Sony as a brand is huge, but for a considerable amount of time now, its mobile phone division has been under scrutiny. The company is failing to see a profit from this division and it really is crunch time for Sony phones.
Now with that backdrop let us think about what has happened in the smartphone world lately. Manufacturers in essence, have been keener on inflating the size of their flagship devices rather than making devices compact. To be fair to them, that is precisely what has gained traction with the consumers – 4 inch screens now adorn the base of the smartphone pyramid, and the 5 inch screens have become the new 4 inches. 5.5 is quite clearly the favourite config at this time.
It really seems to be a choice to be made by the manufacturers and this choice can be very important in times like these for Sony. Apparently Sony, like it always has seems to want to stick to the old ways. It has had a range of compact devices and here comes another!
This one is based on the Xperia Z5 and is called the Z5 Compact. As the name suggests , it actually is the Xperia Z5 in spirit, but in a more compact and easier-to-use and handle package.
The Z5 Compact may not be a flagship device, but for Sony it might be just as important – given that every device from Sony now will be observed keenly.
Let us find out if this device does any good to Sony’s situation and in turn, for us.
The Z5 Compact bears a 4.6 inch IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen. The resolution on offer here is 1280×720 pixels (which is HD resolution) with 323 pixels per inch. What Sony has done here is maintain the specs of the Xperia Z5 but put it in a smaller area which has significant results.
Being an LCD panel, the viewing angles are fantastic. The display on the whole is delightful, crisp and sharp. The most noticeable thing about this display is how accurate it is with it colour representation and saturation.
Sony includes a dynamic contrast enhancer which essentially attempts to do away with one downside of an LCD panel. It is aimed at making the blacks deep and the whites clean; which I have to say, it succeeds in doing.
The display is sharp and bright. Sunlight visibility is good as well. Text is sharp and distinct. The screen is vibrant all around.
So then, qualitatively the screen is one of the best around, but then there is the question of practicality. How comfortable you are watching videos and playing games or reading text on a 4.6 inch screen is totally subjective to your preferences and it livens the old argument of what the ideal screen size of a smartphone should be.
Having said that we do have to consider the modern trend and the user dependency on it. Most of the users, whether they like it or not, have become conversant with bigger screens and for them this might take some getting used to.
In the end it really is about you weighing in the perks and downsides of using a small screen device, but the important thing is that if your scales tip in favor of the a compact form factor, then the quality is there for you.
On the design front, things have not changed a lot and that has been the case with Sony for quite some time now.
The appeal of the device however does not lie in the design tweaks, it does so in the effectiveness of the design. The Xperia Z5 Compact primarily shares the same design language and philosophy as the Xperia Z5, but it is a joy to handle and hold. It is a nimble device which suddenly reminds us of the days where smartphones were manageable and easy to use.
The corners of the device are slightly rounded which does sacrifice some of the grip but not alarmingly. At the front sits the brilliant 4.6 inch display. Above this in the middle sits the in call speaker to the left of which is the camera senor. Below the screen there is nothing but a thin bezel. The navigation keys are on screen.
Moving over to the right there is a distinguishable power button in the middle below which are the volume rocker keys and the dedicated camera button. The placement of the volume rocker makes it a bit awkward to reach, to be honest. Intriguingly, the power button also houses a fingerprint scanner! This is indeed novel, and once you use it, you realise, its quite convenient and well-thought-out too!
On the left is the SIM slot and a microSD slot. On the top sits a 3.5 mm headphone jack. On the bottom is a USB port.
The back is simple with the camera sensor paced on the top left with the LED flash. Below this are a couple of Sony logos. The back has a nice frosted glass finish to it which does provide the most interesting styling aspect of the device.
The design in essence. is what every Sony device can relate to. The most important factor of the design aspect is the fact that it is sync with the philosophy behind a compact device. It is very easy to hold, use and enables the user more nimble with navigating the device.
With that point of view, Sony may have achieved what it set out to.
The device comes with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with an Adreno 430 graphics processor and 2 GB of RAM. The phone also has water resistance rating of IP68 which is essence will protect you device from rain spray, spillage and the occasional short-term wine-puddle drip. It does not claim to protect the device from hot liquids, salt water and total submersion.
The Z5 Compact seems to have retained the spec sheet from its bigger brothers. As we can see that it uses the Snapdragon 810 which has already come under a lot of scrutiny for heating issues.
We will discus that a bit later but the one thing that never was under question is the performance of the 810. It is brilliant performer and everyday tasks such as opening your mail, switching between apps and browsing and scrolling through web pages is a cakewalk for this processor. Also gaming is a delight as the device can run any game you can possibly throw at it smoothly and with ease.
Now, have the heating issues been resolved? Well what Qualcomm seems to have done here is reduce the performance of the 810 in order to control the heating. This is effective as you will not encounter heating in your everyday task or while playing games. However, recording 4k and HD videos can make this device uncomfortably hot. As a results these apps may shut down.
The device comes with a storage option of 32 GB internally which can be extended via a microSD card. The battery that this device houses is a 2,700 Li-ion unit which does yield a decent life. Sony devices have a reputation for providing impressive battery life and that is maintained by this device. You can expect around 44 hours of standby time and with average usage the phone will comfortably last you the full day between charges.
The performance of the device is impressive and the specs sheet says the same thing. All in all, the device has a better version of the Snapdragon 810 with a slightly compromised performance which is still enough to woo you and on the upside, the resolution of heating issues to a large extent.
The Sony Z5 Compact comes with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop by with a Sony skin sitting on top. The device is set to receive an upgrade to Marshmallow. The Sony skin is not a bother this time, it rather adds some features and useful Sony apps to the OS.
Sony has included apps such as the Theme Library which allows you to select form a range of free as well as paid themes. Life long is another addition that tracks your calories you sleep routine and the number of steps that you take during the day. There also a number of power saving modes that you can choose from depending upon your requirements and predictions as to how long is it going to be before you can charge the phone vs. how much battery have you got left.
The OS also supports PlayStation apps such as PSN, PlayStation and PS Video.
You also can wirelessly play your media and documents on other devices. There is also a dedicated app for your fingerprint sensor.
Overall, the software is impressive and most importantly it does not contain bloatware and the additions are rather useful. Also, included are some small utility apps to simplify the use of the OS.
The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact certainly enters the room shouting about pedigree when it comes to camera. It has a 23 megapixel sensor which is made by Sony itself with an aperture size of f/2.0, a 24 mm wide angle lens, phase detection autofocus and LED flash.
So, the camera is stacked up with specs. In fact the camera in the Z5 Compact is the same one the bigger Z5! Naturally we can expect great things from it.
Unfortunately the camera does not stand true on these expectations and in turn, let’s its own hardware down. This does not imply that this is not a good camera, but it only says that this camera is not as good as it should have been. There are grey areas too.
With a 23 megapixel Sony Exmor RS sensor, a wide angle 24mm G Lens, and 4K video recording, I was really looking forward to seeing what the Z5 Compact’s camera could do. However, I must confess that I am a little disappointed. Part of my disappointment might be because my expectations where high: this is a Sony device, Sony make great digital cameras, Sony sells its mobile sensors to lots of other smartphone makers, the Z5 Compact has a 23 megapixel sensor, and so on. Basically I was expecting great things.
To start with, let me tell you that you, that you can either use all the 23 megapixel available or only 8 of them. The sad thing is that you can hardly tell the difference between the two shots and even when you can, it is not as big as it should be!
Moving on, the camera is capable of clicking some great snaps in outdoor conditions and the best quality of this camera to me is the shutter speed. At 0.03 seconds it really is fast and you would not be able to tell the difference between clicking the button and the picture being actually taken.
There are however instances where you zoom in to the snaps only to find grains. Now this is not a problem when you are using the photos socially but it nevertheless is a drawback. Also, night time shots are good enough as far as the amount of details go, but there is quite a bit of “noise” (grainy spots) present. Also if there are enough bright light sources around you the camera may suffer from over exposure.
The camera app is really good and it provides you with lots of options and modes such as super imposing graphics on your frame and the AR Mask Mode. There of course is a fully manual mode available as well to encourage the photographer in you.
The front camera is a 5.1 megapixel shooter and it can click more-than-socially-usable selfies.
In conclusion, all the shouting, chest thumping and spec-shooting comes down to a rather damp squib. Bad, Sony… bad!
The device comes with dual front speakers that work very well indeed. The sound is rich and deep. The speakers can also get pretty loud but at the top-end the sound does tear up a little.
The video-watching experience the device will of course stumble in reaction to the smaller screen size, but the quality is there and that, combined with the speakers make for a decent entertainment unit.