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A framework to analyze compact arrays for multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) is presented. Many handheld devices require very compact arrays. Small spacings between the antennas lead to mutual coupling, which decreases the efficiency of the antennas and therefor the signal-to-noise ratio and leads to correlated signals at the antennas. Both effects are completely taken into account in this framework; thus, it allows for a fair comparison of different antenna arrays for MIMO. It is distinguished between MIMO systems for multiplex transmission or pure beamforming, which have different requirements for the antennas. Different compact array configurations, which exploit spatial, polarization, and pattern diversity, are discussed and compared. For practical purposes, it is also shown how to connect this framework to standard path-based channel models.