In the hands, much of the positivity we had for the Z5’s design has been transferred to the smaller body, with a slightly softened rectangular block that is super easy to grip and comfortable to hold.
That’s an evolution of the omni-balance design Sony has been trying to push forward with for a few years now, and while this is a refinement of that design, there are some changes.
Most notable, there is no longer a magnetic charge dock port, so you can throw those old docks away, and the door for the USB port has disappeared, and that’s because Sony has found a way to make the microUSB port cap-less and yet still be water resistant.
That’s right, you’ll be able to take this phone into the water without fear that the port will end up dying in the process, because in the Z5 Compact, Sony is offering a highly water resistant microUSB port, provided it’s freshwater you’re talking about. More on that in a moment.
The other major change to the design is in the power button, and what was previously a small circular metal button is now a flat rectangular plastic button, but it comes with a cool improvement: a fingerprint reader.
Much like how every other major smartphone maker is following in the footsteps of Apple with the fingerprint reader, Sony is now offering this technology itself, and has embedded it in the part of the phone you grip, the power button.
And boy, is it fast, and well designed to boot.
While the Z5 Compact hasn’t yet been updated to Android 6.0 to take advantage of all the neat fingerprint reading tricks Android will be able to use, not like it’s Nexus cousins, the fingerprint sensor in the Compact doesn’t just have to depend on the tip of your finger, it can read a little lower, and even the joins in your finger, and it nails it nearly every time.
Simply put, you just have to grip the phone and squeeze the power button slightly if you want to unlock the phone, which is a stellar effort from a first generation biometric reader.
In case it doesn’t work, however, you’ll still be able to apply a password or PIN, and that will certainly be necessary if you have wet fingers, because like all fingerprint readers on phones, this one has problems picking up on your friction ridges when they’re wet.
When you do unlock the phone, however, you’ll find the same Snapdragon 810 processor as what was inside the Z5, but with a drop to 2GB RAM instead of the 3GB we found in the larger Z5.
Despite this reduction in memory, the Z5 still flies, and still offers a decent amount of storage for you to work with, starting with 32GB inside the body, but allowing you to expand it using a microSD card, something some Android smartphone makers are beginning to look past much to the dismay of customers (and reviewers).
Back to the performance, however, and we had little to no problems with the Z5 Compact, and while Android’s latest wasn’t on the phone yet, we’re told it is coming, and Sony is generally faster than some of the other big names, so we believe it.
Even without Marshmallow, the version of Lollipop the Z5 Compact relies on is still quite speedy, zipping along and feeling stable, and this is helped by a scaled back edition of Android with less overlay complexity than ever before.
It is quite clearly still not a stock Android experience, but that’s totally fine, and you’ll find the phone quite easy to use, with options for multiple home screens, a customisable shortcut dock, and apps that are easy to uninstall if need be.
Some of the additions that make a Sony flagship different are still here, and these include the attention to sound.
If you happen to value your audio experience on a smartphone, you’ll find more settings for sound enhancements, spatial effects, and support for high-resolution audio up to 24-bit in 192kHz, meaning any high quality FLAC files you have laying around or that you bought recently for another media player will play on this phone.
A new audio trick is also here, with noise cancellation built into the handset provided you use one of Sony’s compatible headsets.
For this to work, your phone becomes the power and processing brick for the Sony-specific noise cancelling headset, and while we haven’t tried it yet, this seems like it might be a good idea, provided Sony has produced a decent pair of headphones. If not, we’ll just go to another pair of active noise cancelling cans, of which there are certainly quite a few.
Owners of a Sony PlayStation 4 will also find they can control their console using their phone, or even pair the PS4 controller with the phone and play over a network connection (but not a mobile one) the games they’d normally have to sit in front of the telly for.
And then there’s that other trick that we always love: water resistance.