360 review: Can Sony keep up?
Sony’s Xperia Z2 reviewed against the current mobile elite from Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8
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
Height 147mm Width 73mm Depth 8.2mm Weight 163g