The Sony Xperia XZ2 is a dynamic reboot from a brand looking to bring itself back into the mix for high-end smartphones consumers are desperate to buy.
It’s retooled the design, thrust in a glut of high-performance components and added in a touch of innovation - so is this the phone, launched at MWC 2018, to finally bring Sony back into the big time?
It’s always going to be a big ask, given the brand has been stuck in the doldrums for so long with similar, me-too devices, relying on high-spec cameras and audio to bring some individuality for consumers… but it’s not really managed that effectively.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new Sony Xperia XZ2 - could it be your new smartphone?
Sony Xperia XZ2 price and release date
Annoyingly Sony is refusing to give out the price of the phone right now, but we’re hoping that it mimics what the Xperia XZ launched for, which was $700 / £549 around AU$940.
That would be a lot, lot cheaper than many of the high end phones around at the moment, which makes us think you’ll have to spend around $100 / £100 more to buy the Sony Xperia XZ2.
For the Sony Xperia XZ2 release date, we’re going to see the phone available from the first week of April in Europe, with the rest of the world still to be decided.
The design of the Sony Xperia XZ2 is a new look for the brand, with a shell that’s reminiscent of older phones with a bulge on the back, and the shiny, shimmering shell of the HTC U11.
It’s clad in Gorilla Glass 5, front and back, encasing the aluminum frame that’s been designed to make sure the phone doesn’t twist in the pocket when put under pressure.
The fingerprint scanner has been moved from the power button to the back of the phone, in an odd move. The fact it was in the power button never seemed like an issue, but putting it on the back means it’s moved below the camera, which also now occupies a central position.
The glass curves away from the side of the display, meaning there’s more of a shimmer as it catches the light, and increases the effect of an all-new display. And, as usual, the phone is IP68-rated, meaning you’ll be able to dunk it and roll it in sand without worry of it falling apart straight afterwards.
The new design language is called ‘Ambient Flow’ and it’s designed to catch the light, make it shimmer, pass the light along… very designer speak, but essentially the glass is formed to be a bit more eye-catching.
There’s no headphone jack on here any more though, with USB Type-C on offer for the connector. You’ll get an adaptor in the box, and can buy a power / audio connector separately too.
It’s also coming in Liquid Black, Liquid Silver, Petrol Blue and Ash Pink - the blue in particular is rather striking in the hand.
Dynamic Vibration System and audio
This is the big play from Sony - there’s a much fancier motor in the back of the Xperia XZ2, which is more powerful than anything Sony has put out before… and it’s coming with new features too.
It’s not there to make sure you feel the buzz in your pocket more comprehensively, but so your media is enhanced in new ways.
If you’ve ever used a more recent iPhone you’ll know how the vibrating engine works, clicking when flicking through a dial of numbers or firing a machine gun in a game - Sony is taking that and going to the next level.
When watching a movie, playing a game or listening to tunes you’ll get a rumble that’s similar to what you might experience when holding a PS4 controller and playing a particularly energetic game.
The motor is pretty hefty inside the phone compared to previous models, so this is a pretty big deal for Sony - but we weren’t in love with it, as you can see in our hands on XZ2 review.
The audio quality has been upped inside the phone too, with the speakers boosted to offer less distortion, but also 20% louder too. If you’re someone who likes popping on some music or a podcast when they’re cooking in the kitchen, then these speakers will be a welcome addition.
Those improved speakers, which sit at the top and bottom of the phone, aren’t the only audio smarts with the phone, with Hi-Res audio and upscaling on offer too - in short, the Sony Xperia XZ2 is a sonic powerhouse once again.
The screen is one of the big changes for Sony with the Xperia XZ2, not least because it’s now in the 18:9 aspect ratio format, in order to put less bezel on the front of the phone. It’s been improved to 5.8-inches, from 5.2-inch with the XZ1, but remains at Full HD resolution.
The bezels are still pretty large compared to other brands, with the top and bottom of the phone, but less of them and pushing hard to the sides of the phone.
The larger screen also packs another useful feature: it’ll upscale SDR footage from nearly any source and make it HDR. That means you if you’re just streaming some old movie from Netflix the quality will be improved just by using the Sony Xperia XZ2, which is a pretty nifty trick.
Sony Xperia XZ2 Camera
There’s a lot to explain with the Sony camera, so let’s dive right in, starting on the rear. We’re talking a 19MP single sensor - no double cameras here from Sony - coupled with the super slo-mo capabilities from last year on the Xperia XZ Premium.
The single camera has been improved in conjunction with Qualcomm, which makes the chipset that powers the Xperia XZ2, and this should lead to improved snaps and video.
The video has certainly been improved, as the XZ2 is the world’s first mainstream phone to capture 4K HDR video. This means improved color reproduction, and better contrast ratios too - in the early test footage we were really impressed with what we saw.
That said, you aren’t able play back the images on non-HDR-compatible TVs or monitors, so the feature is turned off by default, which seems an odd move from Sony.
The super slo-mo has been improved to 1080p, but that’s shortened the amount of time you can record ‘special’ footage for. So you’re trading up on quality, but getting less of it - and given you want as much of the slow motion footage, this is going to be a tough choice for many.
The front-facing camera is down to 5MP from 13MP in previous models, partly because the quality improvements in the sensor mean it doesn’t need to be as crisp, but mostly because Sony needed to save some space on the front of the phone.
The facial scanning, allowing you to create a 3D model of your head, has been added to the front-facing camera too, so you can scan your own visage much more easily.
The Sony Xperia XZ2 battery is a 3180mAh power pack, which is a little larger than similar phones on the market, and should last for a day or so in most conditions.
Sony’s not made a big play about possible enhancements to the battery life, so it’s hard to know if this is going to be a big improvement over previous models - but it’s got the capacity to last a bit longer than others, and with greater longevity over the lifetime of the handset, as Sony has put a lot of work into improving this.
The other addition to the battery game is wireless charging, where you’ll be able to pump magic electricity into your phone without the need to plug in a cable.
Sony is promising this will happen pretty rapidly, making it less arduous to get a quick sip of power from a wireless station if you wanted that.
To help with this method of charging, Sony has brought out a wireless charging block that has a magnetic section connected. Place this at the bottom of the phone and you’ll be able to see the phone in a dock while still powering it up, or remove it to just lay the Sony Xperia XZ2 flat on your desk.
Sony Xperia XZ2 Specs
We’ve covered most of the main Xperia XZ2 specs already, but here’s the rest of what we’ve managed to glean so far.
The Xperia XZ2 will have 64GB of onboard storage, with the ability to add in 400GB of extra space through a microSD card.
There’s 4GB of RAM alongside the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU, which is one of the most powerful chipsets on the market.
Using that option means you’ll be able to get some incredibly quick download speeds here, with up to 1.2Gbps supported - while many networks won’t be able to take advantage of this, those that can will be able to download the entire world in roughly three seconds.
MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest exhibition for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2018 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.