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Review: Sony XZ2, beware the Japanese

Ergonomic design

Sony has finally embraced the bezel-less smartphone trend, where the edges around the screen are minimized in favour of more screen real estate. The bezels are still not as thin as those on phones such as the new Galaxy S9, but it’s a major improvement over last year’s Xperia XZ1. Front-facing stereo speakers make it easier to give Sony a pass as well — though the speaker on the bottom bezel is well-hidden

The Xperia XZ2 is two sheets of Gorilla Glass 5 sandwiching a metal frame. The edges are curved, and so is the back, allowing for a comfortable fit in the palm. The phone is still a little unwieldy due to its 5.7-inch size, but the curved back certainly makes it manageable.

You’ll find all the buttons on the right edge, including a dedicated camera button on the bottom right. The power button isn’t indented anymore, which is a nice change, but the volume rocker is a tad too high to comfortably reach. At the bottom edge is a USB Type-C charging port. Flip the phone over to the back and you’ll see perfect symmetry. There’s a nice flow of small circles — the flash and other sensors — leading up to the single rear camera. But it’s the fingerprint sensor that’s so satisfying to see. 

We think the refreshed design is a step in the right direction for Sony. The XZ2 looks sleek and modern, and it helps that there’s also a plethora of colours to choose from — we’re partial to the blue (which Sony says is “deep green”), but you can also choose between silver, black, and pink. Unfortunately, only black is available in South Africa. 

HDR display, strong specs

The 5.7-inch screen utilizes an 18:9 aspect ratio, with a 2,160 x 1,080-pixel resolution. It looks sharp, colourful, and faultless, though we’ll need a closer look to pass a final verdict. It does support High Dynamic Range (HDR), so you can enjoy higher colour profiles with HDR-supported content from apps like Netflix.

At the same time, Sony is also using its own X-Reality technology that can upscale traditional SDR media into HDR. An example we saw at one of Sony’s sessions at it’s headquarters was of an SDR photo being upscaled into HDR more or less looked as though the screen boosted saturation, but there was also a little more contrast, and it certainly was the more eye-catching scene to watch.

All of this is being powered by Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 processor, which is reportedly 30 percent faster than last year’s Snapdragon 835 chipset, as well as 30 percent more efficient. The XZ2 comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, as well as a MicroSD card slot in case you need more storage. It flew through menus and apps opened quickly;  the device has to date been a powerhouse.

The phone runs Android 8.0 Oreo, and while we’re happy it’s coming with the latest version of Android, there are some parts of Sony’s user interface that are not too attractive, and there’s a decent amount of Sony apps that come pre-installed. It’s not a deal-breaker at all; we’re just nitpicking.

The Xperia XZ2 comes packed with a 3,180mAh battery, and since there’s glass on the back of the phone, it’s capable of wirelessly charging through the Qi standard. It’s also IP68-water resistant, meaning it can survive in up to 1.5 meters underwater for 30 minutes.

You undoubtedly won’t have a problem with performance on this device, We’re happy with the full day batter life we’re getting from our review XZ and the display on the XZ2 as well, and we’re excited to continue testing Oreo on it.

Look, Hear, and Feel

Sony’s mantra for the XZ2 focuses on three aspects of this entertainment device: Look, Hear, and Feel. Look is comprised of the HDR upscaling technology and the HDR-supported screen we’ve talked about. Next up is “hear,” which places an emphasis on high-fidelity audio.

The dual front-facing stereo speakers are 20 percent louder than the XZ2’s predecessor, and it leverages Sony’s S-Force Front Surround to envelope the listener with 360-degree surround sound. It certainly has gotten loud, but it was tough to judge audio quality during our time with the phone. Luckily, during our visit to Sony HQ, a visit to Sony Music reaffirmed our uncertainty over the sound quality. See the below video of where sound is played off the Sony XZ premium.

Along with the speakers, the XZ2 supports a wide variety of high-resolution audio codecs and technologies, including the company’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, LDAC, as well as Qualcomm’s AptX HD.

The final “feel” category revolves around a new Sony technology called the Dynamic Vibration System, and it’s a little odd. Essentially, the XZ2 has a bigger actuator that provides stronger vibrations. The device uses an algorithm to offer more haptic feedback based on the audio output. So if you’re watching a movie, you may feel more vibrations when there’s a dramatic event taking place. For games, the phone will feel more responsive when the sound effects or music ramp up. You’ll want to turn it off when listening to music, though, since the phone just seems to constantly vibrate (yes, you can turn it off).

Learn more on our haptic experience at Sony here

Camera

There’s no dual-camera system on the XZ2, sadly. Instead, you’ll find a 19-megapixel camera, and a new feature called 4K HDR video recording, which Sony says is a world first.

More interestingly, Sony’s signature Super Slow Mo technology has improved. It has always been able to capture 960 frames per second in 720p, but it can now do the same in 1080p as well. It’s a leg up over Samsung’s super-slow-motion on the Galaxy S9. The slow-motion videos are shorter, though, as it can only capture half the speed of 720p. That means you’ll get only 0.09 seconds of slow-motion video, which will net you 3 seconds of playback.

We did take a few stills with the camera app, and we found the phone snapped photos relatively quickly. It did a solid job with some indoor shots, but it did seem to suffer with an extremely bright sky and a dark foreground — something our Galaxy S9 managed easily at the same time.

 

The 3D Creator app, which lets you create a 3D model of objects and faces, first debuted on the XZ1. On the XZ2, it now works with the front-facing camera, so you can create a 3D scan of yourself by yourself. You can also now share it directly to Facebook. It’s kind of neat, and creating a selfie 3D scan myself produced decent results, but we still see this feature as gimmicky for the average consumer. Still, there are some genuine uses here, especially since these scans can be sent to 3D printers, or placed as avatars in certain games.

Availability and price

All in all, the XZ2 is a good device that offer something a little different. There are a few aspects we’re not sold on yet, such as the Dynamic Vibration System, as well as the camera experience compared to phones like the P20 and Galaxy S9. But we love the 1080p Super Slow Motion camera, and you can’t deny that it delivers a great viewing and listening experience thanks to support for all these technologies. The XZ2’s strengths definitely make it a device worth buying. The XZ2 is available locally for R13,499.

Papi Mabele
Tech enthusiast at heart. Lover of all things digital. Papi is the founder of SA Vibe and has been sharing his love for gadgetry since 2010. Papi sees no need for wearable tech in his busy schedule and considers the Xbox One as non existant. He may come across as bias at times, and still holds a grudge at BlackBerry for creating the 8520.
http://www.savibeza.co.za
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