360 re­view: Can Sony keep up?

Sony’s Xpe­ria Z2 re­viewed against the cur­rent mo­bile elite from An­droid, iOS and Win­dows Phone 8

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS - Love Big dis­play with bril­liant im­age qual­ity. Pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor. Ex­cel­lent cam­era. Wa­ter­proof Hate Size makes it awk­ward to hold. Too lit­tle built-in stor­age. Sony’s in­ter­face less user-friendly than ri­vals T3 Says A strong, fully fea­tured and rugged An

Sony’s lat­est Xpe­ria mo­bile, the Z2, is an an­gu­lar slab of wa­ter­proof smarts with a megapixel-packed cam­era and added 4K video cap­ture, but does it have what it takes to com­pete against the lat­est wave of An­droid overlords?

The screen has ex­panded slightly since the Xpe­ria Z1, now mea­sur­ing 5.2 inches. It’s cer­tainly large, but at 8.2mm the hand­set’s ac­tu­ally thin­ner than ri­vals like the HTC One M8. Its squared, an­gu­lar, glass-plated de­sign makes it feel a lot less er­gonomic, but if it does man­age to slip through your fin­gers, at least it’s wa­ter­proof to 1.5 me­tres for up to thirty min­utes. Pud­dle peace of mind in­deed.

The fact is most of us are be­com­ing more ac­cus­tomed to larger smart­phones– there’s even ru­mours that Ap­ple will go big screen this year – and there’s no screen that de­serves those ex­tra few inches more than Sony’s. The com­pany makes fine use of the Triluminos tech­nol­ogy and X-Re­al­ity en­gine per­fected in its Bravia TV ranges, de­liv­er­ing stun­ningly vivid colours and ex­tremely sharp pho­tos and movies that are ren­dered per­fectly. Pair that screen with the blis­ter­ing 2.3GHz quad­core pro­ces­sor and 3GB RAM and stut­ter be­comes a thing of the past. Watch ABC iView or YouTube clips on the Xpe­ria Z2 and you won’t for a sec­ond be tempted to switch to your tablet.

As with the Sam­sung Galaxy S5, Sony’s flag­ship is pack­ing the very lat­est ver­sion of An­droid, KitKat, but with a newly up­dated pro­pri­etary in­ter­face lay­ered on top. The first change you’ll no­tice is that Sony’s ban­ished the bars from the top and bot­tom of the screen at last. This small tweak gives the in­ter­face a cleaner look in­stantly, but de­spite im­prove­ments there are still bug­bears. While you can re­size wid­gets, many of them aren’t prop­erly op­ti­mised to share screen space, mak­ing for very con­fus­ing mul­ti­task­ing.

Sony’s once again in­cluded its full suite of apps, each with its own in­cen­tive to tempt you aboard its sub­scrip­tion mod­els. Video Un­lim­ited of­fers you six free movies to watch on-de­mand, Mu­sic Un­lim­ited hands you a free 30-day trial and its Walk­man app is top-notch,

too, while PlayS­ta­tion Mo­bile has a de­cent se­lec­tion of games. If you’re al­ready signed up to en­ter­tain­ment ser­vices, how­ever, they are lit­tle more than bloat­ware, re­duc­ing the al­ready limited 16GB of in­ter­nal stor­age. There is a mi­croSD slot that sup­ports up to 64GB, though.

Flip the phone over and you’ll find the 20.7-megapixel cam­era sen­sor. It’s quick to load, fast to fo­cus and al­most al­ways takes fan­tas­tic im­ages, mainly thanks to some ex­cel­lent auto modes and built-in SteadyShot im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion. There’s now also the abil­ity to record video in 4K, which is great on paper, and the re­sults do look as crisp as can be. Yet with only 16GB of in­ter­nal stor­age to play around with, you won’t be mak­ing a block­buster on the Z2 any time soon.

Then we come to bat­tery life, an area of in­tense ri­valry in the new era of con­stant phone fid­dling. You will get a good day’s worth of us­age out of the Z2, but switch on its Stamina mode – the Galaxy S5 has its own ver­sion of this, prov­ing that phone mak­ers do lis­ten to com­plaints – and it will turn off all non-es­sen­tial func­tions ev­ery time the phone is locked. Sony claims it will in­crease your bat­tery life four-fold, but be warned: you won’t re­ceive What­sApp mes­sages or Face­book no­ti­fi­ca­tions while your phone is locked and in this mode. Well, you don’t want people think­ing you’re ig­nor­ing them, do you?

Com­pare the Z2 to its pre­de­ces­sor and the im­prove­ments are ob­vi­ous. The screen is vis­i­bly bet­ter, the pro­ces­sor is faster and the soft­ware feels like it’s been given a fresh lick of paint, even if the fin­ish isn’t as pol­ished as we’d like. Where the Xpe­ria Z2 stum­bles, how­ever, is when you com­pare it di­rectly with its new com­pe­ti­tion. It has a lot to shout about, from 4K video to water­proof­ing, but the HTC One M8 and Sam­sung Galaxy S5 of­fer more ev­ery­day slick­ness and more man­age­able de­sign.

The neg­a­tives we’re talk­ing about here, as with most of the top-end “su­per­phones”, are min­i­mal, and it’s a tes­ta­ment to how closely fought hand­set bat­tles are now that those nig­gles are enough to cost the Z2 a star. It’s still Sony’s most pow­er­ful phone to date, but it’s not the best An­droid phone. Oddly, it’s not even the best Sony phone – that award goes to its smaller, older sib­ling, the Z1 Com­pact. $759, Sony.com.au, out now

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Height 147mm Width 73mm Depth 8.2mm Weight 163g

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