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Sony Xperia XZ2 Review: The Best of Sony in the Palm of Your Hand

The Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact were launched at Mobile World Congress 2018 earlier this year. With an all-new design and top-end features, Sony’s new flagship devices mark a stark departure aesthetically and ergonomically from its trademark blocky “OmniBalance” form-factor.

Sony’s prominence in many areas of consumer electronics have been influential in the design of the phone. These include a Bravia-like display, Alpha and Cyber-shot-like camera performance, and a head-line Dynamic Vibration System designed to take your mobile gaming experience to PlayStation-like levels.

The Sony Xperia XZ2, in the box. Image: Ian Ling

About the same price as the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Huawei P90 in most markets (and actually more expensive in some), the Xperia XZ2 is more expensive than most of its counterparts like the LG V30 and the Google Pixel XL. At such a price point, it isn’t unreasonable to expect quite an arsenal of features. But with prominent bezels that Sony isn’t afraid to hide, a stark single rear camera, and a revolutionary design, the value proposition of the Sony Xperia XZ2 isn’t going to be that easy.

We at VR Zone managed to get our hands on the Sony Xperia XZ2 for a review, courtesy of Sony Singapore. With the debate brewing over this radical change in design, the question remains: does the Xperia XZ2 stand up to its competition in 2018?

Sony Xperia XZ2: Design, Ergonomics, Build Quality

Curvier and glossier than ever, the Xperia XZ2’s all-glass body fits better in your palm than many competitors. While the new smooth, rounded back felt sublime in the hand, the relocation of the fingerprint sensor is a slightly awkward change, and perhaps a little less utilitarian than we had expected of Sony.

The front of the device. Note the slots near the top and the bottom – in landscape orientation, they deliver impressive stereo sound. Image: Ian Ling

With the sensor on the right side of the frame of the device, previous iterations of the Xperia could be unlocked quickly and ambidextrously with the phone in the hand or on a flat surface. With the fingerprint reader moved to the middle of the back, Sony had lost this distinct advantage. Furthermore, its location is ever-so-slightly lower than normal, requiring a lower grip to easily unlock the phone. That meant that I ended up smudging my oily index finger all over the lens at first. Despite this, I’m certain we’re intelligent creatures capable of learning from our mistakes.

It was great to see that the Xperia XZ2 sports an IP65/68 certification against splashes and spills. It rained a couple of times during the review and I was pretty grateful for the peace of mind afforded. I took the phone out for a 14-kilometre run for a Plantronics review and this feature was pretty reassuring. Some areas of the phone were slightly edgy and uncomfortable but I’d attribute it to the prolonged time I exercised my death grip on the device.

The scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and rear surfaces turned out to be pretty essential since the phone tended to pivot about the axis on the middle of its back like a top – not unlike a really high-tech fidget spinner. This quirk played out awkwardly whenever I set the phone down on a surface that was not exactly level, with plenty of rocking, sliding and spinning. The device also tends to slide around when placed on any surface that is not level, tempting a screen-shattering fate. 

Sony Xperia: Camera

What would you expect from the photography department on a 2018 flagship mobile device? Dual cameras – perhaps even three? Bokeh effects? Variable aperture for use in varied lighting conditions? Deceptively simple on the outside, Sony had chosen to stick to a single shooter on the rear of the Xperia XZ2.

All three hardware buttons are located on the right-hand side of the device, near the top, middle and bottom of the edge. Image: Ian Ling

The 19-megapixel rear camera delivered crisp, vivid images that looked great even in low light. There was a tad of distortion – but keep your subjects near the middle and you’re fine.

The Xperia XZ2 also features a 960fps 1080p slow-motion video mode, though I found it slightly difficult to initiate effectively. At 1080p, the Xperia dominates the slow-mo market, though users are only able to get one second of slowed down footage as compared to the two seconds afforded by most of the competition, which remains at 720p.

4K video resurfaces on the Sony flagship device, and works pretty well. With electronic image stabilisation on board, videos enjoy gimbal-like stability regardless of resolution. There was quite a bit of rolling shutter so do remember to pan your videos slowly.

Another impressive feature was the physical shutter release button, which neatly fit under my index finger with the phone in landscape mode. It had a two-stage action, and I was able to focus and lock exposure with a half-press of the shutter button, before completely pressing it to actually capture the image. The pressure needed to mechanically actuate the shutter was sufficiently light – the ‘click’ from the volume control that you might use on other phones might actually be a major reasons images turn out blurry.

Ergonomically, Sony had also located the single camera module closer to the centre of the back of the phone – a move it claims to allow users to “frame and compose your shots just like a pro”. In practice I found it easier to keep my left hand out of the image with the camera placed about 3.5cm from the nearest edges.

Sony Xperia XZ2: Performance

With a Snapdragon 850 chipset and AMD Adreno graphics on board, the Xperia XZ2 boasts some of the best components that could be had on any cellphone this year. I enjoyed my PUBG Mobile debut, which turned out to be an extremely enjoyable experience. I had not experienced any lag or any graphics-related issues at all, and I had indeed topped the charts twice within my first ten games. Videos looked incredible with the Xperia XZ2’s HDR display, though it measures in FHD, not the QHD you would expect from a 2018 flagship. That was quite the bummer considering the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium had managed to squeeze in an actual 4K display into a mobile phone as early as end 2015.

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Battery life stood up to a full day’s use, though I felt much more comfortable lugging along the included charger for reassurance. Sony’s included STAMINA and Ultra STAMINA modes helped me stretch a 35% charge for 6 hours of intermittent usage, though I felt like I had actually used the phone less due to the resultant throttle in a performance that is best described as 2012-like.

Sony Xperia XZ2: Sound Quality

Sony’s long legacy in audio is not to be understated. With an extensive line of speakers, headphones and portable audio devices including its iconic Walkman system, Sony gives music-lovers and media consumers a fair showing in the Xperia XZ2.

The prominent good-heavens-it’s-2018 bezels on the forehead and chin are key in housing the powerful front-firing stereo speakers. Holding the phone at the optimal distance allowed me to identify the position of enemy footsteps and direction of hostile fire rather easily. Music sounded great with minimal distortion even with the volume cranked to the maximum.

While it lacks the 3.5mm port, Sony has implemented a proprietary Bluetooth codec on the Xperia XZ2, designed to make the most of Bluetooth 5.0 and surpass the current AptX HD standard. With compatible headphones from Sony, music lovers would be able to better appreciate audio with the convenience of their personal phone, and without wires, too! We did not have any compatible Sony headphones, but generic wireless options from Plantronics and JBL we had in the office performed pretty great.

Sony Xperia XZ2: Dynamic Vibration System

The iPhone X had the notch, the Huawei P20 a tri-camera set-up, Samsung Galaxy S9 had a variable-aperture camera for improved low-light performance. Sony’s Xperia XZ2, however, had a slightly bizarre headline feature – the Dynamic Vibration System.

Ported over from the company’s fabulous PlayStation Portable devices, the Dynamic Vibration Aims to provide an immersive gaming experience with its oversized haptic motor. Users are able to turn the system on and off, and set the system at several intensities: Mild, Normal and Powerful.

It was a slightly cool party trick to play bass-heavy tracks and hand over the phone for friends to feel the sensation (yes, it works on YouTube and Spotify!), but that isn’t the most practical use. I then tried to utilise it on PUBG, but I could not summon the slider no matter how many times I tried.

I would imagine a port-over of some PSP-only games onto the Google Play store with full support for haptic feedback to be a pretty welcome initiative on the part of Sony.

Sony Xperia XZ2: Other Features

‘Bloatware’ is subjective. Though Sony Xperia XZ2 included several bulky proprietary applications, it probably wouldn’t be too much of an issue given ability to expand your storage by up to 400GB with the microSD card tray.

The 3D Creator app was showcased at the media event, which allows users to create a 3D model of their head only using the front camera. However, with limited compatibility outside Sony’s platform, the usefulness of this feature is yet to be seen. It made for a pretty cool party trick as we created 3D avatars of our likeness.

not the most accurate, if I must say.

3D models of your likeness can be made into a 3D print via order, or you could print it yourself if you own your own 3D model.

Xperia Assist was also touted to be an intelligent way to solve issues with your phone’s settings, although it couldn’t help me for my only basic question I asked it: how to change my navigation buttons.

Turns out, you can’t change them on the Xperia XZ2. They remain fixed as Back – Home/Google assistant – Overview/Quick Switch, athough I’m a lot more used to having the Back button on the right for easy access as a rightie.

Sony Xperia XZ2: Specifications

Memory and Storage4GB RAM
64GB UFS internal memory
microSDXC support (up to 400GB)
SIM capabilityDual Nano Sim
Operating SystemAndroid O 8.0.0
Processer (CPU)Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
Qi Wireless Charging
Qnovo Adaptive Charging
DurabilityIP65/68 Water resistance
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
ColoursLiquid Black
Liquid Silver
Deep Green
Display5.7" 18:9 FHD+ 1080x2160 HDR Display
X-Reality for mobile
Dynamic Contrast Enhancer
Dynamic Vibration System
Main Camera19MP Motion Eye camera
1/2.3" Exmor RS stacked sensor
1.22μm Pixel Pitch
25mm f2.0 Sony G Lens
960fps Super Slow Motion Video (FHD/HD)
AF burst mode
x8 Digital Zoom
4K HDR Movie recording
ISO 12800 for stills
ISO 4000 videos
Predictive Hybrid Autofocus
Anti-distortion shutter
SteadyShot 5-axis stabilisation with Intelligent Active Mode
Front Camera5MP
1/5" Exmor R
23mm f22 wide angle
SteadyShot 5-axis stabilisation
ISO 1600 for stills
ISO 1000 for video
NetworkingGSM GPRS EDGE (2G)
LTE (4G) up to 1.2Gbps
ConnectivityWiFi Miracast
Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless
DLNA Certified
USB 3.1 Gen1 (5Gbps)
A-GPS, A-Glonass, Beidou, Galileo, QZSS
SoundHigh-Res Audio (LPCM, FLAC, ALAC, DSD compatibility)
Clear Audio+
Stereo speaker with S-Force
Front Surround
Qualcomm aptX HD audio
Automatic Headphone Optimisation
USB Type-C to 3.5mm Audio jack adapter included
EntertainmentPS4 Remote Play
Applications Included3D Creator
Movie Creator
AR Effect
Xperia Lounge
Compatible Accessories Wireless Charging Dock WCH20

Ian Ling
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

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