Display: Finally an Improvement
For generations, Sony hasnt managed to get the display on their top end smartphone right. Theres been no shortage of marketing terms used to describe the substandard panels, but finally with the Z2 that has changed for the better, the quality of the display that is, which is now competitive with other similarly-priced devices.
Technically-speaking were looking at a 5.2-inch IPS TFT LCD panel with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, resulting in a pixel density of 424 PPI. Sony brands the panel itself as Triluminous, which appears to refer to the displays wide color gamut, and Live Color LED apparently describes a new LED backlight technology. Oh, and theres also the X-Reality Engine to top it all off.
By choosing IPS Sony solved one of the major issues with the Xperia Z and Z1s displays: viewing angles. Previously, if you looked at the Z1s display slightly off center, there would be drastic washing out due to the poor viewing angles; a problem most noticeable when the Z1 was on a desk. On the Z2 however, there is no such issue, as youll find the handsets display is viewable from nearly every angle.
The IPS technology also has some major benefits when it comes to color quality and accuracy. The panel used on the Xperia Z1 was dull, lacking in the contrast and saturation youd expect from a flagship smartphone display. The Z2s display, on the other hand, looks fantastic in most aspects and gives some of my favourite panels those found in the Galaxy S5, Nexus 5 and LG G2 a serious run for their money.
Sonys Triluminous technology gives this particular IPS panel a wider color gamut than sRGB, which does reduce color accuracy on Android due to the lack of color management. The issue can rear its head as color banding when viewing gradients, but I definitely prefer having a too wide gamut to a too narrow gamut, which gives the appearance of slight oversaturation. However, if youre after perfect accuracy, youll need to stick with trusted performers such as the Google Nexus 5.
Blacks on the Z2s display are reasonably deep for an LCD panel, but there is backlight bleed that you wouldnt get were this an AMOLED. This results in contrast that is good, but not the best Ive seen. Meanwhile the new Live Color LED technology combines red and green phosphor with blue LEDs in the backlight to produce even, untinted light, and although the Z2 does come with a white balance adjustment feature, it doesnt seem necessary when the balance is great to begin with.
Like all LCD displays used on modern smartphones, theres a selection of filter layers between the liquid crystals and the protective glass to improve outdoor visibility. The display module appears very close to the protective glass, indicating few layers in its composition which helps cut down on reflections. The filter layers present also help when youre looking at the display in sunlight: I had no trouble reading the Z2s display in strong lighting, thanks to a bright backlight and effective glare reduction. In fact this panel is one of the easiest to view outdoors for those very reasons.
The Xperia Z2s 5.2-inch display packs a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p), and in part thanks to the RGB stripe subpixel matrix, it looks crisp and clear. This is no surprise as were looking at a pixel density of 424 PPI, and as Ive mentioned countless times in the past, 1080p displays of this size look as good as paper when displaying text. Images and videos also look great on this screen, begging the question of whether we need higher resolution panels on smartphones.
Like many of Sonys past smartphones, the Xperia Z2 features the X-Reality Engine, which you can enable or disable through the devices settings. Basically this engine is a series of software-based enhancements, such as noise reduction and saturation increases, that are applied to photos and videos when you view them in the stock applications. In some situations images do look better with the X-Reality Engine on, however it comes at the expense of accuracy as its essentially post-processing.
The X-Reality Engine also only takes effect in Sonys first-party applications, and only when youre actually viewing images or videos. Its an interesting implementation, especially as the display is now good enough that image quality doesnt need to be enhanced. I would turn X-Reality Engine off, and leave it off.
However Sony has included a few useful touchscreen-related features that bring the Xperia Z2 to feature-parity with other top-end handsets. You get a high-sensitivity touchscreen mode that allows you to use the display with gloves on, and theres also an option to turn on the display with a quick double tap. Both features will come at a cost of battery life, but can be quite useful.