Hands On With The Xperia Z2 Smartphone And Z2 Tablet, Sony’s Waterproof Wonders

Both Samsung and HTC have new flagship Android phones out in the U.S., but Sony isn’t just sitting back and doing nothing. The company has its new 5.2-inch Z2 smartphone launching soon in select markets, including in Canada in May. The waterproof glass-encased handset has a lot in common with last year’s Z1, but goes the extra mile with new imaging options, noise cancellation features and 4K video recording.

I got to try out the Xperia Z2 and the Z2 Tablet, Sony’s new Android-powered slate, and came away impressed with both. The Z2 has a screen that could challenge Samsung’s Galaxy S5 for best display on the smartphone market, thanks in part to special tech Sony has included from its television lineup that makes colors really pop. This works for photos and videos captured on the device, and for media from the Internet, including Netflix, with special pixel-rendering software that makes for stunning images on the screen. I’m not sure what exactly is included in the special sauce, but the results truly are impressive on the Z2’s panel, which now also features IPS.

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Sony’s hardware feels light and a bit chunkier than some of the other handsets on the market, but it also feels a bit sturdier than some of its plastic compatriots, and the all-glass look seems improved on the Z2. Thinner bezels make that star screen standout more, too.

In practice the Android 4.4.2 OS is speedy thanks to the beefy quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, and the waterproof phone really is that – you’re not only free to spill water on it or bring it in the shower, but also snorkel and shoot photos and videos with it. Take that Galaxy S5.

The camera is impressive, delivering 20 megapixels and up to 4K video capture. In my brief tests, it seemed to fare better than its predecessor in low-light image performance, and the host of developer and in-house-created filters that Sony offers mostly now work on both photo and videos. There’s a background defocus feature, but it’s kind of tricky to get right and definitely requires a steady hand plus lots of time, just like the same feature on the GS5.

Overall, the Xperia Z2 seems like a very impressive handset, with features that make it perfect for the active traveller who only wants to carry around a single device. In Canada when it launches next month, it’ll debut on Bell first. No word yet on a U.S. launch timeframe.

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The Z2 Tablet is what Sony calls the thinnest and lightest tablet yet, and it really is impressive on both counts for a tablet with its screen size. The display is also impressive, and it’s waterproof, too, meaning you could theoretically use it to watch Netflix in the bath if that’s what makes you happy. My only issue is that it feels so thin and light I actually felt concerned I might be able to snap it in half thanks to its plastic back cover construction.

Sony’s been quietly building up its smartphone chops over the past couple of years, and based on initial impressions, the Z2 feels like it can stand toe-to-toe with the Android flagships of its rivals at the very least. We’ll have full reviews of both gadgets to see how they stack up after a closer, more prolonged impression.