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Sony Xperia Z5 Compact vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison

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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.

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This is our Xperia X5 Compact (left) vs Xperia Z3 Compact comparison. / © ANDROIDPIT


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.  

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Look at how low down the Xperia Z5 Compact (top) volume rocker is. / © ANDROIDPIT

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. 

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The Xperia Z5 Compact (left) has the same display as the Z3 Compact. / © ANDROIDPIT

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. 

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Both devices are water-resistant thanks to SIM card covers. / © ANDROIDPIT

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.

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A physical camera button appears on both devices. / © ANDROIDPIT

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.

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The top of the Z5 Compact (upper) and Z3 Compact. / © ANDROIDPIT

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. 

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No annoying flap for the Z5 Compact's charge port (top). / © ANDROIDPIT

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?

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So is the Z5 Compact a big improvement? / © ANDROIDPIT

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.

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Sergio Colado

Sergio Colado

Born in Valencia, Spain, Sergio defines himself as a huge fan of tech and video games. Since the arrival of Android, he found in this operating system the best tool to do what he was best at: wasting time in front of a screen. Among his passions are sci-fi, cycling and eating between meals.

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  • Melissa Jolley Aug 4, 2016 Link to comment

    I've had the Z5c since Nov and wish I'd got my Z3c repaired instead. Currently it has a habit of restarting... I initially put this down to overheating when I was working it quite hard, but that's not always the case. Hmmm I might get the Z3 fixed after all.

  • mick best May 7, 2016 Link to comment

    Just purchased my wife a Z3c and. She loves it.
    I personally have the Z5 as I find compact phone a little too small for my big hands.
    But as far as performance goes they are both very quick with plenty of grunt under the bonnet.
    Rear camera spec and battery have changed in Z5, but in all fairness to Sony it's hard to tell any difference.
    Battery life seems to last around the same time and only difference in the camera is the fast auto focus and better quality when zoomed in close on Z5.
    Otherwise not much difference.
    The front camera on the Z3 and Z5 are different but give very similar results.
    Other than the fingerprint sensor built in on Z5 and missing on Z3 there is not much to separate these phones.
    Both have great HD screens but I find that white has a hue on both phones.
    But overall great screens for size of phones.
    Overheating issues.
    Both running marshmallow and neither phone seems to prone to overheating.
    Yes both phones get warm during use, but not to the extent that would cause worry.
    So it would seem that updating from Lollipop to marshmallow solved the overheating problems.
    But using Z5 for filming in 4K does cause some heating problems.
    So unless you want the fingerprint sensor, I feel no real Pont to upgrading to Z5/Z5c
    So both great Xperia phones from Sony.
    Enjoy!!!!!!!!! ;-)

  • Gavin May 2, 2016 Link to comment

    The flap on the Z3 was a nightmare, eventually falling off leaving it to get damaged in the rain then dying completely the next time, so I'm glad they've got rid of that. Also the glass on the back might have looked good but it cracked the first time I dropped it. The Z5 in comparison feels like a much studier animal.

  • Ted Apr 28, 2016 Link to comment

    I have the z3c and I think it is a great phone at a great price (paid £300 at the time). I bought a magnetic charger for it off ebay which works well, and have never had any issues at all with the phone. So no, I will not upgrade to the z5c. But if I were buying one for the first time I would get the newer z5c, mainly for the bigger internal memory for apps (not that I have had an issue, but for future proofing).

  • Bob Tuffnell Dec 27, 2015 Link to comment

    That magnetic connector for charging is essential; I bought one straight away, like that, there is every chance that my Z3C will remain water resistant for a long time. I am certain that whatever the water- resistant make or model, there is sure to be wear and tear on the flap, and subsequent risk of moisture getting in.

    • Olly Tihema Dec 30, 2015 Link to comment

      Do you not find the magnetic charger to be a hassle to stay charging? I found it to be far too niggly and on more than the odd occasion came back to find it wasn't sitting exactly right so hadn't charged, a great idea nonetheless and could have been my charger but I resorted to using USB port much more frequently

  • Aaron Di Fante Nov 26, 2015 Link to comment

    You fail to mention that although the Z3 Compact still utilises the flap for access to the micro USB port, for charging purposes it has the magnetic connector still, which the Z5 range does not.

    With the Snapdragon processor, has this overheating problem been overcome in just the Z5 range going forward, or does this apply to the Z3 range too?

    To me, the Z3 Compact looks to be the superior phone for my particular uses (loved the Z1 Compact, but a hairline crack from corner to corner has rendered it useless), but there is only a price difference of £90 currently on Amazon for either sim-free. Really can't make my mind up!

  • S jordan Nov 24, 2015 Link to comment

    I've had the Z3 compact for the past year. Dig all aspects except the flap for the charging port. Unfortunately the original was lost as was a replacement I ordered and I now have a dead line across the top of the screen more or less in line with the exposed opening. Would buy the same again to replace if it weren't for that flap.

  • Mr S Nov 17, 2015 Link to comment

    @Kennie Qamau Thats bollox, had mine over a year. Never had any wi fi problems, with 3 - 4 devices connected to my router simo'.

  • wasimariflone Nov 9, 2015 Link to comment

    Please do in-depth reviews, like camera samples of same objects and others.

  • Luna Chan Sep 10, 2015 Link to comment

    I think its a very important point that theres no need a cap for the usb port finally. Its very important for a waterproof phone.

    • Patrick Svensson Oct 23, 2015 Link to comment

      Sony also changed the warranty to not cover submerging the phone at all anymore. Might be a good thing to mention.

  • Kennie Qamau Sep 9, 2015 Link to comment

    The Z5 compact might loose against the rumored Samsung galaxyS6 mini if the specs of the latter prove to be true

  • Kennie Qamau Sep 9, 2015 Link to comment

    It's still early to review the Z5 compact considering the Z3 compact had Wifi issues and mostly failed to connect through Wifi.I can't imagine the hustle I had to upgrade my Z3 compact to Lollipop 5.0.over mobile data which took almost half of my day.Between I like the hardware specs like naked charging port,doubled ROM and finger print scanner which is a must considering PayPal is becoming common these days.Please would also do a review on Samsung galaxy S6 mini which uses 808 SoC against Z5C which uses 810SoC...thanks in advance.

    • Olly Tihema Dec 30, 2015 Link to comment

      I never had wifi issues, maybe it was your ip sir as some phones find it hard to connect to certain networks etc

  • Radiocitysuicide Sep 8, 2015 Link to comment

    The z3 compact screen had a bluish hue to it on white backgrounds. Is the z5 compact the same?

  • Peter Harwood Sep 8, 2015 Link to comment

    I've got a z3compact but after hearing your view of the z5 compact I will wait? Sounds as if you are not liking this model and all the other Z5 models? Don't know how you can review a phone without using it for any length of time?

  • Tagont Sep 8, 2015 Link to comment

    You forgot to mention the internal memory was doubled from 16gb to 32gb. A pretty significant attribute to miss don't you think?

    • Scott Adam Gordon Sep 8, 2015 Link to comment

      Good suggestion and we've added a line into the article to make that apparent. Personally, no I don't think it's significant. A 16 GB microSD card can be picked up for less than 10 bucks.

      • Lincon Nozawa Sep 8, 2015 Link to comment

        1- The internal memory is faster than external.
        2- You can't install apps in external memory on Kitkat and lollipop.(only transfer a part of the app).
        3- Doing what you said, You will incresase the external memory not the internal.

        Biased comparison.
        Were you bought by samsung?

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