Sony’s new Xperia Z2 flagship phone launches at MWC 2014, packing an improved 5.2-inch screen and cool new camera features. Here’s our full hands-on preview…
The Sony Xperia Z2 is Sony’s latest flagship smartphone, following the slick Xperia Z1 (launched just last September) and the Xperia Z1 Compact. This 5.2-inch mobile is a tad lighter than the Xperia Z1, and boasts a gorgeous new screen, some boosted specs, a few cool new camera modes (including 4k video and slow-motion capture) and some extra tools such as digital noise cancellation.
Also check out our hands-on preview of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z2, Sony’s other big MWC 2014 launch, and the wallet-friendly 4G-enabled Xperia M2
We never expected Sony to shake up its design, and sure enough the Xperia Z2 packs a very similar rectangular frame as the Xperia Z1. Once again you get a solid piece of aluminium, surrounded by two slabs of tempered glass for the front and back edges, and the phone is fully waterproof so you can dip it in your pint to impress your mates.
It’s a tiny bit slimmer and lighter than the Xperia Z1, despite rocking a larger display, and you can notice the difference when comparing the mobiles in both hands. Otherwise, the only real change is the SIM and microSD slots switching sides.
The Sony Xperia Z2 (left) is just a tiny touch slimmer than the Xperia Z1, but there’s practically nothing in it…
The main difference in design is with the port flaps – or rather flap, on the Sony Xperia Z2
The Triluminos 5.2-inch IPS display packs Sony’s X-Reality technology and something called ‘Live Colour LED’. This adds a wider colour palette, making the Xperia Z2’s screen impressively vivid and vibrant. We really enjoyed browsing images and video in our short time with the phone. Viewing angles appear to be a reassuring improvement over the Xperia Z1, a major complaint of the original handset, and the panel’s powerful enough to compensate for reflections.
A lot’s happened with the 20.7-megapixel camera too. This packs a Bionz Exmor RS sensor and f2.3 aperture. Sony claims it’s the “world’s best camera and camcorder in an Android smartphone,” with the ability to shoot 4k video and slow-mo clips. There are a couple of other new camera features too, like Background Defocus – this lets you blur a photo’s background while keeping the subject sharp. It’s a neat little gimmick that Instagram fans will no doubt love.
Meanwhile some of the existing camera features have been migrated to video capture mode. Timeshift video allows you to shoot 120-fps video and slow it down at any point in post-production, much like you can on the iPhone 5S.
The slow-mo mode allows you to pick which parts of your video are slow-motion (left), while the Background defocus mode (right) keeps the subject sharp and makes the BG fuzzy
You can also now add in AR goodness to your movies, so you can shoot a home movie of your kids frolicking in the garden while a cartoon dinosaur bites their faces off. Or, if they’re Spiderman fans, they’ll probably mess their pants with glee at the upcoming AR add-on featuring the dangly superhero.
Another interesting update is the digital image stabilisation, which significantly reduces the amount of judder in your videos. We saw this in action, compared with an Xperia Z2 with image stabilisation turned off, and it really does seem to cut down on awful shaky-cam footage caused by hand motions and general movement while filming. Here’s hoping it works just as well outside of the demo room.
The Sony Xperia Z2 is powered by the brand new Qualcomm SnapDragon 801 processor, a 2.3GHz quad-core chip, backed up by a mighty 3GB of RAM. That should keep the latest games running for the lifetime of the phone, while the 3,200mAh battery is a teeny step up from the Z1’s 3,000mAh effort.
Sony has also built Digital Noise Cancelling technology into the Xperia Z2, which helps to block out external noise when you’re out and about, or trying to work in a shouty office. You still need DNC headphones to take advantage, and Sony has thankfully bundled a pair with the Xperia Z2 which feature microphones in the earbuds.
These mics pick up ambient noise and transmit the signal to the phone, where the DNC software processes it. The audio is then transmitted back to the buds in a fashion which dampens this external noise. And all without the need for batteries. Clever stuff, and we’re glad the ‘phones are bundled, as they cost €60 (£49.50) otherwise.
Sony is hoping its tri-factor of technology, content and ecosystem will help to create an excellent package. We’ve already seen that Sony is serious about tech, and it’s also bundling some great content – you get 6 free Sony movies out of the box, including Captain Phillips, Django Unchained, Elysium, 21 Jump Street, and This is the End.
The Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone should appear in stores around March, and while there’s no confirmed pricing, we’d expect it to hit £500-£600 SIM-free on release.