The Xperia Z5 Compact is proof that good things do come in small sizes: While most other handset manufacturers are obsessed with XXL sized devices, Sony is one of only a few handset makers to hedge their bets when it comes to phone size with their range encompassing the large (the Z5 premium) through to the petite (the Z5 compact).
There’s a lot to be said for the old saying “size doesn’t matter”. Sony is one of a shrinking number of phone makers who’ve opted to cram a boatload of functionality into diminutive chassis. The Xperia Z5 Compact is sufficiently small and light that it can slide into a pocket or purse without the accompanying sound of tearing fabric. There’s also the added benefit of being able to use the Z5 compact with one hand. Big screened phones have an up-front wow factor, but this quickly wears off after a few weeks of hefting them around double-handed like a two handled battle-axe.
Look and Feel
Design-wise, the Xperia Z5 Compact mirrors its larger sibling, the Xperia Z5. Bizarrely it doesn’t seem all that much smaller than the Z5 (127 x 65 x 8.9mm vs. 146 x 72 x 7.3mm). It is slightly thicker than the Z5. This isn’t a derogatory statement about phone IQ’s, but is more to do with the fact that Sony needed to cram a reasonably sized battery into a much smaller chassis. In the hand, this additional thickness isn’t noticeable until you place a Z5 Compact and Z5 side by side (and even then it isn’t that obvious). The Z5 compact has also got more screen and less bezel than its previous gen compact counterpart.
The Z5 Compact can be had in white, black, yellow or coral pink – My review unit was black, which looks (and feels) pretty stylish. The Z5 Compact speaks the same design language as the Z5 in its slab-like design with rounded corners and edges. The net result of this is that it is comfortable for extended use.
At the bottom left hand edge of the Z5 Compact, there's a flap that covers the microSD and Sim slot. Installing a Nano Sim requires that the Sim Drawer slides out, which is fiddly as the drawer is almost too small to hold - I dropped it twice before getting the SIM into it, which is a worry. This said, Sony earns brownie points for continuing to include a MicroSD slot when so many other manufacturers have chosen not to do so.
Sony hasn't moved to USB-C either, and the Z5 Compact’s charger slot isn’t covered with a flap. This goes some way towards reducing the amount of fiddling about when connecting a charger last thing at night. It also handily means the Z5 compact works with my existing chargers.
The Z5 compact also includes several other nice usability touches. As with earlier Xperia phones, the Z5 compact has a dedicated camera button on its right-hand edge. It’s the perfect spot when holding the phone landscape fashion as a camera. I wish more Smartphone makers would follow their example.
Another is the power button which also has a built in fingerprint sensor. This means that powering up the Z5 Compact and unlocking is a single seamless operation. It’s a simple yet clever idea that works well in practice.
Under the Hood
Sony has commendably kept most of the Z5 compact specs in line with its bigger siblings. This translates into the same processor and camera.
There are some areas where this isn’t the case. The first is screen, which has a 720p resolution compared to the 1080p of the Z5 or 4K of the Z5 premium. This said, 720p still looks crisp given the smaller screen compared to that of the Z5. The other is RAM, which at 2GB is plenty enough for most tasks you’re ever likely to need a Smartphone for.
Its CPU is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, which is a definite step up from the Z3 Compact’s Snapdragon 801. This spec translates into excellent performance. The Z5 Compact performed flawlessly and remained responsive while running demanding games such as GTA or Asphalt.
The Z5 compacts 2700mAh battery delivered just on two days battery life between charges with typical use. While there is no wireless charging, the Z5 compact does support fast charging which can give just over 5 hours use from just 10 minutes plugged into a compatible fast charger. Add Sony’s stamina mode and this can be stretched out further if need be.
On the wireless connectivity front, about the only thing missing from the Z5 compact is a kitchen sink and wireless charging. Built in connectivity options include 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and 4G.
Another nice touch is the camera. When it comes to most Smartphones, a compact model usually means “budget version” (and this typically means cat down specs, especially an ultra low-fi shooter), the Z5 compact thankfully sports the same 23Mp rear image sensor as used with its bigger Z5 sibling. In use the camera took decent photos and video under a wide range of lighting conditions. The Z5 compact camera also impressed with its responsiveness. From tapping the camera button to snapping a photo, the entire process felt almost instantaneous, yet still delivered accurately focused and correctly exposed images most of the time.
When it comes to the user interface, Sony have adopted an “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it mentality”. The interface will be instantly familiar to users of any recent Xperia phones. Where some manufacturers cake Android with custom skins and launchers, Sony have largely kept most of the interface as stock as possible. In practice this adds to the compact’s usability.
This said, Sony has added some customisations. These come in the form of widgets, wallpapers and several Sony apps such as Walkman, Album and Playstation. There are also a few third party apps including Dropbox and facebook, most of which can be uninstalled.
The Xperia Compact is a pleasant surprise. A thoughtfully executed design and solid spec combines with several clever touches such as the finger print sensor power switch to create a highly usable and desirable Smartphone that is proof that good things do indeed sometimes come in small packages. If you’re hankering for a highly pocketable phone that isn’t a cut down compromise, the Z5 Compact is a solid choice.
Dimensions: 127 x 65 x 8.9 mm
Durability: IP68 (dust proof and water resistant over 1.5 meter and 30 minutes)
Display Type: IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 4.6” 720 x 1280 pixels (323 ppi)
OS: Android OS, v5.1.1 (Lollipop)
Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8994 Snapdragon 810/Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2 GHz Cortex-A57/Adreno 430
Memory Card slot: microSD, up to 200 GB
Storage: 32 GB
RAM: 2 GB RAM
CAMERA - Rear: 23 MP/2160p 30fps, 1080p 60fps, 720p 120fps, Front 5.1 MP, 1080p, HDR
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.1, A2DP, apt-X, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS,
BATTERY: Non-removable Li-Ion 2700 mAh battery
Stand-by: 520 h
Talk time: Up to 14 h 50 min