Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: the most powerful small phone in the world

The XZ2 Compact is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Just a fat sheep, one with a big booty.

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T3 Verdict

Sony has crammed a dump truck-load of hot tech into the Xperia XZ2 Compact. You can tell too, as it certainly has chunk in thickness (12.1mm!), with its full fat feature set and hardware bulging out of its brushed metal and plastic casing. An on-trend 18:9 aspect ratio screen (5-inches), new curved design, and rapid all-round user experience, though, generates a pleasingly positive overall experience.

Reasons to buy

  • +

    So. Much. Power!

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    Sharp 18:9 screen

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    Good camera system

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    Smooth, curved design

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    Easy one-hand usage

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    Fast fingerprint reader

Reasons to avoid

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    It's thick and chunky

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    No headphone jack

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    Plastic backed

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact specs

Dimensions: 135 x 65 x 12.1 mm

Weight: 168g

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

RAM: 4GB

Storage: 64GB

Display: 5.0", 18:9 Full HD+ (1080 x 2160) HDR

Rear camera:  19MP (F2.0)

Front camera: 5MP (F2.2)

Battery: 2,870 mAh

OS: Android 8.0 Oreo

I liked the Sony Xperia XZ2 on review. It delivers a spec that outguns the Samsung Galaxy S9, a design that banishes the blocky, bezel-tastic past still in play as late as last year's Xperia XZ Premium, and a selection of features (including another impressive world first) that allows it to take on camera powerhouses like the Huawei P20 Pro, too. Simply put, it's a quality all-round phone.

And, for those who want an immediate take-away from this review, I'm happy to confirm that I have a equally positive overall impression of the Xperia XZ2 Compact - albeit with the added caveat that it really isn't a phone designed for me (I both have large hands and a penchant for Plus-sized handsets).

But yes, the XZ2 Compact is impressive. Somehow it stuffs an almost identical spec to the XZ2 into a 5-inch handset. With a Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, an 18:9 Full HD+ HDR screen, and 19MP rear camera, while not ultra-level in terms of specs like the recently announced Xperia XZ2 Premium, is very firmly flagship and packs an almighty punch.

And, the fact that it does this in a device that is markedly smaller than any of them, makes the XZ2 Compact a very unique proposition, one that as we will see could be the perfect new smartphone for you.

Before we get to the meat of the review though, you should check out the XZ2 Compact's hype-filled official video:

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: price, colours and availability

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is available now SIM-free for £529 over at Amazon. The device can also be picked up from a variety of other stockists, including Very and Sony itself.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is available on contract from a variety of networks, with EE offering the phone for £9.99 upfront, and then £33 per month over a 24-month period, for a contract that includes unlimited minutes and texts, as well as 4GB of data.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: design and build

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review

Straight out of the box the first thing that grabs you about XZ2 Compact is its, for the Xperia range, refreshing new design. Like the XZ2, Sony has ditched the blocky, tome-like aesthetic of past Xperias and replaced it with a smooth, curved look that is reminiscent of HTC and Motorola's efforts from a few years back.

The next thing you notice is that the XZ2 Compact is quite a fat little device. At its widest point, at the apex of the curved backplate, it measures in at 12.1mm, which when compared to, say, the Samsung Galaxy S8+, which is only 8.1mm thick, you start to get an idea for how chunky it is.

The smooth curve of the new design helps soften this extra girth, mind, and it does add a level of solidity to the feel of the device. And, talking of how the XZ2 Compact feels, I was a little disappointed with how it felt overall in the hand. While it has a brushed metal frame, the backplate is made from plastic and simply doesn't feel as premium as other phones with flagship specs.

Sony has ditched the blocky, tome-like aesthetic of past Xperias and replaced it with a smooth, curved look

The XZ2 Compact doesn't feel bad in the hand, far from it, with the aforementioned smooth curve and solid chunk making it feel like a quality device, it's just when you're used to handling glass-backed beauties day-in-day-out, it felt like a slight step down in overall quality.

Other than that though, the only things to note about the XZ2 Compact's design is that there is a microSD card slot on the left-hand side for expandable storage, Sony's favourite dedicated camera button of the lower right, and a centre-mounted fingerprint reader on the back. There is also no headphone jack.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: hardware and screen

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review

While the XZ2 Compact's design leaves just a little to be desired, in terms of hardware it certainly does not. That's because the XZ2 Compact is the most powerful compact smartphone we've ever tested.

Packed inside its casing is a lightning fast Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage space (expandable up to 400GB by microSD). These specs are identical to the full-sized Xperia XZ2 and also the Samsung Galaxy S9 (in the US), both flagship-tier phones, and combined together once more deliver an incredibly powerful and enjoyable user experience.

Navigation, app loading and installing, editing photos and videos with mobile apps, playing modern smartphone games like Tekken and Final Fantasy XV Portable Edition and more are all incredibly fast, slick and pleasurable experiences on the XZ2 Compact, and it's refreshing to hold a compact phone that, for once, doesn't chug and break under pressure when asked to do anything other than open Twitter.

The resolution is a marked step up over the XZ1 Compact, with a super sharp 483ppi screen

These activities are enjoyed via the XZ2 Compact's  5.0", 18:9 Full HD+ (1080 x 2160) HDR display. That 18:9 aspect ratio display is new for this year and helps Sony further eat into those bezels. The resolution also is a marked step up over the XZ1 Compact, with the super sharp, 483ppi screen this time round absolutely blowing the 720p offering of the outgoing Compact out of the water.

This sharpness, as well as the screen's HDR capabilities, for me at least who loves super-sized smartphones, really helped me warm to the XZ2 Compact, as the screen really is very crisp and vibrant despite its smaller size. Can I say that it was a better viewing experience than on the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus? No, no I can't. But you simply can't expect a small screen to be as immersive as a large one.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: camera, battery and software

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review

As I mentioned in our Xperia XZ2 review, this new XZ2 range has a very strong camera hardware offering, even though the rear camera unit is the same 19MP unit delivered last year in the Xperia XZ1.

The 19MP Motion Eye single-sensor camera on the rear can shoot in 4K HDR and, in that aforementioned world first, 1080p 960 fps super slow motion video. This is definitely a major step forward for smartphones, as it was only recently that such capabilities were the preserve of expensive dedicated camera equipment, so the fact that you can now carry that capability around in your pocket is fantastic.

As we noted in our Xperia XZ2 review, Sony has also put quite a bit of effort into improving the XZ2 Compact's low-light performance, with a memory packed Exmor RS image sensor and wide ISO range to play with. There's also faster image processing on the Xperia XZ2 Compact thanks to an upgraded BIONZ image processor.

On the front of the XZ2 Compact you get a less impressive 5MP camera. This does the job as a selfie camera, and has a F2.2 23mm wide-angle lens as well meaning that a selfie stick is not an essential accessory, however, the detail is no where near the best on offer right now and really isn't anything particularly noteworthy.

What also isn't particularly noteworthy is the XZ2 Compact's battery. Despite the phone's small size, I found the 2,870 mAh battery to be very firmly in a day-to-day-and-a-half range depending on usage. The battery does support Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 tech though, so charging the battery is not a long, drawn out affair.

Pleasingly, the Sony Xperia XZ2 comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, and while the UI isn't stock, it is very lightly skinned, meaning it feels familiar and comfortable to use. At this point we're very comfortable with Sony's light-ish take on stock, so we're confident that all but the biggest vanilla purists will be very comfortable with it.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: verdict

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review

If I'm being honest, the only thing I can legitimately hold against the Xperia XZ2 Compact is its thickness and - slightly - dated aesthetic and feel.

I like the new style Sony has adopted for the XZ2 range, which largely fixes the blocky, bezel-tastic designs that had been holding its devices back, however, there's just no getting away from the fact that this device really bulges in the middle and doesn't feel properly premium in the hand.

This chunkiness will not be an issue for every user and, heck, some may even dig its more beefy presence in the hand, but for someone who is used to thin, lithe smartphones, many of them glass-backed, I found the XZ2 Compact different.

Asides from this though, I got on very well with every other aspect of the device. Hardware is flagship-level powerful and the speed of user experience on the XZ2 Compact is just wonderful, with incredibly slick and responsive UI navigation and app loading.

The XZ2 Compact delivers great snapping potential in a super portable form factor

Gaming on the handset is also just top-level in terms of enjoyment, with zero lag or crashes throughout my usage period and, despite the compact screen size, its sharpness makes consuming videos, TV and films a pleasingly high-definition watch.

The camera is not top tier but it is very close, too, meaning that for literally all but the most demanding and expert of users the XZ2 Compact delivers great snapping potential in a super portable form factor.

Overall, then, the Xperia XZ2 Compact is a small but very powerful Android phone, one that if you are fan of smaller handsets, or have particularly small hands, will most likely appeal to you very much. It's not cheap and, actually, for the cost you will probably be expecting a more premium feel, but it totally delivers in terms of hardware and is without doubt worth considering if you are currently in the market for a new handset.

And that's because there's nothing else like it on the market - it's a flagship-spec phone in a pleasingly compact, old-school form-factor.

More information about the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact can be found on the phone's official web page.