Update: Sony Xperia Z5 Compact released in the US in February, albeit with minor changes. All of these are reflected in our new review.
The Xperia Z5 Compact stands alone: Sony is the only Android manufacturer making a small high-end phone right now. That means that it could be the last stand for compacts. If the Z5 doesn’t deliver, it’s likely to be the last time we see top specs in a scaled-down form factor, for a while at least.
But it does deliver. Like the Xperia Z3 Compact before it, the Xperia Z5 Compact puts an impressive array of features comfortably into the palm of your hand, and makes you wonder why no other brands are interested in this niche.
Not everyone wants a giant phone, and who could be blamed for wanting to use their whole screen without needing both hands?
The Xperia Z5 Compact sits alongside two other new phones from Sony. There’s the Sony Xperia Z5, which offers a 5.2-inch 1,080p screen and 3GB of RAM that you don’t get here. Then there’s the Xperia Z5 Premium, which will be here in November with a 5.5-inch screen and a 4K resolution screen.
One problem for the Xperia Z5 Compact is its price. High-end specs require a high-end price, even if the reduced frame might lead purchasers to expect a bargain. However, it does come in appreciably cheaper than the Xperia Z5, and a good deal below our original expectations.
The Xperia Z5 Compact costs £429 in the UK (about AU$915) – that’s over £100 less than the slightly breathtaking price of £549 that Sony originally put on its site. The new price matches the launch price of the Xperia Z3 Compact last year, and you do get a lot for your money here.
It’s a completely different story in the US, where the Z5 Compact unlocked retails for the full price of $500 – ouch! It’s not available via popular US carrier subsidies, which will blunt its success, but Amazon does have it on sale for $435.
The Xperia Z5 Compact follows closely the excellent design established by the Xperia Z5. It isn’t drastically smaller than the Z5 – the Compact is 127 x 65 x 8.9mm, compared to 146 x 72 x 7.3mm. But it’s enough to make a difference.
The Xperia Z5 Compact has lost a lot of the bezel space that felt so redundant on the Z5, and feels a lot more concise than its bigger sibling.
You might have noticed that the Z5 Compact is actually bigger than the Z5 in one dimension: it’s a little thicker. That’s to fit in all those high-end specs and a bigger battery than the larger phone. I barely noticed the difference in thickness until I put them next to each other, and even then it wasn’t all that shocking.
The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact weighs in at 138g, 16g lighter than the Z5. Build wise, it’s a similar size and weight to the iPhone 6S.
The back panel is much nicer on this new version of the Compact model. Instead of the clear glass back from previous handsets, it’s now a frosted glass that feels good against the palm and looks stylish.
Colour options are white, black, yellow or coral – I was able to use all versions but the white for this review. The black version feels the most stylish, while the yellow and coral are particularly bright. They wouldn’t be my choice of phone, but for those who liked the colour-pop aesthetic of the iPhone 5C, they’re perfect.
The corners have been rounded off even further on the Xperia Z5 Compact than on the Z3 Compact, making it a much more comfortable fit in the hand.
The anti-break bumpers of the Xperia Z5 aren’t included here, so the Compact is more likely to shatter if it falls on one of the four corners. It’s unclear why Sony made this decision – they would have been easy to implement, and would make a big difference to the durability of the phone.
At the top of the left hand edge of the phone, there’s the indented Xperia logo, which actually looks good this time around. On the bottom of that edge is the only flap on the handset, covering the microSD and nanoSIM slot.
It’s easier to open this up than it has been on previous Xperia phones, and as you’ll only need to on the rare occasions that you’re swapping a SIM or microSD.
In the centre of the bottom edge sits the micro USB port for charging and data transfer. It’s a shame that Sony hasn’t moved on to USB-C to minimise fumbling when plugging in, but at least the inconvenience of the flap has been removed.
And Sony isn’t behind the pack on USB standards, even if it would have been nice for it to get ahead. In a few years, smartphones will have moved on and USB-C will become the norm, but for now most still use micro USB.
The 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the top of the phone on the left hand side, which is the best place for it as it means the phone can sit in your pocket while you use a wired headset
At the bottom of the right hand edge is the camera button, in the perfect position for taking landscape shots. Just above that is the volume rocker, which has been moved since the Xperia Z3 Compact. This relocation is less successful, and some fumbling is required to reach down to it.
It would have been to put the volume rocker just above the power button on the same side, but at least it’s not as bad as it is on the Xperia Z5. On the larger phone it’s really hard to reach and the handset flips out of the hand easily.
The power button itself sits flush with the design. This is metal with the on/off symbol engraved on it. It looks good, but the exciting part is that this now features the fingerprint scanner – a new addition to the Xperia Z series, except in the hobbled US variant.
On the front of the phone, there are bezels above and below the display to house the front-facing speakers, microphone and front-facing camera. These are thinner on the Xperia Z5 Compact than on the Xperia Z5 and that means a better screen-to-body ratio.