Sony Xpe­ria XZ2

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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.

De­sign

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.

Dis­play

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.

Au­dio

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.

Cam­eras

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.

Bat­tery life

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.

Soft­ware

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.

Ver­dict

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

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 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

Close-up shot

Stan­dard shot

The XZ2’s can’t take pictures in por­trait mode

The XZ2 comes with an im­pres­sive-look­ing dis­play

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