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Sony Xperia Z5 Compact hands-on and first look

Here's our first look at Sony's new Xperia Z5 Compact smartphone, which aims to offer a flagship experience in a smaller, more nimble body. Does it succeed?

Published onSeptember 3, 2015

After weeks of speculation that included seeing the handsets up close and personal, Sony unveiled their latest flagship devices, and like past years, there’s a smaller “Compact” version. A mainstay of Sony’s smartphone portfolio, the Compact range has traditionally offered most of the flagship specs in a smaller body, but does this year’s Compact follow the same mould? We go hands-on and give you the first look at Sony’s Xperia Z5 Compact.

The first thing you’ll notice is that it looks just like the Xperia Z5 and the Xperia Z5 Premium and just like previous years, Sony is essentially using the Compact name to denote the smaller of the three devices. Like its siblings, the handset comes with a few design changes and tweaks that aim to improve the overall experience.

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One of the biggest is the switch to wider power button, which replaces the iconic small circular button used on past Xperia devices. The button doesn’t look as iconic as the round button from before but still retains a unique look. The key change for the switch is the fingerprint sensor, which is now incorporated into the power button. The sensor is ideally placed for you to unlock the device easily just by placing your right thumb on the button and in our first test, it is certainly impressive and a good feature to have.

Like past Sony devices and the rest of the Xperia Z5 range, the Z5 Compact feels really nice in the hand and is easy to handle, with the symmetrical design making the phone very easy to grip. On the design front, the tweaks to the Xperia design strategy have delivered a handset that has an updated design and build but remains quintessentially Sony.

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On the specifications front, the Z5 Compact follows the same philosophy of its predecessors by bringing most of the flagship specs to the smaller handset. The biggest change is the drop to 720p resolution on a smaller, more manageable 4.6-inch display, but thanks to the smaller screen size, the drop in resolution isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Xperia Z5 Compact does however, bring the rest of the flagship Xperia Z5 specs and these include an impressive Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 2GB RAM (which is 1GB lower than the Z5) and expandable storage via a microSD card that’s hidden under a flap on the left of the handset.

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The Snapdragon 810 especially is a great move as it means the Xperia Z5 Compact is on par (power wise) with other flagship devices that cost significantly more. The Z5 Compact runs on Android 5.1.1. Lollipop like the rest of the Xperia Z5 family and comes with Sony’s own custom UI on top, which won’t appeal if you’re a fan of the vanilla experience. Sony’s UI does however bring a few useful tweaks including the Small Apps, which lets you run certain applications in small windows on top of the main interface.

One of the biggest improvements in the Xperia Z5 Compact is the new camera, with Sony finally updating its Xperia camera for the first time since the Xperia Z1.

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The Xperia Z5 Compact comes with Sony’s latest Exmor-RS sensor and offers 23MP resolution, which is one of the highest on the market. The camera offers f/2.0 aperture – which should hopefully deliver excellent low light images – and the new steady shot stabilisation, which has been present on several of Sony’s point and shoot cameras, should mean that low light images have less noise and more detail. The Exmor-RS sensor also delivers the world’s fastest autofocus on a smartphone camera, at just 0.3 seconds and we’re really looking forward to putting this camera through its paces.

Like past devices, Sony has also packed a slew of features into the camera application, including AR, panorama modes, slow motion, face in picture, and pretty much everything you can hope for to make your smartphone photography experience that much more fun. Sony supplies camera modules to several of its competitors but in the past, its own smartphones have often lacked in the camera department: maybe now, we will finally see Sony smartphones live up to their full potential in the imaging department.

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The Xperia Z5 Compact is powered by a 2700 mAh non-removable battery and while this may seem on the low side, it’s worth noting that it is just 200 mAh lower than the Xperia Z5 proper. Thanks to the smaller screen size and lower resolution, the battery on the Xperia Z5 Compact should easily see you through most that you can throw at it and we’d be very surprised if battery life was a problem. Of course, you’ll need to wait for the full review before we know exactly how good the battery life actually is.

Sony devices have traditionally been very small iterative upgrades over the past few generations and while the Xperia Z5 Compact does have significant upgrades over the Xperia Z3 Compact, it does retain some of the things that make Sony devices unique. The symmetrical design and plastic finish are offset by the IP65 and IP68 certification, which means you can use the handset underwater, in the shower or in the middle of a monsoon without worrying about it breaking.

So there you have it, a first look and hands on with Sony’s new Xperia Z5 Compact smartphone. While certain Sony flagship devices have often left us wanting more, the Xperia Z5 Compact keeps up the rich vein of Sony being one of the few manufacturers to actually deliver a flagship device in a smaller body. The range of upgrades, including the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, two-day battery life, waterproof body and ultra-fast camera, mean that the Xperia Z5 Compact offers more value for money than ever before and it is really does live up to its billing as a Compact flagship.

What do you think of Sony’s new smaller flagship, the Xperia Z5 Compact? Let us know your views down below and don’t forget to check out all our Sony (and other OEM) coverage over on our IFA 2015 page.

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