Sony Xperia Z5 Compact hands-on preview: that familiar feeling

I’m a big Sony smartphone fanboy, so much so that I believe the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact was the greatest Android phone ever made. While, yes, that does sound decidedly subjective, there’s a good reason why I say this.

The camera was a peach, the screen was great, it was small, light and the battery lasted an age. It was quick when it needed to be, and thrifty when I didn’t require it, and it wasn’t the worst looking thing on the planet either.

So, how do you upstage, or build on a device that can almost do it all? Well, it’s clear that Sony’s having a bit of trouble looking for a solution for that one.

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact landed on my test bench today, and I can honestly say that I haven’t seen a thicker phone this year (bar perhaps the G4 Beat). It’s extremely chunky, but still boasts the same suave lines as the Z3 line. It’s a good looking phone, if you’re into hunks of polycarbonate, but it doesn’t look expensive at all.

sony xperia z5 compact 3

It’s pretty great to hold though too, and feels extremely drop resistant (I wouldn’t want to tempt fate though) and grippier than its glass-backed predecessor. Otherwise, if you didn’t look closely enough, you’ll easily mistake it for an older Sony device.

Read more: Sony Xperia Z3 Compact long-term review: sexy, submersible, sensational

More acute digging though suggests more design departures. There’s a huge sunken power button now, housing a fingerprint reader (that can’t be used with Android Lollipop), a more accepting shutter button and a larger slot bay to keep the microSD card and SIM card out of water’s reach.

And the waterproofing remains, thankfully. The first thing I actually did when unboxing this thing was run it under a tap with soap and water, and it’s still working. While it’s not totally the reason why people choose Sony devices as their phones of choice, it’s definitely a large chunk of that reasoning pie chart.

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact hands-on shots
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Sony Xperia Z5 Compact Lead

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 1

The fingerprint sensor isn't of much use now, but when Marshmallow finally arrives, it might be the phone's best feature.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 2

Overall, it's a typically minimalist design performance by Sony.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 3

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 4

It blends in freakishly well with our white table tops.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 5

See how thick this thing is?

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That large lens dominates the rear of the phone, with the NFC logo and Sony logo also in view.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 7

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 8

There's a manual mode setting, but it's hidden away, and not as extensive as the LG G4's.

The other chunk, perhaps, is the imaging potential.

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact records video in 4K like its predecessor, but thanks to the new entirely polycarb back, there won’t be any glass shattering on this device. In terms of still shots, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, and its siblings, were labeled as the best camera phones on the planet, but I don’t know. Perhaps the first few shots were underwhelming thanks to the relatively low-resolution screen, but this definitely needs further exploration.

Overall, I wouldn’t be overly annoyed purchasing this phone for its camera. And that goes for general gaming as well. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 is slick, and does get warm (judging by initial Google update installations), but it’s not HTC One M9-levels of heat. You won’t fry and egg on it, but it’ll keep your hands warm in the winter.

sony xperia z5 compact 7

For some odd reason though, the phone was extremely sluggish going through the average menu navigating motions. I’m not sure if this is the horror show that is Android Lollipop 5.1, or the Xperia Z5 Compact throttling itself.

Overall, I don’t see the Z5 Compact as a revolution, nor is it much of an evolution either. It’s apparently an adequate competitor for other 4.7-inch flagships at present, but the real question I have to ask is why I’d get this, when the Z3 Compact is cheaper?

Initial thoughts

  • Sony joins Porsche’s design team as among the laziest on the planet.
  • Facetious comment aside, it is a classy little phone.
  • It’s still waterproof, but now as thick as a bar of soap.
  • 4.7-inch screens really are much smaller than I remember.
  • The 23MP camera has a lot to live up to, especially up against the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4
  • What can convince me to choose this over the Z3 Compact? It’s an issue I had with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 too.


Stay tuned to Gearburn for a full review of the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact in the coming weeks.

Andy Walker, former editor


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