As Android handsets in general — and high-end Android phones in particular — keep pushing screen sizes into the stratosphere, Sony has emerged as one of the few manufacturers serious enough about top-end specs in smaller packages to release multiple products in this category. The Xperia Z1 Compact and Z3 Compact were among our favorite phones of 2014, proving that there's hope for buyers who want big specs in an easily one-handable device.
One year on from its last miniature marvel, the Japanese firm now brings us a new "Compact" for 2015, complete with a re-vamped camera, biometric security and a bigger battery. Check past the break for our first impressions of the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact.
As you might expect, the Z5 Compact shares much of its internal hardware and feature set with the regular Z5 and Z5 Premium. You've got Sony's impressive new 23-megapixel rear camera around the back, behind a new f/2.0 lens with improved low-light capabilities. The side-mounted fingerprint scanner is along for the ride too, adding biometric security. And you'll get all the power of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 processor, backed up by 32GB of internal storage. (The RAM takes a small hit from 3GB down to 2GB, but we noticed no ill effects during our time with the phone.)
Same deal with water resistance and Sony's new capless design for ports — unlike the Z3 Compact, with its unwieldy plastic flaps, the Z5 Compact manages to retain an IP65 and 68 rating while keeping the microUSB port exposed.
An authentic recreation of the larger Z5, in a smaller package.
So just like previous Compacts have been authentic recreation of their larger siblings, so too is the Z5 Compact. There's nothing you can't do with the smaller model, and really no functional compromises to speak of beyond the missing gig of RAM. And in a world where 5- and 5.1-inch phones are rapidly starting to seem "small," it's significant to see one manufacturer delivering everything you'd expect from an Android flagship with a 4.6-inch display.
The overall size and footprint is just about identical to the Z3 Compact, while the display — still a 720p panel — appears a little punchier than its year-old predecessor. Sony's managed to pack a little extra juice into the Z5, though, bumping up battery capacity to an ample 2,700mAh. It remains to be seen how well that'll handle a power-hungry Snapdragon 810 processor, but Sony's claiming "up to two days" of usage from all Z5 models, including the Compact.
So the internal hardware and user experience is all there. If there's a major compromise to be found anywhere it's probably in the extensive use of plastic in the Z5 Compact. Unlike the larger models, the frame is very much matte plastic, not metal — although the back panel does retain the "frosted glass" texture of the other Z5 phones. Nevertheless, the main contact points are plastic, and the particular texture used on the Z5 feels a little less premium than the matte polycarbonate of the Z3 Compact. That's a little unfortunate, but if it means Sony can hit a lower price point with the Compact model, as it did last year, then the trade-off might be worth it.
We'll find out just how the Xperia Z5 Compact shapes up when it's released this October. Once again, Sony might have the only viable option for buyers looking for a really compelling miniature flagship.