Sony Xperia XZ2 review: The Sony Xperia XZ2 is a good phone overshadowed by better ones

Like the XZ before it, the Xperia XZ2 will have a tough time competing with the excellent Huawei P20 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S9 phones. Then there’s the even higher-end XZ2 Premium, which threatens to overshadow the XZ2 for buyers leaning toward high-end specs. However, as of yet the Premium doesn’t have a confirmed release date.

Retailing for $799 in the US and £699 in the UK (there’s no word yet on an Australia launch, but the price converts to AU$780), the XZ2 isn’t a cheap phone. Where it does stand out is its camera, which takes excellent photos in a variety of lighting conditions. Its high-quality super-slow-motion video also beats the Galaxy S9 handsets.

Having spent the better part of two weeks with the XZ2 as my main phone, there are plenty of things I liked about it. For one, Sony has finally redesigned the Xperia line, giving the Xperia XZ2 a curved glass rear that feels really comfortable to hold.

If you’re a gamer or like to watch a lot of videos, you’ll love how easy it is to hold sideways. The stereo front facing speakers are loud and capable of blasting the audio action right into your ears, and the Dynamic Vibration feature that vibrates the phone based on the type of audio it’s emitting, delivers a nice buzz to complement it. It seems to mostly vibrate based on bass, so action sequences with plenty of explosions will leave the phone tingling nonstop. You can, however, customize the vibration strength or turn it off completely if you don’t like it.

Still, it’s going to be a tough sell for the capable Xperia XZ2, which is easily lost in the shadow of Samsung ‘s sexy, fully loaded Galaxy S9 and Huawei ‘s triple-camera P20 Pro with its startling iridescent finish.

The fingerprint sensor located at the back of the phone is a bit too low and you may find yourself trying and failing to unlock your phone with the camera lens.

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The Xperia XZ2 has a 5.7-inch screen and a big ol’ chin

The Xperia XZ2 is a partial breath of fresh air for Sony fans, who for years have dealt with slight variations on the same phone design: rounded corners in a rectangular slab that looked pretty much like any other device in the market.

But now, Sony embraces the 18:9 screen ratio, which means that its 5.7-inch LCD display fits into an area that’s roughly twice as tall as it is wide. Still, bucking the current trend, Sony didn’t try to go completely bezel-less. Instead, there’s plenty of chin on both the top and bottom of the phone (likely to house the speakers), which makes the Xperia XZ2 feel lot larger that it could be. It’s an odd design choice that feels very dated, despite the obvious refresh.

Another odd design choice is the removal of the fingerprint sensor power button combo from the old Xperia design – the Xperia XZ2 comes with a standard power button, with the sensor now moved to the rear. Located in the center underneath the 19-megapixel single camera, I found myself accidentally pressing the camera lens instead of the sensor most of the time while trying to turn on the phone. The positioning of the fingerprint scanner is just too low. However, the fingerprint sensor will now work in the US, a feature previously unavailable on previous Sony models.

The curves of the XZ2 make the phone easy to hold.

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Like previous Sony phones, the XZ2 is rated for water-resistance at IP68 of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) underwater for up to 30 minutes. That means you can technically take the phone into the shower and play some karaoke music to sing along while you scrub.

While the phone only comes with 64GB of onboard storage, there are slots for either two nano-SIM cards, or you can use one nano-SIM and the other slot with a microSD card for up to 400GB of additional space. Like most phones these days, there’s no audio jack.

Xperia XZ2 camera takes great photos, but misses an opportunity

The 19-megapixel rear camera takes great photos when there’s plenty of light on hand. Low-light shots are also serviceable, with plenty of detail. The camera is able to control the exposure of background lights without blowing out an image. There’s an automatic predictive mode that does XYZ, and can help you take the best shot, though it doesn’t often trigger when you think it should.

That said, the Xperia XZ2’s aggressive image processing can muddy up some details for photos taken indoors or in suboptimal lighting conditions. Like the Xperia XZ before it, HDR mode isn’t accessible right away; you’ll have to go to manual mode to fiddle with it. The Intelligent Auto+ mode is pretty good at telling you the scene you’re shooting – from food to landscape to night shots – though I wasn’t quite sure if it helped improve the picture by tweaking settings in the background.

The XZ2 also does a great job with food pictures.

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With enough light, the XZ2 takes really good shots of anything.

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HDR needs to be turned on manually (it’s not available for selection in Intelligent Auto mode).

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If you like shooting shots of the city at night, the Xperia XZ2 will serve you well.

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Low-light shots taken with the XZ2 were well-controlled without overexposing the lights.

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As for 960fps slow motion video, being able to shoot in full-HD (1080p) sounds great compared to the Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20 and P20 Pro’s lower 720p quality, but you’ll need plenty of outdoor light to really take advantage of this. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a lot of noise in your video or flickering from your fluorescent lights if shooting indoors. You have to also be very good at guessing when you need the slow-motion magic to happen, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Blink and you’ll miss the action and end up with a slow motion shot of a boring scene.

When all the conditions are right, though, super slow motion video makes for a great addition to your Instagram stories, such as a soap bubble bursting or catching that skateboard flip in the air.

In a bid to come up with more features, Sony’s Xperia XZ2 highlights apps that let you scan objects in 3D, watch augmented reality scenes and create a portrait mode shot that takes photos with background blur called Bokeh. Why didn’t Sony integrate these features into the main camera, especially when that’s what their competitors do? Instead, by splitting the features up, Sony has made you have to hunt for what you want.

Apart from the Bokeh app, the 3D and AR apps are fun to try once, but you’ll probably not have any reason to use them after.

The phone isn’t the thinnest in the market, in fact, it’s quite thick.

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The Xperia XZ2 is very fast, but battery life could be better

The Xperia XZ2’s 3,180mAh battery lasted a full day of use, and in our video looping tests, managed to go on just shy of 12 hours, unlike the Galaxy S9, which clocked almost 17 hours. With the phone supports Qi fast wireless charging (9W), you can use any Qi charging pads to juice up, though you’ll want the Sony wireless charger to get the maximum speed – in our test, the phone was able to juice up to 36 percent from flat in one hour, though it was noticeably faster using the standard wired charging cord.

Powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, the Xperia XZ2 is fast and zippy. You’ll find gaming on this phone a breeze, especially with the powerful speakers turned up. I was totally impressed with how powerful the sound was, at full volume you’ll have no issue hearing it in a crowded place, though you’ll probably annoy the heck out of everyone around you. It’s also great for watching YouTube videos.

Like the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Xperia XZ2 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, and our benchmark tests show pretty similar performance, check the graph below for benchmark scores.

Sony’s own skin on top of Android 8.0 keeps most of the basics, but you’ll want to decrease the font size and increase the phone’s grid size as the first thing you’ll do when you get the phone. Sony’s default makes everything way too large.

Hardware specs comparison