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Thinner Lighter Better

Sony Xperia Z2 vs Xperia Z1 detailed comparison

By Andrei Girbea - @ andreigirbea , updated on September 2, 2014

In this post we’re pitching the Sony Xperia Z2 against its predecessor, the Xperia Z1. So if you want to find out how these two fare against each other and what’s new on the Z2, stay with me for the next few minutes.

On a first look, not much was modified from one generation to the other. The Z2 retains the familiar shape of the previous Zs: the same Glass sandwich design with slightly rounded metallic edges. I have the Purple version of the Z2 here, and when compared to the Purple Z1, it does look like Sony slightly tweaked the colors used on the edges, adding some Silver into the mix. Aside from that though, it’s almost impossible to set the two Zs apart.

Digging a bit deeper though, you’ll quickly find out that some aspects have actually changed. For starters, you’ll notice that there’s a slightly larger screen on the Z2, with a narrower bezel. And while we’re here, you’ll notice that the earpiece has been redesigned. The upper earpiece is longer and narrower on the new unit, and there’s a similar cut at the bottom of the front-face as well, below the screen. And that’s because these cuts now hide the speakers.

Sony Xperia Z2 vs Z1 video comparison

Yes, we have a set of front-facing stereo speakers on the Xperia Z2, firing decent quality sound. They’re not incredibly punchy or loud, but they are definitely a step forward from that bottom-edge speaker on the Xperia Z. And they are a lot more difficult to cover and muffle with your hand. Hear for yourselves.

That top speaker-cut also houses a new notification LED BTW, longer and brighter than before. Again, a nice addition, as the LED on the Z1 was quite dim.

And there are a few other minor exterior tweaks. For instance, the secondary microphone is no longer on the back of the phone, but has been moved on the top edge of the Z2, and the lanyard hole is still on the bottom edge, but on the left, not on the right like on the Z1.

Of course, the new Xperia is still IP certified, which means that all the ports are covered by plastic caps. Higher quality caps than on the previous Xperia though. And since we’re here, you will notice that while on the Z1 we had two separate caps protecting the slots on the left edge, on the Z2 there’s only one.

All in all, the Z2 feels similar to the Z1 in hand: rock solid, premium, but a bit too massive and too heavy for my liking. It’s true that the Z2 has lost a few grams over the older version, but not really enough to make a noticeable difference. And since we’re here, I should also mention that the new Z is milimetrically longer than the Z1, but pretty much the same in terms of width and thickness.

The screens

Anyway, let’s move on and have a look at the screens. There’s a 5.2 inch one on the Xperia Z2 and a 5 incher on the Xperia Z1, both sporting similar panels and the same 1920 x 1080 px resolution. In other words, again, not much has changed, at least on a first look.

It’s nearly impossible to set these two apart in terms of brightness, sharpness and contrast. However, the display on the Z2 offers larger viewing angles, which is great, but paints more over saturated colors, which you might not appreciate that much. All in all, the Z2’s screen takes a close win here. It’s a step forward, but not a breakthrough.

Oh, and let’s not forget the two new functions offered by the Z2: the ability to use the display with Gloves ON and the ability to double-tap the screen to wake up the device.

The Z2 paints quite oversaturated colors

The Z2, to the right in the picture above, paints quite over-saturated colors

Software and everyday performances

Of course, there’s more than meets the eye with these phones. Internally though, they are again fairly close. Both are powered by Snapdragon 800 chips, with a slight frequency bump for the new unit, and an extra 1 GB of RAM, for a total of 3. In benchmarks, these don’t make a big difference.


Sony Xperia Z2 Sony Xperia Z1
Screen 5.2 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, TFT Triluminos panel 5.0 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, TFT Triluminos panel
Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, 2.3 GHz + Adreno 330 graphics Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, 2.2 GHz + Adreno 330 graphics
Memory 3 GB RAM 2 GB RAM
Storage 16 GB 16 GB
Connectivity
4G/LTE, Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC 4G/LTE, Wireless AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC
Ports microUSB, microSD microUSB, microSD
Cameras 20.7 MPx back camera, 2.1 MPx front camera 20.7 MPx back camera, 2.1 MPx front camera
Battery 3200 mAh 3000 mAh
OS Android 4.4 KitKat Android 4.2 JellyBean
Size 147 x 74 x 8.4 mm 144 x 74 x 8.5 mm
Weight 162 g 170 g
Others available in several different colors, front-facing stereo speakers, 4K video recording available in several different colors

In everyday use though, the Xperia Z2 feels smoother and snappier than the Z1. But that’s more due to the software, than the hardware. The Z2 comes with Android 4.4 by default, while on this version of the Z1 I’m only running Android 4.2 , and that’s what causes the slight performance gap between them..

Android 4.4 brings some extra features, we’re not going to talk about them in here though, see my video review for the Xperia Z2 for more details. I will say however that Sony kept the UI clean, with only a few tweaks, while adding their own apps and services, which are also available on the Z1. And one more thing: KitKat looks so much sexier than Jellybean, don’t you think?

There's Android 4.4 KitKat on the Xperia Z2, and it's both faster and more appealing than JellyBean

There’s Android 4.4 KitKat on the Xperia Z2, and it’s both faster and more appealing than JellyBean

Bottom point, both these phones are powerful and more than capable of dealing with everything you might throw at them, from daily tasks to games and multimedia. However, there’s a newer version of Android on the Xperia Z2, with a bunch of benefits, while the Z1 might only receive this update sometime in the future.

The cameras

Let’s move on for now and turn our attention on the cameras. On paper, very little has changed. The two devices pack the same 2 MPx front shooters and 20.7 MPx rear cameras with large sensors. The Z2 however benefits from a few extra shooting modes: 4K video, TimeShift Video, Background Defocus and so on. So when it comes to taking videos, the Z2 clearly steps in front.

The two Zs pack a similar main-shooter

The two Zs pack a similar main-shooter

But how about pics? Well, the Z2 is a powerful shooter in good light, but still struggles in dim conditions. It fails to focus more often than you’d want and the software still mushes out the details if you actually manage to capture a focused still. And that’s with and without Flash, both when using the Smart Auto or the Manual modes.

However, I do have to admit that the Z2’s camera does a better job than the one on the Z1 in the given conditions, but there’s still room for improvement.

Studio Lights - 20 MPx resized to 8 Mpx, manual

Studio Lights – 20 MPx resized to 8 Mpx, manual

Indoors - low light - Flash

Indoors – low light – Flash

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Indoor test – low light – no flash

These aside, there’s one more important aspect to cover: battery life. Again, on paper, not much has changed, but the Z2 is really outlasting the Z1 in everyday use. While I haven’t conducted detailed tests, the Z2 was able to go through the day with medium to heavy use, which translates in 4-5 hours of active screen time, while the Z1 cannot. Of course, both devices offer some Power management options, so if you want to, you can squeeze more out of them. Either way, the Z2 is the winner here.

Wrap up

Alright, all these being said, it’s time to draw the line on this comparison.

The Z2 is the definition of incremental upgrade. And it’s the proof that Sony are listening to our complaints and working on improving their devices. With this one, they addressed the speakers, the screen, the cameras and the battery life, while they buffed up the specs and brought the software up-to-date. Some aspects of it still require further tweaking, but when pitched against the only 6 months old Z1, the Z2 is clearly the better device. It is more expensive as well though, since it’s brand new, and that’s something else you’ll have to keep in mind.

The Xperia Z2 improves many of the Z1's issues

The Xperia Z2 improves many of the Z1’s issues

This concludes our comparison, but before you go, I’d love to know what do you think about these two devices and whether or not you’re happy with the new Xperia Z2. So make sure to leave your replies below.

And if you’re interested in more details about Sony’s new Z, I’ve also reviewed it here on the site, and compared it to the iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S4, so you might want to check out these posts as well.

Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.

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