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Xperia (e)xcellence: Sony’s Xperia Z2 reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 4:30 pm 19/05/2014

The smartphone race in 2014 is heating up, and with both flagships out from Samsung and HTC, the time is right for Sony to show what it’s been working on in the form of the Xperia Z2, a smartphone boasting a big screen, lots of power, a massive battery, and an updated camera. Can this best the other flagship juggernauts, or does it lag behind?

Features

A new Xperia for 2014, the Z2 is Sony’s latest effort to produce an industry leading handset with high-end specs enough to impress customers keen to own something that they can feel confident in for the next year or two, which is how long most smartphones last for.

In this handset, Sony has evolved the body of the Z1 and updated the insides, as well as changing a few button placements.

First up, you’ll find slightly different insides, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked sat 2.3GHz working alongside the Adreno 330 graphics processor, and paired with 3GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. Upgrading this last part is easily possible thanks to a microSD slot on the side which can take up to 128GB microSDXC.

Google’s Android 4.4 runs here, making it one of the few handsets released with Google’s latest edition, also known as “KitKat.”

Wireless connection options are catered for in every way most people will want them, with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, Near-Field Communication, GPS, DLNA, and mobile connectivity through Category 4 4G LTE rated for up to 150Mbps downloads (network dependent). Wired is also here, with a microUSB port and a 3.5mm headset jack.

Regular point and shoot cameras are beginning to die, and they have smartphone cameras to thank for that, with Sony’s Xperia Z2 adding to this with its 20.7 megapixel rear camera with LED flash. Video support goes beyond Full HD for a change, with Ultra HD’s 4K capture included here, too.

Front-facing camera support is also provided in the form of a 2.2 megapixel camera capable of recording Full HD 1080p videos.

This all sits under a 5.2 inch Full HD 1920×1080 screen, showing a pixel clarity of 424 pixels per inch, and protected by strengthened glass to help when you drop the phone. The screen forms one side of the phone, while the other side — the back — is another piece of strengthened glass, with as frame of the phone in aluminium.

Two small speakers sit on the front, just at the top and bottom edges, with an LED light built into the top speaker.

Sony’s Xperia Z2 is also reasonably ruggedised, rated for a metre of water resistance for up to 30 minutes, and is totally dust-proof. Ports and slots are covered by flaps that hang on the side of the phone, and when sealed make the phone water and dust resistant.

These ports include one on the left edge covering the microUSB charge port and the microSIM card slot, while the one on the right covers the microSD slot for expanding the storage.

Buttons are few on this handset, as all soft buttons are built into the screen and reliant on Android’s on-screen software-based soft buttons. That said, you will find three buttons on the right edge, with a power button just above the middle, with a volume rocker below this, and a camera button at the very bottom.

The ports are limited, with the microUSB port for charging and data transfer, a 3.5mm headset jack up top to listen to music, and a Sony proprietary jack on the left edge for Sony’s docks.

The battery in the Sony Xperia Z2 is rated for 3200mAh and is not removable.

Performance

Does it seem too soon for an update for a Sony flagship smartphone? It hasn’t been that long… has it?

Late last year, Sony’s Xperia Z1 hit our shores, a phone sporting a 5 inch Full HD screen, Snapdragon 800 chip, and a 20 megapixel camera, making it a decent year-ender for so many people.

Barely six months later, Sony is ready with another newbie, evolving the design and specs just enough to make it more than an incremental update, and something that makes this new phone — the Xperia Z2 — the better phone to consider if you’re looking for the best of the best in the Sony smartphone line-up.

Pick it up and you’ll find a phone that is very similar to one we’ve seen before, which is basically a long flat rectangle without any obvious softened back like other phones. It’s a comfortable enough design, though it is very tall and wide.

That said, Sony’s placement of the buttons makes for an easy hold, with the power button on the right edge just where you’d grip the handset, and a volume rocker just underneath this, making it easy to flick on with one hand if needed.

Construction also appears to be solid, too, which is good given that this is Sony’s flagship product, so you’d kind of hope for that.

As such, there’s a frame of aluminium that looks professional enough, with big pieces of mineral-strengthened glass on the front and back, making it a pretty and sleek handset, though one that easily picks up on any fingerprints you may have.

Overall, it’s an elegant phone, though it doesn’t quite have the same sleek look that HTC’s brushed-metal One M8 adopts.

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Price (RRP)

$759

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Great build quality; Excellent battery life capable of achieving at least a day of life and well into a second day; Superb camera, with great low-light support and 4K UHD video capture; Fun creative camera effects which go beyond what most smartphone manufacturers offer; Easy to use; Solid 4G speeds; Notification light up top;

Product Cons

The rectangular size can still be a little awkward to hold, especially for smaller hands; Camera's manual mode needs some actual manual control; Autofocus can be a little finicky on the camera; Cover flaps can get annoying; No infrared port for controlling your TV;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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