After only six months, Sony’s Xperia XZ1 has been pushed aside to make way for its successor, the Sony Xperia XZ2. But what can Sony do to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple? We’ll explain everything in our preliminary hands-on review of the Sony Xperia XZ2.
Sony Xperia XZ2 design and build quality
In 2013, the Japanese manufacturer presented the original Xperia Z with OmniBalance design, and this remained unchanged until 2017. Last year, the Loop Surface was used to adapt the design language, but the changes were only visible to the most dedicated of Sony fans. For most people, the change was barely noticeable and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium still looks like an Xperia Z5 or Z3, or even the original Xperia Z. Sony has now presented its new design language for upcoming devices, the Xperia XZ2 and the Xperia XZ2 Compact, at MWC.
Ambient Flow follows Loop Surface and OmniBalance
Gone are the days when a Sony smartphone was rectangular and flat. The first examples of the Ambient Flow design were seen in the Xperia XA2 and the Xperia L2 presented at CES 2018. The fingerprint sensor was moved to the back, and the camera was moved the the center to achieve symmetrical photographs. With the XZ2, Sony has taken the design one step further by creating the body out of aluminum and glass. The chassis is made from aluminum, and the front and back of the phone consist of glass panels made from Gorilla Glass 5.
The edges of the smartphone are now more curved, and this handles much better than the old shape. You’ll only disagree if you’re a hardcore fan of the old design. The new Ambient Flow design was definitely intended to appeal to new customers or win back those who opted for a different smartphone.
The placement of the fingerprint sensor on the back is also more suitable for a bigger audience and mass production. During our hands-on with the XZ2, Steffen Grosch, product manager at Sony based in Germany, explained the technical reasons for moving the sensor. If Sony had kept the side sensor, a narrower sensor would have been necessary, or the rounded frames would have had to be indented. The designers didn’t want that to happen, nor did they want a narrow sensor. So the sensible solution would be to move everything to the back of the phone.
Borderless design versus front stereo speakers
Since the release of the LG G6 and the Samsung Galaxy S8, smartphones with an almost bezelless 18:9 inch display have been in fashion. Sony is now following, but at the same time, has made sure not to compromise on the sound quality on its premium smartphones.
This means that the XZ2 has managed to maintain the sleek 18:9 display while having front-facing stereo speakers. The edges are significantly smaller compared to the OmniBalance or Loop Surface design smartphones. But still, Sony devices nevertheless have larger bezels in comparison to the competition, and the main reason is because of these loudspeakers, which simply take up more space.
We will have to wait until the final review to see if the XZ2 can compete against the Razer Phone. Based on first impressions though, the audio output seems loud and good quality. Unfortunately, the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact don’t have a 3.5 mm headphone jack built into the smartphone. But, the devices do come with a USB Type-C adapter. If you want to charge your battery and connect your headphones at the same time, Sony will offer an adapter accessory.
Sony scores well on image and sound
As discussed, Sony is well equipped to produce good audio, but as well as this, the image quality is pretty good too. With a 5.7-inch 18:9 portrait display, full HD resolution and HDR support for video playback, the HDR-Up convert function from Sony’s X-reality technology optimizes non-HDR material accordingly.
With the display and speakers, the Sony Xperia XZ2 seems great in terms of the sound and image quality. Sony wants to draw attention to the sound and visual experience. In the cinema, the audience is not only drawn into the story with an impressive picture, sound effects and atmospheric music but also with the touches from the subwoofers that create a deeper listening experience. To enjoy videos and games on your smartphone at this level, Sony must come up with a new trick for the Xperia XZ2.
DVS stands for Dynamic Vibration System. Basically, Sony has developed a powerful vibration motor that buzzes at a frequency range of 100 Hertz, which is deeper than other current smartphones on the market, which is a type of acoustic haptic subwoofer. When watching videos or playing games, there are four levels of intensity that you can adjust to. In fact, this technology provided an interesting experience during our hands-on review. We’re definitely looking forward to a more in-depth test of this feature.
Due to the low frequency range, the vibration motor should also improve the feel of normal notifications. Unlike the DVS, however, there is only one level for these.
New processor improves the Motion Eye Camera
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 delivers more than enough power. Sony uses the increased power to better support the camera’s Motion Eye sensor. The Motion Eye sensor celebrated its premiere last year at Mobile World Congress in the Xperia models. The highlight of this image sensor is the integrated memory, which allows the smartphone to record super slow motion with up to 960 images per second. The Xperia XZ2 and the smaller Compact version also use this sensor with all its features. What’s new is that those SuperSlowMotion videos are now recorded in Full HD instead of HD, the time however remains short at 0.182 seconds.
A completely new feature, and to my knowledge is unique in the world of smartphones, is that the Xperia XZ2's camera can record HDR videos in 4K resolution. HDR is intended to greatly improve the dynamic range of videos.
Since in HDR video recording, as with the photo variant, several and differently exposed individual images are recorded in parallel at the end to form an HDR video, the XZ2 benefits from the high power reserves of the Snapdragon 845. This also means that Sony 4K-HDR cannot simply update its software to the Xperia XZ Premium or the XZ1 Duo from last year. Theoretically, it might be possible to bring HDR in Full-HD to the 2017 flagship models of the Xperia XZ series by software update. However, Sony was unable to make any promises at this time.
3D scanner for selfies and social media
As a fun but not very often used gimmick in everyday life, the 3D creator is also featured in the XZ2. According to Sony, the scans will have more details in the future and it will be possible to use the front camera for 3D-self scans. With this function you finally wouldn’t need a second person, at least if you are satisfied with a 180-degree scan of your head.
In order to prevent the 3D scans from getting dusty on the Xperia smartphones, the 3D scans will soon become shareable via Facebook, according to Sony.
This should be possible directly from the 3D Creator app to Facebook. However, this approach entails a loss of quality. If you want to share the maximum quality of the 3D scans via Facebook, you will have to use a service from Sony that saves the scans without any loss of quality and also allows sharing. However, when exactly Facebook will release support for Sony's 3D scans is as unknown as the date for Sony's 3D scan service - and whether it will be free or not.
Thanks to the design and the material on the back, wireless charging is supported in the XZ2. The battery is an impressive 3,180 mAh and continues to support Qnobo’s lifetime extending adaptive charging technology. Whether the new functions, the camera, the larger and higher resolution display as well as the new vibration motor will consume the additional power provided by this battery and energy efficient hardware remains to be seen.
When will it be available for sale?
It's uncertain how much it will cost, but at a guess, we can expect it to at least match the XZ1, which would be around $699.99. It's due to ship this Spring. As we get more exact details on pricing, we'll keep you posted.
Sony Xperia XZ2 technical specifications
|Dimensions:||153 x 72 x 11.1 mm|
|Battery size:||3180 mAh|
|Screen size:||5.7 in|
|Screen:||2160 x 1080 pixels (424 ppi)|
|Front camera:||5 megapixels|
|Rear camera:||19 megapixels|
|Android version:||8.0 - Oreo|
|User interface:||Xperia UI|
|Internal storage:||64 GB|
|Chipset:||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845|
|Number of cores:||8|
|Max. clock speed:||2.6 GHz|
|Connectivity:||HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0|
Visually, the Xperia XZ2 loses the old-fashioned look with the Ambient Flow design adapting to the new trends. You can tell that Sony has an eye for detail and the manufacturer is making it clear how it is evolving with many different products coming together.
Unfortunately, Sony is still in a vicious circle, and if it does not change its strategy with regard to the release cycle of its smartphones, then smartphone users could already see the successor of the Xperia XZ2 appear soon at IFA 2018. If you only have a new smartphone every 18 to 24 months, the Xperia XZ2 could become an alternative to a Samsung Galaxy S9. In terms of technical specifications, it can easily compete with Samsung’s flagship from 2018.
What do you think? Can the Xperia XZ2 win Sony new fans in 2018?