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Sony Xperia Z5 Compact: Confessions of a Phablet Guy

[fa icon="calendar"] 23-Dec-2015 12:47:33 / by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie Vassallo

OK, full disclosure - I'm a phablet guy.

Always have been.

One of my first and favourite phablet-sized phones was the ridiculously oversized HTC One Max.

Yeah, that one.

I've also had my share of Samsung Note devices (Note 2, Note 3, Note 4, Note 4 Edge, etc). Heck, I even attempted to carry the Sony Xperia Z Ultra for about a month last year - and yes, I looked like a complete idiot trying to stash the 6.4-inch beast into a jeans pocket.

As an iOS guy at heart, I've happily carried both the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus as my primary daily driver for the last 15 months - and no, I don't in any way find it too large or unwieldy. If anything, I would have preferred Apple take the route of the latest Nexus 6P or Samsung Note devices - and bump the 'Plus' up to 5.7 or 5.9 inches.

Now that would be perfection.

So imagine my surprise when I was handed the latest Sony Xperia 'flagship' compact handset, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, and spent a few days trying to wrap my head around how to use a 4.6-inch screen for the first time since...well...the iPhone 5.




And man, those dark days before the phablet revolution sure seem like I place I would NOT want to revisit.

But the even bigger surprise, is how I have really taken to this little guy.

It's undeniably cute at just a little over 5 total inches in length (2.56 inches in width), and compared to an iPhone 6S Plus - looks like it came out of the oven a bit early.

What's most impressive is what Sony has managed to pack inside this thing - and that's full flagship specs. Compared to most 'mini' and 'compact' versions of flagship phones (eg the Moto G/E ranges, etc), Sony didn't include a middling Snapdragon 400 or even 600 chipset here. Instead, this baby is sporting the full Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC clocked at 2GHz and eight cores - the same processor almost every flagship Android phone (as well as the new Windows Lumia 950 XL - which will forever be known simply as the 'unmentionable one') has on board.

There's also one of the best fingerprint scanners I have ever used on a smartphone - and that includes the latest iPhone 6S 'blazing fast' Touch ID 2.0 sensor. Simply put, the placement of the sensor (on the side-mounted power button) is absolute genius. It's where your fingers WANT to be - and that means you're always in a position to easily unlock the phone - regardless of which hand you use. I've actually heard some horror stories about this sensor - specifically from reviewers of the the Z5's granddaddy, the Z5 Premium. But I have had almost zero issues - it's fast, reliable...and heck, really fun to use.



But back to the size for a moment.

With a phone this small you have to make some rapid compromises. Reading is never going to be a strong suit here - as a 4.6-inch screen is just too small for anything long-form. But that's OK if you alter your workflow slightly. For me, as a devoted iPad Pro fanatic, I actually found the Z5 Compact worked more like a ' Smartwatch' for my main iPad device. In a sense, It was perfect for quickly scrolling through RSS feeds, zooming through twitter, saving articles to Pocket (my chosen Read Later service), checking mails quickly, and even typing out quick replies.

Heck - the more I think about it - the Z5 Compact is a better Smartwatch than any Apple Watch or Android Wear device I've used this year.

Stay with me here as this may sound crazy - but as PCs continue to evolve toward the 'convertible' paradigm (iPad Pro, Pixel C, Microsoft Surface Pro, etc) our main touchscreen devices may NOT need to be our Smartphone. In essence, perhaps we are almost evolving back to smaller screen Smartphones as tablets are evolving forward into our main PCs. 

And this is the experience I've had with the Z5 Compact. 

Put in its correct use case and context - i.e quick triage of my digital 'life' - it may actually be the perfect device for those crossing over into the convertible lifestyle.

It's incredibly usable one-handed (a phenomenon I have not experienced for several years), has rock solid battery life as my screen-on time is greatly reduced, and runs the latest and greatest Android SoC.

When rushing around London between meetings and away from a charger, pulling the Z5 Compact out to check directions, pound out a quick mail, or flip through music and podcasts was an absolute joy. It was fast, responsive, and SO FREAKING easy to handle I could actually have a coffee in one hand, my smartphone in the other - and get real work done!


Don't get me wrong, it's not completely without its issues. The screen is (shockingly) weak at 720p, the 2GB of RAM seems a bit sparse - and lately I've been experiencing some pretty significant lag with the number of widgets and background apps I've taken aboard.

But for the first time in years, I can operate a handset competently with one hand, have the ability to quickly blaze through emails/RSS/twitter saving only the interesting things for later, and (perhaps most importantly) no longer injure myself when sitting down abruptly thanks to a 6-inch slab of metal in my left-front pocket.



This began as a personal challenge. Could I actually make it a few days without a 5.5-inch screen in my pocket at all times? And could Sony actually make a serviceable, premium flagship phone in a 'mini' form factor.

Yes and yes.

I have no doubt I'll revert back to the 'big boys' in due time. But for now, I'm having plenty of fun in the world of the compact.

Topics: Android

Eddie Vassallo

Written by Eddie Vassallo

Eddie is Founder & CEO of Entropy, former Head of Mobile for Discovery Channel, regular Guest Contributor on GigaOm and has been featured on Daring Fireball, CNN, and Strategy Eye.