Sony Xpe­ria XZ2

£TBC

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Sony used Mo­bile World Congress 2018 to un­veil the Xpe­ria XZ2, the Ja­panese gi­ant’s first phone to boast the now-ubiq­ui­tous 18:9 aspect ra­tio on its screen. We went hands-on with the XZ2, and are our thoughts.

Price

Sony hasn’t con­firmed a re­lease date or price for the hand­set yet, but did hint that it’s ex­pected to ar­rive in the first week of April. That sees it ar­rive a lit­tle over six months af­ter the com­pany’s pre­vi­ous flag­ship, the Xpe­ria XZ1, a break from the usual strat­egy of re­leas­ing

a ‘Pre­mium’ ver­sion at MWC. As for price, the XZ1 launched at £599, so the XZ2 will al­most cer­tainly cost at least that much. We wouldn’t be sur­prised to see it run a lit­tle higher, to fall in line with flag­ship pric­ing from Sam­sung and Huawei, but Sony may sur­prise us and de­cide to try to un­der­cut the com­pe­ti­tion in­stead.

De­sign

Af­ter years of sim­i­lar-look­ing phones, Sony fans have been cry­ing out for a de­sign re­vamp for the Xpe­ria line. With the XZ2, they fi­nally have it – sort of.

The XZ2 brings with it a new de­sign lan­guage for Sony – dubbed ‘Am­bi­ent Flow’ – and with it the firm’s first at­tempt at a smart­phone with the 18:9 dis­play made pop­u­lar in 2017 by flag­ships like the LG G6, Sam­sung Gal­axy S8, and iPhone X.

Fi­nally, gone are the gi­ant bezels that sat above and be­low the dis­play of the XZ1, re­placed by slightly less gi­ant bezels above and be­low the new 5.7in dis­play. It’s an im­prove­ment, for sure, but this is cer­tainly not the sort of all-screen de­vice Sony’s big­gest ri­vals are able to of­fer.

Am­bi­ent Flow is about more than the screen, though. It’s also about break­ing up the straight lines that have dom­i­nated re­cent Sony de­vices. In­stead, the XZ2 boasts 3D curved glass on both the front and back of the phone – a sub­tle cur­va­ture at the edges of front, a more no­tice­able bulge on the back.

There are pros and cons to the de­sign. The curved glass looks stun­ning when it catches the light, but it’s un­sur­pris­ingly a fin­ger­print mag­net. The use of Go­rilla Glass 5 should re­as­sure buy­ers that it’s tough enough,

but even so glass backs are al­ways an ex­tra risk when it comes to drops and scratches.

In terms of feel in the hand, the rounded de­sign is no doubt more com­fort­able to hold, but it also leaves the phone look­ing and feel­ing thicker than you might be used to from a flag­ship phone. Be­yond that, Sony has moved both the cam­era and fin­ger­print sen­sor to the cen­tre of the phone’s rear – and the fin­ger­print sen­sor is now al­ways-on, so should be quicker to ac­ti­vate than in pre­vi­ous Sony phones. You’ll also find the IP65/68 wa­ter­proof­ing you’d ex­pect from Sony.

Sadly, Sony has also fi­nally given in and joined the rest of the in­dus­try in drop­ping the 3.5mm head­phone jack from the phones, so it’s USB-C or Blue­tooth only when it comes to au­dio.

The XZ2 will launch in a se­lec­tion of four colours (with colour-coded UI to match): Liq­uid Black, Liq­uid Sil­ver, Petrol Blue, and Ash Pink.

Hard­ware

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the XZ2 is pow­ered by Qual­comm’s new Snap­dragon 845, which we’re likely to see in most ma­jor An­droid flag­ships this year. Here it’s set to be paired with 4GB of RAM and a healthy 64GB of on-board stor­age, ex­pand­able by mi­croSD.

That should mean pretty smooth per­for­mance across the board, but we’ll know more when we have the de­vice in for a full re­view.

Plenty of phones this year will have an 845 chip though, so Sony is in­stead hop­ing to stand out in one of its core ar­eas: photo and video.

Thanks to an ex­clu­sive im­age pro­ces­sor de­vel­oped to­gether with Qual­comm, Sony prom­ise that the cam­era in the XZ2 will have re­duced noise, bet­ter colour re­pro­duc­tion, and im­proved con­trast when com­pared to the XZ1 – de­spite us­ing the same 19Mp sin­gle lens cam­era hard­ware.

Per­haps more im­por­tantly, this is also the first smart­phone from any man­u­fac­turer ca­pa­ble of

record­ing 4K HDR video footage, while the 960fps su­per slow mo­tion that Sony pi­o­neered will now be avail­able up to 1080p, com­pared to the pre­vi­ous cap of 720p. The changes aren’t just about cre­at­ing con­tent though, there are also im­prove­ments to con­sum­ing it. Sony has bor­rowed HDR up­scal­ing tech from its Bravia TVs, so that the XZ2 can take any video con­tent – ei­ther lo­cal to the de­vice or streamed – and up­grade it to HDR as you’re watch­ing it, with re­sults that at least seemed im­pres­sive in our brief demo.

Then there’s the new Dy­namic Vi­bra­tion Sys­tem, bor­rowed from the PS4’s DualShock 4 con­trollers, which analy­ses au­dio from mu­sic, video, or games and vi­brates the phone to match the au­dio. It’s a bit of a gim­mick, but could be a fun ad­di­tion to games and movies, and for­tu­nately you can en­able and dis­able it by in­di­vid­ual apps.

For those who use their phone out loud, the front­fac­ing speak­ers are now 20 per­cent louder, with a slightly im­proved fre­quency range to match – and there’s still sup­port for high res­o­lu­tion au­dio. Our first im­pres­sion was that the phone sounded im­pres­sive, though it’s un­likely to be a pri­or­ity for many.

Else­where you get wire­less charg­ing through the Qi stan­dard, a 3,190mAh bat­tery, and Sony’s oh-sogim­micky 3D scan­ning tech has been added to the selfie cam­era, so you don’t even need a friend to help you use it any more.

Soft­ware

We ex­pect the Xpe­ria XZ2 to ship with An­droid Oreo – af­ter all, the XZ1 was the first non-Google phone to

pack that op­er­at­ing sys­tem ver­sion – with Sony’s usual min­i­mal tweaks.

The big­gest change is the Xpe­ria As­sist soft­ware, de­signed to help users make the most of the phone’s var­i­ous fea­tures. It will pop up the first time you open a rel­e­vant app to ex­plain any fea­tures you might be able to take ad­van­tage of – like the HDR up­scal­ing, or dy­namic vi­bra­tion – and uses a chat­bot in­ter­face to ex­plain how ev­ery­thing works.

Ver­dict

We’re look­ing for­ward to test­ing the XZ2 more thor­oughly for our full re­view, but right now our feel­ings are mixed. The in­ter­nal hard­ware is top of the line, but even af­ter a re­vamp Sony’s de­sign still feels dated, and the in­sis­tence on a sin­gle-lens cam­era is puz­zling in a flag­ship de­vice. Do­minic Pre­ston

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.6in (2160x1080, 424ppi) IPS LCD ca­pac­i­tive dis­play • An­droid 8.0 Oreo • Qual­comm MSM8998 Snap­dragon 845 pro­ces­sor • Octa-core 4x 2.7GHz Kryo 385 Gold and 4x 1.7GHz

Kryo 385 Sil­ver CPU • Adreno 630 GPU • 6GB RAM • 64GB stor­age, mi­croSD up to 400GB • Fin­ger­print scan­ner • 19Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era: f/2.0, 25mm, 1/2.3in, 1.22μm, gyro EIS, pre­dic­tive phase de­tec­tion and laser aut­o­fo­cus, LED flash • 5Mp front-fac­ing cam­era: f/2.2, 1/5in, gyro EIS, 1080p

• 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Blue­tooth 5.0 • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO • Mi­cro-USB 3.1 Type-C • Non-re­mov­able lithium-ion 3,180mAh bat­tery • 153x72x11.1mm • 198g

Gone are the gi­ant bezels that sat above and be­low the XZ1’s dis­play

The XZ2 can take any video con­tent and up­grade it to HDR

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