Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review: The best mini Android phone around

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MSRP: $499.99

The Good The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact's small size makes it very comfortable to use, but without sacrificing the power and performance of a flagship phone. Its camera takes great shots and it won't die when you get it wet.

The Bad Its blocky design lacks the finesse of other flagship handsets.

The Bottom Line By squashing powerful specs into a smaller, water-resistant body, the Z5 Compact earns the title of best "mini" Android phone.

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8.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Camera 8
  • Battery 8

I called Sony's Xperia Z3 Compact the best "mini" phone around in 2014, and now Sony is here to defend that title with the new Xperia Z5 Compact. Like its predecessor, the 4.6-inch Z5 Compact is loaded with most of the same specs as its full-size flagship siblings, but compresses them into a much more portable body.

Rival manufacturers tend to heavily water down the specs of their "mini flagships" -- I'm looking at you, LG G4C and Samsung S5 Mini. Sony's diminutive handset, however, is as proud a flagship as the standard Z5, containing as it does most of the same top-end specs. In addition to the potent Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor under its 4.6-inch screen, the Z5 Compact has a great 23-megapixel camera, a water-resistant design, a fingerprint scanner, expandable storage and a battery that won't quit on you before the day is done.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

It's available now in the UK for £390, which is an extremely reasonable price. Particularly when Sony's other Z5 phones, the standard Z5 and the Z5 Premium both come with sky-high price tags of £549 and £630 respectively. In Australia it'll cost you AU$849, which is approximately what the UK price converts to. In the US, it'll cost $500 and sell February 7.

Why do I want a smaller screen?

One simple reason: comfort. Most top-end phones have swollen to huge proportions with screens pushing 6 inches. Wrapping your hands around those Goliaths isn't easy and texting with just one hand is impossible. You can easily hold the Xperia Z5 Compact in one hand and comfortably stretch your thumb across the whole screen. It's fairly slim at 8.9 millimetres (0.35 inches) thick and weighs just 138 grams (4.86 ounces) so it'll sit unnoticed in your jeans pocket.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Is it still good for gaming?

If gaming is your main focus for a phone then you should look for something with a larger display. The Compact's screen is perfectly suitable for calling, texting, social networking and so on, but games and movies aren't as immersive as they are on larger phones. Its processor is powerful enough to run games, of course, but the small screen size doesn't really do them justice.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas plays extremely smoothly, for example, but using the on-screen controls means that your thumbs are covering up a significant portion of the action. Matching up candies in Candy Crush isn't as easy either. Sure, the 720p resolution might seem low when compared to the 2K (and even 4K!) displays seen on larger phones, but the screen's smaller size means it doesn't need as many pixels to remain sharp.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Indeed, the Compact's screen is perfectly crisp, as well as being bright and displaying vivid colours too.

Is it less powerful than the full-size Z5?

No, not by an amount you'd really notice. Both phones run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 processor, but the Compact has 2GB of RAM, rather than the 3GB you get on the standard Z5. In benchmark tests, performance is very close -- I found nothing I could do on the Z5 that I couldn't do on the Compact.

What about the camera?

The 23-megapixel camera on the Compact is the same one that's used on the rest of the Z5 series phones, and the Compact's is just as good as its siblings'. Shots are well exposed for the most part and colours are rich too. The white balance can sometimes be a bit off, but it's very easy to tweak the colour balance to warm up a shot a little.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact camera test (click to see full size)

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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