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Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact was one of my favourite smartphones of last year. Unlike other ‘mini’ flagship handsets, it took the power and speed of the full-sizedZ3 and squeezed it into a smaller, more affordable model that put every other mid-range smartphone out there to shame. Now Sony’s hoping to do the same with its newly-announced Xperia Z5 Compact, which it unveiled today at its IFA press conference in Berlin.

Borrowing the same octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor as its big brothers, the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Premium, the Z5 Compact should be one of the fastest handsets around when it launches next month. It certainly seemed to zip along when I tried the phone out for myself, and its 2GB of RAM should make it a highly competent multitasker as well. It also has 32GB of internal storage which can be expanded via microSD card up to 200GB.

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More importantly, the Xperia Z5 Compact comes with Sony’s brand new fingerprint sensor that’s built directly into the power button on the side of the phone. This is a much better solution than having it on the back of the phone like the Honor 7, or indeed built into the front home button like the Galaxy S6, as it doesn’t require you to swipe your thumb to activate it and it’s already in the most natural place possible when you go to turn on your phone.

That said, it’s not completely perfect, as like the Xperia Z5, it takes a fair amount of time to learn your fingerprint (sometimes taking upward of 20 individual presses), and its flush power button isn’t as easy to press as Sony’s old round, machined power buttons. This is a shame, as you still need to press the power button in order for it to recognise your fingerprint. It won’t unlock by touch alone. Still, its ability to support more than one fingerprint gives you plenty of flexibility, as it means you can register fingers on both your left and right hand so you can instantly pick it up and unlock it without having to change hands all the time.

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^ The power button is now much flatter in order to accommodate Sony’s brand new fingerprint sensor

Another feature the Z5 Compact borrows from its big brother is its new 23-megapixel sensor. This is the first time a new camera sensor has been introduced to Sony’s Z range since the Xperia Z1, giving the Z5 Compact in particular a real edge over other mid-range handsets that still only have 13 or 16 megapixels to play with.

One of the best features is its 0.03 second auto-focus, which Sony claims is the world’s fastest. This is thanks to Sony’s new hybrid AF system, which uses a combination of phase detection and contrast detection to get a faster, more accurate idea of the distance between you and your intended subject. Sony’s also included a closed loop actuator for more precise lens control and video stabilisation. Likewise, the camera can utilise Sony’s Super Resolution technology to help deliver better, higher quality images when you zoom in using its 5x Clear Zoom feature, keeping noise to a minimum while enhancing detail.

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^ The frosted glass finish is much less slippery compared to other glass-backed smartphones

The only mildly disappointing aspect of the Xperia Z5 Compact is its new design, which ditches the reinforced corners of its predecessor for a more uniform, matt aluminium frame. In my eyes, this takes away some of the character of the Z5 Compact, although the new engraved Xperia logo in the top right corner of the phone does go some way to make up for it.

It’s a relatively chunky compact smartphone, measuring 8.9mm thick and weighing 138g, but it’s a small complaint when the rest of the smartphone looks so gorgeous. I’m a big fan of the new frosted glass finish on the back, and the yellow and pink coral models look particularly stylish. It doesn’t attract quite so many fingerprints as the Z3 Compact either, and the subtle lip round the edge of the rear panel help provides plenty of grip.

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^ The Z5 Compact feels quite chunky in the hand, but it’s still a very attractive piece of kit

As for the Z5 Compact’s display, it uses the same 4.6in 1,280×720 resolution screen as the Z3 Compact. This is no bad thing in my books, as Sony uses some of the best LCD panels around and the Z5 Compact’s pixel density of 323ppi should still provide plenty of definition for a screen of this size. I certainly couldn’t see any jagged edges when I looked at the phone up close, so photos and videos should still look sharp and crisp despite the drop in resolution from the Z5’s Full HD display.

This should also bode well for the Z5 Compact’s battery life, as Sony says its 2,700mAh battery should be able to last up to 2 days with normal usage. This is a fraction bigger than the Z3 Compact’s battery, which only had a 2,600mAh capacity, so I’ll be very pleased indeed if the Z5 Compact can produce a comparable video playback score of 20 hours when I eventually get it in for testing.

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^ Despite sharing two identical colour names on paper, the white models of the Z5 (right) and Z5 Compact (left) couldn’t be more different

The only thing we don’t know right now is how much the Xperia Z5 Compact will cost when it launches next month. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came in around the £350 mark, as this was how much the Z3 Compact cost when it first launched last year, but we won’t know for sure until Sony makes an official announcement. Still, even if it’s a little more than £350, it’s certainly got everything it needs to compete with this year’s flagships, and it looks set to be just as good value as its predecessor. I’ll bring you my final verdict as soon as I get one in for review.

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