Sony Xperia Z2 hands-on: pushing the limits
It's been another six months, and so it's time for Sony to unveil yet another cuting-edge Android smartphone. Coming to replace the critically-acclaimed Xperia Z1, the Sony Xpera Z2 is the manufacturer's latest and greatest smartphone proposition. This time around, Sony seems to be really pushing the technology limits with this one - the Z2 is once again bringing some much-appreciated improvement in most areas, and, thankfully, a pretty major enhancement in the screen department. All in all, Sony's latest flagship shapes up as a very promising offering - one that we're definitely looking forward to.
In terms of dimensions, we're looking at two veeery big smartphones. Sadly, the Xperia Z2 doesn't seem to have gotten any smaller than its predecessor. Well, there's some minimal difference - it's just ever so slightly narrower, thinner and lighter, but the different isn't quite noticeable. However, the difference in height is more pronounced - sadly, the Z2 has grown even taller than the Z1. But, our thinking right now is that is you've gotten used to the imposing dimensions of the Z1, then you probably won't mind the Z2's size as well.
Other than that, it's just a big, but decidedly premium smartphone. It feels great to the touch, and it just has that exquisiteness to it - unlike most Android phones that you can find on the market right now. Another characteristic that we absolutely love about the Z2 is that it's once again IP58 certified, meaning that it's water- and dust-resistant (don't push your luck, though).
As we already mentioned, the biggest improvement in this phone, compared to its predecessor, seems to be the display. Yeah, it has grown slightly larger - it's now 5.2", instead of 5", but even that's not the biggest thing about it. Ladies and gents, we're especially happy to report that Sony has finally, finally put an IPS LCD display on its high-end smartphone! So, the Xperia Z2 has an IPS screen, and we're telling you, it's leaps and bounds better than the LCD screen of the Xperia Z1. Colors are so much more vibrant and saturated - the difference really get quite striking once you check out both screens next to each other. So, the color fidelity is much better, but the viewing angles are also wider. We can't really be sure as to exactly how accurate the colors will be, but having in mind that there's this handy white balance tweak option in the settings menu, we guess it will be a pretty straightforward experience for everyone to set the screen's colors to fit their own liking. And yeah, there's Sony's X Reality software engine as well, which can be used to enhance the look of media that's displayed by the handset.
When it comes to resolution, those who were expecting to see one of those QHD screens might be a little disappointed, because the resolution is still 1080 x 1920 pixels. However, you absolutely shouldn't, because the 1080p resolution delivers amazing detail and perfect legibility with that screen size. Everything looks extremely fine and clear, so things like reading and multimedia consumption will simply be great with that screen.
Software-wise, the Sony Xperia Z2 is very similar to what've already been enjoying on the Xperia Z and Z1. Running Android 4.4 KitKat, the Z2 comes with the latest version of Sony's custom Android user experience. It's a pretty neat UI, with a modern and consistent design, as well as a rich set of additional features and services, provided by Sony. A free trial of Music Unlimited comes to mind straight away, but of course, the Z2 also comes with those PlayStation apps that will give you access to valuable PlayStation entertainment content.
Besides this, all of the core system applications are redesigned by Sony, so that they have a rather different look and feel compared to what you get on stock Android. The redesign has also ensured that those apps, such as Phone, Messaging, Album, Movies, Settings and so on, are also consistent with the rest of the UI.
If you happen to be a heavy multitasker, then you might enjoy Sony's small apps. Those are brought up from the multitasking view, and appear on top of your current screen. There are many different small apps available, such as a small browser, a voice recorder, a note recorder, a calculator and more, and you can even add new ones to the list.
Say hello to the first smartphone with the Snapdragon 801 chipset! A slightly upgraded version over the regular Snapdragon 800 found in the Xperia Z1, the Snapdragon 801 with a quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400 CPU should present us with just slightly faster performance over what the Z1 was able to deliver (which was already spectacular). The Adreno 330 GPU is basically the same, so graphics performance should be equally great, and once again, the slightly upgraded system chip is expected to make the Z2 just slightly faster overall, and even more future-proof, compared to its predecessor.
The Sony Xperia Z2 comes with the healthy 3 GB RAM - an abundance of system memory, considering the current mobile app landscape. Storage space is set at 16 GB, which may seem insufficient to some, but that's actually not such a problem, seeing that there's an easily-accessible microSD card slot that will let you expand you storage space on the fly.
The Sony Xperia Z2 is still sporting the wonderful 20.7 MP G Lens camera that was available in the Z1. Sony hasn't said anything in particular in terms of camera quality improvement, be we certainly hope that the sensor has gotten even better. Speaking of which, the Z2 holds onto the sizable 1/2.3" Exmor RS sensor with BIONZ camera tech, so those pixels inside the camera will still have a decent size (1.17 micron) even though there are 20 million of them.
The major new feature in the camera department is called '4K video recording'. That's right, you can now shoot 4K videos with the Z2, and then enjoy them on a 4K-compatible display. Now, we would understand it if you just default to 1080p for now, in case you haven't set yourself up with one of those 4K marvells yet, but going forward, we can definitely see that 4K theme growing stronger.
There are also some other additions to the feature set of the stock camera app. For exmaple, you can now shoot slow-motion video, or create images with a nice defocused background effect. Meanwhile, the fun AR effect mode is now available while shooting video as well, so you can have those dinosaurs and discoballs add some virtual fun to your motion captures.
All in all, we expect the Xperia Z2 to sport a superb camera. The G Lens shooter in the Z1 was great, especially in outdoor conditions, where there's enough light, so we guess things will only get better with the Xperia Z2. Hopefully, it'll be a sizable step forward in this department as well, but we'll be able to confirm that at a later date.
Sony's 6-month upgrade cycle definitely proves that the company is serious about its Android smartphone business. Sure, the new Xperia Z2 may not seem like a revolutionary product compared to its predecessor, but it's a nice improvement over what was already an exceptional smartphone. With a refined design, significantly better and larger display, a slightly faster processor and some cool, new software features, the Xperia Z2 is set to keep Sony fresh and competitive in the high-end Android game, at least until the second half of the year.