For

  • Full day of life from a single charge
  • Great sound quality
  • Feature-packed camera

Against

  • Design not as desirable as rivals
  • Dynamic Vibration a gimmick
  • 'Only' full HD display

The Sony Xperia XZ2 is the Japanese firm's most recent flagship handset, but it refuses to follow in the footsteps of many of this year's top-tier smartphones.

Sure, it has the high-end power under the hood, and a well-specced camera with a slow-mo party piece, but in comparison to its peers it has a resolution commonly found on phones half its price, and it isn't afraid of showing us some bezel. 

The Xperia XZ2 is slightly confusing then. Is this a true flagship phone that's ready to take on the likes of the iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20, or is it, rather, going up against young upstarts such as Honor and OnePlus?

After extensive time spent reviewing the Xperia XZ2, we're still not sure.

Update: We've added new Sony Xperia XZ2 US price and release date information to this review.

Sony Xperia XZ2 price and availability

The Sony Xperia XZ2 is available in most major markets worldwide, so it shouldn't be too hard to find. In the US, it launches exclusively through Best Buy on April 20, and then expands its reach to Amazon and other US retailers on May 6.

In terms of the Sony Xperia XZ2 price, you're looking at $799, (£699, around $AU1,000) SIM-free. 

That makes it slightly cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S9 in the UK, but almost $100 more expensive than the S9 in the US. It's comfortably cheaper than the iPhone X, and sits in between the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro, while it’s more expensive than the LG V30 and Google Pixel 2 XL.

To sweeten the deal in the UK, you can bag yourself a free PS4 (or a PSVR if you already have the console) if you order early. 

Key features

4K HDR video recording and HDR display

The Sony Xperia XZ2 is the world's first smartphone that's capable of recording 4K HDR footage, allowing you to capture more impressive-looking videos.

It's great news for budding videographers, providing an easy way of capturing high-quality footage which looks great on 4K HDR TVs and monitors.

However, for many the more likely use of the video camera on the Xperia XZ2 will be to feed their social media addiction, in which case the quality offered on the phone is moot.

That said, the HDR playback quality can be enjoyed on the Xperia XZ2's HDR-enabled screen. This isn't the first time Sony has built HDR technology into a smartphone display, but the technology works well here to deliver a crisp, bright and visually enticing viewing experience.

Dynamic Vibration System

The Xperia XZ2 also features something new called Dynamic Vibration System, which aims to give you an enhanced haptic feedback experience when watching video, playing games or listening to music.

It's fine for gaming, but when it comes to movies it feels entirely like a gimmick. We get how it's an enhancement on a PS4 controller to have this DualShock-type functionality, but when watching a movie on a phone it just irks.

Watching episodes of Scrubs on Amazon Prime Video, the Dynamic Vibration System only features when there are off-screen sound effects. At no other times are there vibrations, even if there's a collision on screen – a situation where we'd expect to feel something from the Xperia XZ2.

We found it similarly bizarre for music playback, with the phone buzzing along in our hand to the beat. It's certainly different, but we wouldn't say it necessarily enhances the playback experience.

Lock the handset during playback, though, and it'll stop vibrating, which means it won't be constantly making irritating sounds if you pop the Xperia XZ2 on your desk.

You can adjust the vibration level of the system, with 'mild', 'normal' and 'powerful' options to choose from. 

You adjust these as you would the volume: just click the volume rocker during playback or gameplay and you'll notice an additional segment in the notification bar giving you control. You can also opt to turn the feature off completely, which we did after a while.

The Dynamic Vibration System is a fun addition best suited to gaming, but it's a feature we could live without – and the additional battery drain, although minimal, isn't worth the limited experience it provides.

Full HD slow-motion video

Sony first unveiled its 960fps slow-motion video skills in 2017 on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, and now it has competition from the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus.

To ensure it stays one step ahead of the slow-mo competition, Sony has upped the recording quality to 1080p (Full HD), while Samsung offers just 720p at the same super-slow 960fps.

It means better slow -motion shots all round, although the Xperia XZ2 – like its predecessors – still favors natural daylight for the best results.