Sony Xperia Z5 Compact full review
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Sony doesn't do a mini version of its flagship smartphone every time but it has once again with the Xperia Z5 range, as unveiled at IFA 2015. It's good to see a new smaller handset again following the Xperia Z3 Compact. Here’s our full and in-depth Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review.
Also see: Best Black Friday Phone Deals
Before we launch into the review it's worth pointing out that not only is there an Xperia Z5 and the Xperia Z5 Compact, there's also a new Xperia Z5 Premium which features the first 4K screen we've seen on a smartphone.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review: Release date and price
Now widely available across the UK, the Z5 Compact costs £429 if you go straight to Sony. Retailers like Expansys and Clove match the price and the latter has thrown in a free pair of SBH60 headphones.
If you're trying to decide which Z5 to buy, the Compact is the cheapest with the Z5 officially priced at £549 and the Premium at £629.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review: Design and build
We've always been a fan of the Compact phones from Sony and although the new model doesn't look massively different, it's got some new design features to show off. Like its bigger brother, the frosted glass rear cover looks really good and the graded metal frame also adds to the style. It has a more premium finish this time around.
We're not convinced by the very flat sides though, though, which make the phone feel a bit brick-like and therefore chunky. The finish on the metal frame is also quite lacking in grip. We took a look at the black model but you'll also be able to get the Z5 Compact in white, yellow and coral colour options.
As with the regular Z5, the Compact has got thicker and heavier compared to its predecessor even though Sony says it has the same 'footprint'. It's now 8.9mm and 138g compared to 8.6mm and 129g. It's not a huge difference and it's accentuated but the flat sides, but it's not the right direction to be going in.
Another strange thing about the design, which we also found on the Z5, is that the metal frame doesn't sit flush with the front and rear glass. This creates a slightly sharp edge which can be uncomfortable. We did find it less of a problem on the Compact but it's nevertheless a loss of build quality compared to even the original Z1 Compact. Also see: Best MiFi 2016.
As we found with the larger Z5, the volume rocker on the Compact is too far towards the bottom of the phone to be comfortable – we're not sure why Sony didn't put it the other side of the power button.
Speaking of the power button, you may notice it looks quite different to the round one you're used to seeing. This is because it now has a fingerprint scanner built in which is quick, accurate and having it on the side makes more sense than any other implementation – it's exactly where your thumb naturally sits on the phone.
In case you're wondering, Sony hasn't decided to suddenly drop a key design feature so the Z5 Compact is still waterproof IP68 – with only one flap for the card slots.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review: Hardware and specs
As well as the stylish new design, the Z5 Compact has some new hardware but it's a slight shame to see the screen still at 4.6in and 720p when we would have liked to see an upgrade to Full HD. That's not to say that the display isn't good but it's not an area which will compel existing owners to upgrade for.
Our final review sample was a white Z5 Compact and Sony has confirmed that some users may find issues with the touchscreen (we did in that sometimes it was unresponsive). The firm has said a software update will fix this issue.
There's still 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, although our sample had 32GB (21GB available), plus that Micro-SD card slot which is becoming more elusive and it can take up to 200GB.
The processor inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 which is a nice upgrade from the Z3 Compact which has a Snapdragon 801. Sony has to be applauded for once again making sure many of the specs remain the same as the regular model, instead of downgrading various specs like a typical 'mini' phone.
With excellent performance, the Z5 Compact is snappy in more than just camera department. The benchmark numbers are very impressive but not everything is instantanous all of the time.
Inside the Xperia Z5 Compact is a 2700mAh (up from 2600mAh on the Z3 Compact) and Sony touts two days battery life. There's no wireless charging but you can use a QCH10 charger to get 5.5 hours usage from 10 minutes plugged in – although that charger won't be in the box.
In our battery benchmark, the Z5 Compact lasted a middle of the road four hours and 57 minutes with a score of 2970. That's neither impressive nor poor but most users will get the advertised two days of usage before needing to charge - unless you hammer it with tasks like gaming, shooting video and watching video.
Other specs to mention include 11ac Wii-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and 4G LTE support. If you want things like a heart rate monitor, you'll need to look at Sony's rivals. It's a shame that the notification LED is on the front next to the light sensor rather than stylishly combined into the strip earpiece.
As well as the processor staying the same compared to the flagship model, the 23Mp camera is also a key feature of the Z5 Compact which is the first new module since the Xperia Z1 (excuse the pre-production XXMp etc in the photo below). We love that Sony continues to offer a dedicated two-stage camera button.
It's worth noting that you'll need to head into the settings to actually shoot at 23Mp but Sony has intended it to be used at 8Mp with the remaining pixels used for oversampling.
The camera is supposedly the fastest to focus at just 0.03 seconds, offers x5 Clear Image Zoom and has the best low light performance.
We can certainly vouch for the quick auto-focus system which locks on without delay almost every time. It's easily one of the fastest we've ever seen on a phone and will help to avoid missing moments.
Shooting in 8Mp does help for zooming in but doesn't always produce the best results. If you like detail and sharpness, you might be better off switching up to 20- or 23Mp shots. The bottom line is that Clear Image Zoom isn't what Sony makes it out to be - get a proper camera if this is a big deal.
While some low light shots can come out well, the lack of optical image stabilisation is a big hindrance here - again, Sony's claim of being the best isn't true.
It's a good camera, but the problem is that Sony is making it out to be the best you can buy in a smartphone and we just don't find that to be the case. You can see samples below - click to enlarge and note that we've had to resize the 23Mp shot to reduce file size.
A test photo at default 8Mp 16:9
A test photo at 23Mp 4:3
To sum up the hardware situation, it's a shame to see 720p as the screen resolution but the screen is smaller than the Z5 and the key thing here is that you're getting all the same core high end specs (although there's 2GB of RAM). Sony has impressed us before with this and has done so once again with this handset.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review: Software
With some design and hardware changes, there's little to say about the software on the Z5 Compact which comes pre-loaded with Android 5.1 Lollipop. Sony has confirmed it will be upgraded to Android 6.0 Marshmallow but said details will be announced at a later date.
Existing Sony users will be instantly at home with the user interface which looks almost identical to previous versions. Much of it is stock Android Lollipop and as a spokesperson for Sony told us "why mess with it?"
While elements such as the notification bar and recent apps look the same as a Nexus phone, Sony does add its floating widgets, wallpapers and some stylish widgets which we're all for. You can also customise the quick settings which is a welcome feature.
There are also Sony's good quality apps like Walkman, Album and Playstation but we're no so keen on finding quite a few third party apps like Facebook, Dropbox and AVG - all of which you can uninstall if you simply won't make use of them.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact: Specs
- Android 5.1 Lollipop
- 4.6in IPS (720x1280, 323ppi)
- 2.2GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 CPU
- Adreno 430 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 32GB internal storage
- microSD slot (up to 200GB)
- 23Mp rear camera AF with LED Flash
- 5Mp front camera
- Video recording at up to 2160p
- Wi-Fi up tp 11.ac
- 4G LTE Cat 6
- 2700mAh battery
- Dust and waterproof (IP68)