Sony Xperia Z2 – A Few Months Later: Z Life
Sony have been trying really hard to getting their game right in the flagship module. The Xperia Z1 was not really up to the mark, primarily because of the screen, but they had got it right with the build quality and waterproofing. They also struck the right balance with the Z1 compact which is still regarded as the best sub flagship mini in the market right now.
So lets find out if they have got it right with this year’s flagship the Xperia Z2, after a few months of use.
On the face of it, the Xperia Z2 has all the bells and whistles one expects out of a flagship. It packs in the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC with 3GB RAM on board. They have also tweaked the UI.
Quick Look at the specs
Operating System : Android KitKat 4.4.2 (as of testing)
Dimension : 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2mm. 163g.
Camera : 20.7MP autofocus camera with a 1/2.3″ Exmor RS sensor and F/2.0 Sony G Lens.
2.2MP front camera with 1080p video recording.
Display : 5.2″ 16M-color 1080p IPS capacitive touchscreen Triluminos display (424ppi pixel density) with X-Reality engine
Processor : Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset (MSM8974AB): quad-core 2.3GHz Krait 400 CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Adreno 330 GPU
Memory & Storage : 3GB RAM + 16GB inbuilt storage. Expandable upto 128GB.
Battery : 3,200mAh battery
Colours : White, Black and Purple.
Design and Handling
The Sony Xperia Z2 has 5.2” Full HD display with a pixel density of 424 ppi. This coupled with the X-Reality Engine results in a gorgeous display. The phone is packaged in a mixture aluminum and scratch resistant glass. The back is completely finished in scratch resistant glass and feels really classy and great to hold. It definitely feels like an expensive phone.
The phone has no unnecessary undulations or uneven surfaces like camera bumps. The front and the back are completely flat and minimalistic, adding to the classy look. As mentioned, the rear is made of glass (Sony classifies it as scratch proof and shatter resistant). So far, it has not shown signs of wear, although the phone hasn’t really hit the pavement so far.
Coming to the controls, there is a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the top along with a secondary microphone for stereo sound video recording. The right holds the Power button, the volume controls, the microSD card slot and the camera button. The bottom has the microphone. the left side holds the SIM tray and the micro USB port. While the flap covering the USB is a little fiddly for day-to-day charging, you do have pogo pins that can be used with a charging dock or snap -on magnetic cables for easy charging. It does not have Qi Wireless Charging though. Even though the flap makes the phone dust and water-proof, opening the flap for charging daily and closing it back later does allow some grime to collect at the edges, as evident from the photo below.
The Z2 gets stereo speakers for quality output, one located at the top and one at the bottom. It isn’t as loud or rich sounding as the “Boomsound” speakers on the HTC M8, but it is not that far behind.
There is a 2.2MP camera on the front. The back holds the 20.7 MP autofocus camera with a single LED flash.
Display and User Interface
The Z2 comes with Android KitKat 4.4 out of the box. It was also, the company’s first phone to do so. The UI is pretty similar to the previous versions on Z1 and Z1 compact with a few nips and tucks.
Starting with the lockscreen, like most smartphones these days it supports widgets on every pane. You can also go straight to the camera from the lockscreen, a feature of KitKat. Security wise you get the usual Face, Pattern, PIN or Password Unlock.
Enter the homescreen and you will be greeted with five panes which can be customized. You can add or remove panes, seven being the maximum. Any of these panes can be made default and a press of the home button will take straight to the default pane.
The phone comes inbuilt with a host of static and live wallpapers and as with all Xperia devices, the theme can also be changed using the Theme Chooser. There are a few inbuilt themes and you can also download themes from the Sony Select app or from the Play Store, where you can find third party themes and customize your phone as per your need.
It’s a similar story with the app drawer. Swipe from the left and you can sort apps in the app drawer manually, alphabetically, most used and most recently installed. You can also define your own order. Searching for an app shouldn’t be difficult as the search option comes in handy. Uninstalling an app can also be done from here.
The Notification draw and the Quick settings have been split now to give space for more information and shortcuts at ease. Swiping down from the top of the screen with one finger reveals the Notification draw and with two fingers reveals the Quick Settings. The Quick settings toggles can be customized and one can choose from over 20 different toggles.
One new app in the Z2 is the What’s New. As the name indicates the app tell you what’s hot and happening the the app world and as well as keeps you updated with multimedia. It also displays the latest from the Sony Playstation Store as well. Unfortunately, this service is offered as one short-cut when you swipe up from the home button, along with Google Now.
Sony keeps updating it’s stock apps from time to time, adding new functions, though this is handled by the Sony Updater and not via the Play Store like Motorola and HTC have been doing of late.
The Z2 comes packaged with a massive 3200 mAh battery. We threw everything possible at it, gaming, browsing, extensive camera use and we were still able to manage more than day’s usage on a single charge. The Power Manager lets you toggle between various settings to squeeze the most out your battery.
The STAMINA mode lets you disable mobile data and WiFi when the screen if off, but the clever thing is you can turn on data only for a set of applications which is user defined. It can also restrict device performance to squeeze that extra juice out of your battery. You can set all this to be done ‘Always’ or when your battery goes down a certain percentage.
The phone also has location based WiFi which essentially activates WiFi only when certain saved WiFi signals are in range.
The camera is a 20.7 MP unit which is the same as the ones in the Z1 and the Z1 compact. We have already seen the improvements in imaging in the Z1 compact over the Z1 using the same camera unit. Lets find out how different it is in the Z2.
The camera unit comes with a Exmor RS backside illuminated 1/ 2.3” sensor, which is about 70% bigger than the standard 1/3”. The lens is a 27mm wide angle Sony G Lens with f/2.0 aperture and BIONZ image processor. It captures images with a maximum resolution of 5248 x 3936 in 4:3 aspect ratio.
The Layout is pretty simple and all your basic and commonly used controls are just a click. The Camera module is supported by an array of filters and modes. As with the Z1 you get a Superior Auto mode, manual mode, burst mode, background defocus, creative effect, AR Effect and many more.
The results are a mixed bag, there are some features that we liked and some which are not up to standard. Images are best captured in Superior Auto Mode but unfortunately the resolution of these images maxes out at 8MP. The Manual does let you shoot in 20.7 MP but the results are not upto a flagship phone mark. There is plenty of detail but it still doesn’t match up to the S5 in sharpness and color accuracy.
The HDR mode is quite a letdown as all it does is brightens up the image without preserving detail. The images look blown out and the colors look washed out.
The Z2 offers quite a lot when it comes to videos. For starters it offers 4K video capture at 30fps but it is limited to just 5 minutes. There is also an option of recording Full HD videos at either 30fps or 60fps. It is also capable of capturing 720p videos at 120fps. Audio is captured in stereo mode and is pretty impressive. There is no optical image stabilization on board but the digital image stabilization does the part pretty efficiently.
One interesting video feature is the Timeshift video, which captures videos in 720p at 120 fps an then lets you slow down selected moments in the video, unlike the S5 which captures the whole video in 120fps. This feature was first seen in the iPhone 5s but it could slow down only one part of the video. Sony has bettered this feature and you can slow down multiple parts of a video.
Low light performance is pretty good too. We were able to capture some really amazing low light photos without the use of flash. The flash itself isnt very harsh on subjects and lights up the area pretty damn well.
One thing that we have noticed though, is that the camera performance has improved over time with different firmware updates from Sony. So we hope that with future updates, it will get even better.
The front camera is a 2.2MP unit and it performs like any other front camera unit on the market, it is able to capture Full HD video and does its part.
The Snapdragon 801 processor is a tried and tested processor and we didn’t encounter any lags or glitches in heavy usage. It isn’t the top of the line MSM8974AC, but there’s nothing really lacking in the SOC. The onboard 3GB RAM is a boon and gives the phone that extra edge. We were able to comfortably able to switch between applications while playing games. One problem we encounter though is that the phone does heat up when subjected to heavy usage, especially when using the 4K video capture. This is very uncomfortable and thankfully the phone force shuts the camera app before it can get any worse..
The graphics are pretty impressive, we tried a couple of action games like Asphalt 8: Airborne and Batman:Arkham Asylum and the detail of the game play was on par with its competitors.
Connectivity and Browser
The default browser was satisfactory in all aspects. We threw whatever possible at it and it renders content smooth and fast. Zooming into content renders smooth and crisp fonts and images, thanks to the 1080p screen. Videos too ran smooth and we didn’t encounter any sorts of lag during browsing.
Coming to the connectivity side, unfortunately, the Z2 does not support Band 40 (2300 MHz TDD LTE) for LTE service in India, which is a bit of a letdown. It does support Dual-Band WiFi along with 802.11 ac, which is a good thing, assuming you have a capable router (and network connection). Having said that, we had no real issues (aside from the lack of LTE) and if you’re in an area which is not covered by LTE (which basically means most of India right now), you won’t miss the LTE support (or lack thereof).
The Xperia Z2 is quite the step up from its older siblings, the phone has got a very sophisticated, neat and classy look to it. The gorgeous screen is complimented by the powerful Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM onboard. There were very few moments where the phone let us down. Sure the still Camera module is still not up to the mark, but that shouldn’t be a deal breaker as its Video capabilities make up for it. In the past, Sony really did not bother with firmware updates, but things have changed and they are among the first of the non Nexus/Motorola devices to get updates to the newer versions of android. The Z2 definitely has what it takes to be a high quality flagship and also a big thumbs up from our side. The only thing to note is that Sony is on a 6 month release cycle (as of this article, the Xperia Z3 is already available in some markets). The flipside is that you can now get the Z2 for cheaper when the Z3 rolls out at their top end phone.