a slightly bloated price right now, especially if all you want is the phone and don’t care about any of the bundled goodies. There’s also the overheating issue which causes apps to crash and 4K video recording which needs some polishing up.

Having said that, the Xperia Z2 makes a better all-rounder when compared to the competition. Now, if only Sony would release the shackles of the bundled accessories, we could have more sensible pricing.


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