Sony Xperia Z2 vs Sony Xperia Z1
Ever since the Xperia Z, released last spring, Sony adopted a six-month upgrade cycle for its flagships, issuing the Z1 in the fall, and this spring it outed the Xperia Z2. Despite the bi-annual upgrade schedule, Sony significantly improved the Z2 over its predecessor. Although it's thinner and lighter, the new heavyweight boxer features a larger, better 5.2-inch IPS display, a larger battery and faster chipset, paired with the generous 3 GB of RAM. Its 20.7MP camera on its back is capable of 4K recording, slow-motion video, and adding real-time effects now. In addition, the Z2 one-ups the Z1 with a stereo speaker set, as well as noise cancellation, plus a few more software and hardware extras.
These are the dry facts about the upgrades that happened between the Z1 and Z2, but is their performance level all that different? Let's dive in for the nitty-gritty details in the fight between the six-months old Z1, and its overhauled successor the Z2...
With a very similar waterproof chassis, the Z2 still feels more comfortable to hold and operate.
Measuring at 0.32” (8.2mm) thickness and 5.75oz (163g) of weight, Sony's newest flagship is a tad thinner and narrower than the Z1 predecessor, and it's also a bit lighter. Of course, that 0.2” larger display diagonal had to go somewhere, so the Z2 is slightly taller than the Z1. The Xperia Z2 is still crafted in the best traditions of Sony's OmniBalance design, with glass front and backplate, clasped into a sturdy one-piece aluminum frame, exuding a premium feeling.
Both handsets offer a rectangular unibody chassis with IP58 waterproof certification, sealed battery, and all the ports and slots on the sides are covered with protective flaps. The IP58 tag means that they can stay in up to five feet (1.5m) of water for more than an hour, so you'd have no issues using them in the rain, the shower, or even in the bathtub. The corners of the Z2 chassis, however, are a tad softer than the Z1's, and the sides are more tapered, so it feels a bit better in the hand. The round metallic power/lock key, the volume rocker, and the shutter keys on the phones' right sides are all easy to feel and press without looking, and offer good tactile feedback. The protective flaps over the SIM and microSD card slots, as well as over the microUSB ports, however, are a bit of a nuisance to pry open on both the Z1 and Z2, especially with trimmed fingernails, but that's the price to pay for being able to dunk the phones in five feet of water.
One of the significant differences between the Z1 and Z2 is that Sony graced its latest flagship with stereo speakers and amplifier set, dubbed S-Force Front Surround Sound. They are located at the top and bottom of the handset, making it one of the only handful of smartphones with a stereo speaker combo.
We finally get a great display on a Sony flagship, and Z2 is the one carrying the torch here.
The Z2 has quite a different, 5.2” 1080x1920 display panel with very good 424ppi pixel density, compared to the 5” 1080p display of the Z1, which sport the slightly higher 441ppi count. The 5.2" panel of the Z2 is still called a Triluminos display, but is based on IPS and sports a new pixel imaging technology, compared to the “quantum dots” in the Z1. It is dubbed Live Color LED, and combines red and green phosphor with blue LEDs for the backlighting, with tailored color filters on top that should produce brighter and more evenly-spread lighting.
Sony brags that the new display tech in the Z2 allows for a wider color gamut coverage and vivid imagery, but at the same time avoids the unpleasant oversaturation that we've come to associate with, say, AMOLED displays. Looking at our own display measurements, the color chart shows that indeed the Z2 display's colors mostly fit into the standard RGB gamut space, and are evenly distributed there, save for the greens, which extend beyond the sRGB frame, appearing a tad richer than the reference, but still not gaudy to look at. We are talking about what you will be seeing around the interface and in most apps here, as when you enter the gallery, or watch a movie, Sony's default X-Reality for Mobile engine kicks in. It is supposed to “optimise colours, sharpness and contrast,” but in our test photo it distorted the colors.
A similar distortion effect can be observed on the Z1, but its green color fits better inside the sRGB gamut range than the hues on the Z2, with or without X-Reality. Thus, if you want a more even and natural color representation while watching pics or video, we'd advise to turn off the X-Reality engine on both handsets. As for the color temperature, we measured the white point of the Z2 to be pretty close to the reference (6950K), unlike on the Z1's display (7350K), whose colors tend to go over to the cold side of the spectrum.
When it comes to peak brightness, we measured 454 nits from the Z2, and 495 nits on the Z1, which is in line with a good LCD display, but nothing spectacular. Outdoors both phone screens are average performers, as their display coatings still reflect quite a lot of light back to your eyes, making their sunlight visibility as poor as on most smartphones out there. The weakest spot of the Z1 flagship is its 5" display panel, whose viewing angles are far from the flagship level, but on the Z2 we have an IPS-LCD screen, so this point is now moot, as the display's brightness and saturation barely budge even at extreme viewing angles.