Our Verdict

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is small and powerful. It's also chunky and partially plastic, so not the best choice if you want a phone that looks as good as it runs.

For

  • Solid camera
  • Great performance
  • Sharp screen

Against

  • Feels cheaper than it is
  • No headphone jack
  • Selfie camera isn’t great

Sony’s Compact line offers something different to most other high-end phones, as they fit high-end hardware into a small, palm-friendly frame.

If you want top specs and a phone that won’t stretch your fingers or your pocket lining, the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is one of your best options, as you don’t see hardware this impressive in other phones with 5-inch screens.

Update: A few months since its launch, the Xperia XZ2 Compact has dropped slightly in price, yet it remains the only real palm-sized phone on the market - other than potentially the aging iPhone SE.

It becomes a bit of a tougher sell if you want a phone with a design that matches its premium cost, though. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact doesn’t feel or look as expensive as it is.

Its camera and chipset will smoke those of just about any other phone this size, but unless you go pixel-peeping at its photos or notice the milliseconds it shaves off app loads, you can get a similar experience for under half the price.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact price and availability

  • Launch price: $649 (£549, AU$870) SIM-free
  • Current price: $609 (£529, AU$820) SIM-free
  • Release date: April 2018

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is one of Sony’s top phones for 2018. It was announced at the MWC conference in February 2018, alongside its big brother the Sony Xperia XZ2.

The Xperia XZ2 Compact costs what used to be the standard price for a high-end phone, before the ceiling rose to accommodate mobiles like the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

At launch it was $649 (£549, about AU$870) SIM-free, but the XZ2 Compact price has dropped slightly since then, and you can now find the handset for $609 (£529, around $820).

There aren't many direct rivals for the XZ2 Compact. No other big phone brand makes Android phones this small with top-end components. It’s just not done, giving it an amazing edge for those who still just don’t like big phones.

Key features

  • Compact build with high-end specs
  • Strong 19MP camera

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact shares many features with the larger, more expensive Xperia XZ2. It’s what makes this small phone so unusual.

These features include Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 845 chipset, a 19MP camera, 64GB of storage and a screen capable of playing HDR video. That’s the kind of footage you might watch on a high-end TV.

You simply don’t get this sort of hardware in other phones this small. Your closest option from Samsung is the Galaxy S9, which is a little wider and a lot longer.

This combination of top-quality internals and a small frame is exactly what some are after. The issue is you won’t necessarily appreciate the quality of the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact unless you look deeper.

On the surface this phone is in danger of being interpreted as a cheap and friendly Android. And it is certainly not cheap.

Phones like the Moto G5S actually feel more high-end than the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact, which is quite alarming. However, even that budget favorite has a significantly larger footprint than this one.

This is a great phone for the right buyer, particularly as Sony has made real improvements to the camera performance this year. Well, aside from the front camera, which is surprisingly unremarkable. However, you do have to care, a lot, about its small, cuddly frame.

Design

  • Tubby and rounded rather than blocky
  • Plastic back doesn’t feel that expensive
  • Fingerprint reader yes, headphone jack no

Most phone-makers try to make their handsets as thin as they can. The design goal of the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is not about thinness. A small footprint is at least 50% of the appeal here.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact has the silhouette of a phone with a 4.5-inch screen. Its actual display measures five inches across, but this is only because it has a 'longer' 18:9 aspect display, like so many recent phones.

Screen shape aside, using the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is a pleasant callback to years past, when we didn’t have to stretch our thumbs, like a baby in a pram reaching for a cookie, just to tap certain parts of the screen. This has been the key appeal of Sony’s Compact phones since the series began in 2013.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact’s design is different to the Xperia XZ1 Compact, though. It’s no longer a rectangular brick, using much smoother curves across its back for a palm-hugging feel.

It’s oddly similar to the style of the very first Motorola Moto G, an instantly lovable budget classic. The obvious issue: that was a much cheaper phone.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact has a plastic rear, which does not give it an immediately impressive feel. It’s also very chunky at 12.1mm thick. Few people handed this phone would assume it's as expensive as £549/$600.

Its sides are aluminum, but the feel is defined by the smooth, plastic curves.

Phones are status objects. There’s a certain swallowing of consumer pride necessary here. However, to an extent this has always been the case with Xperia Compact phones. They aren’t for show-offs.

Considering its thickness, it is disappointing the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact does not have a headphone jack. You have to use wireless headphones or an annoying little adaptor (included) that plugs into the USB-C socket on the bottom. It’s as clear a sign as any that phones with 3.5mm sockets are headed for extinction.

Claims it frees up space seem spurious in a phone this thick.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact does have water resistance, though. It’s IP68 certified, meaning it can be dropped in water without damage.

There’s also a fingerprint scanner on the back, which has moved from Sony’s traditional side position in the Xperia XZ1 Compact. A rear scanner is more convenient, but the position is rather low. You need to move your finger down to reach it.

This, and the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact’s chunkiness, are costs of the phone’s ultra-small footprint.

Chalking up a gadget’s value is a big part of our job. That the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact is more expensive than it seems matters. However, it also trades on being different and earns back some credit with sheer likability. We don’t miss the days when many phones were as small as this, but it’s here for people who do.

Screen

  • 18:9 screen cuts down wasted space
  • Ultra-saturated color
  • Very bright

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact’s display is another aspect changed for this year. It’s an 18:9 aspect screen, leaving smaller screen-less borders at its top and bottom.

It is also a much higher-spec display than the XZ1 Compact’s. That phone has a 720p resolution. This is a wide Full HD screen, with a resolution of 1080 x 2160. It’s very sharp, with density of 483 pixels per inch.

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact also has the spec bragging points of the larger Xperia XZ2. It supports HDR, and Sony’s X-Reality engine upscales standard dynamic range content to HDR too.

Sure enough the screen has extremely vibrant color, excellent maximum brightness and great contrast for an LCD, although when tilted there is some visible greying of blacks.

If you find the out-of-the-box color too vibrant, or not vivid enough, you can change it too. The standard mode is a great balance of saturation and accuracy, but the Xperia XZ2 Compact also has a relaxed-looking sRGB mode and a Super Vivid one, dripping in color.

Such tech does seem wasted on such a small display, though. Watching Netflix or a long YouTube video is going to be more fun on a poorer-quality 6-inch screen than a high-end 5-inch one like this. Especially as standard 16:9 content leaves the extreme left and right parts of the screen unused, effectively reverting to a 4.5-inch-ish display size.

Let’s get real: all the tech in the world can’t make the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact’s small screen seem like a mini cinema. But, to be fair to Sony, it’s the best 18:9 screen around at this size.

Star rating update: This review was originally published with a star rating of 3.5. This was an error and has been updated to 4 stars.