Sony isn’t exactly looking to reinvent the wheel with the new Xperia Z2 Android smartphone. Instead, the Xperia Z2 really is the natural evolution of the Android smartphone line that Sony has been building up these last couple of years. You get a tremendously slim slab of a phablet that’s dressed up in classy glass both on the front and the back. If you’ve been a fan of previous entries in the Xperia Z series, then there’s a good chance you’ll find a lot to like here.
Xperia Z2 Features at a Glance
Quickly running through some of the most important specs and features, the Sony Xperia Z2 sports a 5.2-inch 1920 x 1080 pixel display with Sony’s X-Reality Engine and Triluminos display technology. Power comes by way of the quad-core Snapdragon 801 2.3GHz processor, Adreno 330 graphics, 3GB of RAM and Android 4.4.2 KitKat right out of the box. It’s got a sizable footprint at 146.8 x 73.3mm, but it is only 8.2mm thick and weighs in at 163 grams.
Like many of its stablemates, the Xperia Z2 also boasts IP55/58 certification, meaning it is dustproof and will survive dunks in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. They use some sort of magic technology for the headset jack and speakers for this purpose; the other jacks and slots are covered by a couple of flaps.
Naturally, there’s a microSD slot (good for up to 128GB), the usual suite of wireless radios (LTE Cat4 for up to 150Mbps down, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC), and a non-removable 3200mAh lithium-ion battery that was able to get me through two days of moderate usage quite easily. With all this horsepower, the Z2’s performance held up like a champ. I had a couple of apps crash on me, but I suspect that had to do with the apps and less to do with the phone.
The Familiar Sony Experience
You still get the funky AR mode in the camera app, the native “Gallery” app is replaced with Sony’s “Album” app instead, the music player is the Walkman, and so on. When you dig into the app drawer, you can still choose to sort them by your own order, alphabetical, most used or just the third party apps you installed yourself. And you know that round power button conveniently placed on the right side where your thumb naturally rests? Yes, that’s there too, as well as the Small Apps for easy multitasking.
This is all well and good, but I did find that the 5.2-inch Xperia Z2 was a little too unwieldly to use comfortably with one hand. This problem was further exacerbated by the slippery glass back, so you will find that the Z2 is mostly a two-handed affair. This isn’t so much the fault of Sony as much as it is the push toward phablet-sized devices.
Adding the SmartBand SWR10
To help provide an ever fuller experience with the Xperia Z2, I was also set up with a Sony SmartBand. This is effectively an activity tracker that provides some of the rudimentary functionality of the Sony SmartWatch 2 (SW2) without a display. When a call comes in, for instance, the SmartBand can vibrate. The alarm can also get your wrist to jiggle.
The bigger part of this ties in with the Lifelog app, also provided by Sony. It definitely has an activity tracker element to it, keeping tabs on the calories you burn and the steps that you take (as recorded by the SmartBand), and then it builds on top of that by also recording the weather, your sleep/wake cycle, and when you are doing what. You see those camera icons in the above screenshot? That indicates that I took a photo at that particular time of the day. I personally found it a little creepy to be tracking that much of what I do, but it was also strangely motivating to really see how much time I’m spending doing what.
The 20-Megapixel Camera with 4K Video
One feature that really impressed me on this phone was the camera. Megapixels are megapixels and the Xperia Z2 happens to have 20 of them on the back, but I was much more impressed with the overall image quality that shooter was able to produce on just “Intelligent Auto” mode. The colors are rich and full without being overly saturated and the details come up with a great sense of authenticity. Even as I primed to take the pictures, the image I saw on the screen had this strange sense of ultra-reality, like it was too real. And yes, I know that makes no sense.
Lower light conditions can make it more difficult to focus and you may get a few blurry elements. You don’t notice it so much when you shrink the images down for the web, but you will see more of the jaggedness when you zoom in on the full-sized photo. That being said, this is still “just” a phone and it happens to have one of the better cameras in a phone today.
There are all sorts of gimmicks on the Xperia Z2 with different modes and filters. This is true even on the video side of things with Timeshift Video (high frame rate for slow-motion shots) and, as embedded here, 4K video for ultra high resolution. You’ll need to go to the YouTube page itself, hit the wrench to select 4K and watch full screen to get the complete effect.
Even though this is technically 4K video in name, the quality isn’t quite there. In more cases than not, you’ll be just fine shooting at 1080p and saving your storage space. You’ll also notice the autofocus “warp” on many videos. The stills are amazing though.
AnTuTu and 3DMark Benchmark Scores
With those three gigs of RAM and the quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip under the hood, the Sony Xperia Z2 is certainly no slouch. It’ll handle just about anything you throw at it right now and it shouldn’t have any trouble holding up for at least a couple of years of app development. From a more objective point of view, the AnTuTu full benchmark yielded an overall score of 32,547, which puts the Xperia Z2 behind competitors like the HTC One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S5, but not by much.
We see the same kind of comparison when it comes to the Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark in 3DMark. The Xperia Z2 got a score of 17,953, while the Galaxy Note 3 got a score of 18,677. It is lower, but in everyday use, you likely won’t notice the difference. I’d sooner select the Z2 than the even bigger and flashless Xperia Z Ultra, even though the Z Ultra scored higher in AnTuTu.
MEGATechie Better Xperience or MEGATechie Forgotten Xperiment?
At the end of the day, the Sony Xperia Z2 is definitely a very solid smartphone with great performance, a tremendous camera and impressive battery life. The “realistic” display is a joy and we can all appreciate the dust and waterproof nature of this smartphone. At the same time, this premium-feeling phone looks like it come get cracked up a little too easily with its full glass front and back. And, as mentioned, it just doesn’t feel all that comfortable to hold. If they provided us with a more compact version, keeping everything else the same, Sony could have a winner in the Xperia Z2.
You can pick one up for about $635 factory unlocked. In Canada, the Sony Xperia Z2 is available exclusively through Bell Mobility for $149.95 on a two-year term or $699.95 outright. If you don’t like the purple version shown here (and I wouldn’t blame you), you’ll be happy to hear it’s also available in black or white.