Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: Sony’s best small handset

Alex Kidman 29 June 2018 NEWS

Sony proves you can still make a great small phone with the exceptional Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact.

Quick Verdict
The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact corrects everything we didn't like about the Xperia XZ2, and does so at a size where you're usually beset with compromises. It's easily the best small premium smartphone you can buy right now.

The good

  • Great performance.
  • Easy to hold and operate in one hand.
  • Surprisingly good battery life.
  • 1080p 960fps slow motion.

The bad

  • No headphone jack.
  • No wireless charging.
  • Pudgy design.
  • Camera is only good, not great.


Sony announced the Xperia XZ2 Compact alongside its bigger sibling, the Xperia XZ2 back at Mobile World Congress in February.

I've already reviewed the Xperia XZ2, finding it a solidly built but ultimately frustrating phone. Typically the small or "lite" versions of a handset are worse than their bigger siblings, but Sony has pulled off a remarkable feat with the Xperia XZ2 Compact, producing a handset that is the superior by a pretty wide margin.


Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Design

The Xperia XZ2 Compact shares the same new, softer design philosophy of the Xperia XZ2, but understandably shrunk down a little. This has a few interesting effects for both the positive and negative.

With dimensions of 135 x 65 x 12.1mm the Xperia XZ2 is both compact in overall size while also feeling rather thick compared to current handsets. This means that it's easier to hold in the hand, and notably much easier to grasp than the super-slippery body of the Xperia XZ2.

At the same time, the Xperia XZ2 Compact has more bulk than you might expect, which gives it the weird sensation of feeling like a new Sony design while also feeling rather like a throwback to much earlier phone designs. Place this face down next to an iPhone 3G, and Apple logos aside, you might not pick the difference.

That smaller size gives the Xperia XZ2 Compact other advantages over its larger sibling than just being less slippery. The rear mounted fingerprint scanner is easier to reach with a feel that's less out of place than on the Xperia XZ2's larger frame. Sadly, there's no headphone jack for those who don't like Bluetooth headphones or dongles, but Sony's hardly alone in making that jump.

Sony also hasn't opted for a "notched" display, with the Xperia XZ2 Compact having notable top and bottom bezels around its 5-inch 1080p display. Again, its small size works in its favour here, because a larger display would inevitably mean bezels that stood out even more.

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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Camera

Sony makes the vast majority of the world's good mobile phone camera lenses, but it's been notably reticent to get on board with dual camera lenses for its own handsets. It did show off its first dual camera lens at MWC 2018, but that's not what you'll find in the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact, which features a rear 19MP f/2.0 lens and a front 5MP f/2.2 selfie camera. It's exactly the same sensor as found on the bigger Xperia XZ2, which means, not shockingly, that it performs much the same way.

In the single camera premium space the Xperia XZ2 Compact is a good performer in most conditions, with a few neat tricks up its sleeve. You get the same access to Sony's 3D Creator suite of apps for scanning objects (or your own head) if that's got appeal to you. Likewise, you also get a dedicated camera shutter button on the side of the Xperia XZ2, although the smaller size of the Xperia XZ2 Compact could be an issue for some with larger hands in this respect.

The Xperia XZ2 Compact also features 960fps slow motion video capture, although you do get a smaller capture timeframe if you opt for Full HD resolution. Sony's competitors in this space top out at 720p, and you'll double your recording time if you drop down to that setting. Optionally you can go for 120fps for automatic post-editing if that's more your style. As always with super slow motion features, you can get an entirely new view on the mundane, but you'll need decent lighting, preferably outdoors to get acceptable results.

I had some issues with spotty performance when testing the Xperia XZ2's camera, but didn't hit the same problems with the Xperia XZ2 Compact, even though they are running the same software and hardware in this respect.

There's definitely something to having a smaller camera in your pocket to quickly capture those blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments, even if it's only because it's easier to whip it out of your pocket.

Here's some sample shots from the Xperia XZ2 Compact:

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Sample Photos
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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Performance

The Xperia XZ2 Compact stands out in the small smartphone space because Sony didn't compromise on the internals relative to the larger model. The Xperia XZ2 Compact runs Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 SoC with 4GB of RAM onboard. Storage is modest at 64GB, but it does allow for microSD expansion through the SIM card slot. Sony continues to use flimsy plastic SIM card trays, which annoys me, but most users will just drop a SIM and storage in there and not fuss about such things.

In straight line benchmark terms, the Xperia XZ2 performs quite well. Its solid performance matches or in some cases exceeds that of comparably equipped handsets, all of which feature larger displays:


It's not rocking a large 2K or 4K display, but that didn't phase it for 3D work either, topping out our current selection of premium phones in 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme test:

Still, there's a tradeoff present here, and it's in how you'll work with a smaller screen on a day to day basis. As an example, the Sony Xperia XZ2's display is Full HD, with support for HDR content viewing as a point of distinction between similar handsets. However, at this size, watching HDR video can't help but feel a little constrained if you've used any larger handset for any span of time.

Sony persists in featuring its own apps for functions such as music, photos and email, but being an Android device, you're not forced into using them. Sony's switch away from plain Android 8.0 to its own UI inevitably involves a small learning curve, but nothing too onerous.

One feature on the Xperia XZ2 that you won't find on its compact sibling is the dynamic feedback motor that gives games, music and video a little extra punch. I can't say that I missed it as my experiences with that feature on the larger handset were largely unsatisfactory.

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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Battery life

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact has less size for battery capacity than its bigger sibling, but then it's also running a smaller display screen, albeit at the same resolution. Its onboard 2870mAh battery is comparatively tiny against just about any Android powerhouse handset, so my hopes for battery endurance weren't high.

As it turns out, while the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact doesn't have a whole lot of battery power to speak of, it certainly makes the most of what it's got.

Geekbench 4's battery test runs a regular schedule of usage in a linear fashion, which isn't likely to be the way you use the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact. Still, even in more ad-hoc testing, the Xperia XZ2 Compact could get through a day's moderate usage without an issue.

That smaller battery might be a concern if you do tend to really stress phone batteries, but for most users it will be fine. Fast charging via USB C is supported, but it does drop the wireless Qi charging found in the Sony Xperia XZ2 if that's important to you.

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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Should you buy it?

If you want a small-screened but powerful phone in the premium space, your choices are massively restricted, with Sony more or less just taking on the Apple iPhone 8 in this regard. Just about everyone else's smaller phones are running on older, less powerful hardware.

The iPhone 8 is a nice phone, and if you're in the iOS camp it's the phone to buy. However, the Xperia XZ2 Compact is in just about every way a better device overall. It's not just the "default" winner of the small powerful phone race, but a good phone in its own right, even if it is within a rather pudgy case.

There is a challenge in pure value terms here, and it's one that you should consider before buying the Xperia XZ2. At $949, the Xperia XZ2 Compact is a little less expensive than comparable handsets, but you've got to really love that small form factor. Jumping up around $100 or so (or less on sale), and you'll get a lot more screen space to play with.

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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Pricing and availability

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is available in Australia outright for $949.

Buy the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Buy the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact from Sony

With the most powerful CPU you'll find in a small handset plus a 19MP rear camera and Full HD Super Slow Motion video, the Xperia XZ2 Compact shows that small phones don't have to be less powerful.

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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: Alternatives

Unless you really haven't been paying attention, if you want a small and powerful handset, you're bereft of real alternative 2018 choices within the Android ecosystem. If you don't mind jumping over to iOS, consider the Apple iPhone 8, but be prepared to pay more for it.

Within the Sony family, the Xperia XZ2 is clearly the closest match to the Xperia XZ2 Compact, but it has issues around its rather slippery design. Frankly if that appeals to you, you'd be better off with HTC's slightly nicer and similarly priced HTC U12+. If you're after a more richly featured camera phone at around the same price, consider the Huawei P20 Pro, one of my current favourite flagships.

If you're keen on a Snapdragon 845 phone and you can find one, you could alternatively opt for the impressive OnePlus 6 handset, which you should be able to find at around the same price point of the Xperia XZ2 Compact, or possibly even lower.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact: What the other reviewers say

SiteCommentScore
TechRadar"Small and powerful but not very stylish."
4/5
Engadget"It's by far the best small phone money can buy."90/100
Tom's Guide"Once in a blue moon, a product comes around that inexplicably dazzles me. Sony's Xperia XZ2 Compact is one such device."8/10
Trusted Reviews"If you want a small Android phone then the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is the best choice."3.5/5
Android Authority"The Xperia XZ2 Compact is expensive and unless you highly value its compact nature, it isn't worth the purchase."8.8/10
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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

Specifications

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact specifications

Product name
Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
Display size
5.0 inches
Resolution
2160 x 1080
PPI
483 ppi
Processor
Snapdragon 845
RAM
4GB
Storage
64GB
Operating system
Android 8.0
Front camera
5MP
Rear camera
19MP
Battery
2,870mAh
Dimensions
135 x 65 x 12.1mm
Weight
168g
Price
$949
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