Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review: Sony's tiny powerhouse is the best small phone around

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The Good The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is a mini flagship phone you can actually use with one hand. Strong specs across the board keep compromises to a minimum.

The Bad The design is dull as a paving slab, there's no headphone jack and the front-facing camera isn't anything to get excited about.

The Bottom Line The Sony XZ2 Compact's flagship-level performance and pocketable size makes it the phone to get if you want something smaller that doesn't skimp on the goodies.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Camera 7
  • Battery 7

The Sony XZ2 Compact is a rare beast. It's an absolute powerhouse of a phone, with a cracking camera and a great screen, but with only a 5-inch screen, it fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.

A supercharged small phone is something that no other Android manufacturer offers. And at $650, £529 or AU$830, it's not badly priced either when you consider Samsung's Galaxy S9 will set you back $720 to $800 and the iPhone X starts at $999.

Whether price is important or not, the fact remains that it's actually the only small flagship-level Android phone around. Apple does its own smaller phone -- the iPhone SE, and the rumoured iPhone SE2, potentially coming later this year -- which is the only other compact handset around to consider. If you're not keen on switching to Apple and you're not taken with the XZ2 Compact, you'll need to work on those thumb exercises as they'll have to stretch further on a bigger phone.

While other flagships seem hell-bent on stretching out our thumbs beyond what's physically possible -- I'm looking at you, 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 8 -- the 5-inch XZ2 Compact is tiny by comparison. That diminutive size makes it comfortable to hold and use with one hand and easy to slide into the pocket of even your skinniest jeans.

The display is larger than the 4.6-inch one on the previous Compact, but the tiny bezels around it mean that the body hasn't had to expand much to accommodate it. It's water-resistant too and while its polycarbonate design is yawn-inducingly plain, particularly in the dull black version I reviewed, it feels satisfyingly solid to hold. Sadly, Sony has sacrificed the headphone jack on the Compact, so you'll need to get yourself a set of wireless headphones or use the supplied dongle in the box if you want to use your favorite pair of earbuds or cans.

Like a hamster that's swallowed a fusion reactor, the XZ2 Compact is a tiny thing packing some serious power. Running Qualcomm's 845 processor, it made light work of gaming, photo editing and gave some blistering scores on our set of benchmark tests -- on par with the Galaxy S9 Plus and comfortably beating the Google Pixel 2. There's nothing you'd throw at a larger phone that the Compact won't also happily eat up.

Xperia XZ2 Compact camera performance

The camera puts in a great performance too. Outdoor shots are vibrant, well exposed and sharp thanks to the 19-megapixel sensor. There's no dual camera for zooming, black and white shots or proper portrait blurring, so it's not as fully featured as cameras on the S9 Plus or the Huawei P20. It takes great snaps though and there's a super slow-motion video mode that captures 960 frame-per-second footage in full HD -- that's better quality than the slow-motion mode on the Galaxy S9.


Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact outdoor camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact outdoor camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact front-facing camera test.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Selfies from the front 5-megapixel camera aren't as crisp as on rival phones (as you'd expect, given the relatively low resolution), but it's good enough to post boastful holiday selfies to Instagram. It shoots video in 4K and can do slow-motion at 960 frames per second in full HD, one-upping the Galaxy S9 which only shoots slow-mo at 720p.