Date:12 February 2016
Sony make great devices and the shrunken down might of the Z-series Compact editions has always been an ace up the company’s sleeve. The Z5 Compact continues in this proud tradition, but also exposes some of Sony’s biggest flaws as a smartphone maker. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s talk about how great this phone is.
A sealed-in 2 700 mAh battery to power a 720p, 4,6-inch screen means battery life for days (two, with stamina mode on) on paper, but over the three weeks of testing the Z5 I did manage to reach 10 PM consistently without engaging any battery saving options. This is mighty impressive for a device toting full flagship internals and the notoriously menopausal Snapdragon 810 chipset.
With 2 GB RAM keeping a lightly massaged version of Android 5.1.1 running smoothly and 32 GB internal mass storage with microSD card capacity of 200 GB, memory isn’t an immediate problem. A nice touch from the Japanese to retain a microSD card slot in this age of sealed in slimness, but there must surely have been room for an extra GB of RAM. Not that the device needs it, but it would’ve been nice to have.
Another major device highlight is the Z5’s gobsmacking 23 MP sensor on duty in the rear camera module. It is the best image sensor on a smartphone at the moment and more than capable of putting even the highest quality point-and-shoot units to shame. A pity then that the results, in true Sony style, aren’t consistent.
As I said at the beginning, Sony make great hardware. Then the company gets carried away with the software and it ruins the entire product. Yes the camera is amazing and the manual mode gives you the ability to find the results that Superior Auto won’t show you, but the eternity it takes to launch the camera app and take a picture undermines the entire experience. Although the company does deserve credit for an about turn on the ability to default to full resolution in Superior Auto mode, it’s nice to use the hardware camera key to launch all 23 megapixels.
The rapid autofocus was the centerpiece of the Z5 marketing strategy and while the camera is quick to find focus, it was mostly on the wrong thing. Or it just wouldn’t hold the focus when you hit the two-stage hardware camera key. When it all comes together once every three shots results are quite impressive.
It’s a fantastic device with a couple deep flaws and a ton of manufacturer bloatware which tries its best to force feed you Sony content. The compact dimensions are refreshing for those of us who prefer to operate a smartphone with one hand and it’s by far not a media consumption device with the tiny screen, but the odd YouTube clip will be crisp and vibrant thanks to the LCD panel’s X-Reality enhancements.
A chunky profile and proper metal edges is pleasing, but I am skeptical of Sony’s persistence with glass on the back and front – the Z3 Compact I had on test years ago suffered a very dramatic fate when it came in contact with concrete. It remains a great option for anyone longing for top end hardware in a manageable form.
Price: R9 800