The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact is the latest from Sony’s line of Compact smartphones, with the Z5 Compact boasting the latest flagship hardware, but packed in a small, lightweight package. With an IP68 rating, the Z5 Compact is both waterproof and dustproof, and despite Sony’s recent statement warning users not to submerge the Z5 series of smartphones underwater, the Z5 Compact should stand up to splashes and water droplets well enough.
Starting with the exterior, the Z5 Compact has a mostly polycarbonate body with a matte finish that feels great to the touch, as well as a translucent glass back. Our review unit came in yellow, which may not appeal to all tastes, however Sony offers three other colour choices, black, white and coral, which users can choose from. I personally recommend users to purchase a case for the Z5 Compact, as it is is prone to minor scuffs on the polycarbonate body, as our review unit already has a few scratches on the exterior after a few weeks of daily use, and this is more noticeable on the models with the brighter white, yellow or coral colours.
Going down the right side of the smartphone, there is the usual 3.5mm headphone jack, as well as a volume rocker and dedicated camera button, which is especially useful during situations where shots have to be taken quickly. The audio output through the headphone jack is pretty good, and has enough power for high-end headphones and earphones. I tested the audio output with my RHA S500 in-ears, as well as my Sennheiser HD 219 and HD 598 headphones, and audio levels with all of these were high enough to not have to require the use of a dedicated audio amplifier.
On the left side, there is a nanoSIM card slot underneath a protective cover, however there is another highlight here, which is the microSD card slot. This is a surprise considering the recent flagships on the market do not sport microSD card slots, which is a shame considering the potential increase in storage space a microSD card slot can offer. The microSD card slot on the Xperia Z5 Compact in particular supports up to a 200GB microSD card, while most other smartphones only support a 128GB card. The Z5 Compact still uses a microUSB charging port instead of the modern USB Type-C that popular handsets from the Nexus line of smartphones, the 6P and 5X have, however, this has proved more convenient during my daily usage of the smartphone, as standard microUSB cables remain far easier to find as compared to USB Type-C connectors. The Xperia Z5 Compact supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology, however the included charger in the box when we received our review unit was not a Quick Charge 2.0 compatible charger, and users will have to purchase a second charger which supports Quick Charge 2.0, which is a disappointment.
Under the hood, the Z5 Compact is all business, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-cre processor with 4 Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.5 GHz and 4 Cortex A57 cores clocked at 2 GHz, the same processor that is found in the hugely popular Nexus 6P. The Snapdragon 810 is one of the fastest on the market, beaten only by the Exynos 7420 found in the S6 line of smartphones, such as the S6 Edge+ that was recently reviewed on this site. However, both processors are exceptionally powerful, and performance on the Z5 Compact was great, as expected, with even demanding games like Need For Speed:No Limits and Riptide GP2 running without a hitch at smooth framerates, thanks to the high-end Adreno 430 GPU in the Z5 Compact. The Z5 Compact has 2GB of RAM, which some may feel is too little for a flagship smartphone of 2015, given that its larger siblings, the Z5 and Z5 Premium have 3GB of RAM. However, there was no effect on daily use as result of the lower RAM, and never at any point did I feel the RAM on the Z5 Compact was insufficient or bottlenecking the smartphone throughout my time with the smartphone.
The display is a 4.6 inch, 720 by 1280 Triluminos display, and while I would have liked to see a Full HD display on this smartphone, 720p is more than sufficient for a screen of this size, and the smaller resolution screen in fact contributes to the improved battery life of this smartphone, with about 6 hours of screen-on time under heavy usage, web surfing and gaming with WiFi enabled, and thus, unlike several flagship smartphones such as the Galaxy S6 Edge, the Z5 Compact can easily last through a day or even two depending on the usage pattern of the user. The Z5 Compact comes packed with power-saving features such as STAMINA mode and ULTRA STAMINA mode, both which can improve battery life greatly, and I have often used the STAMINA mode myself during overseas trips.
The Z5 Compact has Sony’s custom 23 megapixel wide-angle G lens for its rear-facing camera, whih it shares with both the Z5 and Z5 Premium, and while some review sites such as Dx0Mark rate the Z5’s lens as the best smartphone camera on the market, my personal experience with the Z5 Compact is that while camera performance under good lighting was good, the low-light performance remains somewhat of a letdown, considering the high expectations I had for the Z5 Compact’s camera before launch. This is not to say the camera on the Z5 Compact is bad, it is still one of the top performers on the market today, and perhaps even on par with the iPhone 6S or S6 Edge in certain situations, however, my personal opinion is that the LG G4 and LG V10 have one of the best cameras on the market right now, and the Z5 Compact still has room for improvement in that aspect.
In the software department, the Z5 Compact comes with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box, and a update to Marshmallow will come in the near future. However, given Sony’s track record of software updates, this will probably take some time and stretch into the first quarter of next year, assuming there are no delays. Thankfully, Sony’s custom UI is extremely lightweight and mostly keeps the original Android feel and interface without adding too many extras, an example of a heavily customized UI being Samsung’s Touchwiz. Performance is smooth and stutter-free, with UI elements remaining almost stock Android, something which I find a rarity on smartphones these days.
The Z5 Compact’s combination of flagship-tier performance, compact size and battery life has certainly won me over during my time with it, as being able to use the Z5 Compact one-handed comfortably has made a great difference to my user experience, and thus I would recommend the Z5 Compact to any consumers who are looking for a smartphone with an compact form factor. The Xperia Z5 Compact doesn’t have much competition, as there are almost no other options on the market for a Android smartphone of this size and performance, with the only other smartphone that comes close in size and performance being the Nexus 5X, however the 5X has the Snapdragon 808 with a lower-specced GPU, which while has little effect on day-to-day usage, may not be as future-proof as the Z5 Compact should even more demanding games and apps hit the market.
Images used for this review were sourced from the following sites, all images are courtesy of their respective copyright holders: