Sony has recently started updating its flagship handset every six months, so that the predecessor to the new Xperia Z2, the Xperia Z1 seems hardly to have been around for long enough to warrant a refresh.
Yet that is what we have here – a familiar looking Xperia phone, with some tweaks and changes under the hood that should help it compete with the other notable top range phones of 2014.
Like its predecessors the Xperia X2 is water resistant. You can take photos with it underwater for up to half an hour, and even dive to 1.5 meters with it. Of course, you will need to ensure that the edge covers are firmly in place if you want to do that. The handset reminds you when they are uncovered with an on-screen alert just in case you need to be told.
Those covers protect the microSD card slot on the right edge, and the microSIM and USB connectors on the left edge. It has to be said that we found uncovering the power slot to charge the phone was a bit of a nuisance, but it is the price you pay for that water protection.
The overall design of the Sony Xperia Z2 will be very familiar to anyone who has used a recent higher end Xperia phone. The blocky, monolith-like chassis is not to every taste. Certainly we think the squared off design makes it a little more difficult to hold this phone than more curved designs such as the HTC One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S5.
It doesn’t help that there is a lip all the way around the back of this phone made because the edging wraps around the backplate. It is very small, but you do notice it when you are holding the phone.
The very latest 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset is given 3GB of RAM to expand into. That ensures apps run smoothly. 10.7GB of the 16GB installed is accessible. At 5.2-inches the screen is ever so slightly larger than that of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8), but not enough to make any real practical difference, and the resolution is the same in all three phones.
Sony adds a range of technologies to enhance the screen’s vibrancy – Triluminos and X-Reality we’ve seen before while Live Colour LED is new. These do make a difference, and things like movie viewing are a delight.
Your favourite film’s accompanying sound is not great, though. Twin speakers sit top and bottom of the screen, though they are barely visible. Look closely and you will see small indents, in which you can just discern grilles.
The sound is not especially full, and doesn’t even begin to compare to the standard set by HTC with its own front facing speakers. It is disappointing from a company for which multimedia is such a key feature. Indeed the Sony Xperia Z2 is peppered with apps that remind you of the fact, with video, music and apps all taking their spot in the limelight. A new What’s New app brings Sony’s offerings together in one place too.
The camera benefits from some nice tweaks. A maximum resolution of 20.7 megapixels is possible, though you can only go up to 8 megapixels if you stick to Superior Auto mode which makes settings for you. There are lots of shooting modes, fun filters and photo options, and you can shoot 4k video too.
We found running the camera for more than about ten minutes caused the back of the phone to get hot, and the camera app to deliver a short warning then automatically shut itself down. Hot running was an issue with the previous Xperia X1, and Sony may still be having problems in this respect.
Battery life is good – and there are some power management tools which give you quite fine control of particular apps if you need to eek the time out while you get to mains power. All three of the season’s flagships have vastly improved battery life over last year’s models, and it’s great to see.
It’s probably fair to say that the Z2 is the phone that the Z1 should have been. It has been nicely updated in most key areas, including a better screen and extended battery life. It compares well with the other top handsets around right now, though its blocky design and issues with the device running warm mean we are not totally bowled over by it.
Written by Sandra Vogel