Sony eschews 2018 design trends, offering a compelling alternative flagship
The Sony Xperia XZ2 looks to be the company’s biggest improvement to date, finally changing out that aging design for something wholly different and unique, while offering chipset upgrades and new camera tricks, but also saying goodbye to some loved features, like the 3.5mm audio jack. It still comes in two sizes though, giving users a choice on size without having to sacrifice specs. At around $650, these look like some incredibly competitive smartphones, but are they better than the competition? Let’s take a look.
Specs and Box Contents
Sony sells both the Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Compact on Amazon and Best Buy in the US, and either unlocked through its website, or of course through many carriers worldwide. As of this writing, the Xperia XZ2 was selling for £699/$665/€639, while the Xperia XZ2 Compact retails for a lower at $649/€568/£529. Colors available include Coral Pink, Ash Pink, Deep Green, Moss Green, White Silver, and our review unit, Liquid Black. On the front of the Xperia XZ2 is a new, taller Triluminos IPS LCD HDR10 display with 18:9 aspect ratio and 1080 x 2160 resolution. The difference between the XZ2 and the XZ2 Compact is all in the size: 5.7-inches for the XZ2, and 5.0-inches for the XZ2 Compact. Each includes a different sized battery as well: 3,180mAh on the XZ2, and 2,870mAh on the XZ2 Compact. Both phones are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, Adreno 630 GPU, 4GB of LPDDR4x RAM, 64GB of UFS 2.1 grade internal storage with microSD card support for expandable storage, and ship with Android 8.0 Oreo. The larger Xperia XZ2 also ships in a 6GB RAM variant for $50 more at $699.
A pair of stereo speakers sits above and below the screen, while a 5-megapixel ⅕” camera sensor resides behind an f/2.2 86-degree angle lens above the display. Around back is a 19-megapixel Sony IMX400 1/2.3” sensor with 1.22µm pixels, OIS, gyro EIS, predictive phase detection autofocus and HDR10 recording capabilities, residing behind an f/2.0 81-degree angle lens. The phone supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0, but no wireless charging is available. NFC, Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band WiFi up to 802.11ac speeds are also supported, but the Cat15 LTE modem does not support VoLTE. Both phones are IP68 water and dust resistant, and while neither sports a 3.5mm audio jack, both have a USB Type-C port with USB 3.1 speeds.
The larger Xperia XZ2 measures in at 153mm tall, 72mm wide and 11.1mm at its thickest point, weighing in at a pretty hefty 198 grams. The Xperia XZ2 compact measures in at a much smaller 135mm tall, 65mm wide and 12.1mm at its thickest point, and drops the weight to 168 grams thanks to the plastic back (instead of glass). Inside the box you’ll find a Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 rated wall charger, USB type-A to USB Type-C cable, pair of USB Type-C earbuds, a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter, and the usual set of manuals and warranty pamphlets. There’s no pre-installed screen protector or included case, so you’ll likely need to consider the purchase of one alongside the phone.
Both phones feature the same display panel, despite the 0.7-inch size difference between the models, meaning you’ll be getting the same features on either model, but the smaller Xperia XZ2 Compact will feature a sharper screen. Since both panels at FullHD+ (1080 x 2160 pixels) with an 18:9 aspect ratio, you’ll be better immersed in content thanks to the taller, narrower screen. This makes the phone easier to use one-handed, although thanks to the build you may find it difficult to hold without it slipping out of your hands.
Aside from being updated to a more modern aspect ratio on a mobile phone in 2018, the rest of the display properties here are essentially identical to last year’s device. 1080p resolution at either size is nice and sharp, and while some other panels out there will bring higher resolutions to the table, this is still extra crisp in any situation aside from VR. Pixel persistence is rather high, as we’ve more or less always seen on Sony mobile displays, meaning this is not a great display for VR anyway, as it’s likely to induce motion sickness due to the trailing and ghosting during movement. This trailing is very obvious while using the phone regularly too, especially higher contrast content.
As a whole LCD’s are never great when it comes to black levels, and the panels here are no exception. Both displays get quite bright, and while they’re not the absolute brightest panels around, they’re still very easy to see in sunlight. Viewing angles are fantastic, with no color change at all, and only a slight dimming at even extreme angles. Contrast ratios are a little low, and colors don’t seem as punchy or deep as they do on other panels, even in HDR content. HDR10 is supported on this display, with proper support for YouTube and Netflix, for example, so you’ll be able to watch beautiful HDR content on those platforms whose apps support the technology. Since this is an LCD panel, an always-on display doesn’t make much sense, so Sony offers an ambient display instead. This lights up the screen in a basic way when notifications come in, showing the time and the notification that made the screen light up.
Hardware and Build
The Xperia XZ2 marks the biggest departure from the tired style that Sony has used for a very, very long time. Most Sony phones produced in the last few years look incredibly similar, and even identical in many situations, while the XZ2 looks very different from the pack. It’s not just the taller, narrower display that’s making the difference here, it’s the entire package as a whole. Starting with the front, this taller, narrower display also has smaller bezels than we’ve ever seen on a Sony-branded phone, and while the left and right bezels are much chunkier than what we saw on the recently released Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra, the top and bottom bezels are significantly smaller. There’s still room here for front-facing stereo speakers, which is a big deal, and neither of them feel too large or obtrusive in any way. There’s also no notch here, which is a positive for many folks.
The sides and back of the phone are now rounded, eschewing straight edges in any way, shape or form. All four aluminum sides of either size phone are fully rounded and look beautiful, although the powdered metal is incredibly slippery, even in higher humidity. The back of the phone is also curved, with a material made of Gorilla Glass 5 on the larger Xperia XZ2, and fogged plastic on the XZ2 Compact. While Gorilla Glass 5 is more drop resistant than previous generations, the softer nature of the glass also means it’s incredibly prone to scratches, and like every single phone that sports Gorilla Glass 5 on its frame, we’ve already developed scratches and scuffs on both the front and back surfaces. The XZ2 Compact will only have this issue on the front since the back is plastic, and will likely survive drops more effectively too.
This curved back is uniformly curved on all four sides too, meaning it’s quite thick at the center point; 11.1mm on the XZ2, and 12.1mm on the XZ2 Compact. This also creates a bit of an odd overall shape for the phone, and while curved sides harken back to a few years ago in terms of ergonomics and design on smartphones, curved top and bottom points are certainly not common. This results in a phone that looks like it’s always resting on top of something, even when placed on a flat surface. Having a raised center point also means the phone easily spins around and is nearly impossible to use one-handed while resting on a table because it constantly moves, tilts and shakes. On the bright side, the phone is far easier to remove from a flat surface since the sides are literally raised above the table, negating the need for one of those silly looking circular holders that have become popular on flat-backed phones.
This also introduces a funny behavior when placing down, as the phone often thinks it’s being turned on one of its sides and rotates the screen, often times forcing me to have to pick it up again and more gently place it down. While curved backs certainly have the ability to make phones easier to hold for long periods of time, the round powdered metal sides and glass back on the XZ2 are unbelievably slippery in any weather, and I found the phone impossible to use with one hand because of this.
Another interesting design decision is the placement of the fingerprint scanner, which is in a fairly normal position on the Xperia XZ2 Compact but is located at the midpoint of the larger Xperia XZ2. This placement is quite a bit lower than the typical rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and may cause some discomfort for folks with larger hands. Those with regular-sized or smaller hands will be quite happy with the placement, no doubt, as it requires less of a reach-up versus many other smartphones. It’s definitely going to be a preference decision as to whether or not this is a positive move, but I did find myself touching the circular camera lens many times, as it too is recessed into the body instead of protruding the way many other phones do.
Sony has significantly improved upon its user experience this time around by including some fantastic new vibration motors, ones that provide HD vibration feedback, and are the same vibration motors found inside the PlayStation 4’s controllers. These PS4 vibration motors provide significantly deeper feedback results than standard vibration motors, and while they’re not quite as punchy or deep feeling as LG’s HD vibration motors, they’re a huge step up from the vast, vast majority of other smartphones. Feedback can be varied significantly, not only providing more substantive feeling but also providing a unique feeling that responds differently depending on what’s happening on screen. Dynamic Vibration is a way for Sony to utilize this through a more auditory experience, and you’ll find the vibration motors will thump to the bass while playing any audio from the phone. This can be turned off if desired, or adjusted according to three different strength levels. While it doesn’t help add bass to the sound, it adds feeling and depth to audio that other devices don’t have.
Security, Performance, and Benchmarks
Sony’s phones have always been incredibly fast, and the Xperia XZ2 family are no exception to this trend. Sony reduces the animation times in Android to show just how fast its phones are, resulting in a phone that has very short transition animations, with near instant times between clicking an icon and the app opening. Everything else on the phone feels this fast too, and only OnePlus’s phones feel anywhere near this quick in every regard. Sony absolutely nails the performance aspect here, and with the latest Snapdragon 845 chipset from Qualcomm, everything feels faster than ever before too. Since the display here is only 1080p and not Quad-HD or 4K, performance during graphics-heavy applications, like games for instance, is absolutely at the peak of the market for speed.
For the first time ever, a Sony smartphone features a working fingerprint scanner in the US market. All previous generations of Xperia phones with a fingerprint scanner were disabled in the US due to a legal issue Sony faced, as a patent was held specifically for a fingerprint scanner located in the power button. This time around Sony has separated the power button from the fingerprint scanner, and can now enable the fingerprint scanner’s use in all markets. This has some pretty big ramifications, and what was a choke point for purchasing Xperia phones in the US is no longer an issue, as fingerprint scanners not only open an easier way to unlock the phone and keep its contents safe behind a password or PIN, but also an easier way to use mobile payments.
Check out all the benchmarks we run against the Xperia XZ2, including Futuremark 3DMark, Futuremark PCMark internal storage test, GeekBench 4, and AnTuTu V6.
Wireless Connectivity, Sound and Battery Life
Sony’s launch in the US means that there’s a separate version for US customers, which differs in its support of US carriers’ wireless bands, as well as a US-based warranty. Surprisingly while the phone supports dual SIMs and effectively every carrier in the country, there’s no support for Voice over LTE (VoLTE) or WiFi Calling at all on the phone. These two core technologies bring about better voice quality, as well as the ability to use a cellular network over WiFi instead. The lack of these two technologies isn’t just a shame, it’s plain bizarre in 2018 when they’re not only part of AOSP, but they’re expected features from any smartphone, much less a flagship.
Sony also seems to have taken a bit of a step back in the audio department, and it’s not just because a 3.5mm audio jack is no longer included on the phone itself. The removal of this jack seems to have altered how Sony’s historically excellent DSEE HX upscaling engine works, which is designed to take regular quality audio and upscale it to 24-bit HD quality. On past Xperia flagships this DSEE HX feature significantly enhanced audio and provided a way to listen to your current library of music in higher quality without having to rebuy everything. This, of course, can’t be as good as native 24-bit content, but any improvement was welcomed. As it stands the DSEE HX feature seems to do nothing meaningful, as toggling it with either USB Type-C headphones or using the USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box makes no audible difference in the sound.
The front-facing speakers have also taken a bit of a hit, but not in the way you might expect. While holding the phone you’re still going to get the excellent sound that previous generations of Xperia phones have produced, with sound that’s aimed toward a user’s face, and quality and volume that both will impress. Many previous generation Xperia phones featured flat backs, and as a result would resonate the music quite a bit, helping to further fill the room with sound. Now that the back is curved, this effect is mostly gone, and the phone doesn’t feature enhanced sound when placing down on a table. Thankfully there’s still the excellent S-Force virtual surround sound from these speakers, and will make just about anyone happy with its quality, even if there’s not a boost when placing it on a table.
Battery life overall is beyond phenomenal, which is what we expect from Sony, and will easily last any user the entire day, essentially no matter what you use the phone for. Most days ended in 40-50% of battery left, and 2 days was easily achievable in most cases for us, even with over 5 hours of screen on time. Standby features of the phone rival the best out there, even though the battery is a fairly average size for devices with these screen sizes. While the thickness of both devices suggests these batteries could be bigger, the battery life achieved proves that Sony can beat competitors without packing extra battery and weight from it. The larger Xperia XZ2 features wireless charging, while the XZ2 Compact does not, however, both models do support QuickCharge 3.0 through the USB Type-C port. Sony’s QNOVO intelligent charging is also on automatically, which works to keep battery health at maximum during the life of owning the phone by not overcharging the battery.
Paramount to the software side of things is Sony’s participation in Google’s Project Treble, a new way of bringing updates to Android phones that we’ve never seen before. Participation in this program has already paid off, as Google not only announced the Android P Beta program at Google I/O earlier in May but that all phones with Project Treble integration would be able to sign up and get the beta installed on their phones too. As the Xperia XZ2 is part of Project Treble, you can opt-in to the beta and accept the system update to Android P right now, with literally no hassle and no hackery to perform. That’s the fastest updating ever seen in the history of Android, including even Google’s own Nexus and Pixel programs, and it’s hopefully ushering in a new era of Android phones that can either accept stock Android updates or to hopefully help speed up OEM updates as a whole.
Sony’s own software has long been fairly simple when compared to the heavier skins found on other OEMS, like Samsung or LG for instance. As such, you’ll find the bulk of changes in the version of Android running on Xperia phones to be of a visual nature, rather than introducing hundreds of additional options, or pre-installing bloated apps. The home screen launcher is primary in basic UX of the phone, which has been updated with a swipe-up app drawer instead of the icon that’s been used for a decade now. This is a more natural way of opening the drawer, but Sony has stuck with a horizontally scrolling set of “pages” instead of using a vertical app drawer, which feels a bit odd since calling the drawer up is done with a vertical swipe. Samsung also has this issue on its launcher, for note, and like Samsung, Sony offers lots of themes to change up the look of the phone in its entirety.
One of the only real exclusive pieces of software comes in the form of the PlayStation 4 Remote Play app, which allows users to use their Xperia XZ2 as a monitor for remotely playing games on their PS4. This includes the ability to pair a DualShock 4 controller with their Xperia XZ2, and then have a go at the latest God of War or Uncharted game while slacking at the office. Latency is effectively nonexistent on good connections, and although this experience will vary wildly depending on connection quality and speed, many users will find this to be an incredible way to play high-quality games no matter where they are, even if it’s just in another room in the same house as the PS4. The downside to this is that Sony doesn’t allow use over mobile networks, so unless your favorite form of public transportation has a WiFi network, you’re not likely to actually play this “on the go” so much as simply in another room or dwelling.
Sony has also jumped on the AR sticker game by improving the 3D scanning feature it launched with last year’s flagship Xperia phones. While you had to have someone scan your likeness in last year, this year’s update grants the ability to use the front-facing camera to scan yourself into a 3D model on the phone. On top of this, Sony has upgraded the rendering and scanning engines on the back-end, meaning it’s far easier to scan someone or something than ever before. On my first try I got a pretty good model of my face without any substantial errors or weirdness to my likeness, and was able to turn this face into a series of avatars that can be used in sticker form for chats and social media, or imported into the AR Camera app and used as miniatures for shots. While the choice of clothing and other accessory-type items is somewhat limited, the results are hilarious and work extremely well for making goofy scenes for social media.
Camera Software and specs
While Sony supplies the vast majority of camera sensors on the market, and the absolute best ones out there to boot, Sony’s own phones haven’t always delivered the best results, despite having their own special set of sensors. The Xperia XZ2 utilizes the same sensor as last year’s flagship devices from Sony, including that embedded DRAM feature for super slow motion video. The single rear camera is a 19MP Sony IMX400 camera sensor with 1.22 micron sized pixels, positioned behind an f/2.0 81-degree angle lens. The upgrade comes in the form of the ISP on the Snapdragon 845 SoC inside, which now allows up to 1080p video at 960FPS; a step up from the 720p video in last year’s 960FPS super slow motion mode. The front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel, ⅕” inch sensor with an f/2.2 86-degree angle lens.
Sony’s software design hasn’t changed at all from last year but is faster than ever, thankfully. Sony has chosen the prioritized swipe method, which means Manual, Video and Photo mode are quickly chosen by a swipe to the left or right. All other modes reside in the right-most category, and while this design is inherently OK, the problem resides in the fact that these separate modes are actually separate apps. This not only increases launch time of each mode to an unacceptable level in many cases, but it requires unlocking the phone to use them if the camera was launched while the phone was locked. Worse still is the fact that exiting these modes means exiting the camera app entirely, forcing users to relaunch the camera.
It’s definitely unfortunate that video and photo modes are separated from one another, as it takes an extra swipe to move between these, while some other phones offer a single record button in the main viewfinder to quickly start recording a video without having to change modes. Slow motion mode is the same setup as before, with an additional step inside of the video mode to activate super slow motion, but the enhancements are both in speed and quality. Sony still relies on a manual super slow motion activation over Samsung’s superior automatic design, but the bright side of Sony’s implementation is that super slow motion can be activated as many times as is needed instead of just having a once-off activation. While recording a video, the super slow motion button can be pressed at any time, changing the frame rate from 30FPS to 960FPS for 3-5 seconds. This time difference depends on the quality selected, as the phone is unable to record the higher quality 1080p super slow motion video for as long as it can record 720p video.
This is all in the amount of DRAM that the sensor has, as 1080p video takes up significantly more space than 720p video, and as a result, you may find the 720p video is more preferential for its length of super slow motion. Still, the 1080p video not only offers higher quality and clearer slow motion than any other smartphone on the market but also offers a less cropped view of the world than 720p does. On top of this, Sony has reduced the refresh period between slow-motion recordings, meaning you can back-to-back record in slow motion as many times as desired, while most smartphones with 960FPS recording can only utilize super slow motion once. The issue is in timing, where pressing a button manually makes timing a specific moment very difficult in many situations.
Sony offers manual control over focusing by use of the hardware shutter key on the side of the phone, which functions like a point and shoot camera, giving you the ability to prime the focus and take a shot at a moment’s notice. There’s also an incredibly detailed manual mode that offers more control than most phones offer, although manual focus does not offer any aide to where the focus lies, such as zooming or focus peaking. What’s rather amazing, however, is the fact that Sony unlocks the sensor’s full potential in manual mode, allowing users to select all the way up to ISO 12,800, while most smartphones artificially restrict their manual modes to around ISO 3,600, despite the auto modes being allowed to go higher. Oddly enough the shutter speed is restricted to 1/4000th of a second up to 1 second in length, while many smartphones with manual modes offer several seconds in length in manual mode.
Sony’s automatic scene detection is as good as ever, and Sony has been offering this sort of thing long before other smartphone OEMs, despite never having called it an “AI camera.” This automatically chooses between a preset number of scene types to enhance the photo taken and can make a big difference in the final result. There’s no way to force HDR as there is on other phones, rather you’ll need to hope it picks the right scene type to take advantage of aggressive HDR techniques if needed. We also had issues with stability at times, where launching the camera would result in a “could not connect to camera” error message, requiring a restart of the phone to fix the problem. Obviously, this is a huge issue for anyone, as a restart would take at least a full minute, likely ruining any possibility of getting a good shot by the time the camera is available again.
Camera Performance and Results
Qualcomm’s new ISP inside the Snapdragon 845 chipset allows Sony to fully utilize that IMX400 sensor inside the phone. This results in increased detail in super slow motion and means that we’re finally seeing full-HD quality super slow motion for the first time from any phone. Outside of Sony’s flagships, the only other phones that can do 960FPS super slow mo are the Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20 Pro, both of which only offer that speed at 720P. The biggest difference between those two phones, in terms of quality, is that Huawei’s implementation can record in mess less light. Unfortunately, Sony’s implementation still has an issue with recording in less than super bright light, and almost anything indoors is going to look extremely dark. Looking at the same scene in 4K from the phone side by side with super slow motion shows the difference pretty clearly. Sony offers a fill light that helps a bit, but it’s not bright enough to make a significant impact on detail in darker scenes. There are also some odd focusing issues in super slow motion, and touching anywhere in the viewfinder doesn’t re-focus as it does in regular video mode. Even through the issues, this is the highest quality super slow-mo on any phone, but like the Galaxy S9, it’s really only useful in brightly lit conditions.
Video recording is some of the most advanced in the industry, but there are some weird caveats to note here as well. When comparing image stabilization with the Huawei P20 Pro, for instance, which is only optically stabilized, the difference is immediately noticeable. The typical jitters from walking barely show up at all on the Xperia XZ2, while they’re all too obvious on the P20 Pro. This is a really big deal because most phones don’t do better than optical stabilization (OIS) on video, while Sony adds a second layer of electronic stabilization (EIS) on top of the hardware-based one. 1080P Video is even further stabilized and provides butter smooth results that we’ve seen from Sony for years on 1080p video, but other phones have begun to offer this kind of stabilization in 4K, like the OnePlus 6, for example. When comparing a walking scene with the OnePlus 6 in 4K mode, the difference, once again, is all too obvious. In these situations, you’ll find the Xperia XZ2 outclassed by phones that provide better EIS, such as the OnePlus 6 or Google Pixel 2.
Video zoom quality is excellent too, despite not having a secondary sensor with a telephoto lens. Zooming into 3x exhibits some great detail, and while it’s never going to be as good as something like the Huawei P20 Pro with its optical zoom capabilities, the Sony IMX400 sensor is still able to pull in tons of detail via digital zoom. It’s also nicely stabilized too, and the tables turn in Sony’s favor this time around when comparing with the OnePlus 6, as zoomed-in video is far more stable on the Xperia XZ2 than most other phones when zoomed in during video recording. Dynamic range is excellent too and is generally as good or better than the industry average in this regard. Things really ramp up when you turn on HDR video, easily done by flicking the switch on the interface. 4K HDR video is limited to 24FPS at this time, so it appears a little less smooth than SDR 4K video from the device, which runs at a standard 30FPS. This new HDR mode allows the Xperia XZ2 to show far better exposure averages, for example, exhibiting detail in the clouds while still maintaining detail and lighting conditions in a darker scene below.
HDR video should offer not just enhanced dynamic range though, it should also offer more accurate colors that are deeper and more realistic than on SDR video, however, what we get are colors that often look muted, and footage that tends to look a bit overexposed when compared with SDR footage from the phone. This seems to either be mishandling of HDR footage in moderate light or possibly a codec issue or strange incompatibility with software like YouTube. Uploading the video directly to YouTube from the phone results in colors that look smudgy and muddy when playing back in SDR, and when HDR is enabled, the footage tends to look far too saturated for its own good. While it’s impressive to see native 4K HDR recording in a phone, it appears things need to be perfected a bit before we’ll get any good use out of it.
Photo quality is nothing short of impressive in basically every way imaginable. Zoom detail is astounding, and while every situation isn’t going to deliver the same results, you’ll find that these are the most detailed shots we’ve seen on a Sony phone and more consistent quality than ever. Many other phones from Sony suffered from a “heat haze” looking pattern when zooming all the way in, and this effect can still be reproduced on some objects in some lighting conditions with the Xperia XZ2, it’s not present in the vast majority of situations; even in general low light shots. In the daylight, it easily competes even with Huawei’s massive 40MP sensor on the P20 Pro, although Huawei still comes ahead in ultra-fine detail if you look very close in most shots. Many of the shots taken from the Xperia XZ2 are really mind-blowing when considering their level of detail, and the phone does an absolutely fantastic job of focusing on the right subject as well.
What’s particularly interesting is that the phone appears to re-focus on a subject every single time a photo is taken, but in reality, the phone is taking several shots at once, and at times will show up to four shots taken, attempting to automatically identify the best one. Often times I found the shutter timing was the best shot, but there were enough that the phone offered a better alternative which either captured an entirely different emotion than I intended, or even a better scene overall than the shutter timing. It also means this phone is absolutely fantastic for those that have children or pets, as it uses motion to determine if these automated groups of shots need to be chosen.
Dynamic range and contrast are both spectacular in most cases, and the camera automatically switches between available scene types on the fly as it detects different objects and lighting conditions. Low light has been significantly improved from previous generations of Sony phones, and typically grabs plenty of detail in our low light examples in the gallery below. While there were exceptions, it seemed to beat the OnePlus 6 in sheer detail and available light in all but the lowest of lighting conditions, and at times even did a better job than the Huawei P20 Pro in this regard. Many night shots below exhibit minute details in photos taken from the Xperia XZ2, like wood grain in the cabinet or bricks on the building’s wall, which get lost on phones with heavier noise reduction processing engines, sometimes in their entirety. Sony’s images still retain the look of the texture, even if it’s not finely detailed as it would be during the day, and show that eliminating all noise in a shot is ultimately an ineffective way of “cleaning up” an image.
Sony ramps the ISO up to 12,000 when really needed, which brightens up the scene quite a lot, but makes shots super soft because of all the noise that would otherwise be present. Comparing it to the Huawei P20 Pro in extremely dark scenes shows that Huawei’s shots tend to be sharper and more detailed. There were also times where the Xperia XZ2 was able to capture more light than competitor’s in darker conditions, thanks to the ability to raise the ISO so high, however, the amount of noise in the shot meant the scene lacked detail overall thanks to denoise algorithms. Color accuracy in lower lighting tends to be overly warm, and while this is a nice touch in dim or moderate light, it can look quite bad in very low light because of this. This wasn’t super common by any means, but it cropped up enough times to note.
The wide-angle lens on the front-facing camera captures more than many other smartphones, and I really like how Sony treats contrast and exposure in well-lit conditions. Dynamic range is quite nice as a result, often times looking more balanced and color accurate than leading flagships. The 5-megapixel resolution and tiny sensor size can really become obvious in lower lighting conditions, though, as you’ll find grainy, dark shots once it gets quite dark. Aside from these lower lighting conditions though, the Xperia XZ2’s front-facing camera provides a look that is more appealing than most other smartphones, thanks to its ability to provide punchy shots with deeper colors, better contrast, and wider dynamic range than most other smartphones tested. For darker conditions, the fill-flash can be used, and Sony’s implementation of this seems to deliver a more evenly lit flash that looks less harsh than the competition. Check out our video review to see all this in action, as well as the galleries in this review for many examples.
Gorgeous new design
Unique look and feel
Compact option with almost no trade-offs (XZ2 Compact)
World class vibration motors with Dynamic Vibration
Smaller bezels with front-facing stereo speakers
Virtual surround sound
Superb battery life
Insanely fast performance
PS4 ecosystem and remote play
Many vibrant themes and customization options
Excellent overall camera quality
Predictive photo capture
4k HDR10 video recording
Project Treble means quicker Android updates
Android P Beta available out of the box for enthusiasts
No 3.5mm audio jack
Some camera stability issues
Most additional camera modes, like bokeh, aren’t very good
HDR video recording doesn’t play nice with YouTube at times
Thick design may not appeal to everyone
No wireless charging on XZ2 Compact
No VoLTE or WiFi Calling support
Sony’s Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact are two phenomenal phones with tons of features, blazing fast speed, and a camera that trades blows with the best of them. While the features aren’t 100% identical between the two, the vast majority of available options and specs are the same between both models, and offer users a way to get a smaller phone without trading out many important features and specs. Finally having a working fingerprint scanner out of the box in the US is a massive upgrade for potential US Xperia owners, but at the same time no VoLTE or WiFi calling could immediately toss this option out the window for some. It’s possible Sony could add these back in, as they aren’t hardware restrictions, but it’s not altogether likely. Project Treble support means Android P is available for Xperia XZ2 owners right now, if they’re willing to work alongside beta bugs and a general lack of features when compared to Sony’s Android Oreo release, but still means this phone should receive final Android P very quickly in the Fall. With reduced prices compared to its initial MSRP, Sony’s Xperia XZ2 are killer options to consider this summer.