Review: Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone (video)

31 Jul 2014

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony claims its Xperia Z2 is the ‘world’s best camera and camcorder in a waterproof smartphone’, so we put it to the test to find out.

Look and feel

The Xperia Z2 is built with a one-piece aluminium frame and shatter-proof glass panels. Sony’s Omnibalance design is uniquely angular, which will either please or displease you depending on your aesthetic leanings. For me, I think it looks great, and the halfway-up positioning of the standby button makes sense on a device of this size.

Now, I’ve handled numerous phones – smart and dumb, as both a consumer and a reviewer – and I’ve dropped many but never damaged a single one, until the Z2. This flagship Xperia has not only left a dent in my reputation but, even more unseemly, there’s now a crack across the rear of the device. Unfortunately, that’s the risk you take with glass panels on a device that you can easily let slip.

Sony Xperia Z2

I am relieved however, that the back of the device bore the brunt because if the front display had been damaged, I’d have been heartbroken.

Heartbroken because anything to mar this stunning full-HD display powered by Sony’s Triluminos and X-Reality technology would be criminal. Not only is it bright and beautiful, but all 424ppi of the Z2’s display looks great whether you’re indoors or out in direct sunlight. In general use, I could see the display from almost any angle, even with brightness turned down to conserve battery power – not that battery conservation was a major concern with a more-than-ample at 3,200mAh at my disposal.

Sony Xperia Z2

Performance ups and downs

On its first day out of the box, the Z2 still had close to 50pc charge remaining when I went to bed that night. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Even with heavy use, deploying the right power-saving methods will easily get you two days on a single charge – a Herculean feat for a high-end device.

Add to that 3GB of RAM, 16GB flash memory and a 2.3GHz quad-core processor and you have a hard-working device on your hands. With the power of the Z2 in my palm, I could have up to 20 tabs open in Chrome while running several other apps and still see no lag.

Of course, this amount of power comes with responsibility and, when I truly lost the run of myself and caused performance to stutter, I could easily dial back the app usage using Android’s swipe-away gesture to close recent apps.

As an added bonus, the Z2 is IP-certified water and dust-resistant, so you don’t have to worry too much about keeping it clean and dry.

Review: Sony Xperia Z2

On the minus side of things, my experience with the phone came with frequent poor call quality and issues with the phone’s Wi-Fi settings. While call quality can be blamed on my network or other people’s bad lines, the Wi-Fi issue was definitely coming from the device in that sometimes, for no reason at all, it would not switch on.

More times than I would like to count, I would slide the Wi-Fi switch to On, then wait, and wait … and wait some more. Nothing would happen. The switch would lie in a frozen greyed-out state and I’d have to restart the phone just to get the Wi-Fi to work.

Sony Xperia Z2

What started as a minor annoyance soon became a major hassle when location-based Wi-Fi settings came into play (or didn’t, to be more precise). A number of times I would be at home under the assumption that the phone was connected to my Wi-Fi network, only to discover after an hour or so of browsing, streaming and playing with apps that I had been on my data plan the whole time. This could be an expensive lesson to learn for some users, so be warned.

This was a strange and inexplicable problem, especially considering the Z2’s GPS sensor was always very accurate when it came to navigating maps and location settings in other apps.

Sony Xperia Z2 camera

Stunning camera and camcorder

Getting back to the positives, the standard-bearing feature of the Xperia Z2 is its camera. Both of them, in fact.

The rear camera has a 20.7MP Exmor RS for Mobile image sensor and shoots through a Sony ‘G Lens’, which has earned accolades for its clarity and sharpness. In an ideal setting, this adds up to stunning images, which are souped-up with colour enhancements – perhaps even a little too much, in some cases. Some of my more colourful images were processed to make the colours unnaturally vibrant.

Image shot using the Sony Xperia Z2

Image shot using the Sony Xperia Z2

Image shot using the Sony Xperia Z2

All of the above images were shot using the Sony Xperia Z2 rear camera

The Z2’s main camera even performs well in low lighting, capturing a lot of detail, but motion shots are where it falters. If your poorly lit subject is in motion, the Z2 is slow to focus and, even with the flash on, the images still turn out blurry in the end – and this is with the phone’s ‘SteadyShot’ image stabilisation switched on.

That said, the majority of the photos I took with this device turned out as well, as if I had shot them with a point-and-shoot digital camera. Even the front-facing camera, with a generous 2.2MP, was capable of shooting satisfactory selfies in a variety of settings.

Image shot using the Sony Xperia Z2

Image shot using the Sony Xperia Z2

All of the above images were shot using the Sony Xperia Z2 rear camera

Moving on to the camera’s video capabilities, the Z2 gets even more impressive with the ability to record 4K video. Sony sees this as ‘future-proofing your memories’ so what you shoot now will still look good when you’re watching it on your Ultra-HD TV in years to come.

A fun feature called Timeshift video lets you film at 120fps and then slow down selected moments in your clip, while Z2 users can also broadcast their videos to Facebook using Social Live’s basic service. This is easy to set up and you can adjust privacy settings to broadcast only to those you want to.

Sony Xperia Z2

Underwhelming native apps

Of course, the Z2 comes with Sony’s collection of media apps and, if you have a Sony Entertainment Network subscription for movies, music or PlayStation games, this would be your perfect companion.

Sony has also pre-loaded its Socialife news app, but this bland offering just doesn’t compare to the likes of HTC’s BlinkFeed or its lesser counterpart, Samsung’s My Magazine. All Socialife merits for Sony is a ‘You Tried’ badge.

Sony Xperia Z2

All in all, the Z2’s native apps don’t really stand out. They work well and do their job in a non-descript fashion, which, I suppose, is nothing to complain about.

I do love the practical mini apps, though, which offer quick and easy access to handy, frequently needed tools – like a calculator or timer – in a pop-over window, should you need it. Users can also access the native browser, Gmail, Chrome Bookmarks, their Calendar and other small apps from the Play Store using this function, making the Z2 a bit of a single-screen multitasker.


The Z2 measures 8.2mm thick and weighs 163g, which puts it in the same weight class as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 – its Android rivals. However, with all of its 5.2-inch display, the Z2 is a sizeable hand-held device – but what makes it pocket-unfriendly also makes it wonderful for viewing full-screen media.

Sony Xperia Z2

I can’t extol the virtues of the Z2’s powerful battery enough, and Power Management will even let users know what apps they’re not using, which is a nice way to encourage you to keep your phone free of bloat.

Pairing a powerful phone with a powerful camera meant that I never missed a moment worth recording, which was a real treat – so much so that I can excuse issues I had with calls and Wi-Fi (and maybe take these problems up with my network operator) and give the Xperia Z2 a generous four-and-a-half stars out of five.

Sony Xperia Z2 review verdict

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.