1. Sony Xperia Z2
The Xperia Z2 makes almost zero compromises – on screen, sound, camera or battery life. The design is gallery-worthy, finished with rounded aluminium corners, an all-glass back and minimalist details. But your hands might not like it – both the S5 and One M8 are easier to hold than this 163g block, and picking up the Z2 from a desk can be awkward.
It has Live Colour LED tech for punchy but accurate hues, and clear-sounding stereo speakers on the front of the phone. Our only niggle? The front is seriously reflective. For a smartphone camera, the Z2 can take incredible photos with its 1/2.3in, 20.7MP sensor and speedy autofocus. It also flies in use: these three phones share the same 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 processor but the Sony’s 3GB of RAM bests its rivals. Small apps in overlaid windows lag occasionally, but it’s still a great use of that 5.2in screen, and the Android skin is mostly clutter-free.
With a bigger screen, there’s a bigger 3200mAh battery and the Z2 reliably lasts the day - with Stamina mode to conserve juice when the screen’s off.
Overall, this is the connoisseur’s choice, capable of taking brilliant photos and playing cinephile video. It oozes quality but isn’t the most practical choice. But if you have the time to show Sony some love, it will return it in large dollops.
READ MORE: Sony Xperia Z2 - the full review
More after the break...
A gorgeous design isn’t the same as a thoughtful design. Although the Z2’s a heavy smartphone, this isn’t the problem - the HTC weighs just as much. The issue is more that the Z2’s toughened glass build would work better scaled down. When you’re dealing with a 5.2in diagonal span of glass, ergonomics count (we’re hoping the Z2 Compact gets this right).
Another smartphone best picked up and fondled before you decide, then. If its shape and minimalist design work for you, you can get back to appreciating everything the Sony does brilliantly. Such as being waterproof: with all the port flaps closed, the Z2 has the same IP55/IP58 water-resistance as the Z1. Plus, the headphone jack is now flap-free.
In almost every way the Z2’s screen is a stunner. It displays fine detail better than both the S5 and the One M8, perfect for pressing your nose up against full HD movies. Viewing angles aren’t the best but they’re no longer a problem either.
The Superior Auto mode doesn’t always produce the best images – it can struggle to expose correctly in sunlight and it doesn’t have the night vision of the HTC. But chances are, Sony owners won’t mind digging into the comprehensive settings.
Here it shines: faces come out well in low light, scenes look punchy and the background de-focus mode is mesmerising. Both 1080p and 4K footage are smooth thanks to SteadyShot stabilisation, though autofocus jumps around while filming and, with the Snapdragon heating up, the Z2 can abruptly stop shooting in the higher resolution.
OS and apps: 9/10
Sony’s treatment of KitKat verges on bloatware, with pushy media services ruining the fun. For instance, an upward swipe to access Google Now also shows Sony’s What’s New app: a feature guaranteed to have zero fans.
READ MORE: 10 of the best apps for the Sony Xperia Z2