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.
Software and performance
Sony certainly wasted no time in bunging the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip into its XZ2 Compact, an upgrade on the Snapdragon 835 of the XZ1, and with the Snapdragon 845 comes an upgrade in GPU, too, from the Qualcomm Adreno 540 to the Qualcomm Adreno 630.
This isn't a trivial upgrade. Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 845 is 30 per cent more powerful than the Snapdragon 835 - 737 gigaflops to 540 gigaflops.
In terms of performance, the Xperia XZ1 Compact was no slouch. Indeed, it was a noteably nippy device, scoring a respectable 155,426 on the Antutu 3DBench, performing competently across the board.
This time, we ran Antutu Benchmark, rather than 3DBench, on both of them so we could pit them head-to-head.
The XZ2 Compact was a touch smoother running the 3D graphics benchmarks, but there really wasn't a lot between them - at least as far as the naked eye is concerned. However, the speed with which some of the tests were loaded on the XZ2 Compact compared to the XZ1 was very noticeable indeed.
The result? The XZ2 Compact scored 264,105 against the XZ1 Compact's 206,885. While this shouldn't be a surprise in view of the improved Qualcomm processor and GPU running in the XZ2, it does represent a 27 per cent leap in performance achieved in just six or so months - the XZ2 is, hence, a considerably more powerful device.
Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact (left) versus the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (right)
Both also comfortably passed my personal PUBG test. That is to say, they both played the mobile version of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds perfectly smoothly, although the sound from the speakers of both devices is disappointingly tinny, quiet and, frankly, not very pleasant.
The PUBG test took many, many afternoons of hard work to complete (Screenshot from XZ2 Compact)
In terms of software, both are pre-loaded with Android 8.0 and Sony is excellent when it comes to support and pumping out the latest updates. Sony, in common with other manufacturers, seems to have got over its obsession with ‘customising' Android too severely, and the user experience on both devices is therefore almost identical.
Obviously, you get Sony's Xperia Lounge, the purpose of which eludes me, as well as Sony's 3D Creator app for those times when you literally have nothing to do. Both come with trial versions of AVG anti-virus and there's also a Facebook app pre-loaded for you to disable.
Other Sony software bundled with both devices includes Xperia Assist, Xperia Transfer Mobile, Xperia Actions, Xperia Home, Xperia Assist, and Sony Auto Installs configuration. And, of course, if you have a Sony Playstation 4 it comes with the Android PlayStation app, which enables you to do everything with your PS4 account on your phone - except play games on the move.
Camera, connectivity and storage
Sony knows how to make cameras, so its smartphones ought to be well-provided for in terms of photos and videos.
Indeed, we were impressed with the camera aboard the XZ1 Compact and are similarly impressed with the camera work of the XZ2 Compact, largely because they are exactly the same - the front-facing 'selfie' camera notwithstanding which, for some reason, has been downgraded, not upgraded.
That means your selfies won't be quite as good and it's not, in this instance, because you've got uglier (although that can't be completely ruled out), but because Sony has opted to swap out the 8MP f/2.4 1080p front-facing camera of the XZ1 for a 5MP f/2.2 1080p camera in the XZ2.
An evening of beers in 'spoons with the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact (the hot sauce is revolting, by the way)
Nevertheless, for snapping anything other than yourself, the Xperia XZ2 camera is fast and sharp, and competent at the more challenging snaps, too: for example, scenes with a strong contrast of light and dark, such as bright sunlight and shade; and, taking pictures in low light and evening.
Sony claims that it put its very latest and best f/2.0 sensor into the XZ1 and it certainly excels, too, in the XZ2, although I did notice that one or two pics on a big day out to Wembley (for the FA Trophy final, since you ask) were a little granulated. Most pictures, though, were excellent, notwithstanding the ability of the photographer.
On the surface, the camera on the XZ2 Compact makes for sharp and bright images
But on closer examination, it's not always as good as it should be, perhaps
Perhaps more impressive than the camera, though, is the 4K HDR video recording, which Sony claims as a world first. Like the camera, colours are well captured and contrasts in colours well handled. It can also offer 'super slow motion' at 960 frames per second, but they're also super short.
However, taking videos at 960fps is somewhat convoluted and will require budding Dickie Attenboroughs to prepare their shots carefully. Or just not bother.
Storage is another area where the XZ2 has had a generous upgrade, with Sony doubling storage from 32GB to 64GB. If that's not enough, you can also slot-in a microSD card to add up to 400GB more in the dual-SIM XZ2.
Connectivity both in terms of voice connections, as well as mobile data and WiFi, proved reliable.