Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact vs. XZ1 Compact: What a difference a year makes

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The long-vaunted Sony redesign has finally arrived in the rounded shape of the Xperia XZ2 and its little brother, the Xperia XZ2 Compact. This new look heralds the biggest shake up we’ve seen for the Xperia range since the Z series began. With so few manufacturers making small smartphones nowadays, we’ve been big fans of the Compact series over the last few years, though we had issues with the XZ1 Compact’s design, limited storage, and lack of a working fingerprint sensor in the United States. Does the XZ2 Compact bring the improvements we’ve been craving? Let’s take a closer look as we compare last year’s XZ1 Compact with the new XZ2 Compact to see which is better.

Specs and performance

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact

Size 135 x 65 x 12.1 mm (5.31 x 2.6 x 0.48 inches) 129 x 64 x 9.3 mm (5.08 x 2.52 x 0.37 inches)
Weight 5.93 ounces (168 grams) 4.94 ounces (140 grams)
Screen 5-inch IPS LCD 4.6-inch IPS LCD
Resolution 2,160 x 1,080 pixels 1,280 x 720 pixels (319ppi)
OS Android 8.0 Oreo Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage 64GB 32GB
SD card slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Connectivity GSM / HSPA / LTE GSM / HSPA / LTE
Camera Front 5MP, rear 19MP Front 8MP, rear 19MP
Video 4K HDR at 30fps, 1,080p at 960fps 4K at 30fps, 1,080p at 60fps, 720p at 960fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 5.0 Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes (Not in U.S.)
Other sensors Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity Accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, barometer, compass
Water resistant Yes, IP68 Yes, IP68
Battery 2,870mAh 2,700mAh
Charger USB Type-C USB Type-C
Quick charging Yes Yes
Wireless charging No No
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings White Silver, Black, Moss Green, Coral Pink Black, Snow Silver, Horizon Blue, Twilight Pink
Availability Late spring 2018 October 4
Pricing TBA $600
DT review Hands-on 3 out of 5

The Compact has been one of the best small phones available for the last few years, partly because Sony doesn’t scale down the internal power when it scales down the body — the Compact has the same chip as Sony’s flagship. That means you can expect cutting-edge performance from the Xperia XZ2 Compact. Because another year has passed, it sports the very latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, which is faster and less power hungry than the Xperia XZ1 Compact’s Snapdragon 835. Since the XZ1 Compact was already plenty powerful, we’re not sure you’ll notice a huge difference here, but any performance boost is welcome.

Both phones have 4GB of RAM, but the Xperia XZ2 Compact gets an internal storage boost to 64GB, compared to the 32GB in last year’s model. That’s good because we found that there was only around 20GB free on the Xperia XZ1 Compact out of the box and it fills up fast. Thankfully, both phones support MicroSD card expansion.

There’s no doubt that the XZ2 Compact wins this round with more power under the hood and more storage capacity.

Winner: Xperia XZ2 Compact

Design, display, and durability

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You can argue about whether Sony has gone far enough with the redesign in the XZ2 Compact, but we think it’s easily more attractive than its predecessor. A curved polycarbonate back sits comfortably in the hand, the angular corners have been rounded, and the bezels around the screen have been shaved down. It looks and feels less chunky than the XZ1 Compact. The fingerprint sensor on the XZ2 Compact has been moved around to the back of the phone, which allows the sides to be slimmed down, and we’re delighted to report that it works in the U.S. as well.

There are also some important upgrades in the display department, with a full HD, 1080p, 5-inch screen in the XZ2 Compact, compared to the XZ1 Compact’s 4.6-inch, 720p screen. Sony has embraced the 18:9 aspect ratio, too. We’re glad to see that Sony has managed to pack in a larger, much sharper screen without substantially increasing the size of the device.

In terms of durability there isn’t much difference between the two. They’re both IP68 rated, so they’ll be able to handle rain or a short dunk without damage.

Winner: Xperia XZ2 Compact

Battery life and charging

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact review
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

On paper Sony has managed to squeeze in an extra 170mAh to the battery, bringing it up to 2,870mAh. The newer phone also has a more power efficient chip inside. But all that must be balanced against the bigger, higher resolution screen. Whether that slight jump over the XZ1 Compact’s 2,700mAh battery will make a difference is hard to know until we’ve had more time with the new phone. The good news is that the XZ1 Compact has some serious stamina and easily outlasts the majority of its rivals. We expect the XZ2 Compact to be similarly long lasting.

While the new Xperia XZ2 supports wireless charging, we were disappointed to find that the XZ2 Compact doesn’t. This is down to the polycarbonate, rather than glass back. It doesn’t really make a difference here, because the XZ1 Compact doesn’t support wireless charging either. Assuming Sony has managed to take advantage of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ technology, the XZ2 Compact should be faster to charge up when plugged in, but we’ll need to test it out to confirm that. For now, we’ll call this round a tie.

Winner: Tie


Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Ostensibly the main camera in this year’s Compact hasn’t changed — it’s still rated at 19 megapixels. That may not be good news, because we were disappointed with the camera in the XZ1 Compact during testing as it produced noisy, grainy shots far too often. We need to test the XZ2 Compact camera out in the wild to see what software tweaks Sony has made. One new trick it does have up its sleeve is the ability to record 4K HDR footage — which Sony says is a world first. That could be great news if you have a TV capable of playing back true HDR. Sony has also beefed up the slow-motion mode, so you can record at 960 fps in 1080p resolution. Slo-mo was limited to 720p in the XZ1 Compact.

Around front, Sony has actually switched to a 5-megapixel selfie camera in the XZ2 Compact — its predecessor had an 8-megapixel camera. We don’t anticipate there being much of a noticeable difference, but it’s another element that requires some hands-on testing for a proper verdict.

We’re hopeful that this year’s camera will perform better, but only testing will reveal that. For now, the video-shooting improvements are enough for the win to go to the XZ2 Compact.

Winner: Xperia XZ2 Compact


Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact review
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Since the Xperia XZ1 Compact already runs the latest Android 8.0 Oreo, with Sony’s user interface on top, we’re not expecting things to be much different on the XZ2 Compact in the software department. Sony mentioned that the 3D Creator app has been improved to include 3D capture with the selfie camera and that the XZ2 Compact will be able to use Qualcomm’s low-power hot word, so it can recognize “OK Google” even when the screen is off. Other than that, we suspect the software experience will be identical, so this category is a tie.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

The Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact was priced at $600 on release and was available from online retailers such as Amazon, but not from any U.S. carriers. We felt that was expensive at the time, compared with some of the other smartphones on offer, but you’ll find it has come down in price in the last few months. You can snag one now for $450 and it’s likely to get even cheaper when its successor hits the market. It’s important to note that the XZ1 Compact isn’t compatible with Verizon and Sprint, though it does have support for GSM networks, which means it works just fine on AT&T or T-Mobile.

There’s good news for Verizon customers as Sony is partnering with the carrier to release the Xperia XZ2 Compact. You’ll also be able to buy the phone online. The bad news is that the XZ2 Compact is going to cost upwards of $700, and that we don’t know when it’ll be out beyond “late spring 2018.” The winner here depends on your priorities, so we’re calling it a tie.

Winner: Tie

Overall winner: Xperia XZ2 Compact

It would have been a real shock if Sony’s latest didn’t improve on last year’s model, but it definitely does. The Xperia XZ2 Compact looks and feels better, has more power and storage, and offers a sharper, bigger display. It is definitely a superior phone to the XZ1 Compact and a strong contender for the best small Android phone on the market. If your budget is limited, then the XZ1 Compact might be the best option for you, but price aside, we would advise you to buy the Xperia XZ2 Compact.