Sony Xperia Z2: Not Good In The Sun

Vlad Savov, The Verge:

Sony starts its quest to be the best with the most important component on any device: the display. Muted and lifeless LCDs were a chronic weakness of the company’s previous Xperia devices, so the new Live Color LED screens on the Z2 and Z2 Tablet make for an incredibly gratifying upgrade. Colors stay true and vibrant, contrast is strong enough to make blacks appear truly black, and viewing angles are almost (but not quite) as good as on the excellent HTC One and iPhone 5S. At long last, the flagship Sony smartphone can stand alongside its direct competitors. Still, even with the widest color gamut of any mobile device and 1080p resolution, Sony’s new IPS screens only bring it up to the same level as the rest — they are not tangibly better than the industry’s standard setters. And in one important respect, they are markedly worse.

Sony feels like Microsoft. I remember when anything Microsoft did it didn’t do very well until its third try. If I remember correctly Windows didn’t quite get it right until Windows 3.0, or was it 3.1. During the browser war years when Microsoft wanted not only to dominate the browser market but completely kill off Netscape Navigator it wasn’t until Internet Explorer 3.0 that Microsoft started to chomp away at Netscape’s browser market share.

The Z1 had a lot going for it in terms of industrial design. I prefer slightly angular corners to corners that are rounded too much. I like flat backs. But there are two things I cannot deal with: a bad display, and a bad camera. The Z1 had a decent camera, but a terrible display. With the Z2 Sony has come quite close to getting the display right, but not quite.

Take the Z2 outside and you’ll be confronted by its biggest shortcoming: it’s practically unusable on a sunny day. Even with brightness maxed out, half of my sample photos for this review were composed through guesswork due to the screen being too dim and reflective to provide any useful information outdoors. This vampiric aversion to sunlight is somewhat forgivable on the Z2 Tablet — which is less likely to be used on the move — but is basically a deal-breaker on the Z2. While I appreciate everything Sony has done to make my YouTube experience better, a mobile phone is meant to be mobile. I should be able to see who’s calling me even if I’m not in a dark room.

Reflectance is the word Sony’s display engineers need to remember. The goal is to reduce reflectance as much as possible. I’m with Savov: I use my phone everywhere including when it is sunny outside, and I need to be able to see what’s on my phone’s display. Like Microsoft maybe Sony will get the display right and start taking market share away from the competition with the third try.