Should I upgrade? – Xperia Z1 vs Xperia Z2

Welcome to the first article in our series Should I Upgrade? Here, we examine if the new iteration of a device is really worth it to purchase over its predecessor. Today, we’ll be looking at Sony’s flagship Z-line and will compare the Xperia Z1, and recently announced Xperia Z2.

PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE
PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE

The Xperia Z1 (review here) was announced in September, and was released in Singapore on the 1st of October last year. At the time, it was the reflection of Sony’s willingness to pull out the big punches in the Android scene – a vision that we think has definitely been realised.

PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE
PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE

6 months later, Sony has announced and will soon launch the Xperia Z2. The jump from the Z1 to the Z2 is not revolutionary, but it fixes all that was wrong with the Z1. Still, it doesn’t mean that you have to upgrade.

Specs

Sony Xperia Z1 Sony Xperia Z2
Display 5”, 1080p “Triluminos” TN LCD display 5.2”, 1080p “Triluminos” IPS LCD display
Video Recording 1080p 2160p/4K
Processor MSM8974, Quad-core 2.15 GHz Snapdragon 800 MSM8974AB, Quad-core 2.26GHz Snapdragon 801
RAM 2 GB 3 GB
Speakers Single speaker, downward-facing Stereo speakers, front-facing “S-Force Front Surround”
Battery 3000 mAh 3200 mAh

Most of what’s been changed has been under the hood, but there have still been minor cosmetic improvements, as well as a significant build modification.

Design and Build

The Z1 (left) and Z2 (right) | PHOTO CREDIT: IBTIMES DIGITAL
The Z1 (left) and Z2 (right) | PHOTO CREDIT: IBTIMES DIGITAL

At first glance, the Xperia Z2 and Z1 look like two peas in a pod. The dimensions of the taller but less wider and thinner Z2 now are 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm (5.78 x 2.89 x 0.32 in), compared to the 144 x 74 x 8.5 mm (5.67 x 2.91 x 0.33 in) of the Z1.

Hardly anything has changed, except for minor details such as the card slot/charging port locations and flap styles. The speakers have been shifted from  the bottom to the front, and sound much better than the Z1. The bottom now has three perforations for the microphone.

The design hasn't changed much from the Z1, which is not an issue
The design hasn’t changed much from the Z1, which is not an issue

The Z2 still has an aluminium chassis, and the front and back panels are made of glass. The rectangular design does not really hit the spot for many (even as a Z1 owner I concede the HTC One M7 and M8 look better), however it is still leagues ahead of the South Korean offerings.

The Z1 next to it's predecessor - the Z
The Z1 next to it’s predecessor – the Z

Thanks to the OmniBalance philosophy, the weight of both devices is evenly distributed, and you can balance them on the tips of your fingers at the center of the devices. The weight has been also surprisingly reduced by 9g to 163g on the Z2 – just 3 g heavier than the HTC One (M8).

Display

Z1 (left) and Z2 (right) | PHOTO CREDIT: AndroidCentral
Z1 (left) and Z2 (right) | PHOTO CREDIT: AndroidCentral

The Z1 came with a 1080p 5 inch display, which the Z2 has bettered and increased the diagonal to 5.2 inches while keeping the 1080p resolution.

Sony had inexplicably used a TFT LCD panel in their Z1 – a decision that left everyone scratching their heads. Apple, HTC and LG had long demonstrated the benefits of an IPS LCD display, and even Samsung’s choiced of AMOLED offered a better experience.

PHOTO CREDIT: DIGI-WO
PHOTO CREDIT: DIGI-WO

Simply looking at the Z1 display head-on, you might gripe slightly about the colour reproduction, but that’s not the Z1’s Achilles heel. That would be the terrible viewing angles. Shifting the device even a few degrees from 90 degrees, and contrast takes a big hit. The problem is so bad, that deep blacks begin to look like light grey.

PHOTO CREDIT: DIGI-WO
PHOTO CREDIT: DIGI-WO

Thankfully, Sony replaced the TFT panel with an IPS one in the Z2, and the differences are tremendous. Not only have the viewing angles hugely improved, colour reproduction has also been heavily boosted.

Side-by-side, the Z1’s TFT display is outgunned and when viewing the devices at an angle, the images and videos on the Z2 do not suffer from any contrast compression like the Z1. In short, the Z2 completely trounces the Z1 in the display department.

Performance

The Xperia Z1 and Z2 are running a nearly identical processor – the Snapdragon 800 and 801 respectively. The former is running at a clock speed of 2.15 GHz, while the latter runs at 2.26 GHz.

The Snapdragon 801 is a slight improvement over the 800
The Snapdragon 801 is a slight improvement over the 800

While there is a 110 MHz increase in clock speed on the Z2, you are not going to see any real-life improvements whatsoever.

Where the Z2 has an edge is in the RAM capacity, which will run more tasks in the background than the Z1. The 3 GB included in the Z2 is a 1 GB improvement over the Z1, a RAM capacity pioneered by the Galaxy Note 3 (review here).

Don’t let this fool you into believing that the Z1 is inferior. The increased clock speed and RAM will have no effect at all on your usage, and will hardly make an impact even 2 years down the road.

UI and OS

Icons are larger, but there are hardly any changes | PHOTO CREDIT: MOBILEPHONES.COM
The 4.4.2 icons are larger, but there are hardly any changes | PHOTO CREDIT: MOBILEPHONES.COM

Both devices have an identical UI (after the Z1 has been updated to 4.4.2 KitKat), so there’s really nothing to compare here. You can check out the comparison between the 4.3 Jellybean UI of the Xperia Z1 and the new 4.4.2 UI at Xperiablog here.

Camera

PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE
PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE

On paper, both the Z1 and Z2 share the same camera specifications – a 1/2.3 inch sensor and a 20.7 MP resolution. The Z1 produced some marvellous images, especially in low-light (images here), but was let down by it’s video recording capability.

0Z1 Camera
PHOTO CREDIT: SONY MOBILE

The Z2 has improved on both. Not only do the images and videos look better, the Z2 can now also record slow-motion video at 1080p 60 FPS, 720p at 120 FPS and 4K (2160p) resolution video.

Battery

The Xperia Z2 has seen a 200 mAh increase in battery capacity over the Xperia Z1’s 3000 mAh.

The Z1 already gave excellent battery life, as can be seen above. Your mileage may vary though, as some users are reporting worse battery life with the 4.4.2 update – an inverse of what I’ve experienced on my Z1.

It is safe to assume, then, that the increase in battery capacity to 200 mAh should definitely hold the Z2 to the Z1’s battery life, or even further surpass it. Till we get a review sample with us though, that remains an intelligent guess.

Should I upgrade?

The Z2 essentially is a much needed fix to the flaws of the Z1 – the biggest (and possibly only significant) one being the display. Sure, the camera is slightly better, the speakers have seen a large improvement, the device is lighter, and the battery is larger… but in my opinion, as an upgrade it’s not really worth it.

Sony CEO unveiling the Z2 | PHOTO CREDIT: DESIGNBYTENEPAL
Sony CEO unveiling the Z2 | PHOTO CREDIT: DESIGNBYTENEPAL

An upgrade right now can cost you anywhere north of S$400. The value of the Xperia Z1 has dropped significantly after the Z2 announcement, and is worth approximately S$600 used. Looking at the retail price of $998 of the Xperia Z2, this might set you back a good amount (especially considering the fact that the Xiaomi Mi3 costs just S$412).

Even if you can afford that, do note that the Z3 will be launching at the end of the year. It is a strong possibility that the Z3 will be a much bigger improvement over the Z2 than the Z2 is over the Z1, as I have detailed above.

However, if budget is still not a concern, then an upgrade to the Z2 (and a possible upgrade to the Z3) is a must. Most of the improvements are minor (save the display), but they are there and improve your overall experience.

If you can’t afford a 6-month (or yearly) upgrade, then don’t feel bad. The Z2 is a really good phone on its own, but I’m not worried about my Z1. After all, it’s still a damn good device.

The Xperia Z2 will be available in Singapore from 5th April at S$998. Will you be getting one?

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