The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is a lot of smartphone for the money, with a powerful CPU/GPU, sharp and bright screen, and long battery life. While its aesthetics could be better, it's the device's weight, more than its fatness, that prevents it from getting a full five-out-of-five.
The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is, internally, a big upgrade on the XZ1 Compact, powered by the finest Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU money can buy. The camera is excellent, as is Sony support, which should see it getting regular upgrades. And the price is definitely right, too.
Unfortunately, the Xperia XZ2 Compact is fatter and heavier than the XZ1 Compact - noticeably and uncomfortably so. In addition, if you're into taking selfies, you'll be disappointed with the front-camera downgrade, but it's still a decent unit.
When we reviewed the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact last year, our first impressions weren't great: chunky and angular, it also seemed fatter than many of its rivals and looked like a blast from the past.
However, what was inside, combined with the fact that there aren't too many premium smartphones that haven't put on an inch or two over the years (as we all do) helped endear us to the XV1 Compact the longer we was used it.
Now, Sony has released the Xperia XZ2 Compact and, this time, it seems as if a bit more thought has gone into the style. But is the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact a smartphone that should go on the shortlist of anyone in the market for a £530 smartphone?
The front of the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (right) alongside the XZ1
The raw specs: Xperia XZ1 Compact versus Xperia XZ2 Compact
|XZ1 Compact||XZ2 Compact|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845|
|GPU||Adreno 540||Adreno 630|
|f/2.0, 25mm, 1/2.3", 1.22µm||f/2.0, 25mm, 1/2.3", 1.22µm|
|Video||[email protected]||[email protected]|
|[email protected]/60fps||[email protected]/60fps|
|[email protected]||[email protected]|
|Protection||Corning Gorilla Glass 5||Corning Gorilla Glass 5|
|IP68 certification||IP68 certification|
The rear of the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (right) alongside the XZ1
Design, display and battery
It's clear that Sony has listened to complaints over the angular chunkiness of the XZ1 Compact. Chisels have been taken to edges and the back of the phone is now curved, rather than flat. On the surface, it looks smarter - and the silver colour certainly creates a better impression than the wishy-washy green XZ1 Compact that Sony sent us last year - but…
The problem is that it's both significantly fatter and heavier. We're not talking back to 2008 fatter and heavier, but it's certainly a surprise to review a device in 2018 that is less svelte - by two whole millimetres - and noticeably heavier in the hand than the 2017 model.
On our scales, the XZ2 Compact proved 27 grams heavier than the XZ1 Compact. Officially, the XZ1 is 140g (our scales said 142g) to the XZ2's 168g (our scales said 169g). That may not sound like much, but the difference, with the devices in hand, was clear.
The Xperia XZ2 Compact is a couple of millimetres thicker than the XZ1
As such, in one-handed use, the weight not only makes it feel onerous in extended use, but also unbalanced; so much so as to make it feel liable to fall forward out of your hand.
That's not a good start.
However, while eight millimetres longer, it packs an 11mm longer screen thanks to smaller bezels, top and bottom. The width of the screen remains the same.
Another significant change is the relocation of the fingerprint reader. On the XZ1 Compact this is built-in to the on-off switch sunk discretely into the right-hand side of the device. Hence, you can turn the device on an off with a light depress of the button and a small swipe of your right thumb, both at the same time.
We felt this was both smart and elegant, but not everyone agreed. The XZ2 Compact now has a bog-standard fingerprint reader on the back, where everyone else puts them, that in our opinion isn't quite as fast and accurate as the fingerprint reader on the XZ1 Compact.
Furthermore, combined with its weight, it makes it somewhat awkward to switch on in one-handed (right handed, that is) operation - thumb on button, fingerprint on sensor, then re-orientate grip to ensure it doesn't fall out of the hand.
Also in terms of design, Sony has ditched the on-off button embedded discretely in the side of the device and stuck a bog-standard on-off button on its place. This protrudes significantly, causing the XZ2 Compact to be frequently switched on by accident. Again, the XZ1 Compact was better in this regard.
Both, though, make it mercifully easy to insert or remove SIM cards and Micro SD cards by simply pulling out the tray on the left-hand side, which is vastly preferable to the ‘stick a pin into the tiny hole' method fruitier manufacturers seem to like.
Meanwhile, the larger display on the XZ2 Compact enables an extra row of icons to be displayed on the home page, which should please power users who feel the need to switch between lots of apps.
But we felt a little disappointed with the screen. While the XZ1 Compact's screen is bright and colourful, the XZ2 Compact's screen seems a touch duller, when the two devices are put side-to-side - despite the fact that on paper it's a better screen, offering FullHD+ (1080x2160 pixels) and 483 pixels per inch against the XZ1's 720x1280 and a ‘mere' 319ppi density.
Another problem we found with the XZ2 Compact was that, on a number of occasions, its automatic brightness control didn't respond correctly, leaving the screen dark when it needed to be bright.
The viewing angles, though, are excellent on both devices. Overall, a XZ2 Compact owner will have few quibbles with screen quality.
Nor should they have any quibbles with the battery life on the XZ2 Compact: a smaller screen combined with a reasonably beefy battery make for a device that, like the XZ1 Compact, can go for up to three days on moderate (non video) usage, and easily last all day if you cane it.
With the XZ2, Sony's squeezed in a slightly bigger battery - 2,870mAh to 2,700mAh - which is presumably where some of the extra size and weight is going.