Friday, March 14, 2014

Sony Xperia Z2

Sony’s top-end Android phone for 2014 is the Xperia Z2. This is the successor to the Xperia Z1, one of the best phones of 2013.

It’s big, expensive and has some cutting-edge specs. We’ve had a closer look at the phone to find out whether it really deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One 2.

Sony Xperia Z2 – Price, Release Date and Availability 
The Sony Xperia Z2 is a top-end phone. And that means it doesn’t come cheap. As of 10 March, it is available to pre-order direct from Sony, where it costs £599. Check our the Sony pre-order page for yourself. However, Expansys also has the phone on pre-order for £50 less. As usual, other retailers will offer the phone for slightly below RRP from launch.

The first contract prices for the phone come from Carphone Warehouse, which is offering the Z2 on a £47 a month contract

For that, you get 3GB of 4G data, unlimited texts and unlimited calls. It’s a top-end contract for a top-end phone. Other networks currently offer a ‘register your interest’ page. Unless your contract is up and ready for renewal right now, there’s little to lose by waiting a bit to see which network offers the best prices post-release.

The phone will start shipping from 7 April in the UK, just a few days before Samsung’s new Android killer hits the shelves.

Sony Xperia Z2 – Design
The Sony Xperia Z2 looks a lot like its predecessor the Xperia Z1, which was released just six months ago. It's a square-edged phone with metallic effect sides and toughened glass plates that sit on both the front and back.

With a completely flat rear you might be tempted to compare the Xperia Z2 to the iPhone 5S, but its sides are actually curvy to give it a less severe feel in the hand. And although very similar in design to the Z1, the phone is a little slimmer. It's 8.1mm thick to the Z1's 8.5mm. However, I wouldn't have noticed the difference if I hadn't seen the phone's spec sheet.

What's far more important is how the Z2 differs from its direct rivals the HTC One 2 and Galaxy S5 – which we're yet to have a play with.

One hardware feature it may be able to boast about over at least one of these, though, is waterproofing. The Xperia Z2 uses rubber-lined flaps that cover the microSD and microUSB sockets to keep water and dust out. And like the previous Z-series phones it can survive being dropped in water and is dust-proof.

Its exact specification is accordance with the IPX5 and IPX8 standards. Both these are about water resistance, and indicate it can survive being blasted by water jets (through a 6.3mm nozzle at 12.5 litres/min at 30kN/m2 pressure) and been be submerged in water for longer than 90 seconds.

This is better than the IP67 water resistance that you get with a Galaxy S5, and there are a few other Sony-specific hardware tweaks too.

There are dock connectors on the right edge, letting the Xperia Z2 hook up with Sony's dock accessories, there's a particularly cool-looking multi-colour notification LED on the front and there are no soft keys. That we have to dig this deep to talk about the hardware tells you what kind of phone the Xperia Z2 is, though – it's largely a baby steps upgrade.

My super-sweet notification LED will turn you green with envy

Sony Xperia Z2 – Screen and Specs
There are important improvements from earlier Z phones, though. I've talked to several people who have lost faith in Sony's top-end phones after owning the original Xperia Z, thanks to its surprisingly ropey screen.

If you're among that number, the Xperia Z2 should help you regain some confidence in the brand. In its recent phones, Sony has significantly improved contrast and colour calibration. And while the MWC 2014 is not a place to fully assess a screen, the Z2 seems to benefit from the solid screen calibration we saw in the Xperia Z1 Compact.

It appears to be a great display, although we seem to be at a brick wall in terms of screen tech progress in mobile phones. Like the Xperia Z1, the Z2 has a 1080p display. 2K displays have been rumoured for 2014 phones, but we're not going to see any of them quite yet. Quite what benefits they'd really offer is a bit of a mystery, anyway. A 1080p 5.25-inch screen like this looks very sharp, and we doubt whether many game developers would start making 2K resolution games until higher-res phones are well established.

A slowing-down of progress is seen in the Xperia Z2's core specs too. The phone uses a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 CPU that's just a little faster than the Snapdragon 800 of the Xperia Z1. As we said of the Xperia Z2 Tablet, this processor seems to exist primarily so that phones don't have to use the same processor as phones released six months ago. Such a thing would, of course, be unthinkable.

The CPU clock goes from 2.2GHz in the Z2 to 2.3GHz in the Z2, and the RAM and GPU speeds get a similar incremental upgrade. A slightly more worthwhile upgrade is the jump from 2GB of RAM to 3GB of RAM.

Sony also doesn't seem to have made any progress with the camera, at least in terms of the hardware behind it. The Xperia Z2 has a 20.7-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor. It's much larger than the 1/3.2 sensors used in most phones.

However, we were a little disappointed with this camera's performance in the Xperia Z1. If there's one thing I'm hoping for in this phone, it's that Sony has improved the camera's processing engine to make better use of this impressive camera hardware. We'll check this out in the full review. The one eye-catching new camera feature is 4K video capture.

First Impressions

The Sony Xperia Z2 is a phone that exists because of a need to compete. Samsung and HTC are going to launch a new phone, so Sony has to as well. As it arrives just six months after the Xperia Z1, upgrades are – predictably – minor. You'd be mad to consider paying to upgrade to this phone from an Xperia Z1. However, its slight spec upgrades make it the slightly better phone.

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