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Sony Reviews

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Once in a blue moon, a product comes around that inexplicably dazzles me. Sony’s Xperia XZ2 Compact is one such device. On paper, the slimmed-down, 5-inch version of Sony’s flagship Xperia XZ2 seems like a perfectly fine phone, but not markedly different from other Android handsets.

When I picked up this phone for the first time, however, I fell in love. It’s just so damn cute. Cute isn’t a convincing reason to spend £600-plus on anything, but this pint-size phone has a lot going on under the hood, too.

If you hate the giant notched displays that almost every 2018 flagship sports, the XZ2 Compact is worth considering. It’s basically the iPhone SE of the Android world.

Price and Availability

You can buy the XZ2 Compact unlocked through Amazon and Best Buy. The device debuted at £649, but you can find one for £50 less in certain colors.

The good

  • The Good
  • Refreshing design
  • Smaller size
  • Above-average battery life
  • Excellent performance

The bad

  • Underwhelming selfie cam
  • Small on-screen keyboard

Verdict

Sony’s pint-size Xperia XZ2 Compact is the iPhone SE of Android phones — a beautiful, nostalgic phone that can easily compete when it comes to performance and battery life.

8/10 Totally worth it

Like its bigger sibling, the 5.7-inch XZ2, the Compact is available in only one variant, with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, though you can expand that to up to 400GB with a microSD card. You can choose from four colors: Moss Green (which I tested for this review), Black, Coral Pink and White Silver.

The phone is compatible with networks from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, but not Sprint.

Design: An iPhone SE for Android users

In a sea of 6-inch phones, the Xperia XZ2 Compact feels positively tiny, and that’s a huge part of its charm. The back is a comfortable curved plastic that still manages to feel high-end thanks to its frosted sheen. The Moss Green model I tested was more of a soft teal, with a slight gold tint in some lighting.

Compared to the glassy 6-inch slabs that have dominated the market in recent years, the phone feels more comfortable to hold, at least if you have small hands. The Compact actually fits in my jeans pocket, which is a tiny miracle. Every time I picked up the Compact, it reminded me of my very first iPhone, the 3GS.

Sony’s latest device has a bigger display compared to the 3.5-inch screen on that 3GS, and the new phone leaves off the home button, so that the screen real estate can extend closer to the chin of the device. But the curved plastic back and the fit of the phone in my hand remind me of a time when smartphones were fun; no two devices looked the same, and each one felt like an expression of your personality rather than a utilitarian device attached to your hip.

The fit of the XZ2 Compact in my hand reminds me of a time when smartphones were fun.

With the XZ2 and XZ2 Compact, Sony finally added functional fingerprint sensors to its U.S. smartphone lineup. On the larger device, the sensor is awkwardly placed, but I didn’t have an issue on the smaller Compact. (People with larger hands may have to curve their pointer fingers to unlock their phones.)

Display: A-OK

Sony isn’t trying to break the mold with the XZ2 Compact display, but the company isn’t following the trends either.

There’s no notch on the screen. Sony is one of the few smartphone makers that still slaps its logo on the bottom bezel, which I could do without, but at least it’s not too obtrusive. And this phone’s 18:9 aspect ratio makes playing games and watching videos a good experience, even on a smaller, 5-inch display.

The Compact has the same LCD panel as the larger XZ2, and this screen is nothing to write home about. It covers 160.2 percent of the sRGB color gamut and earned a Delta-E score of 0.32. (Delta-E numbers closer to zero mean the screen is more accurate.) The iPhone 8, which has a 4.7-inch LCD panel, covered 119.6 percent of the color gamut and notched a color-accuracy rating of 0.89.

The XZ2 Compact has the same LCD panel as the larger XZ2, and this screen is nothing to write home about.=

In terms of brightness, the Compact reached a perfectly fine 520 nits on our light meter, in line with the phone’s LCD-based sibling, the XZ2. But in general, OLED panels are just better: Black levels are perfect, you’ll see a wider range of hues, and some of these screens are even brighter than LCD panels, whose brightness has previously been the main selling point.

Going from a 6-inch display (or even the 5.5-inch screen on my iPhone 7 Plus) to a 5-inch one is a challenge. Video games aren’t quite as immersive, and watching Queen Beyonce and her husband, Jay-Z, take over the Louvre in their surprise music video wasn’t quite as awe-inspiring as it would be on a larger screen. MORE: Cellphone Insurance: The Best and Worst Plans

The smaller on-screen keyboard also takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to typing on a larger device. It’s depressing to think that a 5-inch phone is almost too small. How did we manage for so many years?

Camera: Decent, though selfies need work

The Compact has the same camera system as the larger XZ2, with all the benefits and drawbacks those lenses offer. (Read more in our XZ2 review.)

I compared the Compact to a similarly priced phone, the OnePlus 6, to see which midprice handset gives you better images for your buck. The Compact won in a landslide, even though the OnePlus sports a dual-lens system. You won’t get Portrait mode with the XZ2, but you will get richer, clearer, more true-to-life photos.

I took both devices out on a floating bar near Brooklyn Bridge Park to capture the downtown Manhattan skyline. Not only does the XZ2 get more buildings in the frame, but also, the lights in each skyscraper are brighter than in the OnePlus 6’s photo and the colors of the sky are more dramatic. Both cameras fare better in daylight.

In side-by-side captures of yellow lilies in my garden, the XZ2 brought the tallest stem into focus, and the greenery of the surrounding leaves was richer than in the OnePlus shot. Neither camera excels at selfies, but the OnePlus’ front-facing lens gave my face a blue tint. The XZ2’s 5-megapixel shooter is underwhelming, but the late-afternoon light streaming in through my office window was more accurate in that shot.

Like other Sony handsets, the Compact has a dedicated button for opening the Camera app when you long press it with the phone unlocked. While it’s not entirely necessary, the dedicated camera button is more useful than an AI assistant button that we will probably never use (looking at you, LG G7 ThinQ). MORE: Best Smartphones on the Market Now

Sony put its super-slow-motion video feature in the Compact model, which is more of a novelty than a useful way to capture clips. If Sony improved its phones’ front-facing lenses and maybe added a dual-lens system, we would love these phones a whole lot more.

Performance: Snapdragon wins again

Sony put the same cutting-edge Snapdragon 845 processor in the XZ2 Compact as it did in the larger XZ2, placing the Compact on par with some of the premium Android devices currently available. That CPU, combined with 4GB of RAM, allows the XZ2 Compact to run multiple apps and switch between them with ease.

Playing PUBG Mobile was a breeze, even as I accidentally parachuted into a river and had to frantically swim to shore. As I procured weapons in abandoned homes and tried to figure out who was shooting at me, I noticed that the XZ2 Compact doesn’t grow uncomfortably warm when you’re playing this graphically intensive game, like other phones do (even flagships such as HTC’s U12+).

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 CPU, combined with 4GB of RAM, allows the XZ2 Compact to run multiple apps and switch between them with ease.

On the Geekbench 4 test of overall system performance, the Compact’s score of 8,485 can easily go toe to toe with Sony’s flagship XZ2 (8,449). The Compact is light years ahead of Google’s Pixel 2, which scored 6,282 in our benchmarking tests thanks to an older Snapdragon 835 processor.

The £579 OnePlus 6 with 8GB of RAM scored 9,098 on Geekbench. (We didn’t test the 6GB model, but it’s even more affordable, at £529.) On 3DMark’s Sling Shot Extreme graphics benchmark, the Compact edged out the bigger XZ2 on the OpenGL ES 3.1 segment of the test, with a score of 4,699 versus 4,672. It couldn’t quite match the cheaper OnePlus 6, which reached 5,124.

MORE: The Best Cellphone Plans for Families and Individuals The Compact sailed through our real-world video-editing test, exporting a 2-minute 4K clip in Adobe Premiere in 2:35. That’s faster than the Pixel 2 (2:55) and the OnePlus 6 (3:45), though the A11 Bionic-powered iPhone 8 remains the champ here, with a 42-second result.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Specs

Price
£599-£649
OS
Android Oreo 8.0
Screen Size (Resolution)
5-inch LCD (2160 x 1080)
CPU
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM
4GB
Storage
64GB
microSD Slot
Yes
Rear Camera 19-MP, f/2.0
Front Camera 5-MP, f/2.2
Battery Size 2,870 mAh
Battery Life (Hrs:Mins) 10:39
Colors Black, White Silver, Moss Green, Coral Pink
Size 5.3 x 2.6 x 0.5 inches
Weight
5.9 ounces

Battery: Better than average

Where many phones fall short is battery life, but Sony’s XZ2 Compact easily outlasts more-expensive handsets.

In the Tom’s Guide Battery Test, which involves continuous web-surfing over T-Mobile’s LTE network, the Compact lasted 10 hours and 39 minutes. Compared to the smartphone average of 9:48, that’s a respectable performance.

Where many phones fall short is battery life, but Sony’s XZ2 Compact easily outlasts more-expensive handsets.

The Compact’s battery isn’t quite impressive enough for this device to finish among the longest-lasting smartphones. Other handsets, including the larger XZ2 (11:47) and Google’s Pixel 2 (11:07), can last longer on a charge, but the Compact can almost match Samsung’s Galaxy S9 (10:59).

Like the XZ2, the Compact helps helps your battery last longer with two software features: Qnovo Adaptive Charging and Battery Care. The former monitors your phone’s battery health when you plug the device in, and the latter learns your charging habits and tops off your battery only when it knows you’re about to unplug the phone. The device also supports quick charging, but not wireless charging.

Software: None of the XZ2’s annoyances

What we didn’t love about the XZ2 were its gimmicky software features, specifically the Dynamic Vibration system that makes haptic feedback extra strong.

The Compact model doesn’t have that, and it’s better for lacking the feature. MORE: Cellphone Carriers: Best and Worst Customer Service The phone ships with Android Oreo 8.0 layered under Sony’s skin.

This OS is a little dated — OK, a lot dated — but rumor has it that Sony has a UI redesign planned for Android P’s launch later this year. The XZ2 is slated to be upgraded to the latest version of Android, and we expect the Compact model will be, too.

Bottom Line

It’s hard to pinpoint why I’m smitten with the XZ2 Compact. Sure, it offers great performance and solid battery life, and it takes nice photos.

But that’s not unusual for a premium phone. What really appeals to me is the way it feels. Today, too many smartphones are glassy slabs you couldn’t pick out of a lineup.

The XZ2 Compact isn’t trying to be bold with an edge-to-edge display, a crazy lineup of colors or gimmicky software. Sony isn’t buying in to the AI and AR hype or trying to compete with other phone makers. Instead, the XZ2 Compact stands out — not just in its size, but also in its simplicity.

Objectively, there are better phones you can buy, but this is my favorite phone of the year so far.

Credit: Tom’s Guide

Sony Xperia Ear Duo review

The line between headphones and hearables is blending together now more than ever, and Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo is one of the most innovative products we’ve seen on the market that tries to push those two ideas together. Hearables are devices that can offer similar functionality to a smartwatch, such as giving you notifications from your phone, updates from apps and other functionality, but this all comes directly into your ear through audio rather than on a display as on a watch or phone.

The Xperia Ear Duo follows on from 2017’s debut product in this category for Sony, which was the Sony Xperia Ear open-style and which wasn’t a particularly popular product and which we didn’t get to test properly. This new product brings two hearables to the mix in one package.

The Xperia Ear Duo is similar to true wireless headphones we’ve seen in the past, such as the Apple AirPods, where there’s no wire between the two Bluetooth earpieces. This looks different though as it hooks around your entire ear and looks more like a Bluetooth headset from the late noughties rather than offering a stylish and distinctive look. Here’s our full verdict on the Sony Xperia Ear Duo and whether it’s worth picking up to hear your notifications and listen to music.

Sony Xperia Ear Duo price and release date

  • Announced at MWC 2018, released in June 2018 in the US and UK
  • Price set at £279.99 or GBP249 (about AU£380)
  • Quite expensive considering competition

Announced at MWC 2018, the Xperia Ear Duo was one of few wearable devices announced at the show and it was particularly eye-grabbing as it’s such as strange idea to begin with.

Those in the US can buy the Xperia Ear Duo, but it’s not particularly cheap with an RRP of £279.99 or GBP249 (about AU£380). The Xperia Ear Duo is hard to find online in the UK right now, but you can buy it from select retailers in store and we hope it will appear at more online retailers soon. An Australian release hasn’t been made clear yet, but we’d also hope for Sony to bring the hearable to that market as soon as possible

In terms of compatibility, the Xperia Ear Duo will work with any phone that’s running Android 5.0 or higher, while those with an iPhone will be able to use it if their phone is running iOS 10 or later.

Design

  • An outright odd design that’s difficult to put into your ear
  • Hook around your earlobe with touchpads on the sides to interact
  • Comes in a wireless charging case that’s large but portable

There’s no getting away from the odd design Sony has chosen for the Xperia Ear Duo, so we’ll start with that. This is a headset that looks unique, but also reflects a lot of what we’ve seen change in recent years with the introduction of true wireless headsets. The Ear Duo is made up of two earpieces that aren’t connected by a wire, which is what true wireless means.

These both sit within a wireless charging case – more about that later – so you can carry them around and ensure you don’t lose one when you’re walking around.

Unlike Apple AirPods and most other true wireless headphones we’ve used, the Sony Xperia Ear Duo actually looks more like the Bluetooth headsets you used to see wrapped around the ears of business people. There’s a thick piece of tech that houses the battery, the touchpad to interact with it and a variety of other sensors. That sits behind your ear, then a small metal band bends around your ear and provides the earpiece so you can hear the audio.

When we first took the Xperia Ear Duo out of the box we were a little confused by how to wear them.

There’s a handy guide in the box to demonstrate the way you’re meant to put them in, but it’s inherently a problem that they’re so confusing looking that the company has to include that message. We asked other people to try and wear them in the TechRadar office, and often people found them uncomfortable to put into their ears even when they knew how to do it. We’ve been wearing the headphones for over a week, but we still struggle to put them in our ears.

Once you’re used to how the headphones work, it’ll still take you around 10 seconds to hook each one around your ear.

Perhaps we have particularly long earlobes, but we often found ourselves struggling to get the earpiece around the bottom of our ear comfortably on the first go. It’s an odd feeling to have this large piece of tech sitting behind your ear, but it’s not particularly uncomfortable. Each is light, so they sit in your ear well and won’t weigh down either side of your head.

As it’s such a complicated thing to explain, we’ve shared this video that may help you understand exactly how the Xperia Ear Duo sits around your ear.

I’ve been using the Sony Xperia Ear Duo for almost two weeks and I’m still struggling to put them in. Here’s my best attempt so far: pic.twitter.com/AVmooEzTvd22 June 2018

You have three choices of inner ear pieces with small, medium and large being the options. We took some time to figure out that medium was the perfect size, but so far the inner part of the headset has been comfortable.

We’ve also never felt like they could fall out of our ears, which is something that can’t be said of Apple AirPods. To access the smart features, you use your finger along the sides of the bits that sit behind your ears. This is easy to reach and works well.

You can adjust the volume (by running your finger up one of the touchpads) as well as pause and play your music by tapping on them. One interesting quirk is that you can only pause by tapping on the left earpiece, so you have to wear both earpieces to be able to use the headset properly. You can change the volume on both, but if you’re only wearing the right one for some reason it means you’ll lose the ability to quickly pause the music.

Instead, you can long press on the right one to open up Google Assistant, while a quick tap on this one will offer your notifications.

There’s no getting around the fact the Xperia Ear Duo headset looks silly. That said, we also don’t particularly love the look of Apple AirPods, but those have become a popular choice for iPhone fans so it may be that the Sony Xperia Ear Duo is a look many begin to adopt. If you do plan to buy the Xperia Ear Duo, you can buy it in either black (pictured throughout this review) or in a gold color.

When we originally tested the Xperia Ear Duo we saw them in silver too but it looks like Sony decided against that color for the full release. The charging case that comes with the Xperia Ear Duo is large, but it’s easy to slot into a small bag or even your back pocket. It’s thin, and while the round design is large it’s not an oversized case.

This isn’t as slim and easy to carry around as Apple AirPods and its charging case though, so if you’re looking for an easily portable device this may not be right up your street.

The Xperia XZ2 Is the Best Phone Sony Has Made in Years

Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

The Sony that many people think of, the electronics giant that made the Walkman, the Discman, the Trinitron, all those Vaios, and even the first water-resistant phone back in 2013, it doesn’t really exist anymore. Sure, the Playstation 4 is doing great and Sony’s mirrorless cameras are some of the best on the market, but many of Sony’s other gadgets like Blu-ray players, TVs, and especially phones have been on the decline. And when Sony’s new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida talked to investors in late May, he said the future of Sony rests upon three main categories: services, semiconductors, and robotics/AI.

That message implies Sony could soon be on its way out of consumer tech, which would be a real tragedy from a gadget standpoint, but also a loss because after years of lackluster phones and an overly aggressive release cycle, Sony Mobile is finally turning things around, and the new Xperia XZ2 is proof.

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Xperia XZ2

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Xperia XZ2

Xperia XZ2

What is it?

Sony’s latest flagship phone

Price

£800

Like

Ridiculously strong vibration motor, solid specs and performance, slick curvy back

Don’t Like

No headphone jack, fingerprint reader location is awkward

Without completely abandoning the boxy, minimalist styling of previous Xperia phones, by shaving down its bezels and going with a new 5.7-inch 18:9 LCD display, the XZ2 looks relatively modern while avoiding features like a notch at the top. And around back, the phone feels even better, because the rear glass panel sports a subtle curve that stems from Sony’s new Ambient Flow design philosophy, which lets the XZ2 nestle in your hand as if it was always meant to be there. Sony has even switched up the placement of the phone’s fingerprint sensor, which now rests on the phone’s back instead of its side like on previous Xperias.

Unfortunately, its new home almost smack dab in the middle is so low down, that even after a couple weeks of using it, I still found myself trying to unlock the phone by touching the rear 19-MP camera instead of the actual fingerprint reader.

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Below the screen, a small speaker slit works with the phone’s earpiece to deliver true stereo speakers with impressive quality and ample volume, even if max output is slightly less than what you get from a Galaxy S9 Plus. But what might be the best part of the phone is Sony’s new haptic vibration engine that feels less like the weak ass buzz you get from typical phones, and more like the rumble you feel on a Playstation 4 controller. Obviously, it works when your playing games to add an extra level of immersions, but it also works anytime you watch a video or listen to music, and can be adjusted from a little wiggle to a full-on attempt to shake the shit out of your hands.

And on the inside, the XZ2 has all the important flagship phone areas covered. It’s got a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a microSD card slot, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer and even support for Qi wireless charging. Sony also made sure to include a decent-sized 3,180 mAh battery, which let the XZ2 last 10 hours and 42 minutes on our rundown test, far better than the 9 hours I got wit the LG G7, though not quite as good as the Pixel 2 XL’s 11:17 or the S9 Plus’ 12:27.

Click through for more close-up pics of the XZ2.I’m still a big fan of that dedicated shutter button towards the bottom of the XZ’s right side.1 / 8

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Really, the only feature the XZ2 is missing is a headphone jack, though with Samsung, LG, and OnePlus seemingly the only phonemakers refusing to fully embrace our Bluetooth audio future hell, it’s hard to fault Sony too much for not including a 3.5mm port.

Sony even kept the XZ2’s dedicated two-step shutter button, which remains an absolute joy to use for anyone like me who often longs for the tactile controls found on real cameras. And then there’s the XZ2’s camera quality in general. Despite Sony being the company that manufactures the lion’s share of camera sensors found in today’s smartphones, recent Xperias often had a hard time keeping up with image quality from phones made by Samsung and others.

But the XZ2 is different, because on top of sporting a 19-MP rear camera that’s higher resolution than the typical 12-MP cams used in competing phones, the XZ2 is the first phone that supports 4K HDR video capture, and like the Galaxy S9, the XZ2 also has a 960 fps slow-mo.

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More importantly, in a side-by-side photo comparison, the XZ2 was never far behind the Galaxy S9 Plus, and on a few occasions, produced pics with more accurate colors. Take for example a photo taken at a swanky outdoor working space where the XZ2 avoided the overly yellow color cast captured by the S9 Plus, or another shot in low-light at a local restaurant that made the food simply look more appetizing.

Note: Photos from the XZ2 have been cropped slightly to match the S9+’s 4:3 aspect ratio.1 / 5

However, during my testing, I noticed that the XZ2 also tends to amp up red tones, even past the already the saturated hues produced by Samsung’s cameras, a quirk that was most obvious when I snapped a pic of some strawberries at a farmers’ market. And in more challenging situations like a pic shot at sunset, the S9 Plus’ better metering and dynamic range did more justice to the swirl of colors in the sky.

In fact, my biggest pet peeve with the XZ2 is the way it doesn’t fully show details in the camera’s viewfinder until you press down on the shutter. It’s kind of like the texture pop-in you sometimes see when playing video games on a console, as if the photo is so sharp, the phone can’t display everything in full detail until you just before you snap a pic.

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But those are really only minor quirks for a phone that at £800, cost £40 less than a Galaxy S9 Plus. And even though it’s not as sleek or pretty as Samsung’s device, and its LCD screen lacks the vivid colors of the S9’s OLED display, there’s something attractive about the way the XZ2 feels like its found it’s niche.

When I first talked to Don Mesa, VP of Sony Mobile’s US division, he said the XZ2 “feels like a reset,” and it shows.

I really wish that fingerprint sensor wasn’t so low down.Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

The XZ2 demonstrates that Sony has finally latched onto important trends of modern smartphone design, but without chasing things like notches that often make it hard to differentiate a lot of recently released phones.

The XZ2 still has its own style, its own rumble-powered shimmy, and with Sony paying more attention to things like software updates (the XZ2 is even part of Google’s Android P Beta program) and photo processing, it’d be a damn shame for Sony to give up on phones now.

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And while I didn’t get a chance to fully review the XZ2’s smaller sibling, the XZ2 Compact, it’s important to mention that Sony is pretty much the only phone maker that still cares about making small phones with high-end components.

If there was an award for the most improved smartphone maker of 2018, it would have to go to Sony and the Xperia XZ2.

README

  • Performance, battery life, and storage options are all in line with what you’d expect from a flagship phone.
  • The phone’s design isn’t super exciting, but there are a number of nice subtle touches that give it personality.
  • The rear fingerprint reader is too damn low, and no headphone jack is sad, because it’s the only thing the XZ2 is really missing.
  • The XZ2’s rumble motor will shake the shit out of your hands.

SPEC DUMP

Android 8.1 o 5.7-inch 18:9 2160 x 1080 LCD display o Snapdragon 845 o 4GB of RAM o 64GB of storage o microSD card slot o 3180 mAh battery o IP68 water-resistance o 19-MP rear cam o 5-MP front camera o Qi wireless charging o available in black, silver, green, and pink

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