The Sony XPERIA XZ2 marks a shift with a fresh new curved design from Sony. Launched in Barcelona during MWC 2018, this phone is now available in the U.S, and it has a few tricks up its sleeves. It has strong video-recording capabilities, including 960 FPS slow-motion in 1080p and it is the first phone in the world to record in 4K HDR. The front speakers have been included to provide a powerful sound during multimedia activities, and the new Dynamic Vibration system should give an extra dimension to the experience.
Specifications highlights and product positioning
Sony Xperia XZ2 quick specs
- 5.7” IPS LCD Display (2160×1080)
- 19 Camera, f/2 aperture
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 platform 4 RAM, 64 GB of Storage + MicroSD (400 GB max)
- 3180 mAh battery capacity
- Android 8.0
The Sony Xperia XZ2 was released on 2018-02-01 and was initially geared towards the High-end market. At publishing time, the Xperia XZ2 was priced at $710 USD. Even if this product was created to address the High-end market, keep in mind that many products will change positioning as their price evolves over time.
With cost as a primary criteria, we have found a selection of suitable competitors which we will use to assess how the Sony Xperia XZ2 fits in its immediate smartphone landscape: Samsung Galaxy S9 (most frequently cited competitor by prospect buyers ~715 USD), LG G7 ThinQ (~750 USD), Huawei P20 Pro (~840 USD), Google Pixel 2 XL (~820 USD)
Sony’s new industrial design part ways with the previous boxy design (See XPERIA XZ Premium) for a soft, curved-back one. I did like the previous design a lot. It looked clean and gave Sony phones a very distinctive style that was highly recognizable. A bezel-less version of that design could have been a hit as well, perhaps. The new design is objectively much more rigid and seems sturdier.
But it possible that Sony did market studies and realized that people prefer curvy phones more. What we do know is that dual-glass (front/back) phones tend to be more successful. As such the Sony XPERIA XZ2 is sandwiched between two layers of Gorilla Glass, a highly scratch-resistant (to scratches) tempered glass.
All the buttons are on the right side, with an extra camera button: XPERIA phones are often camera-oriented devices. In the back, the U.S version finally gets a fingerprint sensor (for legal reasons, Sony couldn’t use that tech in America).
The fingerprint reader is placed closer to the middle of the phone’s body, which could be disorientating for some users. However, I found it to be not THAT hard to adapt since you know where to aim: dead in the center. In any case, that’s still better than the odd placement of the Galaxy S8 fingerprint sensor.
“THE NEW DESIGN IS OBJECTIVELY MUCH MORE RIGID AND SEEMS STURDIER”
This smartphone feels very comfortable in hand because it has a width of 72mm for a thickness of approximately 0.44 inches. For reference, this is based on a medium size hand (US M gloves). You can try extrapolating based on this. The weight of 198 grams (6.98 oz) makes it a pretty heavy smartphone, which is 9% to 18% heavier than competitors mentioned above.
The weight comes from the hefty design of the phone. It is by far the biggest and heaviest phone of our line up. It is 29% heavier than the Galaxy S9 and 21% heavier than the Pixel 2 XL, which is not a small phone itself.
Despite its size, there is no 3.5mm audio connector – a controversial move. That is because Sony considers that the lack of it is an integral part of the design language for this year’s XPERIA XZ2.
Also, Sony cites a trend showing that wireless headphones are the future, potentially Hi-Res Audio headphones. We’ll leave you to decide if this that’s a problem for your specific use case, but at least there is a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box.
Glass is a smoother and shinier material that gives out a “premium aura” that metal phones sometimes don’t have. That is true for both a visual and tactile standpoint. Money aside, the price to pay for such design is the risk of damage that can occur if the device is dropped on a hard surface. Regardless, people still prefer these materials because they are so lovely. Handsets can merely be protected by a case.
This handset design packs excellent performance in relation to its size. From another viewpoint, the amount of battery capacity the user has available is good for a handset of this size. The screen display-to-body ratio of 76.1% is also quite good overall, but others have a ratio that is almost in the mid-80%.
Analyzing how the smartphone was built, we estimate that the risk of breaking during a drop on a hard surface to be probable. You can refer to our detailed article about how phones could be constructed to avoid breakage upon drops: : How the LG V20 Was Designed To Survive Drops. By the way, the curvy nature of the phone and its extremely smooth surface make it prone to slide slowly if there’s the smallest slope. Be careful if you put it near the edge of a coffee table.
This new XPERIA phone seems noticeably more rigid than the last generation, which bodes well for its general durability and resilience. The Xperia XZ2 smartphone has an IP68 IP rating, which means that it is protected to some degree from dust and/or water. Here’s what the IP68 rating means:
- Dust tight, no dust can penetrate.
- Up to 3-meter immersion waterproofing.
- In some cases, waterproofing means that “some” water can penetrate, but without harming the device
The Xperia XZ2 has not received a U.S Military MIL-STD 810G certification. You can check the link on the left to see all the details, but MIL-STD 810G is a series of test used to check that devices can survive some shocks and vibrations.
Dual front speaker
The XPERIA XZ2 has a powerful two-speaker system in the front, which is powerful enough to replace a basic small external BT speaker, and is great for conference calls, or just watching a movie on a desk. Powerful, it is, but we have even more powerful phones that are noticeably better at this: the LG G7 ThinQ, the S9+, and the HTC U12+.
XPERIA XZ2 Display Quality
The XPERIA XZ2 display and color settings are excellent. Out of the box, we set it at a brightness of ~500 NITs and compared it with the best: the Galaxy S9+ display. The color balance and white levels were very agreeable.
Sony uses proprietary technology to tune the colors, and it shows. The image appears to be brighter on the Sony and that gives an impression of increased sharpness. This does not speak to the actual performance of the screen but is more of an artistic touch that adds value.
The XPERIA XZ2 LCD screen is slightly better than the HTC12+ one by a hair, but both are excellent within their LCD category. For black levels, the OLED screen of the S9+ easily wins, so would most OLED displays.
Display technical analysis
The Xperia XZ2 display uses an IPS LCD panel. IPS/PLS LCD technology made LCD displays reach the next level, first on mobile, then everywhere else. IPS/PLS can render more colors than normal LCD, with higher color saturation and wider view angles.
The display brightness of is 719 NITs is impressive. In general, higher brightness is useful to watch the screen content on a sunny day (or bright environment). Higher brightness is responsible for better image quality in very common situations.
The resolution of 1920×1080 would be considered to be high in absolute terms, but compared to the competition it would be below-average. In this price range, OEMs generally go for higher resolutions, and higher pixel density (424 PPI here, versus 563 PPI for the LG G7 ThinQ). The XPERIA XZ2 has gone from 16:9 to a wider 18:9 aspect ratio to follow the general trend, but competitors are still a bit ahead with smaller bezels and even dual front speakers sometimes.
Sony doesn’t communicate about how color-accurate its panel is, but we do know that it has been rated fit for HDR thanks to its 10-bit per pixel panel and a BT.2020 recommendation. It is compatible with Sony’s own Hybrid Gamma Log (HGL) HDR standard that we covered in the past while in Japan. It may not have the brightness screen or the darkest blacks, but the Sony XPERIA XZ2 delivers very good color reproduction and can take advantage of recent HDR content.
Within the range of IPS LCD displays there are still some differences, but in general IPS/PLS are much superior to basic LCD displays. However, LCD an IPS/PLS LCD displays as a whole are not as technologically edgy as OLED panels which have even better contrast ratio and color saturation.
While it is feasible to build excellent LCD displays that perform at a near-equal level to some OLED, these LCD screens should be seen as the exceptions, and they may not have any of the normal benefits associated with LCD (vs. OLED). You can read our complete LCD vs. OLED article to learn more. In the real world, the most visible difference with OLED is the black level, which is about how deep black color can be. OLED gets perfect black, LCD does not.
XPERIA XZ2 Camera
Sony has so far resisted jumping into the multi-camera setup in the rear. It is not a terrible thing, especially if you are not very attracted by effects such as Bokeh or zooming capabilities. If you do, oh well, many other phones do have Bokeh options. For regular photography, which is the overwhelming
majority of shots, most people won’t be able to tell. However, that pulls Sony’s handset back from the leading edge of phone photography.
Photo Quality and Experience
Overall, we found the Sony XPERIA XZ2 camera to be really good at handling and rendering colors, whether it is in bright light, low light, photo or video. Colors come out agreable, and remarkably vivid (but not too much) and the general color quality this is really Sony’s distinctive feature, probably thanks to its proprietary software.
For the outdoor test, we took a few phones, including the Galaxy S9+, the Huawei P20 Pro, the OnePlus 6 and a few more, but unless there are special details, we mostly use the S9+ as a reference because many people can relate to it. In a normal usage, The XPERIA XZ2 is an excellent challenger to the Galaxy S9 as both cameras can produce similar photo outcomes, but in the review we will push things to highlight differences.
“THE XPERIA XZ2 IS AN EXCELLENT CHALLENGER TO THE GALAXY S9”
Daylight pictures are generally excellent, and the general color balance and quality of the XPERIA XZ2 are nearly identical to the Galaxy S9+. Note that most high-end phones tend to fare really well because these are the mildest test conditions where you expect things to go well.
You have to take a closer look at the image to start seeing small differences: The Sony camera ends up having a little more details, thanks to the higher megapixel count which can show in bright scenes. However, the S9+ has better/stronger noise reduction and has what some people might think is a cleaner image.
For some reason, the S9+ also has sharper details away from the focus point (generally, I focus at the center of the image). I’m not sure how that is, but you can see if you look for it.
In another shot, we can find similarities. Again, both images are very similar (minus slight exposure settings in favor of Sony), but upon closer inspection, the Sony photo is a bit noisier than the Samsung shot. In this photo, I can show you precisely how Samsung increases the sharpness around the electrical wires as the filter creates a “halo” of light blue which does not exist otherwise (look at the blue halo around the cables).
In a 2X Zoom shot, the Galaxy S9+ has a visible advantage, because of its dedicated telephoto lens. There isn’t much that Sony can do, although the 19 Megapixel sensor helps with detail in broad daylight. When it comes to zoom, optical zoom always wins.
In a high-contrast situation which requires HDR, both phones are close, with a slight advantage for the Galaxy S9+ for exposure (garage doors, and green ) and details in the tree leaves. The Sony shot is cleaner around the upper-left corner where the S9+ camera seems to struggle a bit with clarity, possibly due the having a hard-time stitching a multi-frame shot because the leaves moved.
In a challenging low-lighting environment, the XPERIA XZ2 performs very well, with excellent colors on par or slightly more vivid than the Galaxy S9+. That said, the S9+ comes out sharper and less noisy if you zoom in a little. It makes complete sense when looking at the camera settings for this shot above. Technically, the XZ2 had every reason to be slightly blurrier (more extended exposure) and more noise (Higher ISO)
- S9+: f/1.5, 1/10 sec exposure and ISO-800
- XZ2: f/2.0, 1/08 sec exposure time and ISO-1600
In the cityscape shot, one of the hardest for any camera, we find a lot of the same things, except that Sony’s rendition of the city’s color is much more vivid and agreeable. While the S9+ gets better details and HDR composition in the foreground (see the tree to the left), the overall photo is better on the XPERIA XZ2 which gets slightly sharpness, contrast, and colors on the cityline itself, which is the main subject.
Note that with a strict 500px Crop, the XPERIA XZ2 crop will appear more “zoomed-in” because it has a higher resolution. You effectively get a little more details.
Video quality: excellent 4K HDR recording
In 1080p/60, the video performance of the Sony XPERIA XZ2 is excellent as it seems to use rotational stabilization in addition to 2D image shifting. We used a dual-phone rig to record video simultaneously on the XPERIA XZ2 and an S9+. In our test clips, we prefered the way the XZ2 stabilization looked as we were walking. I was surprised to notice that the S9+ 1080p60 video looked sensibly sharper, and I’m not sure why that would be. It could be a filter, but things didn’t seem unnatural.
It is in 4K HDR that the XPERIA XZ2 would shine. When casually recording, the difference isn’t immediately noticeable, until you get into some extreme contrast situation, such as having the sun (or some really bright light source) shining towards the camera. A non-HDR video will yield extreme black areas, because the camera adapts itself to the blinding intensity of the sun.
But in an HDR video, the camera can handle the sudden brightness and still keep some details. That feels and look much more natural. This time around, I walked below a tree and looked up to the sun, but situations like sunsets, or having vehicles light beaming at you could be scenes where HDR shines.
Note that the XZ2 always record 4K in HDR mode, and that limits it to 30FPS because of the intense computations involved. Other phones might reach 4K 60 FPS because they do not record in HDR.
Camera hardware analysis
In the Xperia XZ2, the rear camera aperture of f/2.0 is “okay,” but the the sensor size of 32.8 mm2 would be considered extremely large (for a smartphone). One can compensate for the other, but ultimately, it would be great if both would be excellent.
The 19 Megapixel count should not always be used as a default indicator of photo quality. On a sunny day or in very bright light situations, Megapixel could be a useful metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a landscape photo with a higher megapixel count could show finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP differences in small details can be quite noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and/or high-PPI display.
However, in dark scenes situations, the high Megapixel count does not sway the outcome. Keep in mind that the physical size of each sensor pixel is important. With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller. Each obtains less light information, and in dark scenes, it is sometimes better for the overall image quality to sense more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite. It is a balance that needs to be found.
The Xperia XZ2‘s camera does NOT have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on the primary camera module. The lack of OIS support will lower the chances to snap great photos, especially in dim situations OIS helps to improve image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting minute hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it practical to leave the shutter open longer to gather more light (more prolonged exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are utterly different, with digital stabilization suitable to improve video recording smoothness.
However, Sony has a decent Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) for video recording purposes. This will reduce the jerky motions when you walk and film at the same time. That said, Sony points out that its 5-axis image stabilisation is only supported on up to Full HD resolution 30 FPS (1920×1080/30p). Sony calls its EIS SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization)
“SONY INVENTED MOBILE 960 FPS SUPER SLOW MO AND STAYS AHEAD”
Perhaps the most impressive technical feat of the Sony XPERIA XZ2 is its 960FPS super slow-motion, captured in full 1080p. Sony invented mobile 960 FPS super slow mo and stays ahead. The other major phone to do this is the Samsung Galaxy S9, but it does it so at “only” 720p. That said, I still think that the S9’s visual trigger-mechanism based on subject motion is better, and I hope that Sony will add something like this at some point. Sony has all the necessary technology to do it.
The autofocus of the Xperia XZ2 camera is based on Dual Pixel Phase Detection technology. Dual-Pixel AF (DPAF) sensing is an awesome type of Phase Detection hardware. It has all the Phase-Detect advantages in terms of performance and efficiency but has better autofocus pixel coverage.
DPAF is made possible by splitting sensing pixel (sensels) into two small sub-pixels. By comparing what they “see” from a slightly different point of view, it is possible to know if the image at that pixel is focused (in-phase) or not (out of phase). You can read our detailed Dual-Pixel AF article if you want to know more. Dual-Pixel AF is currently the best and fastest way to perform autofocus on mobile. It was originally integrated on specific high-end DSLR cameras.
The Sony XPERIA XZ2 Camera performs quite well in broad daylight, but can quickly come under pressure in-low light because its optics and sensor aren’t that powerful. At night, this front camera will try to increase the ISO to compensate for the small amount of light coming in, but that will, in turn, create more noise.
In our opinion, the highlight of the selfie camera is its EIS video stabilization software which makes videos potentially smoother than competitors that do not have that option. The main difference with the Galaxy S9 is that the Sony camera uses the whole scene for metering, while the Galaxy S9 tends to prioritize the center of the screen (your face). Sony’s choice might be better if you want to show the surroundings behind you. The S9 method might be better if the face is the main subject.
You should also know about Sony’s cool 3D face capture option on the XPERIA XZ2. In minutes, you can capture a very realistic 3D version of your head and share it online. The result is quite stunning and probably the best we’ve seen on a phone yet. In fact, it looks even better than a similar one I did years ago on a colossal capture rig at 2K games.
Camera hardware analysis
The 5 Megapixel selfie camera is equipped with a tiny ~6.5 sqmm sensor. Add to this an aperture of f/2.2, and it is not surprising that it will get in trouble as the lighting conditions deteriorate. For daylight photos, it is certainly good enough, but could be challenged by similarly priced phones with higher megapixel (and sensor size) selfie camera modules.
XPERIA XZ2 Battery
The battery capacity of Xperia XZ2 is 3180 mAh, which is very good in general, including in the high-end phones category.
Battery life is one of the most essential features of a smartphone. A key factor is, of course, its battery capacity — especially within the same ecosystem (Android, iOS or other). Battery life can be affected by a bunch of factors, but the main ones are the central processor aka SoC, display and wireless radios (LTE broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more). It is impossible to precisely estimate through synthetic tests how much energy drain YOUR unique lifestyle will generate. However, two things are without a doubt always good:
- A greater battery capacity
- High-speed charging
It is generally not possible to predict realistic battery life by running synthetic benchmarks. Things such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will vary too much. Also, how many apps installed and their activity is unpredictable. Battery capacity is the best battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.
This product does NOT have a removable battery, which is typical for smartphones nowadays. Closed batteries cannot be taken out or easily exchanged, but they do allow for smaller designs and slightly bigger battery size within the same product design. The Sony XPERIA XZ2 has an integrated wireless charging capability.
This handset has a relatively standard screen resolution. Although this may be a downside from a display quality perspective, having fewer pixels to compute is a good thing for battery life.
With the charger included in the box, the phone charges at a speed of 29 mAh/mn, which is noticeably slower than a typical 50mAh/mn (+85%) for other phones in the same category. That’s because the default charger does not seem to be able to take advantage the fastest charge modes. With a standalone Quick Charge charger, the speed could go up to ~45mAh/mn, like other phones in the same price range.
To improve the battery life cycle (how many years before it no longer hold enough charge), Sony uses the Qnovo technology on this handset. By continually monitoring the chemical state of the battery, this technology is said to be able to charge it , without stressing the battery as much as classic methods. This technology can also work hand in hand with fast-charging techniques.
XPERIA XZ2 Speed
This handset main processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (8 Cores, 2.7 GHz) which has access to 4 GB of memory (RAM). This is most powerful processor available to Android phones, and you can follow the link to read all the details about it.
The amount of RAM is important for multi-tasking, or for having many apps/services on the phone. When the memory is tight, the phone may become sluggish if the OS has to read/write from the slower Flash storage instead. This has been one of the significant differences between low and high tiers of phones, but this line is blurry now.
Before you focus on the charts, it is critical to realize that most tests are only loose indicators, usually for system or graphics performance. It is possible to see sharp performance gaps between different classes of handsets (entry-level, mid-range vs. high-end), but it is much more difficult to do so within handsets of the same class. Benchmarks alone should NOT lead to a smartphone purchase decision. To learn more, read our Are Benchmarks Important? article.
Gaming performance numbers (GFXBench) apply mainly to heavy applications using 3D graphics. Casual apps like puzzles and 2D games do not require this kind of power and can run pretty much on any modern handset.
As you can see, the Sony XPERIA XZ2 performs exactly as one would expect from a Snapdragon 845 smartphone. At times, it shines with extremely high bandwidth, or slightly more advanced synthetic CPU performance. However, more system-wide benchmarks show that it is at a comparable level with other handsets running on the same system.
Wireless Broadband Performance
Wireless networks (3G/4G) performance is often thought as peak download/upload speeds, but it is the average speed that counts. These days 4G/LTE is the primary network of interest, but 5G is coming. The higher the theoretical LTE performance and the better the average actual experience. Also, wireless carriers have better and more efficient wireless networks to optimize their own costs.
The Xperia XZ2 has a CAT18 modem. This level of performance is at the leading edge of what LTE communications can do today. Note that not all Snapdragon 845 handset implement the highest LTE Category, so this could be an advantage since newer LTE standards tend to fare better in areas where networks are spotty.
The 64GB of internal storage is sufficient for most users. If you need more memory, you can add a microSD card (400GB max. today) to store photos and films. If you plan to record movies, please make sure to get the fastest microSD type possible.
Sony is also one of the rare OEM to connect its phone over USB 3.1 Gen1 (5 Gbps), which is much faster than the USB 2.0 or even 3.0 used by many other handsets. This is particularly useful if you copy large files to and from your PC, like… 4K HDR movies.
The Sony XPERIA XZ2 is a good looking phone that is well-built. In fact, Sony has gone out of its comfort zone to create its best phone in recent years (there is a more massive XZ2 Premium as well). The XPERIA XZ2 captures the spirit XZ series because it is a multimedia powerhouse which pushes certain boundaries farther than any other phones.
“A MULTIMEDIA POWERHOUSE”
It is the first phone to enable 4K HDR recording to capture great video in extreme contrast situations and offers a very good image and audio experience as well. It also makes it possible to capture in extreme 1080p 960FPS slow-motion. The Sony camera uses less post-processing and offers a more “natural” look to photography than many other high-end phones.
The competitive landscape is not easy to navigate for the XPERIA XZ2. It is true that there are other phones that are just as fast, but smaller or with a more advanced industrial design process. Maybe, others have more battery capacity or higher-resolution displays. The XZ2 may not be a “no-brainer” buy, but it is hard to find a high-end phone which is such a thing today. At least, it has a few clear differentiators that may just be what you are looking for.
Overall product rating: 9/10
F2 Aperture F-Stop
Snapdragon 845 + MicroSD