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Sony Xperia XZ2 first impressions review

MWC 2018 xperia xz2 launchIt has been a while since I have got fired up about a Sony phone. In fact, the last one I was proud to own was the Walkman W810i. However, Sony launched their Xperia XZ2 at Mobile World Congress last week, and I was there.

Back in 2011 I was at the launch of Sony’s PlayStation phone. I really liked it but it seemed to disappear shortly after. That was a shame as Sony was being daring. The thing is, even when Sony gets it right, it generally falls short somehow.

So, has that changed with the Xperia XZ2? Well, it sports thinner bezels and proper 4K HDR video recording. Additionally, there’s the curious new vibration engine.

Sony Xperia XZ2 hands on

xperia xz2 trioThe first thing that strikes you is that the huge bezels have disappeared from Xperia XZ2. Instead, you are faced with a glorious 18:9 display. Already, as I flip it around in my hand, I know that I am holding a phone from the 21st century. This might not seem a big deal to you but, and it has to be said, it is huge for Sony.

Granted, this is not following the bezel-less trend. Neither is is sporting the very fashionable notch first seen on the Essential phone (sorry Apple fans).

xperia xz2 cornerWhile the bezel has been minimised, it is still very much there. Furthermore, they are useful. You see, those additional bits of real estate house some decent stereo speakers. Sony says these are 20% louder than those that feature on the XZ1. Arguably, and more importantly, they’re much better sounding too.

Performance

Under the hood is the mighty Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 mobile platform. The Sony XZ2 was the first to be announced using this system on chip. Granted, the Galaxy S9 does also sport the 845, but only in certain markets.

Mated to the Snapdragon 845 is 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. If you plan to shoot HDR video then you’ll be grateful for the microSD slot, which now supports cards up to 400GB. That should do ya!

Dangerous curves

xperia xz2 rear angleOh, the XZ2 feels nice in the hand. The rear uses 3D Gorilla Glass 5 to create the lovely curved finish. Also, the sides have been radiused too. No more flat and sharp Sony here.

xperia xz2 rearWhile we are admiring the curved rear of the new Sony, it is a good time to point out the fingerprint scanner sitting beneath the 19-megapixel camera.

The smooth edges have dispensed with the headphone jack. I guess this is fated across all mobile devices now. However, Sony are bundling in a dongle and will also sell an accessory that lets you listen and charge simultaneously. Whilst at the Sony stand I was given a demo of some rather natty earpleasers linked to the XZ2. More on those in another post.

xperia xz2 topIt is great to see that Sony continues to focus on audio quality even though they ditched the jack. The XZ2 offers support for LDAC as well as Hi-Res audio.

Screen time

xperia xz2 and xz1 video comparisonThanks to Sony’s bezel slimming program, the XZ2 is about the same size as the XZ1 but sports a 13% larger screen, measuring in at 5.7 inches.

The LCD panel is bright, colourful and it offers support for HDR. It will even try to upscale SDR content to HDR, although to mixed results. Sticking with Amazon and Netflix, though and you’ll see the benefit.

Also, you’ll also be able to provide your own content as the XZ2 can capture 4K HDR recordings. Naturally, this can be toggled on and off from within the camera app. I was really impressed with the results though.

Camera

The Sony Xpreia XZ2 is loaded with a 19-megapixel sensor with added memory, 3D facial scans and predictive capture. That 3D stuff has been added to the 5-megapixel selfie camera, too for those who care.

Sony said that is has worked with Qualcomm to build a new ISP that will be exclusive to the Xperia XZ series. This should improve areas such as reduced noise, better low-light performance and superior colour reproduction. During the demo this all looked good, but I would love to get in some real world testing with this.

With HDR the colours are noticeably brighter and the dynamic range far better, as you would hope. Someone else in the room did state that some parts of the images on the screen we were shown were oversaturated though. I didn’t notice this myself but I thought it worthy a mention as I was also on less than 2 hours sleep after a delayed flight in to Barcelona.

HDR footage is captured with 10-bit depth and BT.2020 colour, both of which are impressive for a phone. For comparison, typical FHD video captures 8-bit colour and BT.709 colour.

Furthermore, you can shoot in 960fps slow-mo at 1080p. Someone released a phone the day before boasting about their 720p skills 😉 One thing that hasn’t improved, however, is the amount of video you can treat to slow-mo. It still stands at around 3 seconds of video footage can be converted.

Good vibrations

xperia xz2 vibration moduleOne new feature that I am not entirely sold on is the Sony Dynamic Vibration System. Think the haptic engine inside a Dualshock 4 PS4 controller.

Basically, there is now a much more pronounced rumble when you receive a notification. Moreover, this feature can also be used when you’re playing games and viewing films.

xperia xz2 dynamic vibration settingsI played a demo of Angry Birds with it turned on and the phone did rumbling when something relevant happened on-screen. I can see a use for it whilst gaming. However, using it for movies and music was just odd to me; you might disagree though.

Thankfully, this feature can be customised as to how potent the vibes are or even turned off.

There’s more

xperia xz2 explodedFinally, there’s all the other stuff. There is Bluetooth 5.0 and Qi wireless charging are all present and correct. The body of the XZ2 is IP68-rated for water-resistance and there’s a 3180mAh battery inside.

xperia xz2 partsAndroid 8 Oreo will come as standard, but with Sony’s skin. I did notice Sony’s own apps still making an appearance and duplicating some of the standard apps. Hopefully, these can be done away with. The user interface is a tad Marmite but you can always download a different one.

First impressions review conclusion

A great looking camera and screen combined with a modern look. Is this really a Sony Xperia? Yes, it is still a little on the safe side, but I actually do like what I am seeing here.

The new vibration motor is… there. However, top marks for the 4K HDR recording. The phone’s audio sounds great both through the speakers and the earphones I tested it with.

As long as the camera lives up to everything I have been told when being used by incompetents such as myself, Sony could well have a hit here.

Price and availability

You can pick up the Xperia XZ2 in four colours (black, silver, blue and pink) from the end of March.

Prices start from £699 sim-free. More information can be gathered from the Sony website.

Sony Xperia XZ2 first impressions review

by Jay Garrett time to read: 5 min
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