For most manufacturers, smaller variants of flagship phones generally come with weaker hardware and fewer features. Sony has been one of the few companies where "compact" doesn't necessarily mean "less capable." For example, the Xperia Z5 Compact has the same internal hardware as its larger sibling, the Xperia Z5. So it's an unhappy surprise that the new Xperia X Compact, announced at IFA, breaks this trend with specs that aren't quite as powerful as the larger Xperia XZ. We got our hands on the phone ahead of the show.
Similar but Different
In terms of physical appearance, the X Compact (available in blue, black, and white) looks like a shrunken XZ, except it's clad in plastic rather than metal. Measuring 5.1 by 2.6 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighing 4.8 ounces, the X Compact is significantly smaller than the XZ (5.7 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches, 5.7 ounces). It's closer in size to the Apple iPhone SE (4.9 by 2.3 by 0.3 inches, 4 ounces). One-handed use is easy, since the phone is practically small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
The X Compact has the same button and port placement as other phones in the X series, with the power button, volume rocker, and a camera shutter button all located on the right side. The power button notably lacks a fingerprint scanner, following Sony's trend of omitting the feature for US models of its latest phones (a contrast with other small form factor phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone SE).
The top edge has a 3.5mm audio jack, and the bottom features a USB-C charging port, a departure from the micro USB port on the Z5 Compact. The left is home to a combined SIM card/microSD card slot that should work with SIMs from GSM carriers AT&T and T-Mobile, and microSD cards up to 256GB.
Unlike the XZ, the X Compact is not IP68 waterproof. It's not waterproof at all, so you don't want to get it wet.
Smaller Size, Less Power
The smaller form factor of the X Compact comes with specs that have been pared down from the larger XZ. For starters, the 4.6-inch, 1,280-by-720-pixel display is lower resolution than the 1080p panel on the XZ, and nowhere near as sharp as the Quad HD display on phones like the ZTE Axon 7. That said, it's still a crisp panel, with bright colors and great viewing angles. Considering its size, pixels are packed close enough together so that you can't discern them from one another.
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The X Compact has a midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor, a far cry from the top-tier Snapdragon 820 that powers the XZ. But it has the same 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. The phone felt fast and responsive in the brief time I spent with it, but I'll have to run some benchmark tests when I receive a review unit to see where it stands.
The battery is a 2,700mAh cell, slightly smaller as well slightly smaller than the 2,900mAh battery in the XZ. That's understandable given the phone's size, and I expect the X Compact to last equally long because of its smaller, lower-resolution display. You can also take advantage of Stamina mode, which tamps down screen brightness and background processes to increase runtime, and Qnovo battery management, which keeps track of battery health and temperature to make the phone last longer. The X Compact is also Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 compatible.
The phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and should get an update to Android 7.0 Nougat at some point in the future.
The X Compact's camera is similar to that of th XZ, so we can expect similar performance. The X Compact has a 23-megapixel rear-facing sensor with "triple image sensing technology," meaning it comes with laser autofocus to assist in low-light shots, an RGB sensor, and Predictive Hybrid autofocus to improve motion capture. The camera app has manual controls, letting you adjust settings like focus, ISO sensitivity (up to ISO 12800), and white balance. One thing you won't find, however, is 4K video recording; the X Compact is only capable of capturing 1080p video at 30fps. The front sensor is a 5-megapixel wide-angle camera.
The Xperia X Compact will be available in the US starting September 25. Pricing has not yet been announced, but the lesser specs in play here will be a lot easier to swallow if they come at a significantly reduced price. Check back soon for more info, as well as a full review when the phone is available.