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Sony Xperia Z5 Compact packs high-res camera, fingerprint scanner, waterproofing into a smaller smartphone (hands-on)

Packing a powerful camera, subtle fingerprint sensor and waterproof body, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact crams it all into a pocket-friendly size.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
3 min read

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact is a triple threat, packing in a powerful camera, fingerprint scanner and waterproofing all into in a handy pocket-friendly size.

The Z5 Compact goes on sale in October for AU$849, with exact prices and availability in the US and UK to be confirmed. Squeezing down to a 4.6-inch screen, the Compact is a smaller, cheaper version of the Xperia Z5 and its bigger sibling the Z5 Premium . The Z5 phones all share a high-resolution, 23-megapixel camera, a waterproof body and a fingerprint scanner.

A fingerprint scanner is subtly embedded in the lock button. Rich Trenholm/CNET

It might take a second to spot the fingerprint sensor: it's not in the home button, like the iPhone, or on the back, like the Samsung Galaxy S6. Instead, the Z5 phones boast a more subtle sensor in the power button on the side.

The sensor allows the security of a passcode without having to dispense with a fiddly PIN. Instead, the phone reads your fingerprint and unlocks the phone at the touch of the button. It's an elegant way of doing things, but does it work? We'll find out when we spend more time with the phone for our forthcoming full review.

The 720p resolution screen isn't as sharp as some other smartphones, but looked perfectly serviceable in our brief hands-on.

Rich Trenholm/CNET

The Compact's waterproof body continues Sony's run of phones that shrug off being submerged in drinks, toilets and heavy weather. Not only is it hardier than most phones when faced with unintentional dunkings, it can also stand up to surfing the Web, checking friends' latest social media updates and watching movies while in the bath or shower.

The screen -- a 720p high-definition display -- is colourful and detailed, but isn't as high-resolution as many other smartphones. For full HD you need to jump up to the larger Z5 with a 5.2-inch screen -- or if even that isn't enough for your eyeballs, the Z5 Premium packs a retina-melting 4K resolution into a 5.5-inch screen.

Xperia Z5 Compact's 23-megapixel camera includes Sony's latest mobile camera tech, including what they claim is the fastest autofocus on a phone.

Rich Trenholm/CNET

The camera is a powerful 23-megapixel job, which Sony says borrows know-how from the company's Alpha range of high-end cameras. That includes improved noise reduction to keep low light shots free of speckly bits, speedy autofocus and improved image stabilization to smooth out shaky videos. We'll be looking closely at the results in our full review.

Inside each Z5 phone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor powering Android Lollipop software. The phones have access to Google's huge store of Android apps, Google Play, as well as the usual Android features like Gmail and Google Maps.

The Z5 Compact -- as per its name -- has a screen that measures a mere 4.6 inches on the diagonal, making it significantly smaller than many other modern mobiles.

Rich Trenholm/CNET

Features specific to Sony include PlayStation Remote Play, which allows streaming of games from a PlayStation 4 console to the phone.

The Z5 Compact comes encased in frosted glass, which seems to avoid fingerprints better than its more expensive siblings. It comes in a charcoal black or white colour, as well as pastel shades of yellow and pink.

Sony claims the phone's 2,700mAh battery will last for two days. That doesn't mean a full 48 hours; it means it should last about two normal days of using the phone to make calls, watch videos, browse the Web and other typical use before it needs a charge. We'll be testing that in our full review.

Sony is also selling a quick charger that's claimed to get 5 hours of extra juice by plugging it into an outlet for just 10 minutes.


Those looking for a phone that's packed with features but don't have space in your pocket for today's enormophones, the compact Sony Xperia Z5 Compact could be the fit. While the 720p screen is a bit of a let-down, one can't argue with a waterproof phone that packs in a fingerprint scanner, a high-res camera and Android Lollipop goodness in such a handy size.

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