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Monday, February 26, 2018

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review: Hands-on

Sony Xperia XZ2 Review: Hands-on
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Sony has used Mobile World Congress 2018 to unveil the Xperia XZ2, the Japanese giant’s first phone to boast the now-ubiquitous 18:9 aspect ratio on its screen. We went hands-on with the XZ2 ahead of the show, and here’s what we think.


PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

Sony hasn’t confirmed a release date or price for the handset yet, but did hint that it’s expected to arrive in the first week of April. That sees it arrive a little over six months after the company’s previous flagship, the Xperia XZ1, a break from the usual strategy of releasing a ‘Premium’ version at MWC.

As for price, the XZ1 launched at £599/$699, so the XZ2 will almost certainly cost at least that much. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it run a little higher, to fall in line with flagship pricing from Samsung and Huawei but Sony may surprise us and decide to try to undercut the competition instead.

The XZ2 is joined by the smaller XZ2 Compact, which is expected to release around the same time, no doubt for a slightly lower price.


We’ll update this review with more concrete information as we have it.

DESIGN AND BUILD

After years of similar looking phones, Sony fans have been crying out for a design revamp for the Xperia line. With the XZ2, they finally have it - sort of.
The XZ2 brings with it a new design language for Sony - dubbed ‘Ambient Flow’ - and with it the firm’s first attempt at a smartphone with the 18:9 display made popular in 2017 by flagships like the LG G6, Samsung Galaxy S8, and iPhone X.

Finally, gone are the giant bezels that sat above and below the display of the XZ1, replaced by… slightly less giant bezels above and below the new 5.7in display. It’s an improvement, for sure, but this is certainly not the sort of all-screen device Sony’s biggest rivals are able to offer.

Ambient Flow is about more than the screen though. It’s also about breaking up the straight lines that have dominated recent Sony devices. Instead the XZ2 boasts 3D curved glass on both the front and back of the phone - a subtle curvature at the edges of front, a more noticeable bulge on the back.






There are pros and cons to the design. The curved glass looks stunning when it catches the light, but it’s unsurprisingly a fingerprint magnet. The use of Gorilla Glass 5 should reassure buyers that it’s tough enough, but even so glass backs are always an extra risk when it comes to drops and scratches.

In terms of feel in the hand, the rounded design is no doubt more comfortable to hold, but it also leaves the phone looking and feeling thicker than you might be used to from a flagship phone.

Beyond that, Sony has moved both the camera and fingerprint sensor to the centre of the phone’s rear - and the fingerprint sensor is now always-on, so should be quicker to activate that in previous Sony phones. You’ll also find the IP65/68 waterproofing you’d expect from Sony.

Sadly, Sony has also finally given in and joined the rest of the industry in dropping the 3.5mm headphone jack from the phones, so it’s USB-C or Bluetooth only when it comes to audio.

The XZ2 will launch in a selection of four colours (with colour-coded UI to match): Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Petrol Blue (pictured), and Ash Pink.

SPECS AND FEATURES

So if the design is so far so Sony, what about what’s inside the phone?

Unsurprisingly, the XZ2 is powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845, which we’re likely to see in most major Android flagships this year. Here it’s set to be paired with 4GB of RAM and a healthy 64GB of onboard storage, expandable by MicroSD.

That should mean pretty smooth performance across the board, but we’ll know more when we have the device in for a full review.


Plenty of phones this year will have an 845 chip though, so Sony is instead hoping to stand out in one of its core areas: photo and video.

Thanks to an exclusive image processor developed together with Qualcomm, Sony promise that the camera in the XZ2 will have reduced noise, better colour reproduction, and improved contrast when compared to the XZ1 - despite using the same 19MP single lens camera hardware.

Perhaps more importantly, this is also the first smartphone from any manufacturer capable of recording 4K HDR video footage, while the 960fps super slow motion that Sony pioneered will now be available up to 1080p, compared to the previous cap of 720p.

The changes aren’t just about creating content though, there are also improvements to consuming it. Sony has borrowed HDR upscaling tech from its Bravia TVs, so that the XZ2 can take any video content - either local to the device or streamed - and upgrade it to HDR as you’re watching it, with results that at least seemed impressive in our brief demo.


Then there’s the new Dynamic Vibration System, borrowed from the PS4’s DualShock 4 controllers, which analyses audio from music, video, or games and vibrates the phone to match the audio. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but could be a fun addition to games and movies, and fortunately you can enable and disable it by individual apps.

For those who use their phone out loud, the front-facing speakers are now 20 percent louder, with a slightly improved frequency range to match - and there’s still support for high resolution audio. Our first impression was that the phone sounded seriously impressive, though it’s unlikely to be a priority for many.

Elsewhere you get wireless charging through the Qi standard, a 3190mAh battery, and Sony’s oh-so-gimmicky 3D scanning tech has been added to the selfie camera, so you don’t even need a friend to help you use it any more.

SOFTWARE

We expect the Xperia XZ2 to ship with Android Oreo - after all, the XZ1 was the first non-Google phone to pack that OS version - with Sony’s usual minimal tweaks.

The biggest change is the Xperia Assist software, designed to help users make the most of the phone’s various features. It will pop up the first time you open a relevant app to explain any features you might be able to take advantage of - like the HDR upscaling, or dynamic vibration - and uses a chatbot interface to explain how everything works.

SPECS
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 5.7in Full HD+ HDR 18:9 touchscreen
  • Qualcom Snapdragon 845 processor
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • microSD card slot (up to 400GB)
  • Rear camera: 19MP, video up to 4K HDR
  • Front camera: 5MP
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • NFC
  • 4G LTE
  • Single nano-SIM
  • USB-C (USB 3.1)
  • 3190mAh non-removable battery
  • 72x153x11.1mm
  • 198g

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