Pat Pilcher: Sony announces the Z2

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The Sony Xperia Z2.
The Sony Xperia Z2.

Sony's newest smartphone, The Z2, created bit of a stir at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Building on their already successful Xperia Z1, Sony's Z2 is also waterproof. If that were all there was to the Z2, it'd be okay, but there's more. The Z2 sports several metric tonnes of bells and whistles to keep faithful Sony fans excited.

Design

Looks-wise, the Z2 looks a lot like the Z1. A sexy glossy black slab with curvy corners, the Z2 should be right at home on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The Z2 is also encased in a glass front and back, framed with an alloy chassis. I'm hoping this time around Sony use tougher glass. The Z1's screen was dead easy to scratch with any coins or keys that happened to be in my pocket.

This said, at a mere 8.2mm thick, the Z2 promises to be even more pocketable than the Z1.

Camera

Almost overnight, 4K video recording (3840x2160 /30fps) became the new norm. Sony has also baked this into the Z2.

Camera modes popular in the Z1 (such as SteadyShot, augmented reality, plus Info-eye modes) are all present. Sony has added new features including a time-shift mode that'll capture video at 120 frames per second for cool Mythbusters slow-mo effects.

The inclusion of a physical camera button also means that the Z2's camera will work fine underwater. Like the Z1, The Z2's camera uses a sapphire Lens, has a 20.7 MP Exmor RS CMOS image sensor and Sony's own BIONZ image processor.

Display

People who've had a chance to eyeball the Z2's display at Mobile World Congress tended to come away pretty impressed.

Given Sony's background in the HD TV space, this shouldn't be too surprising. According to a Sony press blurb, red and green phosphors plus blue LEDs and colour filters produce more uniform light.

Things are also helped along with Sony's X-Reality image processing engine which analyses frames to optimise colour, sharpness plus contrast and reduce noise so on-screen action remains crisp and vivid.

Noise Cancelling

Another interesting feature Sony bundled into the Z2 is Digital Noise Cancelling. This should reduce ambient background noise when listening to music or making calls and you'd think that with noise cancellation built into the Z2, you'd be able to pair up your favourite cans and they'd become noise cancelling too. Early indications are however, that this isn't going to be the case.

According to Sony "Our digital noise cancelling technology and dynamic sound in Xperia Z2 helps reduce up to 98% of ambient noise, when used with the compact in-ear MDR NC31EM Digital Noise Cancelling Headset". I'd wager Sony need a specifically calibrated mic on the headset to perform accurate noise cancellation. Oh well.

A big plus on the audio front is the inclusion of the "Walkman" app. I was a big fan of it on the Z1. Not only is it intuitive to use, but when paired with a good set of headphones, audio was nothing short of stunning.

Under the Hood

Sony has also beefed up the Z2's innards. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor (2.3 GHz quad-core), the Z2 also makes use of an Adreno 330 GPU, which should translate into buttery smooth gaming. The Z2 also supports 4G LTE, has 3GB RAM and a 3200 mAh battery.

What impresses isn't just that Sony crammed all this into an 8.2mm package (which speaks volumes about their Tardis like design smarts). It's that they made the Z2 waterproof and dust proof to IP55 and IP58 standards.

The Xperia Z2's large 3200 mAh battery also deserves mention. When paired with Sony's STAMINA Mode, smartphone up-time should be impressive. I've yet to eye-ball any run-down or standby stats, but based on my previous experience with Stamina mode, solid improvements are likely.

Sony has also integrated the Z2 into their existing ecosystem of peripherals and accessories. Sony Bluetooth headphones and TV remotes can be configured and paired using NFC for hassle free configuration.

Another accessory many will be keen to get their hands on is the Sony SmartBand SWR10, which pairs up over Bluetooth to work with the Lifelog application, as well as providing customisable notifications.

Verdict

The Z2 isn't so much of a quantum leap over the Z1, but is more a steady series of useful improvements.

Given the high-end design and functionality of the Z1, this isn't a bad thing as Sony smartly decided that the old maxim of "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" applies here. Sony have yet to confirm a New Zealand release date and pricing for the Z2.

- NZ Herald

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