Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

Sony Xperia XZ2

Sony Xperia XZ2

Sony

February, 2018
5.7" display, Snapdragon 845 chipset, 19 MP primary camera, 5 MP front camera, 3180 mAh battery, 64 GB storage, 6 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
EUR:€360
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Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review


Introduction

Sony is kicking the year 2018 with a new design for its flagship phone, the Sony Xperia XZ2. Bidding farewell to the boxy squared design from the past, the Sony Xperia XZ2 has an exciting new and modern look as it finally adapts the popular 18:9 aspect ratio for the display. It's also a multimedia powerhouse as it boasts an HDR display, front facing dual speakers and the latest and greatest processor from Snapdragon. So now the question remains, can it compete with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S9, Google Pixel 2 and Apple iPhone X? Let's find out.

Design

Finally, after years of similar looking phones, Sony finally decided to revamp the design of their latest flagship device and to the comfort of most Sony fans, it's a welcomed change.

The huge bezels like on the previous Sony Xperia XZ1 are gone, making room for the popular 18:9 aspect ratio for the display. Still having squared corner, the Sony Xperia XZ2 has a mirrored surface tempered down to a rounded edge. The aluminum frame holds the glass together firmly, with the rear glass panel having a slight curve which makes the phone look stunning, reflecting light to the pleasure of eyes. Sony has dubbed this new design language as 'Ambient Flow'. With Gorilla Glass 5 on both front and rear, the Sony Xperia XZ2 is a shiny, curvy minimal bezel handset which sits comfortably in the hand. However, due to the curvy nature of the glass back, it's a finger print magnet and it's very hard to use the phone while it's on a smooth straight surface such as a table, as it slips around constantly. To avoid accidental drops due to the slippery nature of the glass back, I would recommend that you get a good case for the phone.

The finger print scanner is now on the back below its 19 MP camera moving from the power button from previous flagships. It scans faster now, however, due to the low placement of the camera, it's very easy to smudge the camera lens when trying to locate the fingerprint scanner. Sony has followed the Google Pixel in the camera department as it opted for a single rear-facing camera even when majority of the competition have a dual camera setup on their flagships, with Huawei even going further and having a triple camera setup on their new flagship phone, the Huawei P20 Pro.

A downside to having the curved glass back is that it makes the phone thick in the middle and slightly heavy. The phone is dust and water resistant with an IP68 certification. Falling prey to the trend set by Apple, the Sony Xperia XZ2 has no 3.5 mm headphone jack which means that your audio needs are to be catered by either Bluetooth or USB-C connection.

The phone comes in 5 different colors: Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Deep Green, Petrol Blue and Ash Pink. Which colors you get depends on your region.

Display

The Sony Xperia XZ2 has a 5.7 inch IPS LCD Full HD display with a resolution of 1080x2160p. It finally adapts the 18:9 aspect ratio and has a pixel density of 424 PPI. Don't confuse it with any other ordinary Full HD display though, as it is HDR compliant and is powered by Sony's own Triluminos display technology coupled with the X-Reality Engine. This is a major shift from Sony's previous flagship, the Sony Xperia XZ1 Premium, which has a 4K display so stepping down to Full HD is an interesting decision by Sony.

The screen is quite bright and the legibility outdoors is decent beating the Apple iPhone X at the brightness level with a maximum brightness of 686 nits as compared to Apple iPhone X's 673 nits. The blacks are not bad for an LCD panel either and colors are more on the blueish side, although this can be tweaked in the display settings choosing the Super-vivid mode. The dynamic range is far better on the Sony Xperia XZ2 with brighter colors but it did seem to oversaturate certain parts of the image.

The HDR on the display certainly helps in enhancing the overall image and video quality as there's more detail and brighter colors to be seen. It makes the LCD panel look lovely and brighter and even with non-HDR normal content, the Sony Xperia XZ2 tries to upscale and improve it to HDR, a technique Sony has taken from its Bravia TV. It's something quite spectacular how Sony has implemented the same tech from its Bravia television line on the Sony Xperia XZ2. It has defied expectations about LCD panels, as they were infamous for being dim and having dull colors, especially the blacks. The Triluminos LCD display on the Sony Xperia XZ2 is a whole different ball game though, it's just super bright with amazing color accuracy and just looks beautiful even when compared with the OLED panels.

For protection, the display relies on Corning Gorilla Glass 5 which is fairly enough to protect it from minor scratches and drops.

Processor

As expected, Sony has gone for the Snapdragon 845 for its latest flagship. It's paired with 4 or 6 GB of RAM depending on which variant you get and 64 GB of onboard storage. Although, there are some competitors with more RAM, 4 GB is enough for most users. The Sony Xperia XZ2 scores very close to the Samsung Galaxy S9 on Geekbench's Multi-core score so performance shouldn't be an issue. While comparing it with the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Sony Xperia XZ2 outperformed its South Korean rival in most daily tasks such as utility and social media apps so even with a slightly lower benchmark score, the new beast from Sony performs like a champion.

Hardware

The hardware on the Sony Xperia XZ2 doesn't fail to impress. With its Snapdragon 845 processor and Adreno 630 GPU, the phone carries top of the line hardware. Even with 4 GB of RAM, this phone has one of the best hardware combination on a smartphone available.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 is only available with 64 GB of onboard storage, however, there's room for microSD storage expansion up to 400 GB which is impressive. The phone features Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and USB type-C and supports quick charge 3.0 which means that you can charge the 3180 mAh battery very quickly. Being a glass back phone, the Sony Xperia XZ2 also features wireless Qi charge so you don't have to worry about running out of its rather midsized battery.

The big feature from Sony in this year's flagship is its Dynamic Vibration System. It's a take on Apple's haptic engine which is found in Apple iPhone devices. The feature allows the phone to vibrate in different ways with respect to what's happening on the screen, much like the Sony PlayStation's wireless controller. On the Sony Xperia XZ2, this concept is taken to another level by embedding it into music, games and even movies. Whether you find this feature useful or just a gimmick depends on your personal preference but in the end, the Sony Xperia XZ2 becomes the first Android phone to come with such a unique vibration system.

The phone also features dual front facing speakers which pump out louder and less distorted sound than ever before. It's not as loud as on the Samsung's Galaxy S9 but with the Dynamic Vibration System, this phone gives you a very satisfying combination of hardware. One could argue that there aren't any visual innovations in this phone, but the case remains that most of its competitors have done pretty much the same, only iterating through small tweaks and moving towards a near perfect smartphone experience.

Battery

Even with the curvy and thick body, the battery on the Sony Xperia XZ2 is a midsized 3180 mAh power pack which is still more than that on the Samsung Galaxy S9 with the same processor and fewer pixels to light up on the screen. This combination enables the Sony Xperia XZ2 to last a day on moderate usage which is quite good. When I tested the battery, the Sony Xperia XZ2 managed 6 hours and 46 minutes of onscreen time which is 8 minutes more than the Samsung Galaxy S9 so that's impressive.

There is fast charging support alongwith wireless charging using the Qi standard, similar to the one on the Apple iPhone X. After plugging in with the provided quick charger, the Sony Xperia XZ2 took 23 minutes to go from 0 to 30% and 43 minutes to reach the 60% mark, however, a full charge took well over 2 hours. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. While other high-end phones do charge faster than the XZ2, faster charging reduces the battery's lifespan. Sony is still offering its Battery Care feature in the battery settings menu. In a nutshell, it aims to extend the battery cell's lifespan by pausing the charging process at 90% during overnight charges and then resuming it at the right time so that you have a full battery when your alarm rings.

Sony has strived to improve the longevity of the battery life with smarter charging methods that don't stress the battery and such measures are clearly seen in the Sony Xperia XZ2.

Camera

The 19 MP (F 2.0 aperture) rear camera is the same motion eye camera which was seen on the Sony Xperia XZ1 but the new chipset allows faster and smoother image processing. The larger RAM buffer found on the Sony Xperia XZ2 enables the camera to decrease shutter lag. The camera features EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) which enables users to reduce shakiness while capturing videos and the laser autofocus helps focusing the subject in the photo much quicker.

When tested in good lighting conditions, the shots were sharper and had plenty of details even after zooming, thanks to the 19 MP lens which captures a lot of detail as compared to the 12 MP shutter on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Apple iPhone X. The dynamic ranged has been improved and with the new processing chip, low light shots look much better than that from the last year's Sony Xperia XZ1. There's still no OIS though so if you want an extremely stable shot, you might want to invest in a tripod as EIS doesn't perform as good as OIS. However, the phone overcomes this by using a feature called 'Predictive Capture'. When there's a fast-moving object in sight, the camera takes a series of photos before the shutter is pressed so that it's easier to catch the perfect moment.

Following the trend, there's a portrait mode in the Sony Xperia XZ2's camera app where you can take photos with Bokeh effect and control how much of the background you want blurred out. The blurring is done using software only as this is a single lens camera. The results aren't great though, with the subject in the photo having blurred edges and I think that overall the Google Pixel 2 does a much better job at single lens portrait mode using only software. Using the Auto mode, the phone will use similar AI techniques found on Huawei's new phones and chances are that you'll take a great photo. The camera will detect the subject in the view, whether it is food, animals or people and it will adjust the settings accordingly giving you the best picture you can capture.

The 5 MP front camera looks like a downgrade on paper from last year's 13 MP camera on the Sony Xperia XZ1 but when I tested it, the selfies came out to be quite good with sharp colors and really good dynamic range. The only thing lacking was the auto-focus and stability options. Using the same front camera, you can use Sony's 3D creator which takes multiple pictures of your face and creates a 3D image. The results are quite impressive and it's much easier to use and fairly accurate with a slight downside which you can read in the software review.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 shoots video up to 4K HDR which is quite nice. The videos in 4K came out to be stunning, with great contrast, dynamic range and accurate colors. For the first time on a smartphone, Sony has introduced 4K HDR, giving true to life colors, better contrast and more details in the video. The only slight downside to this mode is that in order to view the difference between 4K and 4K HDR, you need to watch it on a 4K HDR compatible screen. Another great video mode is the Super Slow Mo which shoots videos at 960 fps, now at 1080p Full HD. This is a major upgrade from last year's super slow-motion mode which only shot at 720p HD and it's a win against the rival the Samsung Galaxy S9's super slow motion which only captures at 720p HD. Initially it was somewhat difficult to time the shutter with the moment as the time frame between shutter speed is cut in half in Super Slow Mo but once you get the right moment captured, the results are quite pleasing.

The camera app is pretty much the same as on the last year's Sony Xperia XZ1 and overall the camera experience is one which you'd expect from a top contender for the best phone of the year spot.

Software

As expected, the Sony Xperia XZ2 ships with Android 8.0 Oreo. Sony's own skin on top containing some bloatware is definitely not a near stock Android experience but existing Sony fans will feel comfortable using this device. Some of the preloaded apps are one of the best in the marker though, such as Sony's music player and the PlayStation Remote Play.

The biggest update this time around is the Xperia Assist, a software designed to help users make the most out of the phone using a chatbot interface. Personally, I think it's a simple and useful feature which gives more clarity sometimes as compared to Siri on the Apple iPhone or Bixby on Samsung Galaxy phones.

There's another new software feature in this year's Sony's flagship called 3D Creator. It takes a 3D scan of your face and real-world objects and models them which you can post online on Facebook or just take a 3D printout out of it. The feature, however, is quite a ritual as you have to sit still till all the virtual dots connect which makes it hard to do without looking at the screen. Whether this is going to be a useful feature or just a gimmick, only time will tell.

Conclusion

Sony Xperia XZ2 is now available with a price of $800 in the US and 699 in the UK with the smaller model Sony Xperia XZ2 compact going for $650 in the US and 550 in the UK. It's better to spend more on the larger model if you want the complete smartphone experience. It's nice to see Sony taking a huge step to implement a fresh new design with great features. The taller screen, new exciting options for video recording and Dynamic vibration is quite unique.

Even with all these great features, some people might have an issue with the build, some might find the older boxier design much better. Also, the lack of a headphone jack can be a deal breaker for some people but given most of the smartphone companies getting rid of the headphone jack such as Apple, Google, and Huawei, it came as no surprise that Sony followed them as well.

Personally, I think that Sony is experimenting and it'll be exciting to see what happens next. For now, I think overall the Sony Xperia XZ2 is a really good phone with an excellent display, top of the line specs and a really good camera. It has the potential to be the Android king of the year. As it goes with Sony's devices, if you're a multimedia person, this is the phone for you.