First reviewed: April 2014The Sony Xperia Z2 has now been superseded by the Sony Xperia Z3
Launched as Sony’s new flagship handset in April 2014, the Sony Xperia Z2 comes just six months after its predecessor, the Xperia Z1, which itself arrived just a few months after its little brother the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. Sony looks set to keep up with this insanely short turnaround time, bringing us its current flagship phone, the Xperia Z3, just a further six months on from the Z2. Confused? So are we.
Given this short refresh cycle it’s unsurprising that the Xperia Z2 is only a little different from its predecessor.
As Sony’s first flagship handset for 2014 the Xperia Z2 goes head to head with other high-end models like the Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8, LG G3 and the iPhone 6. Those are some impressive handsets it has to compete with.
Can it compete with those great phones though? Well there are some problems with the design and hardware, but a long battery life, sturdy screen and good camera make it a solid choice for those looking to splash the cash on a water-resistant phone, or already on high-end contracts.
The Xperia Z2 carried a lofty £569/$700 price tag at launch but the introduction of the Xperia Z3 means you can now get your hands on one for a little over £300/$400 SIM-free. Given its successor has only brought very minor improvements this hefty price drop makes it an even more desirable proposition.
Watch our Sony Xperia Z2 video:
For looks the Sony Xperia Z2 is almost identical to last year’s Xperia Z1. The Z2 features the same glass front and back as the Z1, with thin buffers of black plastic joining the two to an aluminium core.
It’s a strong, confident look and a staple of Sony’s high-end phones since the original Xperia launched back in 2012. Compared with its main rivals we’d put the Z2 ahead of the Galaxy S5 in the design stakes, but it’s not quite as stylish as the HTC One M8 or the LG G3, nor does it match the superb fit and finish of the iPhone 6.
What holds the Xperia Z2 back is that its body is laden with seams, flaps and an obvious dock connector that detract from an otherwise simple style.
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However, the Xperia Z2 needs most of these interruptions because it is water resistant and sealed-up. With no removable back, there is nowhere obvious for the Xperia Z2 to hide things like the microSIM and microSD card slots. This phone has both, and they sit under chunky, pretty obvious plastic flaps on the phone's sides.
As well as interrupting the look a bit, the construction of the phone does the Xperia Z2's ergonomics no favours. The tiny plastic trim around the rear glass plate sticks out a fraction of a millimetre (likely a way to protect the rear glass layer), and it only adds to what is a pretty boxy-feeling mobile.
You can really feel those seams, and a little curvaceousness can help handling with a phone this size – this is not a curvy phone. We prefer the smoother style of both the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 in-hand, much as we criticsed the S5 for looking and feeling a bit cheap.
The effects of a handset with a pretty severe design become all the more obvious as a phone gets bigger. The iPhone 5S has a pretty angular little body, but it is such an easy-to-handle phone that it is a non-issue. Here we'd be tempted to buy a silicone case just to give the phone a friendlier feel.
The fairly boxy design doesn't make the super-slim-ness of the 8.2mm thick body obvious either, and the slightly larger screen and generous bezels above and below the screen make this phone larger than either of its key rivals from HTC and Samsung.
However, the size is nothing like as much of an issue as it is in something like the Xperia Z Ultra. This is a phone, not a phablet. You'll just need to get two hands involved at times.
Other parts of the hardware make intelligent concessions for the phone's size, too. The power button of the Xperia Z2 is extremely well-placed (for right-handers), sitting perfectly under most thumbs. If we had nothing else good to say about the phone, it could at least claim to have the handiest power button of this generation. Thankfully, there are other good bits.
The Xperia Z2 also offers the best water resistance of all the new top Android phones. A coated headphone jack and the two rubber-sealed ports help the phone earn its IP55 and IP58 certification. This means you can submerge the phone in water and it can take being pummeled with water jets.
While we don't imagine many of you will take out the high pressure hose to test this, it does mean you can put the phone under the tap and let rip if you get a bit of grime, pocket lint or chocolate stuck in the phone's various indents. Especially the somewhat-unnecessary dock connector and lanyard loop.
Water resistance is handy, but it means you have to remove and reseal a flap every time you charge the Xperia Z2. This gets annoying, and may result in the seal failing further down the line – it's only a little bit of rubber, after all.
The insides: not pretty
Another neat feature you may not initially notice is the set of stereo-front speakers. They output from tiny little near-invisible grilles on the very top and bottom of the Xperia Z2, the top one sharing its home with the multi-colour notification LED. As with the phone design, speaker performance sits somewhere between the HTC One M8 and Galaxy S5.
Having decent stereo separation is great for playing games and watching movies, but the Xperia Z2 doesn't have quite as beefy-sounding output as the HTC One M8. The Sony phone probably has significantly smaller speaker enclosures, if you're looking for a reason why beyond using different drivers.
The sound dispersal isn't great, either. For a comfortable stereo image, you want the output of the speakers to cross over before it reaches your ears. Here, there's a bit of a dead-zone in-between, making it sound as if each speaker is directed right at each ear. This is not how stereo is meant to work. Still, it's better than using a single rear speaker as on the S5.