Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review: Good Phone, Bad Deal

Sony’s Xperia Compact series has always focused on bringing flagship specs in smaller, easier to use form factors. It takes Sony’s main flagship and shrinks it down without many compromises. The Xperia XZ2 Compact is the line’s latest offering. What does Sony keep intact from the standard Xperia XZ2? What’s different? Let’s find out in this Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review.

Design

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact rear

The plastic back doesn't feel as elegant as the glass back of the standard Xperia XZ2 but this doesn't mean that the XZ2 Compact's build quality has been compromised.

Perhaps the biggest and most obvious difference from the standard Sony Xperia XZ2 to the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is the choice of build materials. The XZ2 Compact retains the same curvy rectangular shape and metal frame of the XZ2, but uses a plastic back instead of glass. It doesn’t feel as elegant as the glass back of the standard Sony Xperia XZ2, but that doesn’t mean that the Compact’s build quality has been compromised. It feels very sturdy and I like the back’s frosted look — it’s attractive and prevents fingerprints. That’s something you can’t say about the glass back of the XZ2.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact display

In an era of thin and light smartphones the XZ2 Compact will stick out like a sore thumb but the extra thickness and heft makes the phone feel more substantial.

As expected, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is easy to use in one hand thanks to its small size. The rounded corners and curved back makes it comfortable to hold but it’s not the thinnest or lightest smartphone on the market. At 12.1mm thick, it’s quite chunky and the phone has a significant weight despite its size. In an era of thin and light smartphones the XZ2 Compact will stick out like a sore thumb, though the extra thickness and heft makes the phone feel more substantial.

Related: Best Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact cases

Display

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Historically,  Compact line displays are always lower resolution than their bigger siblings. This is the first year where that isn’t the case. The only difference now is the screen size, which makes sense given the phone’s smaller nature. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact uses the same IPS LCD and 1080p resolution as the regular XZ2 but measures five inches in size. The 1080p resolution provides plenty of sharpness, as text and graphics are crisp and comfortable to read. It’s not the most impressive display but colors are pleasant, viewing angles are excellent, and it’s bright enough to comfortably use in direct sunlight. For media consumption purposes it’s more than adequate and even supports HDR. It won’t be as enjoyable in comparison to larger, higher resolution displays.

Performance

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact rear

Sony made no sacrifices with the phone’s specs. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact features the same Snapdragon 845 processor and 4GB of RAM as the XZ2 for fast and responsive performance. The XZ2 Compact is quick to launch apps, multitask, and play graphically demanding games at a smooth frame rate. It will handle whatever you throw at it without skipping a beat.

The 2,870 mAh battery is smaller than many other competing smartphones but the XZ2 Compact has proven to be an all day warrior.

Battery life is also quite excellent, which I wasn’t expecting considering its capacity. The 2,870mAh battery is smaller than many other competing smartphones but the XZ2 Compact proves to be an all day warrior. I consistently get five hours of screen-on time and the XZ2 Compact would comfortably get me into the late hours of the day with around 15 to 20 percent left over. I was very impressed that I never had to recharge the phone midway through the day despite how many hours I spent watching YouTube or playing games.

Hardware

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact side

Most of the hardware features from the Xperia XZ2 make their way over to the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact. This includes the IP68 certification against water and dust, microSD card expansion, dual front facing speakers, and fingerprint sensor on the back. Unfortunately, the XZ2 Compact also does away with the headphone jack as the XZ2 did.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact USB Type-C port

The best news about Sony devices this year is the fingerprint sensor actually works in the U.S., which wasn’t the case with previous models. The fingerprint sensor of the XZ2 Compact is fast and accurate to unlock, but the placement could use some improvement. I like that it’s far enough away from the camera to prevent any confusion, but it sits a little too far down. I have to bend my index finger in order to properly reach it and it doesn’t feel comfortable.

The front facing speakers deliver crisp and clear audio and it’s much louder than previous iterations, though notably it’s missing the dynamic vibration motor from the standard XZ2. The feature was meant to create a more immersive audio experience with vibrations that could be felt throughout a movie, music, or when playing games. It was a neat idea, but somewhat gimmicky. I doubt many will see its absence as a deal breaker.

Camera

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact camera

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact also packs the exact same cameras as the standard Xperia XZ2. The front facing camera comes in at 5 megapixels at f/2.2, while the rear camera is a 19 megapixel Motion Eye camera with f/2.0 aperture and EIS. Sony isn’t jumping on the dual camera train just yet, but if Google’s Pixel 2 is any indication, you don’t need dual cameras to have a great camera experience. The XZ2 Compact’s camera isn’t as good as the Pixel 2, but it isn’t bad either.

For not having optical image stabilization the camera performs admirably in low light.

Photos are packed with plenty of detail and sharpness, and color reproduction is pleasant but not oversaturated. Dynamic range is above average, retaining plenty of detail in the shadows and well exposing highlights in most situations. For not having optical image stabilization the camera performs admirably in low light. Noise is kept to a minimum and images are still full of detail and color. It’s only in the worst of low light situations, like a dimly lit restaurant, do photos begin to fall apart. In most low light situations I was plenty happy with the results.

Sony could really improve its camera app, though. It’s easy enough to use, but it’s the same one Sony’s been using for the past several generations. The app feels outdated and it’s odd Sony hasn’t implemented an HDR auto mode. Instead, HDR mode is buried in the manual mode settings.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact camera features

On the video side of things the camera is packed with features. Slow motion video at 960fps is still available but now has been upgraded to 1080p resolution and the camera natively supports HDR video recording for richer colors and more details. The 3D Creator app Sony implemented last year for creating 3D model scans has also been improved to support the front-facing camera. This makes it much easier to create 3D scans of your own face without anyone’s help.

Software

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact software

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact ships with Android 8.0 Oreo onboard and remains relatively close to stock. Sony’s Xperia customizations are very light and unobtrusive — with the usual Playstation integration and Sony’s standard suite of applications for music, photos, and videos. A handful of Amazon applications and AVG Protection also come preloaded and unfortunately can’t be uninstalled, but we’ve seen worse offenders as preinstalled bloatware goes. Otherwise the experience is very clean and straightforward and I respect Sony for not tampering too much with the core Android experience.

Gallery

Specifications

 Xperia XZ2 Compact
Display5-inch FHD+ HDR
Corning Gorilla Glass 5
18:9 aspect ratio
ProcessorOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform
GPUAdreno 630
RAM4 GB
Storage64 GB UFS
microSD expansion
CamerasRear camera
-19MP 1/2.3" Exmor RS f 2.0
Super slo-mo 960fps at 1080p
Front camera
- 5 MP 1/5" wide angle f/2.2
AudioHi-res audio, DSEE HX, LDAC, Clear Audio+, aptX HD, stereo speakers
No headphone jack
Battery2,870 mAh
Non-removable
Qi wireless charging
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
IP rating / other certificationsIP68 water and dust resistance
NetworkGSM GPRS/EDGE (2G)
UMTS HSPA+ (3G)
LTE (4G) Cat18 with up to 1.2Gbps download speed***
ConnectivityA-GNSS (GPS + GLONASS)**
WiFi Miracast
Bluetooth® 5.0 wireless technology
DLNA Certified®
Google Cast
NFC
USB 3.1
SIMNano SIM
SoftwareAndroid 8.0 Oreo
ColorsWhite Silver, Black, Moss Green, Coral Pink
Dimensions and weight135 x 65 x 12.1 mm
168 g

Pricing & Final Thoughts

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact rear

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is available for $599.99 in the U.S. as an unlocked GSM device. Sony has always charged hefty price tags for its devices and the XZ2 Compact is no exception. This is a powerful phone with some great specifications and features, but it isn’t the best deal.

The OnePlus 6 is equally powerful and offers modern features like dual cameras and an edge-to-edge display at a cheaper price. The main attraction to the XZ2 Compact or any of the predecessors in the compact line is its small size. If you value that greatly, this is the best option you have on the market. If not, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

So that’s it for our Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

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