Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact V3
Powered by a top-end, quad-core processor and featuring the best camera we've experienced on an Android smartphone, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is the best smartphone in its class. But the perks come with a premium £450 price tag.

Sleek but rugged design, powerful performance, great camera, above average battery

Screen can look slightly washed out, runs using older Android version

Overall Rating:
4 Star Rating: Recommended
Price: £450
Processor: 2.2GHz Qualcomm MSM8974 quad-core
Display: 4.3in 1280x720, Triluminos display with X-Reality technology
Storage: 16GB, upgradable to 64GB via microSD
Camera: 20.7MP rear with Sony Exmor RS for mobile image sensor technology, 2MP front
Connectivity: UMTS HSPA+ 850 (Band V), 900 (Band VIII), 1700 (Band IV), 1900 (Band II), 2100 (Band I) MHz, GSM GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20)
Operating system: Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
Dimensions: 127x65x9.5mm
Weight: 137g

Japanese tech heavyweight Sony's smartphone business has been going through something of a renaissance over the last year. This started at CES 2013 when it unveiled its Sony Xperia Z. On paper the original Z featured all the necessary features to be an excellent smartphone. It came loaded with a top-end Sony Bravia screen, Exmor camera technology and a powerful quad-core Qualcomm processor.

But when we tested the Z we found a number of niggling flaws, and poor battery hampered the phone's ability to shine. Sony learned from its mistakes and came back months later with its Xperia Z1 flagship smartphone. Loaded with a 20.7MP rear camera, super fast 2.2GHz quad-core Krait Qualcomm MSM8974 processor and being water and dust resistant, the Z1 was one of 2013's best smartphones.

The Xperia Z1 Compact is designed to ride off the success of the Z1 and offer the same top-end performance and life-proof design, but in a smaller, pocket-friendly size. 

Design and build

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact docks

The Compact lives up to its name and looks like a shrunk-down version of the full-sized Z1. The Z1 was a wonderfully well-designed handset and we're pleased the Compact boasts the same sleek look. As an added perk the Compact also features the same IP55 and IP58 certifications as the Z1, so it is water and dust resistant.
Thanks to its shrunken-down 127x65x9.5mm size and 137g weight, the Compact also feels much more comfortable to hold than the Z1. The Z1 by comparison measured in at a significantly larger 144x74x8.5mm and weighed 169g.

The Compact's comfy feel is helped by its intelligent button placement. The Compact's power, volume and camera shutter buttons are on its right-hand edge. The power button is at the centre of the right edge just above the volume rocker. Below these, the shutter button is at the bottom right-hand corner of the phone.

The placement means the buttons sit where your fingers naturally fall when holding the Compact one handed.

Putting aside the reassurance offered by its IP certifications, the Z1 Compact also feels very top-end and robustly built. The phone has metallic sides, a polished polycarbonate back and Gorilla Glass front. We found the Compact's unremovable back didn't give at all when met with pressure and it also lived up to its waterproof branding, managing to survive an accidental drop into a water-filled kitchen sink. 


Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has a 4.3in HD display

The Xperia Z1 Compact has a 4.3in 1280x720 Triluminos display with X-Reality technology. Sony made a big deal about its mobile screen technology, claiming it makes the Compact's screen sharper, clearer and more defined than competitors' by reducing image noise and interference resulting from overlapping colours. But as we've found on previous Sony smartphones, the Z1 Compact's display, while crisp, doesn't live up to the claims.
We're not sure if it's the colour palette Sony has chosen for its custom Android skin or a fault with the tech, but in general the Compact's screen isn't as vibrant as the Amoled and in-plane switching (IPS) displays seen on competing handsets, such as the Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5C. This wasn't helped by the fact that the Compact's automatic brightness level is significantly lower than most other similarly priced smartphones.

While this can be fixed by manually setting the screen brightness to be higher, it does mean the Z1 Compact's screen looks fairly dull out of the box.

Being fair to the Z1 Compact, though, its display is still miles better than many similarly sized competitors. Compared with devices such as the Galaxy S4 Mini or One Mini, the Z1 Compact's display is great.

Operating system and software

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact system information
The Z1 Compact runs using a heavily customised version of Google Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Sadly there's no word as to if or when the Z1 Compact will be upgraded to the latest 4.4 KitKat Android version, which isn't great as skinned versions of Android generally take a while to be upgraded. This is because the manufacturers have to tweak the custom skin's software to be compatible with the new Android version.

That said, the skin added by Sony isn't the worst we've experienced by a long shot. By and large Sony has limited itself to making minor changes to Android, loading it with a few applications, widgets and minor user interface changes. Some of these are fairly pointless, such as the addition of its own Album and Movie apps, while others are quite good, such as PlayStation Mobile, which grants you access to a host of custom games that aren't available on the main Google Play store.

While the Movie and Album apps aren't too useful and generally don't offer better services than their built-in Google equivalents, the extra games PlayStation Mobile offers are a definite bonus for anyone who regularly needs a source of entertainment when travelling.

Next: Performance and camera

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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

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