‘You need to face the rough ride with the smooth’. This saying has never been truer for any mobile OEM than Sony. The Japanese giants have had an indifferent position in the mobile market. During the days of Sony Ericsson, Sony was giving the likes of Nokia a tough beating for competition with its Symbian line of devices, but things fell apart eventually. The Ericsson tag was dropped as Sony took full control of the mobile business and since then it has been a steady re-building process.
Sony almost had a winner with the Xperia Z1 but a surprisingly poor display held back what was actually a fantastic phone. Sony has since realised the mistake and brought the Xperia Z2 to the market in order to compete with the likes of HTC M8, Samsung Galaxy S5, Oppo Find 7, LG G3 etc as one of the true flagships of 2014. So, how does the Xperia Z2 fair as compared to the other devices? Here is our review of the device.
Pricing and Availability
The Sony Xperia Z2 is available in three prime colours, a black and a white variant, you have the third purple variant but it was difficult to find that in the market. The black and white variants are available fairly easily for a price of Rs 48,990.
However, in the open market with reasonable bargaining skills you can pick the device for almost Rs 46,000 and we must admit, there were some excellent exchange offers on the device, especially if you have the Xperia Z1 and want to upgrade to the Z2, you will get a fine value for your device. Availability of the phone was never an issue, either online or offline other than if you only want the purple variant.
Hardware and Build Quality
The Sony Xperia Z2 is primarily made out of two glass plates sandwiching a metallic chassis. The phone, as a result is all glass and metal and feels very premium. There is attention to little details, like the purple accents on the side of the device in between the silver strip, just next to the two black contact strips. We did an in depth hardware tour and compared how the device is different to the likes of the Xperia Z1 in our photo gallery post right here to highlight just these details.
The device basically is all screen from the front, and has a glass panel on the back. The right side is where all the buttons live, you have the power button in the middle with the volume rocker and two step shutter button below it. You have two doors on left and right side of the device. These house the Micro USB as well as slots for Micro SIM and Micro SD slot. The doors are well constructed and while we do not like them there, Sony has incorporated them to ensure the dust proof and water proof nature of the device, giving it an IP 58 rating. They did their job well and we immersed the phone in water without any reservations.
On the top of the device, you have a 3.5 mm jack, the left side of the device sees the Sony Dock port while the bottom of the device is where the microphone lives.
You have surround speakers on the front face of the device, though they are fairly inconspicuous given they are in the same colour as the main chassis of the device, black in our case.
The glass construction obviously means you need to handle your phone with a lot of care. Despite Gorilla Glass sheets on both back and front, the phone picks up scratches fairly easily. You must use a screen protector, both on the front and back at all times to keep the device in pristine shape. The metal rim too does pick up dents and scratches and this would be more visible on the white units we presume. On our black review unit that was fairly manhandled, the dents never really stood out.
Display and Screen Quality
Sony had dropped an absolute stinker when it came to the display of the Xperia Z1. That display totally crippled the phone, and we are glad that story does not repeat here. The colours on the Xperia Z2 are popping and crisp. The contrast levels are fine, and whites look clear whites and not off whites while blacks are deep.
The viewing angles are much improved too, but they are still not on the same level as say the Galaxy S5 or the HTC M8. The brightness was sufficient to ensure good day light reading. However, in direct sunlight when you see a really bright picture, you oddly see the digitizer that is lying below the screen which gives an odd experience. The screen picks up a lot of smudges and fingerprints, but they can easily be gotten rid of with one clean wipe. The IPS LCD 5.2 inch display overall does a fine job without blowing the competition away.
The X Reality Engine that enhances the contrast as well as the sharpness of the device when viewing videos and pictures works well in making the videos and images look more vivid but one can argue it takes away the natural feel from the images. It is also worth noting that the lower end of the brightness spectrum of the device was really high, so reading white text websites at night with lights turned out was a bit of a mare. There no touch latency in our time with the device, and the phone registered touches both for scrolling as well as point selections without any delay.
Software and Performances
The Sony Xperia Z2 is running Android 4.4.2 out of the box which basically is the most advanced Android version unless you want to count Android 4.4.4 which so far has rolled out only for the Nexus devices or Motorola Moto series.
Underneath the hood, you have a Snapdragon 801 SoC clocked at 2.3 GHz with 3 GB of RAM on board allowing a zippy performance.
Generally the phone had no issues buzzing through the everyday tasks, in fact, we must say after Sense UI, the Xperia UI from Sony may as well be our favourite Android skin. There are some nice widgets, for example the camera widget that allows you to pick the mode directly from your desktop as well as useful apps like the Lifelog application that tracks your fitness as well as movements in sync with your Sony Smartband.
The Smartband in itself is an interesting accessory. It basically is a small capsule that rests on your hand within a rubber strap that is available in two colours. The band itself is not most comfortable and we went back to our Nike Fuelband after testing it. In terms of accuracy, the Fuelband and the Sony smart band were pretty much in sync and the data was uploaded without a hitch to the app.
The UI of Sony’s skin is really clean and simple and very much like how it was in the Xperia Z1. We kind of liked the Xperia Themes that you can apply to the desktop that even changes the on screen button, the selection of these themes is pretty minimum for now. You can do other customisations such as adding in or removing home screens or widgets as well as changing backgrounds like any other Android smartphone.
One of the things we were delighted with Sony Xperia Z2 was the fact that you can go ahead and delete a fair few of the apps that come pre installed. Not many OEMs allow that, but it was a nice surprise. There is also Small Apps that can be accessed when you start the multi task window. You can run more than one small apps at a time. Some of the small apps included are Calculator, Browser, Timer etc and can be resized too. These apps live on top of the apps so can help you enhance productivity, as you do not have to fire up the full app all the time. You can also adjust the white balance and pick between a more simpler or a complicated home screen setup from the settings
Typing on the phone was perfectly good. We liked the default keyboard though we did move to Android L keyboard which worked just perfectly well on the device. The keys are well spaced and while the vibration when pressing the keyboard is not very pleasant and feels drawn out , you can easily turn that off if it irritates you. The keyboard also has handwriting recognition which was pretty hit and miss as you expect. Uninstalling apps requires you to go to the first page in your app drawer and swipe towards the right to enable the uninstall mode which brings up a cross which you can click in order to get rid of apps. The dialer is integrated with the call logs and works just well. This is a T9 dialer so you can type in the names on the keypad directly. The notification bar is a bit cluttered but you have the option to turn off some of the icons to make more space. You can also choose which shortcuts should be visible in the shortcuts space.
Other Sony made apps like Calendar and Calculator are adequate too, though if you want a calculator for your engineering buds, this one will not suffice. Sony has added few apps by default and one of them is Sony’s “What’s New” app which can be accessed exactly the way you would access Google Now and selecting the app that appears on the left of Google Now icon. The app lets you know about the latest apps as well as multimedia content from Sony. You also have the Sony Liv app that allows you to catch up on Sony Entertainment channels’ series.
Both, the Music player and the Video player on the Xperia Z1 called the Walkman and Movies support a plethora of formats including MP4 and xvid among others. The playback was perfect and we hardly had a frame drop during the time of using device while watching videos. HD videos played very well without a problem. You do have an FM Player built in as well as a ClearAudio+ mode which is just a gimmick of an equaliser but does sound pretty well with our ATH M23 headphones. We were definitely glad to swap our headphones for the headphones that came with the device as they totally lacked any reasonable bass. The mids were average and the highs were pretty flat. Gaming on the device was fine too, though the device did get fairly hot when we played more memory intensive games like Asphalt 8 and FIFA 2014. This meant an occasional lag as well as stutter.
The Sony Xperia Z2 comes with a 20.7 MP rear camera with a 1/2.3 inch sensor. The device has perhaps the largest sensor size of all the flagships out there and that really shows up as the phone performs really well both in well lit and dimly lit conditions. The details as well as colour reproduction was really good. We were glad to see that Sony has decided not to artificially colour the pictures in post processing (in most cases) to make them stand out more like in the Galaxy S5. You have a f/2.0 aperture on the board that really helps in low light shooting. The Sony interface for camera is by our favourite and we love how you can add features right there. You can integrate third party apps such as Vine as well as other Sony made apps like AR and app for artificial bokeh right within the camera interface. This works very much like Lens works on Nokia’s Windows Phone smartphones. The shots at night, though, looked like they were painted using pastel paints which was an annoyance.
For most of the time though, unless you are fussy, you will be fine just using the Superior Auto Mode that produces decent results. If that is not your cup of tea, there is also a manual mode for you to play around with the composition of the shot. Some of the other modes you can shoot in include Manual Mode where you can adjust White balance as well as the scene in which you are shooting, 4K Video for 4K recording, AR Effect, Background Defocus, Info Eye to catch info about a particular scene, TimeShift Burst etc. The Social Life mode allows you to broadcast 10 minutes of your life live on Facebook. You can obviously change the image as well as the video size based on your preference. Despite the crazy heating when shooting a 4K video that turned our camera off after about 6 minutes 30 seconds, the video recording was pretty great on the device with the audio recording being a highlight.
Even in indoors the phone captures details very well and while there is a tinge of yellow in the pictures, this is to be expected in challenging situations. The pictures generally came out naturally with colours looking sharp and true. We might as well declare the Sony Xperia Z2 as the best Android camera smartphone around currently.
Call Quality, battery and Speakers
The call quality on the Sony Xperia Z2 was just fine. We had no problem hearing the person on the other side of the line and the noise cancellation on the phone was extremely good meaning we had no complains of background noises. The reception of the phone was pretty great and the device latched on to 3G without a problem even in areas of low coverages. The down speeds on the phone were in random with what we have been getting on our iPhone 5s so you have nothing to worry here.
The battery will easily last you a day if you are an average user and perhaps even 1.5 days if you are careful of turning the wireless networks off when not in need. Not just this, the standby times of the phone was excellent, largely thanks to that Snapdragon 801 SoC. We did notice a slight drain when the smart band was connected, but other than that, the battery held up very well.
The dual speakers on the Xperia Z2 while never reaching the glory days of the HTC One M8 are adequately loud. They sound reasonably clear though not loud enough. More than on one occasion we had to bring the device close to our ears to hear properly. We definitely preferred audio via our own headphones.
The Sony Xperia Z2 is deserving of the flagship moniker for 2014. It is without a doubt, the best smartphone that Sony has produced so far. It is certainly an upgrade from any other Sony smartphone that you may own.
When compared to most flagships, there is little to choose, but given the premium construction of the phone, we would place the device ahead of the likes of the Galaxy S5 and just behind the M8, which still is our favorite Android phone given slightly better materials and speaker performance. Must admit, we have not used the LG G3 for long, but if you want a smartphone that is a fantastic camera unit and has all the latest specs as well as top notch specs, the Xperia Z2 is a great choice.