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

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The Good The Sony Xperia XZ2's curved design makes it comfortable to hold, and its powerful speakers and cool vibration feature make games and videos feel larger than life. Being able to shoot 960fps slow motion in full HD is useful in the right moments. The fingerprint reader works in the US.

The Bad The Xperia XZ2 has a dated look, despite Sony's redesign. Software features, such as 3D face scanning, aren't very useful. The placement of the fingerprint sensor makes it too easy to press the camera lens instead.

The Bottom Line The Sony Xperia XZ2 is a solid phone, but we prefer the Huawei P20 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S9.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Camera 8
  • Battery 7

Like the XZ before it, the Xperia XZ2 will have a tough time competing with the excellent Huawei P20 Pro ($740 at Amazon.com) and Samsung Galaxy S9 ($620 at Amazon.com) 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.

sonyxperiaxz2-3

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. 

Aloysius Low/CNET

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.

sonyxperiaxz2-7

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

Aloysius Low/CNET

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.

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