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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Review

By Simon Thomas on 12th February 2014


3G Total Score
Pros: Cons:
+ High-end specification - Little on the chunky side
+ Premium compact design - Subpar low-light camera performance
+ Great display -  No Android KitKat  out of the box
+ Waterproof - Back cover is plastic rather than glass
+ Good battery life  

Verdict:

"Sony has raised their game once again with the Xperia Z1 Compact. It’s easily the best compact Android smartphone on the market and one of the most powerful, feature-packed smartphones in the world today."
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Full Review and Specification for the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is a mini smartphone with a difference because it doesn’t compromise on specification.

Sony has packed in all the features that made the 5-inch Xperia Z1 great into a more compact 4.3-inch form factor. This gives consumers something they couldn’t get before; a compact Android smartphone with a premium specification.

The Sony Xperia Z1 was one of our favourite smartphones of 2013 and a mini version sounds great on paper. But does Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact live up to the hype? Find out by reading our full review.

Design

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Design


The new 4.3 inch Xperia Z1 Compact has dimensions of 127 x 64.9 x 9.5mm making it 17mm shorter and 9mm narrower than its bigger brother. The reduction in size makes a huge difference overall and it now feels more comfortable in the hand, fits better in the pocket and will feel more natural to those used to Apple’s iPhone range.

On a less positive note the Xperia Z1 Compact is actually 1mm thicker than the Z1, but that’s to be expected when you pack so much into a small frame. And the effect is offset by the reduced weight of the mobile, which is 32g lighter with a weight of just 137g.

The premium design of the Xperia Z1 is somewhat carried over to the Z1 Compact, it has the same all-glass front with an aluminium bezel but the back cover is now plastic which is a little disappointing (although it's hard to tell without touching it). But it still has a premium feel and stylish appearance, although it is prone to fingerprints and smudges – but that’s easily resolved with a quick wipe with a cloth.


Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Colour Range
Sony has introduced new Lime and Pink colours with the Z1 Compact, which brighten things up and are bound to appeal to the female market.  While, the White and Black coloured versions are every bit as appealing as you’d expect.

You’ll also be pleased to hear that the Z1 Compact retains the waterproofing present on the Xperia Z1. The ports have rubberised plugs to keep them sealed and Sony have included a new dedicated camera button enabling you to take snaps underwater.

One thing that does take some getting used to is the side-facing power button. The position is great and easily accessible, but it’s a little stiff to press and we feel it could have been a little larger.

Display

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Display
The display is the only area where sacrifices have been made because the 4.3 inch display runs at a 720p resolution (1280*720 pixels). But fear not because that still gives the Z1 Compact a 342ppi, which still beats out Apple’s iPhone 5S.

One of the only criticisms we levelled at the Xperia Z1 was that its 5-inch display could have been brighter. But the Xperia Z1 Compact suffers no such problems with the display performing superbly in bright outdoor conditions.

The colour reproduction of the smartphone was also top-notch with excellent contrast and superb white levels. Sony have years of experience producing displays and it really shows in the Xperia Z1 Compact’s 4.3 inch Trilluminous display with Mobile Bravia technology.

Power-packed

Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact really sets its self apart from its Android rivals with its specification and feature-set. HTC’s One mini and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 mini make huge comprises when it comes to specification, but the Z1 Compact makes no such concessions.

It has the same 2.2 GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM that powers the Xperia Z1. The combination makes it one of the fastest smartphones in the world and it blows away similar sized Android rivals.

The smartphone zoomed around Android Jelly Bean showing no signs of slowdown and it never stuttered even we opened up all our favourite applications at once. We then proceeded to open up the demanding Dead Trigger 2 mobile game and we were hugely impressed by its performance.

The lack of a 1080p display limit it’s gaming performance somewhat, but those looking for a power-packed compact smartphone should look no further – the Xperia Z1 Compact is a serious piece of kit that can match anything currently on the market.

Camera

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Camera


Sony has managed to pack in a 20.7 mega-pixel snapper inside the Z1 Compact and in bright conditions its performance was unrivalled.  Snaps had amazing levels of detail, rich colours and there was no noticeable camera lag.

However, when we switched to low-light conditions the camera struggled. Shots displayed large amount of noise and even thought the situation improved somewhat when we switched to manual shooting – it still doesn’t stand up to HTC’s Ultrapixel camera or Nokia’s Pureview lens.

With the Xperia Z1 Compact you can take pictures underwater using the dedicated camera button, which is needed because you can’t use the touch-screen when the smartphone is submerged. The pictures themselves come out great and there is a definite thrill and appeal to underwater shots.

Sony’s camera software is a joy to use, being both simple and feature-packed.  Standout modes include the Timeshift, which takes 61 shots in 2 seconds and enables you to choose the best one, and Panoramic mode.

Xperia Z1 Compact Augmented Reality Mode

The new kaleidoscope mode is also brilliant, making even the most boring shots exciting and unique. While, the new AR Mode (Augmented reality) lets you add a number of effects over your images and will be loved by kids across the world.

Recording 1080p video was a breeze and the results were excellent thanks to Sony’s clever technology and the inclusion of optical image stabilisation. While, the front-facing camera performed admirably on a Skype video call.

Operating System and Software

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact comes pre-loaded with Android Jelly Bean, which is slightly disappointing. However, it shouldn’t be long before it gets the bump to Android KitKat which will further improve performance and add a host of new features.

Even without the latest version of Android the smartphone is very fast and smooth thanks to Sony’s custom user-interface, which is minimal and extremely user-friendly.  When it gets updated to KitKat everything will just get that bit sweeter.

It also comes pre-loaded with Sony’s proprietary applications including Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, Movies, Album and much more. We recommend you checkout the Xperia Privilege application which delivers exclusive offers and free gifts to owners of Sony mobile devices.  

Battery Life, Storage and Connectivity

Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact has a 2,300mAH battery which proved more than adequate. With average use the smartphone delivers a good day’s battery life and light users should be able to go a couple of days without needing a recharge.

Battery Stamina Mode improves things further by disabling unnecessary service and features when the smartphone enters sleep mode. It’s fully customisable and we recommend spending a few minutes setting it up to suit your needs.

On-board storage weighs in at 16GB and on our review model around 12GB was available to users.  If that isn’t enough, you can always expand the smartphones memory with a microSD card (up to 64GB).

When it comes to connectivity the smartphone is pretty much fully loaded supporting 4G LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, DLNA and aGPS. It comes complete with a 3.5mm headphone jack and an FM radio.

Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact might be mini, but it packs a big punch. You get industry-leading performance from its quad-core 2.2 GHz processor and 2GB of RAM and that really sets it apart from other compact Android smartphones.

We love the more compact form-factor which makes the smartphone very comfortable to hold and easily fits in a pocket. The glass design looks and feels premium, while its waterproofing is an added bonus, but we have loved the back cover to be glass rather than plastic.

The lack of a 1080p display might initially be a disappointment, but the Xperia Z1 Compact’s display is a joy to behold. It’s a bright display with excellent contrast that delivers brilliant colour reproduction, and a 342ppi rating is hardly to be scoffed at.

The 20.7 mega-pixel camera takes stunning shots and the software is a joy to use. However, low-light performance is a little disappointing – but its 1080p video recording can’t be faulted.  Battery life is very decent and the smartphone comes with a full suite of connectivity options.

We would have loved it to come pre-loaded with Android KitKat and for it to be slightly thinner. But on the whole the Xperia Z1 Compact is one of the best smartphones in the world right now and is by far and away the best compact Android smartphone.

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Review Scoring

  • Style and Handling
  • User Friendliness
  • Feature set
  • Performance
  • Battery
  • Overall Score

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Phone Specification

Dimensions 127 x 64.9 x 9.5mm

Weight: 137g

Screen size: 4.3 inch display

Screen Resolution: 1280 * 720 pixels

Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 342

Processor: 2.2 Ghz Quad-core processor

RAM: 2GB

Battery capacity :  2300 mAh

Onboard Memory: 16GB (microSD support)

Camera :  20.7 mega-pixel camera

                2.2 mega-pixel front-facing camera.

Operating system: Android Jelly Bean

Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE : Yes / Yes / Yes

Bluetooth / NFC : Yes / Yes

IP58 Certficatiom: Waterproof and dustproof

Colours : Black, White , Pink and Lime

Launch Date:  Out Now

Price : £450


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