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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review (hands on): Sony’s baby grows up

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Update: Pre-orders for the Sony Xperia XZ2 and Xperia XZ2 Compact opened at Three and Carphone Warehouse on 16 March.

If you order either of Sony’s flagship phones, which go on general sale on 6 April, you can get a free PS4 with 12-month PS Plus membership, or a PSVR Starter Kit if you already own a PS4. The free PS Plus Membership is also available when you buy older models in the XZ range. 

Scroll down to our Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review, and you can read the Sony Xperia XZ2 review separately. Other Sony Xperia XZ2 deals will be updated as they go live. 

Original review continues below

Sony has a long and distinguished pedigree of producing smaller, more pocketable phones that sacrifice nothing but screen size, and it’s back in 2018 with the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact.

It’s a simple enough concept that has worked well for Sony in the past. Take one flagship smartphone, slash it in size and keep all the internals the same: the same processor, camera, screen tech, everything. Surprisingly, this is not something rival manufacturers have cottoned onto, leaving the “compact flagship” category to Sony alone.

READ NEXT: Sony Xperia XZ2 review

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: Specifications and release date

Display 5in, 18:9 HD display(1,080 x 2,160) IPS display
Processor Octa-core 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
RAM 4GB of RAM
Storage 64GB with microSD expansion support of up to 400GB
Rear camera 19MP f/2, 10-bit 4K HDR video recording, 960fps super slow motion at 1080p
Front camera 5MP
Battery 2,870mAh
Price £549
Release date April 2018

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: Design, key features and first impressions

As with regular flagship phones, Sony’s compact phone is getting larger and in this particular outing has a 5in display, up from the previous Compact handset’s 4.6in. Thanks to the wonders of modern smartphone tech, though, the handset itself doesn’t work out all that much bigger.

That’s because, like most other manufacturers, Sony has moved to an 18:9 screen that occupies a greater proportion of the front panel with much slimmer bezels above and below the screen.

If that wasn’t dramatic enough, Sony has, at last, abandoned its sharp-cornered “infinite loop” design in favour of the new “Ambient Flow” look and feel, which pompous design/marketing speak translates to “it’s a bit more curvy”.

To be fair, there’s a bit more to it than that. The smaller XZ2 also has its camera and fingerprint reader lined up in the centre, just like on the larger Xperia XZ2, and, to enhance the new rounded edge design philosophy, there’s 3D glass on the front with curved edges all around, with tough Gorilla Glass 5 to resist scratches and scuffs.

The slightly rounded rear isn’t quite as glamorous as its sibling, and is coated in scratch-resistant polycarbonate instead of glass, but I rather like the way the phone looks and feels. The matte plastic feels silky to the touch and the phone slips almost unnoticed into your pocket. It’s available in black, silver, green and pink and the only version I’m underwhelmed by is the black. It looks a little dull next to its metallic, shimmery green and pink siblings.

One thing you definitely won’t like about this phone is that it no longer has a 3.5mm headphone jack. An adapter is included in the box but that’s not good enough in my book. Bring it back Sony!

READ NEXT: Samsung Galaxy S9 review

The phone’s 5in display is a Full HD+ unit (2,160 x 1,080) and benefits from Sony’s usual image display enhancement X-Reality for mobile software, which according to the Japanese manufacturer, is now capable of upconverting SDR (standard dynamic range) movies to “near HDR” and works with all types of footage, from your home movies to YouTube videos.

The XZ2 Compact is also IP68 dust and water-resistant, and has speakers that are 20% louder than the previous compact. Intriguingly, it also has a system of advanced haptic feedback, which can vibrate the phone in response to sound effects in games and video. When I tried this out, during a short game of Angry Birds, the vibration lagged significantly behind the onscreen action. I suspect this will be a feature that most people will try once and then disable.

Fortunately, dynamic vibration isn’t turned on by default. Instead, the phone will ask if you want to enable it each time you fire up a new app.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: Performance and cameras

The main attraction of Sony’s Compact models in the past has always been that they have exactly the same guts as the top phones, just in a smaller package. The same holds true here, with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor inside, backed by 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and microSD expansion of up to 400GB.

That processor will mean the phone is quick, and it did feel snappy and responsive when I had some hands on time with it, but it’s the chip’s improved ISP (image signal processor) that’s the most interesting aspect of it because it brings some significant improvements to the camera.

Interestingly, as with the regular XZ2, the Xperia XZ2 Compact’s camera uses the same hardware as on the original Xperia XZ from 2017 – so it’s a 19-megapixel job but, in concert with the Snapdragon 845, is now able to offer enhanced multi-frame noise reduction and better video recording.

This should deliver better results in low-light photography and, more interestingly, it can now record 4K HDR video encoded in 10-bit. This should give your videos better dynamic range, ensuring colours are captured more subtly and bright skies aren’t blown out quite as badly.

The demos looked promising and it recorded some impressive-looking footage in the few minutes I had with it; here’s hoping it performs as well when I get the phone in my hands for a more extensive workout.

Another area of improvement this year is the ultra-slow motion mode, which can now record its 960fps clips at resolutions up to 1080p, beating Samsung’s 720p 960fps slow-motion by quite a margin.

There is one area where the XZ2 loses out to its bigger brother, though, albeit a small one. Where the XZ2 is able to connect to the cellular network at speeds of up 1.2Gbits/sec, the Compact can “only” manage 800Mbits/sec. Shame.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: Early verdict

It’s early days yet but on first impressions I’m a fan of the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact. It has a more friendly and modern design than previous compact models, yet follows in the footsteps in all the right ways as well.

It’s perhaps not the prettiest thing, yet Sony’s new Compact looks to be a supremely capable smartphone, with the 4K HDR 10-bit video recording being its most attractive aspect. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact will begin shipping to customers at the beginning of April. I suspect it will be rather popular.

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