Phone

Sony Xperia Z2 Review: First Impressions

2014 is off to a great start for smartphone market in Singapore, with lots of hype going to new product launches like Sony Xperia Z2, HTC One M8, LG G Pro2, Samsung Galaxy S5, and even non-mainstream brands like Xiaomi, Oppo. Each of these smartphones have some pretty unique features never seen before in previous models, and this is certainly something I look forward to review and share with you.

I generally do not blog about products until I actually experience it. So, among the above products, the first smartphone to land on my hands is the Sony Xperia Z2.

The Sony Xperia Z2 is one of the many hotly anticipated smartphones in 2014. It remains as the only smartphone that is safely waterproof, a large high-pixel camera sensor, and now enhanced with a more impressive display quality and battery life.

Specs (D6503)

  • 2.3 GHz Qualcomm MSM8974AB Quad-core
  • 3GB RAM, 16GB Internal Memory
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 5.2″ Full HD TRILUMINOS 1080×1920
  • 20.7MP 1/2.3″ F2.0 rear camera with flash, 2.2MP front camera, 4K movie recording
  • 3200mAh non-removable battery
  • 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm
  • 163g
  • Android Jellybean 4.4
  • LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS, DLNA, USB-OTG, MHL,
  • Uses MicroSIM card
  • Provided earphones: MH410c headset

Design

Following the same design blueprint as earlier Xperia Z models, the Z2 has a glass panel on both front and back. Just like Z1, Sony included a dedicated camera button, which is a clear indication that Sony wants the Z2 to be a serious imaging device.

The Z2 look-and-feel is largely similar to previous Xperia models. There are of course overall enhancements, like the notification panel with quick settings icons, additional Sony-branded apps, customisations under settings.

Improved Display

The Xperia Z2 now matches the display quality of the other high-end brands. The reds are slightly richer yet do not look over-saturated.

Water Proof and Dust Proof

Sony Xperia Z series remain the best-looking and slimmest waterproof camera in the market. Yes, you can bring the Xperia Z2 with you for a swim or a bath.

Camera and Video Capability

The 20.7 megapixel camera remains one the highest pixel count on an Android device. And now with Xperia Z2, you can capture 4K videos. As for shooting effects, other than the usual SCENE modes, there are a handful of fun modes like AR effect, Time-shift, Background Defocus. You can also install third party camera apps to work directly with apps like Cam Scanner, Vine.

The image capture is not instantaneous because the camera re-focuses every time you press the shutter. But even under low light, the camera manages to do focus quite fast.

Using the Xperia Z2 to shoot at extreme low light situations, I find that Sony did extremely well in removing image noise, both front and rear cameras. It’s the same magic that they did on their mirrorless NEX and the RX compact series. The bright F2.0 aperture helps in letting in more light at faster shutter, and the larger 1/2.3″ compact camera-sized sensor contributes to reducing low-light noise. While the images appear smudged when zoomed in, you can’t expect DSLR quality from a smartphone. I am certainly impressed that the Xperia Z2 camera holds that well in low light scenes.

To achieve DSLR-like background blur, you can capture your photos using Background Defocus mode. The camera will take 2 pictures of different focal length, and then applies blur effects to the background. The result is very believable.

Interestingly, the camera is always default to Superior Auto shooting mode, and in this mode, the camera resolution is fixed at 8MP. To shoot at full 20MP, you need to select Manual mode. Don’t be misled by the name, for the “manual” mode simply means you can manually adjust some shoot settings like white balance, EV, setting resolution. There is no option to manually adjust aperture or shutter.

Front-facing stereo speakers

The Xperia Z2 speakers now face front so that you can enjoy clearer directional audio. Turning on the audio enhancements will increase the treble clarity. The speakers are so thin, you won’t notice the grilles. This again aligns with the Sony Xperia’s clean design philosophy.

Small Apps

Like earlier Xperia Z models, small apps are floating window apps activated under the “recent apps” page. This is useful if you want to do a quick check on things, like calculator, calendar, even Gmail. You can download additional apps from the Play Store.

Customise system icons to display in the system bar

Don’t you wish you could reduce the number of icons in the system bar? Now you can! Xperia Z2 lets you do that to remove icon clutter. Finally you can choose to remove the persistent alarm or bluetooth icons.

Tap to wake up screen

This feature has got to be the must-have for every Android device this season, all thanks to LG. I am glad Sony has included this useful feature which you can enable under the display setting.

Simple Home launcher

If you prefer a simplified home launcher for the elderly or the young, the Xperia Z2 includes a second home launcher with large icons and fonts.

Battery Life

With a 3200mAh battery plus a myraid of battery saving modes (STAMINA, Low-battery modes, limiting background data) which you can enable, the Xperia Z2 can easily outlast you your busy work day. I am experiencing similar battery life with my HTC Butterfly S.

Weaknesses

  • The biggest problem with Xperia Z2 is the heat build-up. The device gets really scorching hot when using processor-intensive apps. Consolation? You can dunk the phone into cold water to cool it down. You could also minimise the heat by activating battery-saving mode so the device does not run too much background tasks.
  • The Xperia Z2 screen seems to be less sensitive to touch compared to competitive models. I find myself missing key taps when I type fast, and often I had to repeat my pull-down action for the notification panel. (Post update 9 Apr 2014: firmware 17.1.A.2.55 appears to have fixed this issue.)
  • Finally, the problem of dust and fingerprint magnet which plagues all previous Xperia Z models remains, but this is easily resolved by applying after-market screen protectors.

Summary

I am thoroughly impressed with the camera performance of the Sony Xperia Z2. If you needed a capable camera for low light shots, you will be delighted with the noise level and colour details. The waterproof feature is a unique advantage, allowing you to use it in any wet conditions. The display quality is on-par with the leading smartphone manufacturers, and it has a large battery capacity.

Not What You Are Looking For?

Watch out for my upcoming first-look reviews on HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5 over the next few days. You may follow me at Twitter and Instagram @musicdiary for more photos and updates.

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