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Oppo R15 and R15 Pro Review
Oppo just announced its R15 flagship duo, which not only represents the latest and greatest from the world’s fifth largest manufacturer, but also comes to show what to expect from OnePlus and Vivo – the other two in BBK Electronics’ smartphone trifecta.
The better specced member seemed like a mouthful at first, carrying the clumsy Dream Mirror Edition title, but Oppo assured us that it will be known as the much simpler R15 Pro. With that silliness out of the way, we can take the R15 pair a bit more seriously.
Oppo R15 at a glance
- Body: Aluminum body, glass front, Corning Gorilla Glass 5, 155.1 x 75.2 x 7.4 mm, 175 grams
- Display: 6.28-inch AMOLED, 1080x2280px, 401ppi, 2.5D glass
- OS: Android 8.1 Oreo with ColorOS 5.0 on top
- Chipset: Mediatek Helio P60, 4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A53, octa-core CPU, Mali-G72 MP3 GPU, 6GB RAM
- Storage: 128GB internal with microSD hybrid (SIM2) expansion slot
- Rear Camera: Dual 16MP, f/1.7, 1/2.6″, 1.22 µm, PDAF, plus 5MP, f/2.2, LED flash, 4K video recording
- Front Camera: 20MP, f/2.0, 1080p video recording
- Connectivity: Dual SIM, Dual 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth 4.2, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, A-GPS/GLONASS, NFC, microUSB 2.0
- Battery: 3,450mAh non-removable, VOOC Flash Charge 5V/4A
- Misc: Fingerprint reader (rear-mounted)
Oppo R15 Pro at a glance
- Body: Ceramic body, glass front, Corning Gorilla Glass 5, 155.3 x 75 x 7.5 mm, 175 grams
- Display: 6.28-inch AMOLED, 1080x2280px, 401ppi, 2.5D glass
- OS: Android 8.1 Oreo with ColorOS 5.0 on top
- Chipset: Qualcomm SDM660 Snapdragon 660, 4×2.2 GHz Kryo 260 & 4×1.8 GHz Kryo 260, octa-core CPU, Adreno 512 GPU, 6GB RAM
- Storage: 128GB internal with microSD hybrid (SIM2) expansion slot
- Rear Camera: Dual 16MP, f/1.7, 1/2.6″, 1.22 µm, PDAF, plus 20MP, f/1.7, 1/2.8″, 1 µm, LED flash, 4K video recording
- Front Camera: 20MP, f/2.0, 1080p video recording
- Connectivity: Dual SIM, Dual 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth 5.0, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, A-GPS/GLONASS, NFC, microUSB 2.0
- Battery: 3,400mAh non-removable, VOOC Flash Charge 5V/4A
- Misc: Fingerprint reader (rear-mounted)
The differences between the include chipset – where the Pro has Snapdragon 660 rather than the MediaTek P60 and the camera – 16+20MP on the Pro vs 16+5MP on the lesser model. The Pro also rocks a ceramic body with a different finish, which gives it its lengthy Chinese name. Battery capacity difference is just 50mAh, which is barely worth a mention and while the chipset limitations mean no Bluetooth 5.0 on the vanilla R15 it’s hardly a big deal.
The 6.28″ notched OLED panel is shared between the two and so is the Color OS launcher running over Android 8.1 Oreo. Storage and RAM are also unchanged, so one has to wonder if the Pro version is worth the extra cash. That’s a question for another day though – one where we will have the full review completed. For now, lets focus on handling the two phones and see how they work beyond the official presentations and fancy promo videos.
As you can imagine, the MediaTek Helio P60 and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, inside the Oppo R15 and R15 Pro, respectively, aren’t exactly created equal. Still, they are both mid-range chips that combine more than enough power for a fluid Android navigation, with battery efficient manufacturing processes – 12nm and 14nm, respectively.
We managed to run a few quick benchmarks on both R15 models and starting with CPU performance, the pair of chips is actually not that far apart. That’s plenty of number-crunching power for most any everyday task. The pair can even kind of compete in with last year’s top Snapdragon 835 chipset in this department, which is a pretty good testament to how far mid-rage silicon has come in the last few months. Then again, it is a bit of a disappointment that last year’s Oppo R11 and R11s models are practically just as potent as their successors.
Things between the two R15 units look a bit different on the GPU side of things. The Mali G72MP3, just can’t keep up with the Adreno 512 inside the R15 Pro, as well as the Oppo R11 and R11s. The new even taller screen ration means a slight bump in on-screen resolution as well, which leaves the newer R15 Pro at a slight rendering disadvantage, compared to its predecessors. However, that’s only the synthetic loads talking, in real life terms, there is no discernible difference.
There are some modem differences as well, but we won’t get into that now as they are hardly too great.
Looking at some compound benchmarks, like AnTuTu and Basemark OS 2.0, we find some more, pretty solid performance from the R15 pair.
While neither of the phones is a slouch in real world terms, if raw performance is what you are after, then you can probably get more value for your money elsewhere. Without even looking outside BKK Electronic’s own selection, there is the OnePlus 5T. Crucially its OnePlus 6 successor is expected to drop any day now, complete with the Snapdragon 845 and a very similar exterior. It probably won’t have any of the ColorOS exclusive goodies though and the two will likely be headed to different markets.
So the R15 has external rather than internal competition to worry about and early signs are encouraging that it has what it takes to handle that.
3. Software features
The camera is not the only part of Color OS 5.0 with new features to flaunt. One of the most notable additions to Oppo’s custom ROM has to be the Full Screen Gesture model. Bigger display and diminishing bezels and chins tend to pose some ergonomic concerns beyond a certain point. Oppo’s current design might not be exactly there yet, but the company is already trying its best to prepare for that.
When enabled, Full Screen Gesture navigation positions three small lines at the bottom of the UI. Swiping up from the middle one acts like a home button, while swiping on the left one opens the recent apps manager and naturally, the right one acts as a back button. Long-pressing the middle dash also brings up the recent interface, while tapping to the left or right acts as a back button. You can also hide the lines, since they are only visual aids.
If you dislike the idea entirely, there is a standard Android navigation bar to fall back to as well.
Oppo AI facial unlock is now quicker than ever, with unlock speeds as low as 0.8 seconds. Oppo now intelligently collects 128 facial feature points to power the system. There are some interesting multitasking features on the Oppo R15 and R15 Pro as well, designed to make good use of the notched display. While in portrait mode, the little display areas on both sides can display three recently used apps and another three recently used operations. The default album app has some new AI smarts as well. We’ll make sure to get into all that in more detail in the full review.
Embrace the notch! It seems to be the trendy thing in the Android realm lately. Coincidentally, it became so after Apple found itself unable to fit the FaceID tech on the front of the iPhone X without cutting a bit of the screen. Since most current Android devices don’t really have that much extra hardware around their front camera and still have chins below the display we are left with the feeling that a better solution might have been available but it is what it is.
And on the positive side the notch still gives you some screen around the earpiece and front camera which would have been completely wasted otherwise. So, for now, the notch is here to stay and present on both the R15 and R15 Pro.
The pair also share an identical bottom chin, underneath the display. An argument can be made that it helps usability and Apple even had to leave it empty in most parts of the interface so the iPhone X would be easier to handle. Oppo’s userbase might not have reacted kindly to such UI overhaul. The company did try its hand at some “iOS-inspired” gestures, also lets you opt of of them and stick with a regular Android navigation bar and some light thumb-stretching.
Continuing with the external similarities between the Oppo R15 and R15 Pro – both have identical 1080 x 2280 pixel displays. On that particular diagonal, that adds up to about 401ppi and looks very sharp in person. The picture quality, colors and contrast in particular also benefit from the AMOLED technology of the panels. It’s a really refreshing sight to see the same punchy, vivid color space on the cheaper R15 as well.
The R15 pair are so visually similar that they practically share the same body. The shapes and curves are absolutely identical. The weigh the same too, at 175 grams and you really have to dig deep into the official specs to see that one is just a hair taller and fatter, while the other, ever so slightly wider. In person, telling the two apart really is impossible.
Well, almost impossible. If you do your homework, you will notice the two are available in slightly different finishes. The R15 has a glass back, while the Pro substitutes that for a classier and more exclusive ceramic. The finish feels slightly different to the touch. Choosing between the pair really in a matter of choice, but the ceramic should theoretically be a bit more scratch-resistant. On the other hand while both are real fingerprint magnets, the ceramic R15 Pro seems to collect even more grease than its glass sibling.
Oppo collaborated with famed designer Karim Rashid to create quite a few trendy color options for the two phones. The R15 gets Rouge/Hot Red, Frost/Snow White and Nebula/Star Purple, while the ceramic R15 Pro has another pair of paintjobs: Ruby/Dream Mirror Red and Infinity/Ceramic Black. The Nebula/Star Purple and Ruby/Dream Mirror Red stand out, in particular, thanks to their gradient design. It makes for an interesting look, especially under sunlight.
Back to listing similarities then – the camera setups look identical and so is the control layout. Clicky separate volume buttons on the left and and equally nice and tactile power button on the right. Height is well selected so the buttons sit comfortably under your fingers. The SIM card tray is also on the right side. It sits nice and flush with the rest of the frame and can house either 2 SIM cards or a single SIM and a microSD card slot. Both phones also have a 3.5mm audio jack – a welcome sight these days.
That’s pretty good so far, but it is a little bit unfortunate both the R15 and R15 Pro only have a single speaker. Plus, both still use the slow and out of date microUSB 2.0 standard.
5. Familiar dual camera setup
The Oppo R15 and R15 Pro have dual camera setups, quite similar to the OnePlus 5T. That’s not exactly saying much, since the particular combination of cameras is kind of unorthodox and offers arguably more limited applications compared to other setups.
But, before we get to that, some praise is in order here for the IMX519 sensor, found inside both phones. Oppo claims it was co-developed with Sony, specifically for the pair. We appreciate the comparatively larger 1.22µm pixels that should enable better low-light performance.
So, besides the lack of OIS, we actually have no beef with the primary camera on the R15 pair. It’s the choice of the secondary one that mostly perplexes us. On the regular R15, that would be a simple 5MP, f/2.2 unit. Oppo mostly uses it for additional depth information to improve portrait shots. That’s kind of a missed opportunity already, but we can let it slide, since it is the budget option.
The R15 Pro, however, is a lot more inexplicable in its choice of a 20MP secondary snapper. It is not black and white, has practically the same field of view as the main one, so no ultrawide nor zoom capabilities. Not only that, but it has the same f/1.7 aperture, its sensor is a bit smaller at 1/2.8″ and it has smaller pixels, at 1µm, compared to the primary 16MP snapper. That means that it isn’t that much help with low-light shots either. So, it seems that its main purpose, beyond playing the PR numbers game, is providing depth information for portrait shots.
While on the subject, we might as well start with a few portrait samples, we captured on the R15 Pro. Oppo has introduced new AI optimizations to its portrait mode, which include a number of new 3D lighting techniques.
Read Also: Samsung A3 (2017) Review
Introduction Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite
Lite is the new Mini, and that has ringed true for a few years now. If you’ve been following the mobile space long enough, then you probably remember Samsung’s Galaxy S5 mini and its predecessors, fondly or less so. That was the phone unofficially referred to as ‘the S5 for people who couldn’t afford an S5’. While the Korean company has since given up on using a flagship’s brand for a mid-ranger, Huawei has stepped in and carried the torch with its Lite models.
The Mate 10 Lite is the latest in that series of devices. Its name wants you to believe it’s closely related to the other members of the Mate 10 family, but even a cursory comparison of specs will reveal it not to actually be the case. The branding is there just to give the Lite a better perception. What about the experience of using it, though? Is that as far removed from a Mate 10 Pro as the Mate 10 Lite’s pricing?
That’s what we wanted to find out in this long-term review. The Mate 10 Lite should obviously pack quite a few compromises in order to reach its price point, yet it intriguingly has more cameras than its expensive relatives. So what does it deliver if you use it for weeks on end, as your one and only day to day smartphone?
Here’s a Mate 10 that is less than half the price of any other Mate 10. Yet it looks similarly modern with its tall screen, and even comes with four cameras. So what’s going on? Can you really get flagship-like features for a fraction of the price?
Design And Camera Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite
Before we show you an assortment of photo samples so you can judge for yourself how good the Mate 10 Lite’s snaps are, let’s talk about the handset’s camera app.
First, starting it. This is a mixed bag, to put it nicely. If you ‘cold start’ it from the app drawer or home screen (meaning you haven’t used it in a while so it wasn’t already loaded in memory), the process can unfortunately take anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds in our experience, probably depending on what else you were doing beforehand. And sometimes it only shows a black screen even a minute in. We didn’t wait past that point to see what would happen, instead opting to close it and then re-open – at which point you’ll once again encounter that 5 to 30 second wait.
On the other hand, you can use the shortcut of double-tapping the volume down key to start the app when the screen is off. By default this will also capture an image once the camera app has loaded, without you needing to do anything else. When started like this, the camera app loaded in under two seconds around 90% of the time, while the maximum amount it took to open and capture a shot was 12 seconds.
If you change this behavior from the Camera app’s Settings so the double-tap on the volume down key only loads the app and doesn’t instantly snap a picture too, then start-up performance takes a hit, though most times it’s not as long a wait as if you would use the app icon on the home screen.
The problem with Huawei choosing the volume down button for this function instead of the power key like other Android device makers is that the shortcut simply won’t work when you have music playing with the screen off – in that case, all that happens is that the volume is lowered.
Anyway, if you’re the type to want to very quickly capture a moment, you should probably try to always use that shortcut. Otherwise you may find you miss a lot of shots while you’re waiting around for the camera app to be ready. The good news is that if you’ve recently used the app it will come up quicker when you go back to it, almost instantly sometimes.
In terms of resolution options for the main dual camera array, there’s interestingly no 16:9 setting, you can go with the 4:3 aspect ratio (at either 16 MP or 8 MP) and live with huge black bars on the sides when viewing your images on the phone’s screen, 18:9 (11 MP or 5 MP), or a square 12 MP format. The future may or may not bring 18:9 to all the things, but right now TVs are still 16:9 so viewing pictures shot with the Mate 10 Lite on one will always result in black bars being shown somewhere.
The only problem with the Mate 10 Lite’s design has to do with handling, and specifically the fact that it’s a bit top heavy. This is by no means an issue that’s only found on this device – the top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy Note8 is even worse in this regard.
Combined with how slippery the Mate 10 Lite’s sides are (thanks to the rounded aluminum used), this top-heaviness might make for some awkward handling. You can grab it from further up, of course, but then it will be quite a hassle to reach the navigation keys without adjusting your grip.
The 18:9 aspect ratio of the screen makes the Mate 10 Lite look very modern, even if it still has top and bottom bezels – the latter so spacious that it even fits the Huawei logo with some room to spare.
Huawei bundles a transparent case in the box with the Mate 10 Lite, and that helps – to make you feel better about the times you eventually drop the phone, but it also does away with the slippery feel since you aren’t touching the smooth aluminum anymore.
The Mate 10 Lite comes with an aluminum unibody construction, which has been the most prevalent option among mid-rangers ever since plastic was relegated to only the cheapest tier of smartphones. It wears the metal well, feeling incredibly solid in the hand, and the front is covered by one continuous sheet of glass that’s only interrupted by the small earpiece grille.
While it may be starting to look a little bit dated in today’s world filled with glass-backed flagship devices, the design is well executed and the LED flash being placed inside the top antenna band helps make the Mate 10 Lite stand out a bit in a sea of very similarly looking competitors.
The fingerprint scanner is in a perfect position, but the dual rear camera island protrudes quite a bit and won’t allow the phone to sit flat on a table when you place it on its back. Unless you slap a case on it, because then it all levels out.
Performance And Battery Life Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite
The Mate 10 Lite is a rather affordable mid-ranger, so it goes without saying that its performance will never match the flagships, including the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro. In general use, the phone is reasonably fluid, but even from the moment you set it up it does feel slower than the top of the line options.
While that’s quite easy to get used to, especially if you don’t have another phone around that happens to be a flagship from the last couple of years, the problem with the Mate 10 Lite’s performance is consistency.
At the best of times it will give you 90% of the perceived speed and ‘smoothness’ of a Huawei P10, for example.
But at any point those times may be abruptly ended by a wave of stutters, or even worse – a freeze. The former are easiest to accomplish if you update an app in the Play Store and then try and do anything else at the same time. And if you want to freeze the Mate 10 Lite for at least a couple of seconds, add some Bluetooth music streaming on top of that. In such a scenario, we’ve had everything from a 2-4 second freeze to a one minute period in which the device simply stopped responding to our touches.
While some mid-range smartphones do ship with bigger batteries, the Mate 10 Lite’s 3,340 mAh cell isn’t small by any definition of that term. And yet we were not very impressed with the battery life we managed to get out of it. It’s definitely not a record-breaker in this regard, not even close.
What’s more, we’ve seen some pretty erratic battery life unfortunately, for which we haven’t been able to pinpoint the culprit(s) despite EMUI having a pretty detailed Battery section in Settings.
Standby battery life seems to take a pretty big hit when the handset isn’t connected to Wi-Fi but only to 4G, and streaming music via Bluetooth appears to consume much more than it does on devices using other chipsets. The same goes for GPS positioning, which takes quite a toll on the Mate 10 Lite, with the battery level dropping fast if you’re navigating somewhere.
Display Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite
The Mate 10 Lite gets a few of the currently prevailing trends of the mobile space right, chief among which is the tall aspect ratio display. It has an 18:9 touchscreen with 1,080×2,160 resolution, and those are great specs for the price you’re paying. The panel is still surrounded by obvious bezels, but they are smaller than what we’re used to seeing from mid-rangers sporting the older 16:9 aspect ratio, so that’s a plus. Yet trimming the bottom bezel meant the fingerprint sensor has to live on the back, a decision that is surely going to please some and annoy others.
The screen can be seen well in bright sunlight, and the automatic brightness is adequate for the most part. However, the lowest possible brightness setting still seems too high for our eyes when using the phone in pitch darkness.
That isn’t helped by the fact that the device’s Eye comfort setting is a bit weird compared to other blue light filter implementations we’ve seen. It is quite green, while solutions from competitors are more yellow, orange or red.
And when you turn it on, even in complete darkness, the perceived brightness of the screen remains exactly the same as before – that’s different from what we’ve encountered on other phones, where when you apply the blue light filter the display seems to get every so slightly less bright too.
The Mate 10 Lite’s software comes with a strange bug that will dim the screen somewhat when you enter certain apps. This doesn’t move the brightness slider at all, it just happens and it’s easiest to notice when the brightness isn’t all the way up – so like the aforementioned yellow tint, you’ll probably be annoyed by this more indoors than outdoors. Searching online for the issue has revealed that it isn’t the only Huawei device with this problem, which has been going on for a while. In fact we have already received two software updates on the Mate 10 Lite since we got our review unit and the dimming in apps is still there.
It’s not all apps, but you will encounter this when going into Chrome, Gmail, Medium, and even the built-in Dialer and Messaging apps, among others. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram aren’t affected at the moment, running the latest software (B133). When you leave an app that suffers from this issue the brightness immediately goes up to the level it used to have before you entered it.
Another problem with the Mate 10 Lite’s panel is an odd one that we didn’t expect to encounter. It has severe contrast shifting when you’re not looking at it straight-on, with the top or bottom half appearing normal while the other half would take on a rather weird, less contrasty look. This happens in all lighting conditions but it’s harder to notice when you’re out and about in bright natural light – it will be most obvious indoors.
All you have to do is visit a website or use an app with a white background and a lot of text (or just go into Settings), look at the phone, and then tilt it up/down somewhat. It’s one of those things that are hard to unsee after you first notice it, but how disturbing it will be to you depends on your tolerance for such things.
Software Of Huawei Mate 10 Lite
The Mate 10 Lite runs Android 7.0 Nougat with Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 on top, despite launching pretty much at the same time as the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which have Android 8.0 Oreo and EMUI 8.0 on board. This is one of the differences you’ll have to live with, unless Huawei ever decides to grace the cheapest member of the Mate 10 family with the latest tasty treat.
We’d call this yet another cost-cutting measure meant to enable the Mate 10 Lite to reach its price point, but we’re not sure that would be accurate. It may just have been a matter of prioritizing development of EMUI 8 for the flagships, but as Huawei is a huge corporation we’re baffled as to why it wasn’t able to find more software developers to work on that for the mid-range Mate 10 Lite as well.
To consider EMUI 5.1 iOS-inspired would definitely be an understatement. The skin is heavy and you’re not likely to recognize Google’s vision for Android underneath it unless you specifically go looking for the smallest of things. The entire Settings menu has an iOS feel to it, and the Share function seems to have been deliberately made worse in terms of usability just to remind you of Apple’s software. Oh, and by default there is no app drawer, with all of your apps being laid out on the home screens themselves – sound familiar?
All of this ‘inspiration’ from that other popular mobile operating system is paired with neon blue quick settings icons that take us back to a time when Google loved that color scheme too. It was introduced in Android Honeycomb, perfected in Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, and altogether forgotten starting with Lollipop. Huawei’s quick settings panel might thus instill you with some fond (or otherwise) memories of days gone by.
The software’s design is a matter of personal preference, of course. You may or may not like what EMUI looks like, or you might decide to live with it in spite of its looks. It comes with some interesting features and loads of gimmicks too. In the former category let’s put the optional heavy restrictions for what apps can do in the background and the built-in screenshot editor (which is only making it to Google’s iteration of the OS with Android P). There are a bunch of Huawei apps either alongside Google’s or replacing them.
The Chinese company doesn’t have its own app store like Samsung, but you will get its Calendar, Clock, Calculator, Contacts, Dialer, Gallery, Messaging, and Email apps, for example. A handy file manager is included too. There are also some preinstalled games such as Asphalt Nitro, Kingdoms, and Spider-Man: Ultimate Power, alongside the Quik video app. How annoyed you’ll be by these depends on how useful you find each one, of course. Generally speaking, though, we prefer not to see bloatware at all on a smartphone, but let’s not to get into the whole “what is bloatware” discussion that leads some people to say that even Google’s apps count as such.
EMUI on the Mate 10 Lite is as far from a stock Android experience as you can get nowadays, which is definitely something to keep in mind if you’re considering this as your next smartphone. The Xiaomi Mi A1 is cheaper and delivers an Android purist’s dream in terms of software, so that’s a better fit if having the OS ‘as Google intended’ is high on your priorities list and you don’t mind some downgraded specs. If you don’t care about that, EMUI brings you plenty of customization options, including built-in theming with an associated theme store.
It also seems to give you a much better idea of what’s going on in the background at all times, including which apps are draining your battery more than others. These “Power-intensive apps” are listed in a special section of the Battery settings, and you can choose to let them keep the phone awake or close them. There’s also the option to close all apps when the screen locks, or just a subset.
Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Unboxing
No matter where you get it, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact will ship within a basic paper box. The accessory bundle on the other hand will differ a lot depending on your local markets and retailer.
Our review unit came packed with a USB Type-C cable, an analogue jack adapter, and a QuickCharge enabled wall charger. Not all markets will be getting that bundled but most of the European countries will surely get one.
Also, our Compact came with a basic audio adapter, but Sony is probably going to include a more versatile Y-style splitter in the retail boxes on most markets so that users can charge and listen at the same time. Also, given the company’s track record and ever-growing assortment of audio accessories, you can likely expect to find the Xperia XZ2 Compact bundled with a Sony MH750 in-ear headset on most markets.
So, if you are interested in getting this Compact, we’d advise checking with your local Sony stores and retailers for the actual in-box contents.
It’s once again peak smartphone season and Sony is next to join the annual spring race. But while others do regular and plus-size models, Sony, as usual, is going towards the other end of the spectrum with the new Xperia XZ2 Compact.
You can tell a lot has changed for both the XZ series and the Compact lineup. The Infinity Loop design was retired for good, but Sony also waves goodbye to the analogue audio jack. There are some very welcome upgrades, though, which put the Xperia series in line with the current trends.
We mean a tall screen, not a notch, in case you were worried. The new taller screen increases the diagonal to 5 inches at the expense of bezels without a change to the pocket-friendly footprint. And for the first time in a Compact, the display resolution has been upgraded to 1080p.
Sony’s 19MP Motion Eye camera is here to stay, but it has received a new multi-stacking noise reduction feature, a long overdue improvement. There is also 960fps slow motion in Full HD, which instantly diminished one of the Galaxy S9 key-selling features even before it goes on sale.
There are some old Xperia tricks, which are here to stay for better or worse. The camera on the back is still single, though this will probably be for the last time as Sony is said to be introducing its first dual-camera setup this Fall.
The lightweight Xperia UI is here to stay, lighter than ever, and the spirit of the compact beast lives on thanks to the unmatched processing power of the latest, as usual, Snapdragon 845 SoC.
Design and spin
Sony’s designs have always been straightforward, simplistic, and easily recognizable. Until the Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact that is.
Well, to be honest, everything has probably started earlier this year with the XA2 series and their swollen-like backs. But now this shape has been named and put through Sony’s PR machine for some positive spins. But is it working in favor of the XZ2 Compact?
Let’s check the size first. The XZ2 Compact spreads at 135 x 65 x 12.1 mm, which is just 6mm taller than the previous Compact phones. It’s slightly thicker due to the new design but noticeably heavier at 168g (up from 140g).
To keeping the same footprint as before Sony trimmed the screen bezels a lot. The stereo speakers are here to stay, but the second grille is almost invisibly etched into the far bottom of the screen glass.
The curved metal frame meets the glass on the front or rather its 2.5D curved edges.
The XZ2 Compact has ditched the sharp edges for rounded ones. Now it looks more elegant and classy, in contrast to the plain and understated look of the XZ1 compact.
The fingerprint sensor has moved from the power key on the back, and it will be working for all markets, USA included.
Unfortunately, the analog jack didn’t make it to the XZ2 series and is now officially retired. Sony explained this was done for the sake of the Ambient Flow design, but that doesn’t hold much water, does it? Anyway, the phone ships with the proper audio adapter, but we are sure this omission will be a tough bite for the Sony fans.
The back is brand new – the ergonomic curve was shaped to fit nicely in hand – and it does fit as nicely as a tailored suit. While there were some concerns on how this new build will work for the bigger XZ2, it’s a blessing for the Compact.
Both the metal frame and the plastic back have this so-called frosted finish – though truth be told, the frosted part doesn’t look like one on the black color. Still, it works as supposed to – towards an overall care-free secure grip.
The Ambient Flow shape with the small footprint makes for one of the best handling experience we’ve had in a while. The XZ2 Compact is very easy to pick up from a flat table, has a secure grip, and there is no immediate danger of dropping as the sense of slipperiness is gone.
But as we said, not everyone is as happy with the new design as we are. Some were quick to render it, let’s just say not cool, while others question its premium build and flagship-worthiness. We won’t argue in favor or against Sony, as the definition of premium is different for each person.
But we can confirm the XZ2 Compact is of a high-end build and delivers on the promised sturdiness. The metal frame is thick, the front is a very nicely looking Gorilla Glass 5, while the frosted plastic on the back is just great on touch.
The Compact isn’t as pretty as the bigger XZ2, the Galaxy S9, or the iPhone X. It still has a hint of the industrial designs from the past, which we’ve grown to appreciate more often than not.
So, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact doesn’t have a breath-taking or futuristic design. Instead, it offers one of the most ergonomic shapes we’ve handled that feels just natural in hand. It’s a no-nonsense water-proof shell with a personal touch here and there. And we think Sony has done an excellent job with this Compact, though we understand why it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
The XZ2 Compact is available in Black, White Silver, Moss Green, and Coral Pink. The black model is prone to fingerprints and smudges, but it looks as great as the rest of them.
Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Specs
- Body: Aluminum frame, Polycarbonate back, Gorilla Glass 5 front; IP65/68 waterproof
- Screen: 5.0-inch, 18:9, FHD+ IPS LCD, HDR, 483 PPI
- Rear Camera: 19MP, 1/2.3″ Sony IMX400 camera, f/2.0 lens, predictive hybrid laser/phase detection/contrast AF, burst AF, IR sensor for white balance, LED flash, dedicated hardware shutter key, BIONZ for mobile image-processing engine; ISO 12800
- Video Recording: 4K video recording @30fps, HDR video up to 4K, 1080p @60fps, 1080p @960fps, 720p @960fps, Steady Shot; Stereo audio recording; Predictive capture; ISO 4000
- Front Camera: 5MP, 1/5″ Exmor RS for mobile, 23mm wide angle lens, 90-degree FOV, f/2.2; 1080p video
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, Kryo 385 (8x custom Cortex-A75 @ up to 2.8GHz), Adreno 630GPU
- Memory: 4GB RAM, 64GB UFS + microSD (up to 400GB)
- OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
- Battery: 2870mAh; Quick Charge 3.0
- Connectivity: Hybrid dual SIM (4G), 4G VoLTE, 4CA LTE Cat.15, 4×4 MIMO, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS/GLONASS, NFC, USB 3.1 Type-C
- Audio: High-res audio, DSEE HX, LDAC, Stereo speakers with S-Force surround, aptX HD audio
- Misc: Fingerprint sensor, 3D creator scan on back and front cameras, SDR to HDR up conversion
Camera And Image Quality
The 19MP Motion Eye camera we know
Sony is sticking to its 19MP IMX400 ExmorRS for the main camera, also known as Motion Eye. The sensor is 1/2.3″ big with 1.22µm pixels and sits behind f/2.0 lens. Its field of view is still quite wide at 25mm (in 35mm equiv.). There is no OIS, only EIS to keep things steady.
The IMX400 is the same module that appears on the XZ Premium, XZs, as well as the XZ1 pair. But Sony has worked hard to improve the software processing, and its image processor helps too, so the XZ2 is not without upgrades in its camera department.
Some may consider the lack of a dual-camera as a disappointment, though at least we now know such setup is coming finally on the Xperia series this fall.
One thing that is part of the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact camera packages is Sony’s excellent RAM chip solution, sandwiched right in between the sensor and control circuitry layers. It serves as an ultra-fast buffer where the camera can temporarily offload what the sensor captures without the need to wait for the storage to catch up.
This lets the sensor reads out the full 19MP resolution really fast, which prevents the nasty rolling shutter in photos of fast-moving objects. It also enables the headline feature – 960fps slow-motion video. Now, thanks in part to a hardware and software collaboration with Qualcomm on the Spectra 280 ISP, inside the Snapdragon 845, the slow-motion resolution has been bumped up to 1080p! Unfortunately, at half the slow-mo burst length, but more on that in a bit.
There haven’t been any radical changes to the Xperia camera UI in some time now. Well, that does depend on when you’ve last looked into it. For instance, a while back, Sony finally moved the 4K video recording into the resolution settings, as opposed to being a separate mode.
Speaking of resolution settings, you might want to go into settings and switch the default 17MP (16:9) one to 19MP (4:3), so you can get the highest possible resolution for your photos. The is also Sony’s familiar Manual mode. It is full-featured, with access to shutter speed (1s max), ISO as well as white balance and exposure compensation.
And if you find the lens distortion of the XZ2 wide angle lens not to your liking, you can also experiment with the correction option. It does reduce the still quality a bit, though.
Predictive Capture is here to stay, though it works as rarely as before. When the camera detects fast-paced movement, it records a few of the moments before you press the shutter. So, if you were late in clicking the shutter button, you could be able to use one of those pre-cached shots instead.
There are also some new features in the 3D Creator app, which now can use the rear or the front camera. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a software that lets you create three-dimensional captures of objects. Facebook has now stepped in to simplify the sharing process. You can upload your creations to the site directly, where they can be viewed in all their 3D glory without any additional software.
Making a scan of your face and head with the newly added support for the selfie camera is even more fiddly and frustrating than having somebody hover around you for a few minutes. On the plus side, however, this could hint that there are no real hardware requirements for the system to work, making it potentially portable to other devices.
Still Image Quality
When the light is good, the XZ2 Compact resolves plenty of detail, slightly more than on previous Xperia flagships. Sony’s color science hasn’t changed much – colors are reproduced very accurately, and the dynamic range is pretty wide. The Auto mode successfully recognizes the scenes and uses Backlight where needed, so we didn’t need to use the Manual mode for HDR, ever.
Noise suppression artifacts are abundant, though, even if the lighting was great. If you downscale those images to 12MP or less, that becomes less noticeable. That’s a pretty common trait for the 19MP motion camera, and other high-resolution cameras for that matter, along with the slight distortion in the corners, caused by the wide lens.
The new noise-reduction system dials back a bit and thus producing a more coarse and grainy rendition of noise but the level of the resolved detail is now higher. In low-light, the difference is even more pronounced with photos coming out looking substantially sharper and with better colors.
There is manual HDR mode available in, well, Manual mode, but its switch is hidden in the advanced settings. Intelligent Auto is doing a good job, though, so you will rarely, if ever, need to switch to Manual only to shoot HDR.
As we mentioned before, low-light is where the new BIONZ platform seems to shine the most. Historically, this is where 19MP Motion Eye Xperia’s have struggled a lot. The XZ2 still has to battle the lack of OIS, so a tripod will always yield better results even at Auto mode. But even without one, the new Multi-Frame noise reduction seems to do a better job, compared to earlier Sony algorithms.
Now, the XZ2 Compact low-light samples are less noisy, richer in detail, and the ISO rarely hikes above 1250.
Involve a tripod, and things get even more interesting.
The tripod detection appears to be better optimized on the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact, and the new software feels comfortable pushing the shutter speed even lower. For instance, our Superior Auto in-studio test shot was taken at ISO 200 and a 1/8s shutter speed – camera settings which previously were achievable only through manual mode. Resting the phone carefully on a level surface can yield the same results.
It’s worth mentioning that when the XZ2 Compact’s Auto mode decides on longer shutter speeds (0.5s – 1s) because of that tripod detection, it will take a total of six seconds to capture that shot. We can only assume that’s the Multi Frame noise reduction, asking for six 1 second, or so, shots to work with. If you don’t really feel like waiting, using manual mode seems to skip to lengthy process, only capturing one single shot with your desired settings.
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