If you want a flagship-class Android phone in a smaller form factor, Sony's Compact series of phones is basically the only game in town. Unveiled at IFA 2016 in Berlin today, the Xperia X Compact is the series' fourth addition, bringing the internals of the Xperia X down to a more manageable size. We've had an early look at the X Compact ahead of today's unveiling, and what we've found is a worthy addition to one of the most unique Android families — though one lacking the trailblazing specs of previous generations.
If you've used the Xperia Z5 Compact, it should come as no surprise to find the X Compact is — as well as being smaller — both chunkier and more plasticky than its big brother the XZ. Like the XZ, it features Sony's new "loop surface" design, which wraps around the body of the phone. But in place of the metal back on the larger model you've got glossy plastic. It's a step down in terms of materials, but given how fingerprinty the metal back of the Xperia XZ can get, it's kind of a wash overall.
On the outside: A bigger, chunkier, plasticky Xperia XZ. On the inside: A mix of high-end and mid-range.
Like Sony's new flagship, the top and bottom are completely flat, except for headphone jack up top and USB-C port down below. It's an unusual look that builds on Sony's established design language, but admittedly not as eye-catching as the metal and glass-based competition.
On the inside, the Xperia X Compact packs the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 chip used by the Xperia X, along with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. The 650 lacks the processing oomph of the Snapdragon 820 used in the higher-end XZ, but given the X Compact's 720p screen resolution, there should be plenty of horsepower to go around. For what it's worth, we didn't see any performance issues in our time with the phone. And at 4.6 inches diagonally, pixel density doesn't suffer too much either.
Battery capacity actually gets a small bump up to 2,700mAh, which bodes well for longevity given the phone's efficient internals and relatively small screen. (It wouldn't be the first time a Sony "Compact" knocked it out of the park with amazing battery life.) And what's more, the new Compact inherits its big brother's Quick Charge 3.0 capabilities for even faster recharges.
The Compact should also benefit from Sony's software optimizations and features like Stamina mode, which builds on Android Marshmallow's "doze" capabilities to cut back CPU speeds and background tasks when required, or when the battery's running low. In fact, Sony's software as a whole does a great job of building on Android without stepping on Google's design work. Sony's stylized lock screen looks great, and in other areas like the notification shade the company has tweaked things to allow for more customization.
There are compromises, but the Xperia X Compact might be the best small Android phone of 2016.
It's a relatively minimalist UI that still looks like Android, but with a handful of bundled apps and some unique UI design cues.
But perhaps the most important feature brought over to this smaller form factor is the X Compact's camera, which comes straight from the Xperia XZ, along with its laser autofocus, 5-axis stabilization and 23-megapixel sensor size. It's every bit the flagship camera we're seeing in the new Sony, giving it a real edge over every other small Android phone — assuming the hype is to be believed.
As the Android phone marketplace continues to be dominated by 5.2- to 5.7-inch handsets, it's great to see Sony sticking with a smaller option for those who want something more hand- and pocket-friendly. There are some compromises to be made coming down from the XZ to X Compact, sure — a less beastly CPU, less exotic materials and lower-resolution display. But if you're looking for a decent, small Android phone in 2016, the X Compact might well be your best option.
The Sony Xperia X Compact launches on September 25, ahead of the XZ on October 23. We'll update this post with pricing info when it's made available.