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Sony Xperia XZ2 Review: Fresh look, brilliant camera

The Good

  • Fantastic camera
  • Slick media machine
  • Super-smooth performance

The Bad

  • No facial recognition
  • Dynamic Vibration kind of pointless

Sony’s Xperia XZ2 flagship phone is its first premium handset of 2018, sporting a slick new design that really shakes things up. This handset surprises on many levels, but is it a worthy successor to last year’s XZ1? Here’s our full Xperia XZ2 review to help you decide.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: Design

The most immediate change over the Xperia XZ1 is obvious from the moment you clap eyes on this shiny beast. Sony Mobile has completely overhauled its design language, offering a mostly glass finish with much skinnier bezels.

Despite that slender surround, the Xperia XZ2 is still a bit of a handful. That’s thanks to the enlarged 5.7-inch display, which is only beaten by Sony’s Ultra phones in terms of screen size. Thankfully you do get a helpful one-handed mode to help out in a pinch.

Everything about this handset’s design screams ‘premium’. While the Infinity Display finish of the Galaxy S9 may be more technically impressive, the XZ2 is similarly striking thanks to that deliciously curvy rear plate and the gorgeous colour options. I absolutely bloody love this deep green model, which catches the light in a wonderful way.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

The XZ2 also has quite a heft. It’s just a shade under 200g, so you’ll certainly feel it when it’s stashed in your shorts. And at almost 12mm at its thickest point, it sure ain’t a skinny smartphone either. Thankfully it’s also IP67 water resistant, so you can give it a dunking with zero repercussions.

Fingerprint sensor

This design shake-up also includes the fingerprint sensor, which has shifted from the right edge ‘round to the rear end. The circular scanner is certainly responsive, unlocking the XZ2 in the blink of an eye. Likewise, it only seems to fail when your fingers are wet or sticky.

However, for whatever reason Sony has positioned the sensor almost completely central, rather than up towards the top end of the phone where your fingertip naturally falls. At first, this took some serious getting used to. I was constantly tapping that camera lens instead of the scanner to try and unlock the thing, which got old real fast. Thankfully a few days of using the Xperia XZ2 has corrected this issue. However, it’s still a less comfortable solution than we’ve found on many rivals.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

Note also that the Xperia XZ2 does not support any kind of facial recognition, which many handsets such as the OnePlus 5T and Honor View 10 now offer.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: Features

Android Oreo is the OS of choice, with plenty of smart Sony features slathered on top – like a beautifully sweet layer of jam spread on a nicely toasted bit of bread.

Customisation remains a strong point. You can configure pretty much every aspect of your Xperia XZ2’s software, from the general theme right down to the icon design and desktop grid size.  Likewise, you can play around with several display and audio settings to get them just to your liking.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

If you’re new to Xperia smartphones or even Android in general, Sony has you covered. The Xperia Assist tool offers all kinds of helpful advice, features and support. This comes complete with a snazzy new conversational-style guide to getting started, which takes you directly to any tools you might need.

You give me the shakes

Also new is the Dynamic Vibration system, which adds a rumble effect when you’re watching video. This can be activated in the likes of Netflix and YouTube and it works reasonably well, considering it’s a reactive feature. At first it can be quite distracting, of course, and we found that it basically reacted to the video’s soundtrack rather than what was actually happening on screen. Still, it’s a pretty good first attempt at something new and it definitely adds another layer of interactivity.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

And fan favourites such as the PS4 Remote Play feature are thankfully present as always, rounding off a solid package.

For more information on this and our other favourite features, check out our Xperia XZ2 tips and tricks guide.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: Screen and media

The XZ2 sports Sony’s biggest display of any of its previous flagship devices. That 5.7-inch Triluminos panel is a beauty, boasting HDR support and the ability to upscale lower-quality video.

This is also the first Sony phone to rock a stretched 18:9 aspect ratio, thanks to those slender top and bottom bezels. If you’re a movie fan, that’s good news. The reduced letterboxing effect means you’ll get a better view of the action, while that Full HD+ resolution keeps images nice and crisp.

You can also tinker with the display output as always, to get it just how you like. For instance, dive into the Colour Gamut and Contrast menu innside of the Xperia XZ2’s settings and you can activate the Professional mode, which swaps to the sRGB gamut for accurate colour reproduction. Alternatively, if you like more vibrant visuals, give the funky Super Vivid Mode a go.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

Mini blasters

Audio quality via the dual front-facing speakers is perfectly fine for a smartphone. You’ll want to connect to some headphones or a speaker to enjoy your music, but you can do without for simply watching a bit of YouTube. Even in a noisy outside environment, I had no problem with clarity.

However, Sony has ditched the 3.5mm jack from the edge of the XZ2, just like many rivals such as Huawei and Apple. If you want to use wired ‘phones, you’ll need to use the bundled USB adapter.

Got a massive media collection to carry about? This device packs in 64GB of storage, which fills up surprisingly fast. Thankfully there’s support for microSD memory cards, up to 400GB in size, so you can quickly and easily expand.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: Performance and battery life

The Xperia XZ2 is a pioneer in many respects, including the processor stuffed inside that shiny shell. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset was just launched at the very end of 2017, and this Sony phone marks its first appearance in the UK.

So far, we have no complaints. The XZ2 boasts super smooth performance at all times, loading apps the moment you tap them. The latest games play without any kind of lag or dropped frames too, so you can keep your thumbs busy on long trips.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

All-day longevity

However, one of the biggest features of the new Snapdragon which Qualcomm was keen to point out at launch was the energy efficiency. We were therefore hoping that the Xperia XZ2’s 3180mAh battery would keep you going for well over a day on a full charge.

Well, the good news is that the phone will happily last a long day on a single charge, even with regular and quite intensive use. It’s slightly better than Samsung’s Galaxy S9, although Sony’s own Xperia XA2 offers better battery performance for less cash.

Still, that smart Qnovo tech is in place to keep the phone from overcharging, which could lead to long-term damage. You also have Quick Charge 3.0 support, plus support for wireless charging thanks to that glass design.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: Cameras

So far the Xperia XZ2 has delivered on pretty much every front, offering a satisfying and slightly seductive everyday experience. However, it’s the fabulous camera tech which really gets our undercrackers stirring.

Slapped on the back of the phone is a 19-megapixel Motion Eye shooter of Sony’s own design. Sure, Huawei’s new P20 Pro boasts three times the lenses – but quantity isn’t directly linked to quality. And while the megapixel count hasn’t changed over the XZ1, the Xperia XZ2 packs a lot more camera smarts.

For one, it can now shoot video with HDR enabled, even at the 4K Ultra HD setting. The Super Slow Motion feature has also been upgraded, to record at up to Full HD resolution instead of bog-standard 720p.

However, we’re most impressed with the basic everyday photo capture. Go check out our full Xperia XZ2 camera review for our photo and video samples and our in-depth thoughts.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: Verdict

Sony’s first flagship phone of 2018 serves up a fresh new design as well as refining the overall user experience. This shiny beast doesn’t care if it’s thicker or heavier than other premium blowers. Instead it concentrates on serving up a slick media experience, as well as one of the best smartphone cameras out there.


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