The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is the exception that proves the rule: it's a 'mini' version of a flagship phone that's actually worth buying. But does the new Sony Xperia Z5 Compact continue that theme, and make us rethink mini models entirely? We'll find out in our Xperia Z5 Compact vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison.
- Sony Xperia Z5 vs Sony Xperia Z3+ comparison
- Sony Xperia Z5, Premium and Compact: are they really worth the money?
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact: Design
Sony has employed its own OmniBalance design concept since the start of the Xperia Z range. It's based on ensuring balance and symmetry in each element of the phone. The success of OmniBalance has meant that new phones in the range look much like their predecessors, with the same rather sharp rectangular design.
The Z5 Compact has similar dimensions to the Z3 Compact, but it is a little more square this time around, and its stereo speakers have moved to the top and bottom edges of the handset.
The volume rocker on the Z5 Compact has slid even further down the handset and it is now in a truly awkward position. Bending your thumb to press a button two-thirds of the way down the device is never comfortable.
The Xperia Z5 Compact doesn't look or feel as high-quality as the Z3 Compact. Without the frosted glass-effect plastic sides and colored trim, it seems a little cheap. That being said, the Z5 Compact does have same expandable storage and waterproof/dustproof body as its predecessor, and also now includes a combined power button/fingerprint sensor. Its internal memory has been boosted up to 32 GB too; the Z3 Compact's is 16 GB.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact: Display
The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact has the same size display as the Z3 Compact. Both have a 4.6-inch diagonal and the same HD resolution screen.
HD resolution can be found on smartphones that cost considerably less than the Z5 Compact – which was reduced to £429, or around US$650, after just three days of being on sale – and it's disappointing to see Sony continue with the same display quality that can be found on the first generation Xperia Z1 Compact on its most current device.
The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact display itself seems unchanged compared to the Z3 Compact. It isn't visibly brighter or more beautiful.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact: Software and special features
One of the new model's biggest draws is the fingerprint scanner on the right-hand side of the phone. The Xperia Z5 Compact is one of an increasing number of Android smartphones to offer this technology but it's something that the Xperia Z3 Compact lacks.
The Z5 Compact comes with the latest version of Android Lollipop, which the Z3 Compact can be upgraded to, and uses Sony's Xperia UI interface. Sony's UI includes features such as Record Screen, Glove Mode, and Remote Play, which allows users to play on a PlayStation 4 from their handset.
In terms of software, there isn't much separating these devices, but you could be sold on the fingerprint scanner on the Z5 Compact. As Android Pay expands to further regions, it's expected to become a more desirable feature. Other than this, the software is almost identical.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact: Camera
The rear camera in the Z5 Compact has been upgraded to a 23 MP sensor, from the 20.7 MP sensor on the Z3 Compact. It has the world's fastest auto-focus on a leading smartphone (0.03 seconds). This means that focusing the camera on a foreground or background image happens imperceptibly quickly.
In my tests, I was genuinely impressed by this focus speed and it's a tangible improvement on the Z3 Compact. That being said, it won't be an essential feature for most people.
The Z5 camera represents the cutting edge of Sony's excellent camera technology. Sony has also managed to eradicate its recent camera crash problems. The front camera also sees genuine improvement. The 2.2 MP sensor of the Z3 Compact is more than doubled to 5 MP on the Z5 Compact, which should please selfie fans.
The difference in megapixels between these devices doesn't change the quality all that much. When zoomed in, the Z5 Compact photos will look the best, but you would have to magnify the image by an incredible amount to notice this.
While the improved auto-focus speed is welcomed, Sony still has not addressed the red color problem its Xperia devices have suffered from for years. Just as on its predecessor, the Z5 Compact will show a pink hue on red colors in pictures and once you notice this, it will irritate every time you see it.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact: Performance
One of the main reasons the Z3 Compact was such a success was that it integrated the same processor as the larger Z3 into a smaller body, meaning its performance justified its high price more than any other mini handset on the market.
The Z5 Compact repeats the same trick, using the same processor as the standard Z5, the Snapdragon 810. Though this processor has been known to overheat, it appears that this problem is now behind it and the Xperia Z line. It's a considerably faster chipset than the Z3 Compact's 801, but with both devices housing 2 GB of RAM, the difference isn't easily noticeable.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact: Battery
The Xperia Z3 Compact's battery comes in at 2,600 mAh and the Z5 Compact boosts that by 100 mAh. We'll have to wait to get it in for a full test before we know just how much better it is, but both devices support Quick Charge 2.0, and Sony has a reputation for strong battery life. We don't doubt the Z5 Compact will deliver on this once again.
The other advantage that the Z5 Compact provides in the battery department is that there is no fiddly cover for its USB charge port. You need to open and close the one on the Z3 Compact, every time you charge the device, which quickly becomes annoying.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact vs Sony Xperia Z3 Compact: Conclusion
Sony has pulled off the seemingly impossible twice now. With the Xperia Z1 Compact and Xperia Z3 Compact, the Japanese manufacturer justified a high price for small phones. The question is, has it done it again?
We don't think so. The Z5 Compact processor is faster, but the 801 in the Z3 Compact isn't exactly slow, and the camera resolution is better that its predecessor's, but only just. The displays are the same, the battery has slightly improved, but the Z5 Compact's design is less attractive. For a device released a year later, the improvements are pretty marginal.
Essentially, unless you really, really want a fingerprint scanner, the Xperia Z3 Compact seems like the better smartphone choice. That's our take, what's yours? Let us know in the comments below.