Hands on: Sony Z2

By Pat Pilcher

4 comments

Sony's latest uber-smartphone is finally here. The Z2 is the successor to the Z1. Sporting a similar design, it also has a larger HD display, quad-core processor and 20.7 megapixel camera.

Look and Feel

Upon hearing that Vodafone were launching the Z2, the burning question in the back of my mind was this:

"How will Sony top the already excellent Z1?"

Sony's answer has been a steady stream of minor tweaks and upgrades, the sum of which is greater than their individual parts.

In the hand the Z2 is a great looking piece of kit. Its slab-like design looks as if it should be uncomfortable for extended calls, but curved alloy sides meant this isn't the case.

The Z2's complete lack of Tupperware also lends it a high-end feel - here's hoping other handset makers look and learn from this.

As high-end as the Z2 feels, its design means that like the Z1, it's a magnet for scratches from any keys and coins in your pocket or purse. Buying a case and screen protector is definitely recommended.

Even though its screen size has grown from 5" to 5.2", the Z2 doesn't feel like a palm stretcher in use and is still pocketable.

Under the Hood

The Z2's larger 5.2" display is a welcome addition and is on par with the Z1's already excellent screen. Sony have also slimmed down the Z2's bezels and chucked a faster 2.3GHz Qualcomm processor under its hood.

The Z2 is also powered by Android 4.4.2 KitKat which in use ran buttery smooth. Its camera can also capture decent 4K video.

These transform the Z2 from an excellent smartphone into one that's outstanding.

The Z2 should also have had a set of water wings bundled because like the Z1 it's waterproof. Sony has upped its waterproofing - it is now IP55 and IP58 rated. This means it can take a dunking in 1.5 metres of water for up to 30 minutes at a stretch.

The Z2 also has a dedicated camera button which allows you to use the Z2's camera underwater (where touchscreens won't work).

These improvements come at a price. The Z2 costs about $1,049 (prices will vary depending on your calling plan and contract term). This is might seem a lot of money for a smartphone, but you do get a lot of smartphone for your money.

Opening the water proof flaps on the Z2's sides reveals a micro SD card slot (which can handle up to 64GB cards) and micro-USB port.

There's also 3.5mm headphone jack and rounded power button plus a SIM slot.

Another nice touch is the addition of a hole in the Z2's bottom left corner for attaching a camera strap. This means expensive drop testing doesn't need to happen when snapping pictures. Unfortunately a strap wasn't provided.

Although the Z2's display is larger than the Z1's, it has the same 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. This equates to a lower pixel density (423ppi versus the Z1's 440ppi). But it is something few are likely to notice.

What is noticeable is that the Z2's IPS LCD display is impressive. Small text was readable, and photos looked great.

Sony's spec sheet talks up the same "Triluminous" technology that they've also baked into their Bravia TVs.

It makes for a vivid onscreen image. The Z2's screen also cranked out vibrant colours and its viewing angles are excellent.

As with the Z1, Sony has all but eliminated custom interface clutter. There are a bunch of Sony Apps such as an image gallery and the excellent Walkman app. One interesting customisation that'll either appeal or annoy is the ability to change the Z2's theme. Extra themes are downloadable that tweak the screen's background and icons.

The Z2 packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU that clocks in at a respectable 2.3GHz. Also included is 3GB of RAM (the Z2 has 16GB of storage). In use this meant that it felt swift to use and lags were not noticeable. Demanding gaming titles also performed well with Asphalt 8 offering up smooth gameplay.

Muscular specs and performance aside, the Z2 also packs the same 20.7 megapixel image sensor as the Z1. There's also a bunch of shooting modes and the ability to shoot 4K video. In a nod to Apple, Sony has added what they call Timeshift video. Under this mode the Z2 records 720p videos at 120 frames per second.

A good image sensor is great, but it'll only ever be as useful as its optics. To this end, Sony have bundled an in-house designed Sony G Lens assembly and their BIONZ imaging processor. The combination works well, resulting in less blurring and less image noise.

Low light shooting was also a pleasant surprise. This was thanks to the inclusion of a BSI sensor. In non-geek speak this is the rather naughty sounding backside illuminator sensor. Pixel noise was low and colours remained well saturated. Detail was still discernable. My lack of a 4K TV unfortunately meant I was unable to test the Z2's 4k video shooting capabilities.

There's also a bunch of creative shooting modes. These include a background defocus mode, panorama, plus other assorted image effects. The camera app itself is also intuitive and responsive, thanks to a fast autofocus and a low delay times between shots.

One of the less obvious but more useful tweaks on the Z2 is the addition of a 3,200mAh battery. This proved to be a good pairing with the Z2's zippier CPU which is also more power efficient.

When charged the Z2's battery kept going for just over 11 hours. Heavier use saw the Z2's battery lasting just over 9 hours. Stamina mode also offers granular control over what can run, stretching battery life out even further.

Verdict

The Z2 offers rock solid performance, a great build and design. In a nutshell it looks great and comes with a lot of functionality. It isn't cheap, but for anyone looking for a top of the line smartphone that does it all, the Z2 is definitely worth a look.

Tech Specs

RRP $1,049 (price will vary with call plans and contract terms)
Network (2G) GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (3G HSDPA) 850/900/1700/1900/2100 (4G LTE) 700/800/850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600 - D6503
(Wi-Fi) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetoothv4.0 with A2DP
NFC Yes
GPS A-GPS support and GLONASS
Dimensions 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm
Weight 163g
Ruggedness IP58 dust proof and water resistant over 1 meter and 30 minutes
Display 5.2" IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours, 1080 x 1920 (424 ppi)
Memory (micro SD, up to 128 GB), (Storage) 16GB, (RAM) 3GB
Camera (Rear) 20.7MP, autofocus, LED flash, (Front) 2.2MP
Video (Rear) 2160p@30fps, 1080p@60fps, 720p@120fps, video stabilization, HDR (front) 1080p@30fps
OS Android 4.4.2 (KitKat)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8974AB Snapdragon 801
CPU Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400
GPU Adreno 330
Radio FM radio with RDS
Battery Non-removable Li-Ion 3200 mAh battery
Stand-by Up to 740 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 19 h (3G)

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