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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review

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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.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Unboxing

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.

Introduction

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.

Introduction Of Sony Xperia XZ2

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.

Sony Xperia XZ2

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.

Design and spin Of Sony Xperia XZ2

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).

Design Of Sony Xperia XZ2

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.

Xperia XZ2

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.

Sony Xperia XZ2 2018

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.

No audio jack on the Xperia XZ2 Compact No audio jack on the Xperia XZ2 Compact No audio jack on the Xperia XZ2 Compact No audio jack on the Xperia XZ2 Compact No audio jack on the Xperia XZ2 Compact

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.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Camera

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.

Image Quality Of Sony Xperia XZ2

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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