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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

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

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When you’re working with images in Photoshop, getting perfect selections lets you work in great detail. But the pen and lasso tools don’t make it easy to capture small details in complex areas. The magic wand tool can help, but it’s unpredictable.

If your selection isn’t spot-on, though, your design will suffer. So what are you to do? Worry not, as Photoshop’s Refine Edge tool can come to the rescue.

It’s now hidden behind the new Select and Mask tools Adobe Photoshop CC 2018: 9 Great New Features Adobe Photoshop CC 2018: 9 Great New Features Photoshop CC 2018 is here! And it has some awesome new features. Click to see nine features that will change the way you use Photoshop. Read More , but it’s still one of the most useful functions that Photoshop CC has to offer.

Let’s check it out.

When to Use Refine Edge in Photoshop

You can use Refine Edge on any image, but it really shines when you have a foreground that you’re trying to select against a contrasting background. It’s also best when you’re working with complex edges, like hair (which we’ll be using for this tutorial). Anything with straight lines is easy enough to get with the pen tool.

But lots of small projects, transitions, and blank spots will benefit from the Refine Edge tool. Once you learn how to use it, you can employ the tool on any image. It’s especially good when you’re changing the background of an image How to Change the Background of a Photo in Photoshop How to Change the Background of a Photo in Photoshop Changing the background of an image is one of Photoshop’s core features.

Read on to find out how to do it. Read More . But in time you’ll learn which images it’s best used on. Let’s take a look at how to use Refine Edge.

Step 1: Make a Loose Selection

You can use the Refine Edge tool on an entire image, but you’ll get better results if you help Photoshop focus on the area you’re interested in.

Here’s the image we’ll be using: To isolate the subject from the background, we’re going to have to get a selection that includes her hair.

Especially on the left side, that would be difficult–if not impossible–with the pen tool. Before we start using Photoshop’s Refine Edge tool, though, it helps to make a general selection. First, duplicate the layer by right-clicking Layer 0 and selecting Duplicate Layer.

We’ll name the new layer “Background”. We’ll use the pen tool to outline the woman’s face and narrow down the selection around her hair.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Now, select the Paths tab, right click Work Path, and turn this path into a selection. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Finally, turn that selection into a layer mask. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Step 2: Open Select and Mask Tools

Nothing happens to the image when you add the layer mask. To see your selection more clearly, make the background layer invisible.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Now we have a better idea of what we’ve actually selected. To get to the Refine Edge tool, we’ll need to open the Select and Mask window.

Select the rectangular marquee tool (keyboard shortcut M) or the lasso tool (keyboard shortcut L). You’ll see a button in the menu bar that says Select and Mask. Click that button to open a new window.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Note: To make it a bit easier to see where the Refine Edge tool makes changes, I’ve added a layer and filled it with pink. Select the Refine Edge Brush Tool.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Step 3: Brush on Your Selection

With this tool selected, we’ll brush around the edges that we want Photoshop to refine. Before we start, though, you may want to change the size of the brush. There’s a brush-size dropdown in the menu bar that lets you quickly increase or decrease the brush size.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections It can be helpful to start with a larger brush and then move to a smaller one as the selection gets finer. Now, brush over the area.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Photoshop extracts contrasting pixels for your selection much faster than you could with a manual tool. As you can see, the selection isn’t perfect.

But it’s a lot faster than manual methods. Keep brushing until you get the selection you want. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Step 4: Tweak the Selection

Once you’ve made your selection with the Refine Edge tool, it’s time to make a few tweaks to improve it.

The first thing to try is Decontaminate Colors. In the Properties tab, scroll down until you see the Decontaminate Colors checkbox. Click it and check out the results.

Here you can see the difference between the two options: How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections In our case, some of the edges get a bit sharper, so we’ll leave the decontamination on.

Below this checkbox, you’ll find the Output To: dropdown. You can send this selection to a new layer mask or to the existing mask. We’ll select Layer Mask to add it to our current mask.

How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Click OK. Now we can make a few more tweaks.

For example, in this area, the Refine Edge tool made part of the woman’s hair transparent. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections Select the layer mask and the brush tool (keyboard shortcut B).

Set the foreground color to black and paint over the area that’s been misselected. How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections You can use a brush to clean up any of the selection that you’re not happy with.

Once you’ve selected the area you want, you can start making adjustments to your background. (I’ve added an adjustment layer to turn the background black and white for a selective-color look.) How to Use Photoshop’s Refine Edge Tool for Perfect Selections

Now Keep Practicing With the Refine Edge Tool

While Photoshop’s edge-detection tools are very advanced, they’re not perfect. So you’re going to need to practice working with them and tweaking your final selections.

You might feather the selection to capture a bit of the foreground and a bit of the background. Or use a very small brush to catch even smaller details that Photoshop didn’t. You can also play around with the Refine Edge settings, like Feather and Contrast, to see how they affect your selections.

Like any other tool in Photoshop, it takes a while to get proficient with Refine Edge.

But with practice, you can become an edge-refining master, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering all kinds of Photoshop techniques 7 Techniques to Help You Start Learning Photoshop 7 Techniques to Help You Start Learning Photoshop There are many different ways to learn Photoshop from scratch.

These simple techniques can help anyone to start learning Photoshop. Read More .

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