Sony Xperia XZ2
£699 inc VAT from fave.co/2Hg3E6q
Sony’s Xperia XZ2 range is the firm’s first phone to boast the now-ubiquitous 18:9 aspect ratio on its screen. Read on for our thoughts.
After years of similar-looking phones, Sony fans (just as much as us) have been crying out for a design revamp for the Xperia line. With the XZ2, they finally have it – sort of.
It brings with it a new design language for Sony – dubbed ‘Ambient Flow’ – and is the firm’s first smartphone to have an 18:9 display. 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. Opinions at AndroidAdvisor are split as to whether its an improvement, but this is certainly not the sort of allscreen device Sony’s biggest rivals are able to offer. It reminds many of us of some old Nokia Lumia phones, which is perhaps not the best thing.
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 has 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, but mostly the former. The curved glass looks stunning when it catches the light, though unsurprisingly it’s a fingerprint magnet. It’s also one of the most slippery phones we’ve tested and getting out of a pocket without dropping it feels like an almighty task. The use of Gorilla Glass 5 should reassure buyers that it’s tough enough, but even so glass rears are always an extra risk when it comes to drops and scratches.
The rounded design feels good in the hand, though it is comparatively thick and heavy. Figures of 11.1mm and 198g do not sound right for a brandnew 2018 flagship. It might only be thick in the middle, but the rounded back means that the phone is basically impossible to use while resting on a flat surface. It rocks side-to-side like a baby’s crib. We wouldn’t mind so much if the size and weight meant a huge battery, but that’s not the case here.
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 is quicker to use than before. Previously, it was mounted in the power button on the side. Although it’s faster, we prefer the old method. The natural way to hold the XZ2 means your finger rests on the camera lens, not the scanner. It’s far too low down the phone, as is the power button on the side.
You’ll get the IP65/68 waterproofing we’ve all come to expect from Sony. However, the firm has sadly, and shockingly, finally given in and joined the most of the industry in dropping the 3.5mm headphone jack, so it’s USB-C or Bluetooth only when it comes to audio.
The XZ2 will launch in a selection of four colours (with the usual colour-coded UI to match): Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Petrol Blue, and Ash Pink.
As mentioned, the XZ2 is Sony’s first phone with an 18:9 display. The firm is playing catch-up here and the change means the display has jumped from 5.2to 5 7in, a more average size for a 2018 flagship. If you want a smaller phone, then Sony has the XZ2 Compact and we’re glad that it is still making ‘mini’ versions for those that still want one.
The new 5.7in screen comes at the cost of chunky dimensions though, as the XZ2 has a screen-to-body ratio of 76 percent, a fair amount short of the Galaxy S9’s 83 percent. Those bezels are still holding the design back. We are glad Sony hasn’t gone down the
iPhone X route and introduced a notch, though. The screen’s Full HD+ resolution of 2160x1080 isn’t the highest we’ve seen, but it’s more than enough for a sharp-looking image at 424ppi. It’s also very bright with a maximum of 535cd/m2.
There are improvements as 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 are impressive.
Processor, memory and storage
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 paired with 4GB of RAM and a typical 64GB of on-board storage.
Although some rivals have more memory and storage, this should still be enough for most users. The inclusion of a microSD card slot for adding up to 400GB more helps and the feature is becoming more rare. Performance isn’t something to worry about with a flagship phone, and hasn’t been for some time. As our test results show, the XZ2 keeps pace with the Galaxy S9 across the board and we’ve not had any issues. You should really base your decision on other elements. It’s worth noting that the XZ2 Compact offers the same core specifications at a lower price if you don’t mind the smaller screen.
The front-facing stereo speakers are now 20 percent louder, with a slightly improved frequency range to match – and there’s still support for High Resolution audio. They are decent, but we’re hugely disappointed to see Sony, a company that prides itself on audio, ditch the headphone jack – especially when the phone is easily thick enough to house one. A USB-C to 3.5mm jack adaptor is included in the box, but this is a small consolation. You’ll need it for the supplied headphones as they are not USB-C.
Instead of a useful port, you get a new ‘Dynamic Vibration System’, borrowed from the PS4’s DualShock 4 controllers. In essence, it’s force feedback that uses the vibration motor inside the phone. You select different levels of power by tapping a volume button and using the slider.
The system analyses audio from music, video, or games and vibrates the phone to match the audio.
It’s a bit of a gimmick, doesn’t work with every app and you need to be holding the phone but works reasonably well – especially for film trailers.
Thanks to an exclusive image processor developed together with Qualcomm, Sony promises that the camera in the XZ2 has reduced noise, better colour reproduction, and improved contrast when compared to the XZ1.
Despite rivals having two or even three rear cameras, such as the Huawei P20 Pro we looked at in the previous issue, the XZ2 has a lone 19Mp camera and there’s no optical image stabilization. Also, the camera can’t take images in portrait mode.
The blurred background bokeh effect is one of the big selling points of dual-lens cameras for most,
and the XZ2 doesn’t offer an alternative – there’s not even a software portrait effect built into the main camera app, despite Google proving it can be done to great effect in the Pixel 2.
Features such as predictive capture – which automatically detects motion or smiles – and autofocus burst are handy. We also like that Sony still offers a dedicated two-stage button on the side for photography. The combined phase detection and laser autofocus is speedy, too.
Overall, the camera is decent enough but can’t stand up to rivals at similar or even lower prices. You can see samples below and opposite that show the XZ2 is good in low light despite the f/2.0 aperture being a way off rivals, but often the images look better on the phone than on a PC monitor. For example, in the macro shot we thought we’d got the buds on the
plant nicely in focus and sharp, but later inspection revealed that it’s a little off. It’s a bit disappointing from Sony, which supplies cameras for rival phones.
If you’re just after general snaps for social media, then the XZ2 is easily good enough. If, however, you’re serious about phone photography, then rivals such as Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Apple’s iPhone X are better.
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. Those are some nice video upgrades, which might swing it for those serious about shooting films.
However, the super slow motion in Full HD means a shorter burst of the high frame rate, even if you can fit more in the frame. It’s also still difficult to
hit the button at the right time for things that aren’t happening continuously, Samsung’s new motion detect feature is much better.
Sony’s 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.
As mentioned earlier, the XZ2 doesn’t have a huge battery, despite its weight and size. It’s 3,190mAh, which is only marginally bigger than the Galaxy S9. The Huawei P20 measures just 7.7mm and has a 3,400mAh. Previously, Sony claimed a two-day battery life for its phones, but that seems to be a thing of the past, despite newer and more efficient processors. The company now just claims all-day battery and that’s about right unless you’re a heavy user.
In our battery test, the XZ2 managed six hours, 46 minutes. That’s only slightly more than the Galaxy S9’s six hours, 38 minutes. Sony’s own lower tier XA2 phones managed eight- to 10 hours in the same benchmark. On the plus side, the XZ2 benefits from Quick Charge 3.0 and Qi wireless charging.
As you’d expect the phone ships with Android 8.0 Oreo – after all, the XZ1 was the first non-Google phone to pack that version of the operating system – and comes with Sony’s usual tweaks and additions.
Not much has changed since the XZ1, so existing Sony users will feel right at home. This sadly means there still too many preloaded apps such Kobo, AVG
and various others from Amazon, and while these can be disabled they can’t be uninstalled.
Thankfully, Sony makes up for this by providing some of the best own-brand apps on the market, including its own Music player and PlayStation for things such as PS4 Remote Play.
The phone also comes with Xperia Assist software, which is designed to help users make the most of the phone’s various features. Whenever an app is opened for the first time, the software uses a chatbot interface to explain the app’s new features.
We waited a long time for Sony to bring a new design and although the firm has switched to an 18:9 screen, we’re miffed by the chunky and heavy design that has a fingerprint scanner and power button in awkward
places. And dropped the headphone jack. The core specs are perfectly good but that’s no longer a differentiator in the smartphone market. Consumers look for amazing photography and other nifty features, which are lacking here. The XZ2 Compact makes for a decent choice with the same core specifications in a smaller phone at a lower price, but otherwise flagships such as the Galaxy S9, Apple’s iPhone X and Huawei P20 are better. Chris Martin
• 5.6in (2,160x1,080, 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, 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
Sony’s Xperia Assist software helps users make the most of the phone’s features
The XZ2’s can’t take pictures in portrait mode
The XZ2 comes with an impressive-looking display