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Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review: One year on

Katharine Byrne
14 Oct 2016
Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
429
inc VAT (SIM-free)

Great battery life, an excellent screen and superb performance, the Xperia Z5 Compact is Sony's all-time high

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Specifications

Processor: Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Screen Size: 4.6in, Screen resolution: 1,280x720, Rear camera: 23 megapixels, Storage (free): 32GB (22.5GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 127x65x8.9mm, Weight: 138g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
See all of the best Sony Xperia Z5 Compact deals on uSwitch

Battery Life

A smaller screen also does wonders for the Z5 Compact's battery life, as its 2,700mAh battery lasted an excellent 13h 21m in our continuous video playback test when we set the screen brightness to 170cd/m2. This is superb for a phone of this calibre, as it not only surpasses the battery life of the Z5 by a good two hours, but it's also just 15 minutes behind the Samsung Galaxy S6.

This should be more than enough to keep you going all day, although Sony claims it should be good for up to two days of normal usage. You can also extend the battery further by enabling one of the Z5 Compact's stamina energy-saving profiles, but this will limit the phone's performance and disable data usage.

The Xperia Z5 pales compared to some of the current generation Samsung Galaxy handsets, however. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge lasts a truly incredible 18 hours and 42 minutes, whereas the Galaxy S7 lasts an also excellent 17 hours and 48 minutes but both are considerably more expensive.

Performance

Good thing, then, that the Z5 Compact is one of the fastest Android phones you can currently buy, as its octa-core 2.0GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip and 2GB of RAM give it a huge advantage over similarly priced competitors. Other phones in this price range, such as the Motorola Moto X Style, only have the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 at their disposal, and the two extra cores here make a big difference to the Z5 Compact's overall speed.

In Geekbench 3, the Z5 Compact finished with a score of 3,794, putting it almost 200 points in front of the Moto X Style, and even the HTC One M9, which also has a Snapdragon 810 chip. While not as fast as Samsung's Galaxy S6 family, which comfortably lead with an average of around 4,750 points, the Z5 Compact is easily the fastest phone for the money, and Android 5.1.1 Lollipop felt beautifully smooth and slick. Apps loaded quickly, even when jumping in and out of multiple apps simultaneously, and Sony's dynamic undulating ribbon background looked lovely and fluid as I swiped through the home screens.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact Xperia logo

Likewise, its gaming capabilities are superb, just edging out the Galaxy S6. With a whopping result of 1,545 frames (or 25fps) in the offscreen Manhattan test of GFX Bench GL, the Z5 Compact has plenty of power, regardless of whether you want to play something demanding like Hearthstone or something a little more lightweight like Threes or Alphabear. Up against the Galaxy S7 is a different story, however. The Galaxy S7 managed 2,336 frames (or 38fps) in the offscreen test, and 1,656 frames (27fps) in the onscreen test. 

The ace in the Xperia Z5 Compact's hand when it comes to gaming is with its PS4 Remote Play support on board. The Z5 Compact can become your own miniature, portable display for your PS4 console, allowing you to carry on gaming if someone else in the house wants to use the TV.

Web browsing was equally quick, and its huge Peacekeeper score of 1,609 was originally the highest I had seen on an Android phone but has since been eclipsed by the Galaxy S7. It's still nowhere near as high as the iPhone 6S's score of 4,568, but it's more than capable of handling even complex web pages without any signs of stutter or jerky scrolling. News articles on the Guardian, for instance, often prove troublesome for Android phones due to their high number of images, adverts and embedded videos, but the Z5 Compact handled all these with ease.  

Camera

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.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact camera

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.

In my initial test shots, images looked great. Colours looked bright and natural and there was plenty of detail on show. Photos could be rather grainy close-up, though, creating rather gritty looking textures when viewed at full resolution. This is a shame, though you're unlikely to notice on outdoor shots when you're just sharing pics online.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact camera test

^ There's not a lot of smoothing going on, but colours look great and there's plenty of detail present

It was more noticeable indoors, as I could see some very prominent grain and speckle in these photos at full res, but it did cope very well under all lighting conditions. Colours looked great regardless of whether I had my external lamp turned on or off and objects and text were very clearly defined in our still life arrangement. I didn't see any evidence of the Z5's brightness problem either, as the paints and felt tip pens managed to retain their vibrancy.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact camera test indoors

^ Indoor photos are quite grainy at full resolution, but colours are very accurate despite the low lighting conditions

The only real problem is Sony's placement of the volume keys. These control the camera's digital zoom, but they're now located below the power button next to the dedicated shutter button. This is fine when you're holding the phone in portrait, as your fingers rest there naturally when using the phone in your left hand. Turn the phone landscape, however, and you can only rest your forefinger on the shutter button or the zoom, not both, which makes zooming in a little fussier than I would have liked. Still, it's a small complaint, especially given that many will never use them anyway, preferring to crop the image afterwards instead.

Conclusion

With its excellent screen, superb performance, long battery life and great camera, the Z5 Compact is the complete package if you want top performance in a small package. Especially as fewer manufacturers are making well-specified smaller handsets.

When it launched, it was a little pricey, though, as Sony increased the SIM-free price to £430 from the Z3 Compact's original price of £350. Nowadays, you can find it has decreased in price back to around £350. Contract prices, too, have fallen and you can now pick up the Xperia Z5 Compact from £22 per month.

When it first launched, it wasn't as good value as its predecessor but wasn't bad considering its flagship-calibre specs. It's no more than what you'd pay for a Galaxy S6, for example, and I'd definitely choose this over an LG G4 and HTC One M9. The S6 has a larger, higher resolution screen, of course, but if you're after something smaller, nothing does it better than the Z5 Compact. It wins a Best Buy award. 

See all of the best Sony Xperia Z5 Compact deals on uSwitch

Hardware
ProcessorOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
RAM2GB
Screen size4.6in
Screen resolution1,280x720
Screen typeIPS
Front camera5 megapixels
Rear camera23 megapixels
FlashLED
GPSYes
CompassYes
Storage (free)32GB (22.5GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wi-Fi802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1
NFCYes
Wireless data3G, 4G
Size127x65x8.9mm
Weight138g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 5.1.1
Battery size2,700mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£429
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £35-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)£450
SIM-free supplierwww.sonymobile.com
Contract/prepay supplierwww.carphonewarehouse.com / www.three.co.uk
Detailswww.sonymobile.com
Part codeE5823

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