Sony Xperia XZ2 review (early verdict): the sleeper hit of 2018?

Sony's flagship gets a radical (and much needed) redesign, as well as 4K, HDR video capture capability

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T3 Verdict

Sony has removed the design shackles it had laden itself with over recent years to produce a phone in the Sony Xperia XZ2 that now looks better than it ever has, comes equipped with some standout hardware and features (it's the first phone on the market to deliver 4K, HDR recording), and is technically more than capable enough to take on the other Android flagships. Those bezels are still there, though, despite being reduced, and we're still not sure how much star power the Xperia XZ2 has.

Reasons to buy

  • +

    Bold, refreshing new design

  • +

    Awesome 4K, HDR video capture

  • +

    Powerhouse hardware spec

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    Bezels are still pronounced

  • -

    Fingerprint magnet

Sony Xperia XZ2 specs

Dimensions: 153 x 72 x 11.1 mm

Weight: 198g

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845


Storage: 64GB

Display: 5.7", 18:9 Full HD+ (1080 x 2160) HDR

Rear camera:  19MP (F2.0)

Front camera: 5MP (F2.2)

Battery: 3,180 mAh

OS: Android 8.0 Oreo

So the Sony Xperia XZ2 is here, fully unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2018, and after going hands-on with the device we can confirm that it is more than a match for the other Android flagships.

The phone delivers a superb all-round hardware package, with the powerful Snapdragon 845 processor partnered with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, and a vibrant 5.7-inch, 18:9, HDR Full HD+ display.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 also delivers a super-impressive world-first for a smartphone in the ability to record 4K, HDR video.

All of these development are, though, of significantly less importance than the phone's design, and specifically whether Sony could finally ditch the massive bezels that have haunted its devices over recent years (especially in light of the bezel-less Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus beauties).

To find out whether or not Sony has finally caught up with the market in terms of looks and feel read on.

Before we get to the all-important details in our hands-on review, though, check out the Sony Xperia XZ2's hype-tastic launch trailer:

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: price, release date and colours

Sony Xperia XZ2 review

The Sony Xperia XZ2 will be available worldwide in March 2018. The phone will come in four different colour schemes, including Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Deep Green, and Ash Pink.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 will retail for £699 SIM-free in the UK. The phone will be available directly from Sony, as well as select retail partners (in the UK Carphone Warehouse has already confirmed it will be stocking the phone).

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: design and screen

Saints be praised! Sony has finally delivered the bold design overhaul its Xperia range so badly needed, with its new Ambient Flow design language delivering a device that is curvier and more fluid than ever before.

Yes, gone is the blocky, chunky aesthetic and in is the Sony Xperia XZ2, a phone with few sharp edges and a look that is not too dissimilar from the attractive HTC U11+. The phone feels smooth and comfortable in the hand, even though its front and back Gorilla Glass build is a monstrous fingerprint magnet, and slips into and out of a pocket very easily.

We have spent years complaining about the massive bezels on Sony phones and, thankfully, while still in residence with the Xperia XZ2, they are far reduced from last year's offerings. Their presence does leave the XZ2 looking not quite so futuristic as Samsung or HTC's latest offerings, but overall the phone definitely has an attractive new look.

Interestingly, the Xperia XZ2 is not equipped with the 4K display we saw on the Xperia XZ Premium, with Sony plumping instead for just a Full HD+ (1080 x 2160) display. We honestly aren't particularly bothered by this downgrade as we said at the time we thought the Premium's 4K screen was overkill. Plus, the Xperia XZ2's screen is HDR, and benefits from Sony's X-Reality Dynamic Contrast Enhancer, meaning images and video look very vibrant.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: hardware and features

Sony Xperia XZ2 review

Sony normally knocks it out of the park with internal hardware spec, and with the Xperia XZ2 the story is the same, with the phone rocking a great all round hardware package that includes the rapid Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage space, and a 3,180mAh battery that supports wireless fast charging capabilities.

Compare this spec to the other Android flagships and it compares favorably – for example, it shares the same RAM, processor (in the US) and storage spec as Samsung's new Galaxy S9, while also out-doing it slightly in terms of battery life. Simply put, we have absolutely no issue with the XZ2's power as a flagship device.

Notable new hardware features include a powerful new Dynamic Vibration System, which is no doubt influenced by Apple's haptic engine. This system allows detailed vibration feedback in music, games and movies, with the phone vibrating in varying degrees of strength (for example, if you are firing a gun in a shooting game, the phone will vibrate with each shot or volley).

The XZ2 has a fingerprint sensor, too, although it is located right next to the camera system and we didn't find it quite as comfortable to use as the offerings we've tested from HTC and Samsung. We're not sure you'll end up frequently smudging the XZ2's camera lens as well, as the two are positioned a decent distance from each other (this was a common complaint on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, which located the two far too close together).

And, talking of the Sony Xperia XZ2's camera system...

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: camera

Sony Xperia XZ2 review

As you would expect from Sony, the Xperia XZ2 has a very strong camera offering. There's a 19MP single-sensor camera on the rear that can shoot in 4K HDR, too. We feel this is a major step forward for smartphones, as it was only recently that such capabilities were the preserve of expensive dedicated camera equipment, so the fact that you can now carry that capability around in your pocket is fantastic.

Also, almost as a reminder to the industry about who actually brought 960fps slow-motion recording capabilities to market first (hint: it was Sony last year), Sony has trumped the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus' offerings by allowing 960fps recording at not just 720p, but a Full HD 1080p. This is a fantastic achievement, even if you are limited to only three seconds of super slow-mo recording time per video. Naturally, you can also shoot 120fps standard slow-motion videos as well.

And speaking of Sony taking on Samsung's S9 range, it's also brought in its own version of AR Emoji in the form of 3D Creator, a tool that works with either the main camera or front-facing camera to create a 3D avatar of you or a friend for use in messages or on social networks.

Sony has also but some extra effort into improving the XZ2's low-light performance, with a memory packed Exmor RS image sensor and wide ISO range to play with. There's also faster image processing on the Xperia XZ2 thanks to an upgraded BIONZ image processor.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: battery life, audio and OS

Sony Xperia XZ2 review

The Sony Xperia XZ2 comes equipped with some seriously good audio credentials, too. Hi-Resolution Audio is delivered, along with DSEE HX technology that upscales files, and there's also a pair of stereo speakers that have been specifically tuned to reduce distortion at higher volumes.

Pleasingly, the Sony Xperia XZ2 comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box.

The Xperia XZ2 comes equipped with a 3,180mAh battery. We didn't get the chance to test this battery out in our hands-on session, so we will withhold judgement. However, it looks like it will deliver solid enough performance in the day to day and half usage range.

Sony Xperia XZ2 review: early verdict

We're not sure whether the Xperia XZ2 is going to be underrated this year, or a run-away sleeper hit for Sony. The phone seemingly delivers on every hardware front and even comes packing some world-first exclusive features to help separate it from the crowd. Its screen, too, despite taking a step down from the XZ Premium's 4K offering, is incredibly vibrant and pleasurable to look at.

Sony has also made a big push to redesign the look of the Xperia phone, with a new curved, sleeker design that feels far more at home among its competitors offerings. Yes, Sony hasn't been able to fully let go of those bezels yet, but they are much smaller and the overall look and feel of the phone is very nice indeed.

The phone, priced SIM-free in the UK at  £699, is also less than Samsung's S9 and very competitive considering the great specs, so that is also a boon for Sony.

However, despite all this great work, we're still unsure how much star power the Sony Xperia XZ2 delivers. Will the excellent internal hardware and redesign be enough to win people over? We just don't know right now.

Regardless, though, from our hands-on time with the Sony Xperia XZ2 we have come away with a very favorable opinion of the phone and can't wait to play with it more in our full review, so be sure to check back on T3 in the coming weeks for our definitive verdict.