Sony Xperia Z2 review

The Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone has an improved camera and 4K video

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An update to the brand's flagship to compete with the HTC M8, does Sony's latest offer enough? Find out in our Sony Xperia Z2 review

The Sony Xperia Z2 is an interesting proposition, firstly it's the sequel to the Sony Xperia Z1, which was first launched less than a year ago which begs the question, is it worth the update? Secondly, it arrives amidst a wave of next-gen flagship smartphones like the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5. Can the Z2 hold its own against such lofty rivals?

Sony Xperia Z2: Size and build

We're going to get this out of the way first - the Z2 feels big, which is odd, because on paper it's actually a leaner machine than the original Z1.

The square body is still present and that's fine by us - Sony has nailed that design language although it does come with a few unique problems.

The Z2 doesn't feel natural to hold with one hand – this is despite it being thinner than the HTC One M8 at 8.2mm.

A lot of this is down to the square design which feels inherently more suited to two-handed use forcing us to use the Z2 in this way for most of the time we spent with it.

WATCH: Sony Xperia Z2 unboxing and first impressions video

The build quality is Sony's standard level of exemplary, the Z2 feels sturdy, well-built and completely reliable. We're still not entirely sure that covering a phone in glass is going to be the best in the long-term but it certainly looks good.

Sony Xperia Z2: Screen

The Z2 comes with a larger 5.2-inch Full-HD panel that boasts both the Triluminos technology along with Sony's X-Reality engine for mobile.

What that translates into is one of the best displays we've seen on a mobile device and it's one of the few areas where you can see a marked improvement over the Z1.

Colours are stunningly vivid while the X-Reality engine actively enhances and sharpens your images and movies which means watching video becomes a far more favourable proposition over getting your tablet out.

Sony Xperia Z2: Features

The Z2 comes with Android 4.4 as well as Sony's updated UI. This is both good and bad.

While Sony has finally got rid of the bars at the top and the bottom, the UI still feels really inefficient on mobile. As we mentioned in the Xperia Z2 tablet review, the improvements are definitely there but it's still missing polish.

A prime example is that while you can resize widgets you can't resize all of them, and those that you can will often require all of the screen despite only taking up half.

Sony has, once again, included its full suite of apps, some excellent (Walkman) and some less so.

We wouldn't mind the less useful apps if it wasn't for the fact that the Z2 only comes with 16GB of internal storage, which is actually more like 11GB when you remove Android and all the bloatware that Sony has included.

There's a microSD card slot that supports up to 64GB but honestly, we were hoping for a little more out of the box.

Sony Xperia Z2: Camera

The Z2 comes with a brilliant 20.7MP sensor on the back. It's quick to load, fast to focus and almost always takes fantastic images.

There's now also the ability to record video in 4K which sounds great on paper but it's difficult to see the benefit unless you happen to own a 4K display.

Secondly, you've only got 16GB of internal storage, 4K recordings are notorious in their uncanny ability to take up absolutely titanic amounts of storage. It's a nice piece of futureproofing but we don't think many people will be able to take full advantage of it just yet.

Sony Xperia Z2: Performance

As you'd expect from a new flagship smartphone, the Z2 comes with the latest processor, putting it head to head with its top-tier rivals.

There's a blistering 2.3GHz quad-core processor along with 3GB of RAM so you won't be suffering from any performance issues.

Sony Xperia Z2: Battery

Battery life is quite impressive, we managed to get a good day's usage out of the Z2 which included regular checking of emails, social media and watching the odd programme on iPlayer.

Stamina mode also makes a huge difference, although it turns off all non-essential functions when the phone is locked so you'll need to unlock it if you want to get all those WhatsApp messages through at once.

Sony Xperia Z2: Verdict

The Z2 is a clear improvement over the last model - the screen is visibly better, the processor is faster and the software feels like a clear improvement over the previous version. There's no denying that this is a great phone.

Where the Z2 stumbles is in comparing itself to the competition. Yes it packs some of the biggest specs but combined it doesn't really stand out – plus it's just a little too big, making it awkward to hold. This is largely down to the the enormous bezels located at the top and the bottom of the phone.

When you've got a handset that already packs a 5.2-inch display the last thing you should be doing is adding centimetres of real estate around it.

The Z2 may be Sony's most powerful phone yet but oddly, it's not its best. That award goes to the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z2 release date: 1 May 2014

Sony Xperia Z2 price: Approx. £550

Thomas Tamblyn

Thomas Tamblyn studied journalism at the University of Westminster, where he was a contributing presenter at the award-winning Smoke Radio station. He then moved to as a Staff Writer where he proceeded to write news, reviews and features on topics such as phones, electric vehicles, laptops, gaming, streaming services, headphones, tablets future tech and wearables.