Sony is currently able to claim bragging rights on a few shooting modes you don't get elsewhere. They might be special from a technical perspective, but they're not relevant to the end user. One of these is 1080p super-slow-mo video. Last year, Sony's XZ Premium introduced us to 960 fps clips shot at 720p, though you can only capture them in 0.2-second bursts. But Samsung's Galaxy S9 and Huawei's P20 Pro can do that now too, so Sony's upped the resolution stakes. The trade-off at 1080p is that the slow-mo window has been halved to 0.1 seconds. Don't get me wrong, the feature is cool, but you have to predict what you want to shoot before it happens or you'll miss it -- a bird taking flight, for example. Timing it correctly is like winning the lottery. You can play as much as you want, but you're unlikely to be successful. Shooting at 1080p instead of 720p is like halving your odds, which are already slim.
The second unique feature is being able to record 4K HDR video. Again, it sounds cool, but remember you need an HDR TV or monitor to play your movies to get the full benefit. And I can't see any benefit to HDR in this scenario. On the XZ2, the clips I captured were horribly overexposed. These were shot on a sunny day, which is important. Filming the same landscape on an overcast day on the XZ2 Compact resulted in the opposite: dark, underexposed clips. The feature seems to take the dominant characteristic of the scene, light or shadow, and accentuate it massively. Regular 4K clips are much prettier and reliably lit, making the HDR toggle something to avoid.
The front-facer is a serviceable, if slightly underwhelming 5-megapixel camera. It depends on how often you imagine using it as to whether this is important or not, as you might understandably expect more from what's effectively a brand-new flagship. It does work with Sony's 3D creator app, though, if you're into rudimentary 3D scans of your face.
Performance and battery life
User experience is where the XZ2 Compact shines. It has all the top-tier guts of the XZ2 -- including, most importantly, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chip. It's the Rolls Royce of smartphone processors. Whatever games you prefer, they'll play at the highest graphics settings without skipping a beat. Apps, meanwhile, load up straight away and run smoothly. It's what you wish every phone you'd had before it was like. I found the XZ1 Compact to be frustrating to use, with apps constantly crashing, weird hangs and such. This new little powerhouse is very much a return to form. Perhaps Android 8.0 Oreo has something to do with that, though Sony's slapped its Xperia skin with extra visual customization features on top. But other than a bit of bloatware and a couple of duplicative apps, it's not far off the stock experience.
The Compact's battery is a bit smaller than the XZ2's. There's only so much space in that little frame, you see. It still has to power just as many pixels, though, so you'd think battery life might be different across devices, but it's not. In fact, I found that the Compact went a little bit further, draining slightly less charge per round of PUBG Mobile, YouTube session, etc. The contrast isn't stark, and if you're constantly on your phone you'll have to plug it in before the day's out. In other words, battery life is nothing special but also fairly typical.
There are two ways you can look at the XZ2 Compact: either as a flagship or as a rare breed of small smartphone. If you think of it as the former, then its main rivals are its bigger brother, the XZ2, and Samsung's Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus. I say that because these are the only phones on the market with a Snapdragon 845 chip at the moment. I wouldn't spend my money on anything less at this stage, being seriously impressed with the power of Qualcomm's latest processor.
The XZ2 Compact launches in the UK on April 6th for £549, and unfortunately we're still in the dark as to US pricing and availability. I'd guess it will retail for around $650 when it eventually arrives stateside, making it significantly cheaper than its rivals. The XZ2 costs £699 in the UK, so it's a pretty significant savings you're making it you go down the Compact route. The gulf is even wider between the Compact and Samsung's newest phones, which start at £739. If price is important, then the Compact wins out. If size is important, the Compact also wins out.
The whole point of the Compact is to serve the underserved. There isn't anything quite like it. The iPhone SE is small, but that hasn't been updated in two years. The Nokia 1 and 2 are small, but they are affordable entry-level devices with spec sheets the Compact laughs at. The iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 are both 5-inch devices, so they're in the mix. The displays on these phones are of the 16:9 variety, though, so both are much bigger than the XZ2 Compact, not to mention offer lower resolutions at substantially higher prices.
Sony's Xperia XZ2 Compact is in a class of its own, packing every meaningful feature and component of the XZ2 into a petite, translucent body. I'd even say the device's 5-inch full HD+ display is better than the 5.7-inch equivalent on the XZ2. What's more, the Compact is reasonably priced, which is unusual for Sony. Anyone generally in the market for a new flagship should put it on their short list, and lovers of small but high-performance machines should think about taking the plunge. It's the Compact you've been wanting.