2018 is a new start for Sony. Along with the overhauled Sony Xperia XZ2, the smaller Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact represents a much-needed turnaround in terms of design and value compared to its capable lineup of competitors.
Unlike in previous years, the Compact no longer follows exactly in the footsteps of its more expensive next of kin. Sure, its shared DNA is still obvious, with its Full HD (improved over 720p) 18:9 aspect ratio display, Snapdragon 845 inclusion and a rear fingerprint sensor, among other similarities.
But the overall design is an oddly-charming hybrid of forward-thinking design and yesteryear’s obsession with roundness, giving it a nostalgia-inducing feel akin to the original iPhone.
The most pronounced characteristic of the XZ2 Compact is that it’s distinct – both from Sony’s efforts of years before and from other phones in general. It takes risks, and while we don’t yet know if those risks will totally pay off, it leaves a startlingly good impression.
The XZ2 Compact is slated to release in March around the globe, including on Verizon in the US. Keep checking back here for additional info and impressions as MWC 2018 continues, as well as for our full review following the show.
You can usually tell a Sony phone by its squared look, but not so much any more. Aside from a few models continuing the hip-to-be-square heritage, like the Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra, this year’s Sony phones are more rounded off to better fall in line with the stiff competition, such as the Samsung Galaxy S9, LG V30S ThinQ and others.
But for all of the changes, the XZ2 Compact doesn't have much chopped away in terms of hardware features. In fact, it added some in the transition. Let’s start by taking a look at the phone from all angles.
When it releases, this compact phone will be available in White Silver, Black, Moss Green and Coral Pink colors. Starting with the Gorilla Glass 5-clad front, this device now packs in a five inch HDR-ready display that’s been improved to Full HD resolution over a 4.7-inch screen running at 720p, which has been used in past years.
Not only that, Sony has stretched it into the popular 18:9 aspect ratio, making this small device even taller, thus easier to hold and more immersive when it comes to consuming content.
What surrounds the screen is worthy of discussion too, as its typically thick bezels have, too, been combed over to fit with today’s trends. They are still there, but far less distracting to suit those who prefer a high screen-to-body ratio.
Tucked into these bezels, you’ll find a front-facing selfie camera, with a batch of sensors and an earpiece speaker cuddling up next to it. On the bottom stripe, there’s a speaker opening, confirming that this phone features front-facing stereo speakers.
Around this phone’s sides are the usual suspects found on most Sony handsets: there’s a volume rocker, a power button and a camera shutter button. The bottom plays host to a USB-C charging port and microphone, and around top, there’s a slide-out tray for Dual SIM, or to use one of the slots for a microSD card.
Sorely missing from the equation is a 3.5mm headphone jack, though Sony attempts to allay the burn with an included adapter and headphones to get you started.
Flipped on its back, the Xperia XZ2 Compact shows its biggest changes. Clad in a frosted tone of polycarbonate, but reinforced with a metal frame, this phone is curved around the back to make it easier to hold.
This build material unfortunately forgoes the wireless charging feature present in the XZ2, but it feels durable nevertheless, with IP68 protection still arriving for the smaller device.
Centered in the middle of the phone’s rear is the single lens camera, which Sony says is its most capable yet. The 19MP sensor is from Sony, but for the first time, it’s utilizing the image signal processor built into the Snapdragon chipset.
This allows it to do several new things, including the Super Slo Mo feature we loved in the Sony Xperia XZs, now in improved 1080p resolution no less (ahead of the S9's ability to do the same, but in 720p).
It’s also one of the first phones to hit the market that can shoot 4K HDR footage, and this sensor is said to lend the XZ2 Compact a knack for shooting in low light.
Sony phones traditionally integrate their fingerprint sensors within the power button, but this year’s devices have moved the biometric feature to the rear, slotted just beneath the camera.
Opinions on the ideal location will differ, of course, but Sony’s implementation feels good in use, and better yet, it’s actually going to work in the US – something the company hasn’t been able to work out, frustratingly, for years until now.
After a brief test drive of the XZ2 Compact, we believe that power-hungry users who favor a small form factor will be pleased. Stocked with the Snapdragon 845 and 4GB of RAM to keep multitasking humming smoothly, things felt adequately snappy during our initial impressions. Even when toggling on and off between intensive features, like the camera’s 4K HDR setting, the experience didn’t stutter.
Running Android Oreo, Sony’s phone will come with the latest optimizations and features to keep it running smoothly well past the release of Android P, which we fully expect it to support.
Obviously, it’s tough to get a true sense of a phone’s level of performance during such a short period, but as it features almost the same innards as the XZ2, it seemed to operate with equal finesse.
Where the XZ2 has the rare upper-hand over the Compact version is with its Dynamic Vibration System, the new haptic motor that claims to make movies, games and music more immersive by, well, vibration. It’s an interesting feature, but it’s omission here won’t be a big deal for smartphone purists.
Lastly, the XZ2 Compact features a 2,870mAh battery. While higher than the 2,700mAh cell put into previous Compact devices, it’s hard to say at this point how it will perform under real-world use. Perhaps it’s just to compensate for the slight boost in screen size from 4.7-inch to five inches here.
Despite a few all-star examples, like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Google Pixel 2, flagship specs are usually reserved for phablet-sized phones.
To that end, Sony looks to add to the mini, but mighty batch of phones with the impressive Xperia XZ2 Compact.
The new design changes are welcomed with open arms, and while not everyone will be onboard with the slightly cutest look, the refreshed focus and powerful internals make this the first Compact phone in years that’s worth lusting for.