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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: The new standard for small

I love being surprised by tech. After doing this job for nearly 10 years, that's getting harder and harder to achieve, so when it happens I savor and nourish that feeling.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact surprised me. I've admittedly always been a fan of the diminutive form factor and pleased that Sony, a company whose smartphone has struggled over the past few generations, has maintained its cadence along with larger Xperia kin. This time around, the Compact doesn't match the larger XZ2 in build quality or features, but it excels tremendously in the core competencies of what to expect with a modern Android phone, and stands apart by offering a relatively capacious screen in a body so, so one hand-friendly.

But first, the specifications

The Xperia XZ2 Compact is smaller and more plasticky than its larger counterpart, but internally they're pretty similar.

CategoryXperia XZ2Xperia XZ2 Compact
Operating SystemAndroid 8.0 OreoAndroid 8.0 Oreo
Display5.7-inch LCD, 2160x1080
Gorilla Glass 5
18:9 aspect ratio
5-inch LCD, 2160x1080
Gorilla Glass 5
18:9
ProcessorSnapdragon 845 64-bit
Adreno 630
Snapdragon 845 64-bit
Adreno 630
ExpandablemicroSD up to 400GBmicroSD up to 400GB
RAM4GB4GB
Rear Camera19MP Exmor RS, hybrid AF
960FPS FHD slow-mo, 4K HDR video
19MP Exmor RS, hybrid AF
960 fps slow-mo, 4K HDR video
Front Camera5MP f/2.2 23mm wide-angle5MP f/2.2 23mm super wide-angle
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE , NFC, USB 3.1, GPSWi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE, NFC, USB 3.1, GPS
Battery3180mAh2870mAh
ChargingUSB-C
Quick Charge 3.0
Qnovo Adaptive Charging
Qi wireless charging
USB-C
Quick Charge 3.0
Qnovo Adaptive Charging
SoundStereo S-Force front speakersStereo S-Force front speakers
Water resistanceIP68IP68
SecurityRear fingerprint sensorRear fingerprint sensor
Dimensions153 x 72 x 11.1mm135 x 65 x 12.1mm
Weight198 g168 g
Network1.2Gbps (Cat18 LTE)800Mbps (Cat15 LTE)
ColorsLiquid Black, Liquid Silver, Deep Green, Ash PinkWhite Silver, Black, Moss Green, Coral Pink
Price$799$649

There are three significant differences between the larger and smaller of this Xperia generation: the XZ2 is glass and metal whereas the Compact is metal and plastic; the Compact lacks the XZ2's wireless charging; and the smaller chassis of the Compact means there's no space for the so-called Dynamic Vibration System.

There are other minor differences, like the smaller battery (obviously) and slower cellular connectivity, but by and large, this is the same phone shrunk down to pint-sized proportions. And it's glorious.

All the small things

When I review a phone like this, which is just like another phone but marketed at a specific niche, I have to ask myself: were it not for this one differentiating feature, would it be a good phone? Thankfully, with the Xperia XZ2 Compact, the answer is decidedly yes. While the frosted plastic back of the phone looks a little downmarket, the Compact feels every bit a flagship. Dense and perfectly weighted throughout, it's a joy to hold and even nicer to use, especially if you are, like me, someone who prefers swiping across a virtual keyboard.

The Compact feels every bit a flagship, even though the back is made of plastic.

The Xperia XZ2 Compact is the first of the series to cross the 5-inch mark, and that's done without aggravating the dimensions. While the phone isn't completely free of bezel, the now-18:9 LCD display is surrounded by the slimmest found to date on a phone bearing Sony's name (the logo of which is unfortunately emblazoned on the front of the phone — bad Sony!) and while it works on larger phones to make them easier to grip, it works doubly well here.

The phone is both narrow and comparatively tall, but not too tall for the average thumb to easily reach the top. After using the 5-inch Pixel 2 and the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 (which are basically the same physical height), using the Compact is like a dream.

There's also a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone, a hallmark of Sony's new Ambient Flow design that unabashedly thickens the phone with a rear bulge that pushes the Z-axis to 12.1mm. To be honest, it's a fair compromise given the extraordinary battery life to be gleaned from the 2870mAh cell, and that fingerprint sensor — this year it actually works in the U.S.

What's missing is a headphone jack, but Sony sort of makes up for it by offering stereo speakers that sound really good, especially from a phone of this size. That refrain will keep coming up, too: it's hard to believe Sony fit so much hardware into a device this small.

The right stuff

The Xperia XZ2 Compact shares the same basic hardware as both its larger counterpart and the rest of 2018's flagships: a Snapdragon 845, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of base storage. Its 5-inch display is an IPS LCD panel, and while it's not bad, it's not great, either.

The issue is neither sharpness — the 2160x1080 resolution makes it quite dense, actually — nor viewing angles or color reproduction but refresh rate: the screen ghosts. That means when scrolling quickly through a web page or Twitter feed, you can see a wisp of the previous image fading into the background. It's not always perceptible, but coming from the high-quality OLED panel of the Galaxy S9, it's clear this is not a comparatively high-quality display.

Like almost every other Sony flagship over the last few years, this one is rated IP68 water resistant and dustproof; like high-end phones from many other companies, it lacks a headphone jack. At $649, this is certainly the cheapest way to buy a Snapdragon 845-powered phone at the moment, and there are no major compromises to speak of, which I appreciate.

It would have been nice to see a headphone jack in a phone that purports to be a music lover's dream phone — from LDAC to ClearAudio+ to DSEE HX, there are more than enough hyperbolic acronyms to go around —but at least Sony's selling this awkward and amusing charging-headphone jack dongle.

Picture this

Every year, Sony says its phone cameras are among the best in the business, and every year they're... not. This time around, Sony is using the same 19MP MotionEye sensor as the Xperia XZ1 series, along with the same ƒ/2.0 G Lens that we've seen in its phones for years, but the photos look great — a lot better than last year's models.

The camera's not perfect, but you're going to be happy with these photos.

Why is that? Because Sony decided to work with Qualcomm to optimize the camera for the Snapdragon's Spectra image signal processor (ISP). Increasingly, phone makers are utilizing computational photography algorithms — essentially math — to output better photos in all types of challenging lighting conditions.

The gist is that in most situations, the Compact works great and produces wonderfully detailed photos that stand up to any flagship on the market. There is some softness in the corners, but the subject in focus, even in dim conditions is usually in focus with plenty of detail.

The main improvement over previous Xperias that I've seen in my time with the Compact is that, perhaps thanks to the upgraded ISP, low-light photos aren't smeared by overzealous smoothing as a way to cut down on grain. Photos taken in dim conditions ramp up the light sensitivity to compensate for lack of stabilization, but better processing makes the grain barely noticeable.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (left) | Samsung Galaxy S9 (right)

Of course, without optical stabilization or a wider lens, the Xperia XZ2 Compact can't quite compete with the Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20 for overall low-light fidelity, but given its physical constraints, I'm quite happy with the results. In fact, a few of the low-light photos from the Compact look as good or better than the Galaxy S9 equivalent. The Compact isn't great at tap metering — the effect of tapping the screen to adjust the exposure level of a scene — but it is not phased by most other situations.

If you're a videographer, however, you're probably going to want to think about whether the Compact is for you; it can shoot 4K HDR video, which is great, but the electronic stabilization pales in comparison to the aforementioned competition, and the finicky 960FPS super slow motion doesn't quite make up for it.

That's because even though the phone supports 1080p slow motion video (the S9 can only do 720p), the capturing process is entirely manual, which requires quick reflexes and a lot of luck.

Battery for day(s)

It's quite remarkable that Sony was able to fix a 2870mAh battery cell in a phone this, well, compact, but it's there and it lasts awhile. In fact, I couldn't once get the phone to die before the end of the day, which is quite a feat. (The Galaxy S9, for a comparative data point, barely gets me through the afternoon.)

Sony's always managed to eke as much battery life from its phones as possible, but given the Compact's size, its longevity is a remarkable achievement.

Simply great

The Xperia XZ2 Compact arrives with Android 8.0 Oreo, and it looks and feels both familiar and outdated. Sony hasn't given its software an overhaul for a couple of years, though it's done a fairly sticking with Google's Material Design guidelines for its launcher and apps. There's very little about the software that's opinionated, and that suits me just fine — I tend to install Nova Launcher and move on with my life.

This is Sony's best small phone ever, and one of its best releases to date.

Admittedly, it's disappointing not to have a swipe-for-notifications gesture on the fingerprint sensor, and there's no face unlock option — both of which are becoming increasingly common — but those are minor omissions in an otherwise excellent experience. Similarly, many will scoff at the phone's lack of a headphone jack, but Bluetooth (and USB-C) audio sounds so good, I find it difficult to care. There's an adapter in the box, too.

The Good

  • Incredible form factor
  • Improved design over previous Xperias
  • Good build quality
  • Quality photos in almost all conditions
  • Fingerprint sensor! In the U.S.!

The Bad

  • I missed the glass back of its Xperia XZ2 sibling
  • Lacks optical stabilization, which affects video more than stills
  • No carrier partners, or Sprint compatibility
  • Screen quality lags behind the similarly-priced competition

4.5 out of 5

At $649, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact isn't cheap — it's the same price as the Pixel 2 and $50 more than the Honor View 10 — but it's the best small phone you can buy. It's not necessarily a better phone than, say, the Pixel 2, since the camera doesn't quite match up and it won't be updated as quickly, but it stands up quite well.

On the other hand, it's not available at any U.S. carriers, so you can only buy it unlocked from Best Buy right now, with Amazon jumping on board in a month or so. It also doesn't work with Sprint, so it's T-Mobile and AT&T and their various partners. Sony says the phone is technically Verizon-compatible, but that carrier doesn't love certifying phones that it doesn't directly sell, so we'll see. (In Canada, the Xperia XZ2 Compact will be sold exclusively through Quebec-based Videotron starting on April 18.) Not a dealbreaker, but something to consider. It's also unclear whether you'll get things like VoLTE or VoWifi (though I'd expect not).

If you can stomach those compromises, I can heartily recommend this fantastic pint-sized phone.

See at Best Buy (opens in new tab)

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

72 Comments
  • So, rumblings about it being certified for Verizon were false?
  • No https://opendevelopment.verizonwireless.com/device-showcase/device/7466
  • https://community.verizonwireless.com/thread/945278
  • Hard to choose this over the Essential PH-1, for a tiny bit bigger dimensions you get .7 of an inch more screen, for $200 less too
  • Nice troll 🙄
  • Yea except, not.
  • I didn't see any trolling. He is entitled to his opinion.
  • I agree
  • Shut up lee
  • True but it sounds like there's a massive difference in camera processing between the two. To me, the $200 more is worth it, especially when it comes to low light.
  • Yes the camera is def the exception
  • Funny how times change. This is physically larger than the Droid X which AC called big at the time. Wish we could get a real small phone option these days.
  • Apple iPhone SE.
  • Completely outdated
  • Supposedly updated soon though. Funny thing about those phones is they run as good as any other Android phone I've used in the same price bracket, even though it's "outdated".
  • I'll believe the update when I see it. But you are so right about that. I had no issues with it, it's just that the cameras were no longer enough for me.
  • True, the camera is pretty weak for sure.
  • Apple is not updating this phone. No more SE.
  • And iOS. And super low res. screen.
  • That still beats 95% of android phones in speed, and build quality.
  • I'm thinking more the size of the LG Dare with the screen size of the iPhone SE.
  • I thought it was certified to use on Verizon? Also not much mention of the HDR aspect of the display and upscaling of video. How well does it handle upscaling?
  • It will be. Verizon's dev site already has it up https://opendevelopment.verizonwireless.com/device-showcase/device/7466
  • The compact for what I've been reading will be certified with Verizon not the XZ2. Should have been the other way around. They have it backwards, per usual. But I do like both but I don't think I could go back to a 5' phone!
  • There's next to nothing special about the non-Compact to drive people to buy it, though. They made the right call on the Compact. It's the only unique one of the pair.
  • Would why Sony didn't just use same materials .
  • I have no problem with a plastic backed phone. Cases are made of plastic and I rarely ever see anyone using their phone without a case. So maybe this one will not need a case?? Glass backed phones are stupid! If you must have wireless charging then plastic is much better. It is more durable and does not hold in heat as much as glass.
  • This phone is utter sh*t.
    The XZ1C is far better. At least it has a usable fingerprint reader, a headphone jack and actually IS Compact. All the negatives of the XZ1C - lack of wireless charging, OIS, AMOLED, good camera software etc - are ALL still present in this XZ2C abortion.
    Not only they didn't fix a single thing, they made the phone objectively worse.
  • I can tell you firsthand that the XZ1C fingerprint scanner *positioning* is fantastic, but in practice, fails a *lot*. At least a quarter of the time it simply refuses to scan multiple fingers, and I have to fallback on PIN or Pattern. I'm excited to see if the switch to rear-fingerprint makes it more reliable.
  • I had this same issue with my Z5
  • I have one and my experience is exactly the opposite, mate.
    So I'd wager you either registered incorrectly your fingerprints or you might have a defective sensor.
  • Hey xd1936.
    I've had this phone for a week now and the fingerprint scanner works every time. And it's very fast.
  • Agreed. This is a fail compared to it's predecessor.
  • I have been waiting for this review from AC, and it does make me consider giving it a try. It's the only good small option left. I really liked the XZ1C but the camera couldn't do it for me in the end in low light settings. It looks like there is an improvement on the processing side of things. I hate the lack of the jack though, but eh, that is alright with me, if it means getting the best possible phone for me. At launch, I don't know though...
  • I've got an XZ1C right now, and yeah... this is a phenomenal phone, minus the mediocre camera.
  • Exactly! Great performance, headphone jack, and battery that goes on and on, and the stereo speakers... I feel the same as you, it's one of my favorite phones I have owned.
  • That's gonna be my next phone for sure. Just looked at the battery life comparison and XZ2 can't come close just because of the bigger screen with higher resolution. Techradar plays a 90 min video and watches perecntage drop. XZ1 drops 17% and XZ2 26%. That's a huge difference. Plus the size is still better for singe hand use and pocket, so it's a no brainier. On top it sells for only $399 which is 250 less than XZ2.
  • https://community.verizonwireless.com/thread/945278
  • Cracks me up when people complain about OEM branding. I don't know , maybe they want to advertise who made the phone and someone might notice and buy one. Hell, let's take all branding off all products. Cars, appliances, on and on.
  • Seriously. I can barely make out where it says SONY anyhow, so big deal. My S7 has SAMSUNG on the front and it doesn't burn my eyes out. I think human civilization will somehow find a way to deal with the branding and live on.
  • Lol really doesn't make sense.
    Maybe they want everyone to follow Essential design or something
  • Great review, thanks for the read. Other than the lack of headphone jack, this is a really tempting upgrade from the XZ1 Compact. I wish the Pixel 3 would have a "Compact" version... heck, I wish *literally anyone else* would complete with Sony in this space. Even Apple is leaving the "SE" in the dust.
  • Me too! Story of my life...
  • The Pixel 2 would have been compact enough if it didn't have those ridiculous bezels. They should do the stereo speakers the way Apple and Samsung is doing it and slim those bezels down.
  • Or do just like this XZ2 Compact has done. They need to be front facing.
  • Too bad they don't do the Google Play editions anymore.
  • Apple is literally about to announce the iPhone SE2, mate. The original SE sold REALLY well.
    But I share the sentiment, ALL manufacturers should have Compact phones.
    There's a huge market for normally sized phones that no one is taking advantage of on Android apart from Sony. And yeah, the Compacts ARE Sony's best sellers when it comes to the premium tier. If Samsung, for example, did an S9 Compact (which would just need to be an S9 in the body of the S7) they would sell millions. Unfortunately this is what happens when 99% of smartphone manufacturers are Chinese or catering to the Asian market. Apple and Sony do Compacts. Why? Well...Apple is American and Sony caters to the Japanese market which works in a completely separate world from any other market on Earth).
  • They have been saying that the SE2 will come for a while now. Again, we'll have to see to believe it. Otherwise, solid comment.
  • It's now being said that the SE2 will not happen because Apple used their development resources on the three new upcoming models. If they do push the SE2 through, it will just be with refreshed internals in the same body, but no FaceID or wireless charging or new screen. I like the 5S/SE/SE2 design (picked one up myself a few weeks ago), but the killer for me is that low-res washed out screen, which looks to be recycled again.
  • No more SE. Apple is devoting development to 3 models and SE is not one of them. Enjoy it now for awhile.
  • Highly doubt that.
  • That first pic has a custom color Google search widget. I STILL don't have this option on any of my phones. It's tied to a Google account for being enabled at this point and it's driving me nuts. Has anyone found a way to enable it without a Google back end switch??
  • Hey Averix.
    The custom colour is because he has installed the Nova launcher.
    It has nothing to do with Google.
  • "It's quite remarkable that Sony was able to fix a 2870mAh battery cell in a phone this, well, compact, but it's there and it lasts awhile." Don't get me wrong, I'm lusting after this phone pretty hard, but let's not get this twisted...the Nokia 1 is basically the same size as this and has a 4,000mah battery.
  • The Nokia 1 is actually SMALLER than this. Not much (13,3cm vs 13,5cm tall) but still.
  • Wow, I didn't know that. The Sony is probably just as thick too, so there goes their excuses for not having a larger battery or a headphone jack.
  • "...that plastic means the Compact lacks the XZ2's wireless charging" This statement is completely false. I've had like three phones in the past that were plastic and had wireless charging. Being made out of plastic doesn't mean a phone can't have wireless charging. "After using the 5-inch Pixel 2 and the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 (which are basically the same physical height)..." Another statement that isn't accurate at all. Both of those phones are at least 1 cm taller than the XZ2 Compact. That's NO WHERE NEAR the same height.
  • I think he meant the Pixel 2 and the S8 are the same physical height, not that those phones are the same height as the XZ2 compact.
  • Ah, I see now. That statement isn't very clear then.
  • You are correct; wireless charging will work fine with a plastic back.
  • Yup two of my Lumia's have wireless charging and they have "plastic" backs. None the less, the phone HAD my attention until the $800+ CAD was factored in, lost me after that.
  • I pre ordered the XZ2, would have bought the compact if it had wireless charging. But looks interesting phones, never bothered about crappy carrier phones anyway. Hope they don't stop selling directly in the US and we should be good.
  • Of all companies, how does Sony produce a phone with a mediocre camera? Give that phone a good camera and wireless charging and I would buy it.
  • Can I just express how stoked I am that this doesn't have rounded screen corners? Or a notch. They did it right.
  • No CDMA radios in the XZ2c ,so I'm not sure how well it will perform on Verizon.
    Isn't that the case with HTC's U11 also ? How well does the U11 work on VZW ?
  • Another much desired feature dropped like a hot potato, the headphone jack. Bad move Sony, now your stuck with the ridiculous dongle! Yikes, dongle's suck plain & simple. Just something else to lose. Why Sony, say it ain't so!
  • Or, you know, Bluetooth. I switched to a set from thrifter for twenty bucks and they sound almost as good as my $100 wired Sennheiser. And way better than this "akg" from Samsung. Plus they last about seven hours and take about thirty minutes to charge.
  • I've had this phone for a week now and I absolutely love it.
    Everything about it is perfect. It just works , period..
    As you said perfect for one hand. The fingerprint reader is in the right place and fast. Connecting to Bluetooth and Chromecast is very fast !
    It's just a device that's a dream to use on a daily basis.
  • Sounds great. I'm here in Australia so it would depend on the price.
  • Got that old Nokia flair to it in regards to body design when viewed from its side profile. Kinda has an appeal for me (overall) yet not quite understanding why Sony is forgoing OIS on their cameras in this price range (something I'd expect it to have)... Here in Canada its US price tag equates to $800+ CAD which to me, sours the deal considering it forgoes a few essentials - would have done good to make the battery removable, hint "plastic back" ;)
  • I suppose it is easy to call something the "best ever" when the specs improve, but in relation, it's just another competent Sony Xperia Compact. We've had 2 and they were good, smaller form-factor devices with average cameras. Sounds like that is still the case. If you want a capable phone in the smaller form-factor, it's hard to pass up. My eyes dictate needs, so I prefer a larger phone and with that 1 differentiator, there are *much* better choices out there.
  • Xperia Compacts are excellent phones for those who aren't screen hores.