Sony can’t seem to pump out these flagship handsets fast enough. The Xperia Z2 arrives just seven months after its predecessor – the Xperia Z1 – went on sale.
The Z1 launched just six months after its own predecessor, the Xperia Z, too.
And since the Z1 landed, we’ve also had the Xperia Z1 Compact to play with, let’s not forget.
It’s tough keeping up with all these Sony phones.
So what’s new with the Z2? And does it justify an upgrade? Let’s find out.
First impressions and design
If you’ve used the Xperia Z1 or Z1 Compact, you’ll know the drill by now.
The Z2 has the same all-glass back and aluminium edges, and it’s waterproof too, just like its predecessors.
Sony has managed to shave off some bulk though. The Z2 weighs 169g (6g less than the Z1), and is 8.2mm thick (0.3mm slimmer than the Z1).
The bezel around the edge is also slightly thinner.
Despite this, it’s managed to enlarge the screen slightly, going from 5 inches to 5.2. Which is quite a feat of engineering. It just goes to show what a difference a few months can make.
As with its predecessors, it’s a very nice looking phone, with a real premium feel.
It’s really a toss up between this and the HTC One (M8) for most gorgeous phone of the year so far. With its plastic back, the Galaxy S5 doesn’t get a look in.
Android 4.4.2 KitKat comes as standard – this is the latest version of Android, so you couldn’t ask for more.
The Z1 only just got the update to KitKat itself a matter of weeks ago.
Sony has slathered its own UI over the top of Android.
It’s not too intrusive, though it does still prioritise Sony’s apps ahead of others by default (you can change this, of course).
Speaking of which, Sony has thrown everything it has at the Z2.
Its full list of apps on our test device were as follows (deep breath): Walkman, Album, Movies, PlayStation, PlayStation Mobile, Smart Connect, Social Live, Socialife News, Sony Select, Xperia Care Support, TrackID, TrackID TV, Update Centre, Video Unlimited, What’s New, and Xperia Lounge.
That’s some serious bloatware.
A recent study showed that hardly anyone with a Samsung phone uses any of Samsung’s apps that come preinstalled.
It’d be interesting to see similar studies for other companies, but we’re guessing the results would be the same for Sony, HTC, LG and others.
Sony has rejigged the camera skills for the Z2. The Z1 was no slouch, with a 20.7-megapixel snapper on the back, and these tweaks make the Z2 an even better snapper.
You can record video in 4K – which has four times as many pixels as full HD – though not many people have 4K TVs yet, so you might not be able to watch it back in full resolution on the big screen.
There’s a slightly faster chip inside too – it’s 2.3GHz as opposed to 2.2GHz on the Z1.
You can also open small apps (calculator, timer, Gmail, mini web browser, etc) floating on top of others, so you can pull up your emails while browsing your photo library, say.
The waterproofing has been improved slightly, too, and the speakers are now on the front of the device, so they don’t get muffled when you lay it flat on a desk.
These are minor upgrades all round, but then the Z1 was already a top phone.
As on the Z1 and Z1 Compact, the screen is superb.
It has the same 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution as the slightly smaller Z1, which means the pixel per inch count is a smidge lower – 423 compared to the Z1’s 440.
But in practice, you’re not going to notice.
The screen is rather reflective though, which can make it a little tricky to read in direct sun.
We found the Galaxy S5’s to be brighter overall, and hence a little clearer.
You really notice that 3GB of RAM: the Z2 chomps through menus as fast as your finger can swipe.
We didn’t have any slowdown at all during games, or even while opening a whole range of small apps on top of a 4K video that was playing.
The camera is fantastic. Pictures have excellent colour reproduction, and the camera is very quick to focus.
It’s not quite as quick as the Galaxy S5’s 0.3-second auto focus, but it’s not far behind.
Sony gives you a boatload of options to tweak on the camera, including white balance and ISO. The only way to get more control over your snaps is with an SLR.
There’s also a background defocus mode, which blurs the background.
It’s like the Ufocus mode on the HTC One (M8), or the Selective Focus feature on the Samsung Galaxy S5.
It works well, but it’s a pain you have to enable it before you shoot. The same is true of Selective Focus, so for our money, HTC’s is the best of the bunch.
4K videos look stunning. They take up a lot of space though.
A 2 minute 17 second 4K clip weighed in at 0.88GB, so if you’re going to be filming a lot in this resolution, you’d better stock up on memory cards.
The handset also seems to heat up while filming in 4K. We’re sure it’s nothing to worry about, but it is a little disconcerting.
The battery lasted us a full day with fairly heavy usage, but it was ready to be charged by bed time. That’s standard with most smartphones nowadays.
The Z2 is an excellent device, right up there with the HTC One (M8) and Samsung Galaxy S5.
It’s a shame about all the bloatware, but HTC and Samsung are guilty of that too.
Its improvements are minimal over the Z1, so it’s not worth upgrading if you bought its predecessor.
But if you’re looking for a smart, quick and capable phone, this is one of the best around.
Find out more about the Sony Xperia Z2 here: Sony Xperia Z2