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Perfect for pockets: Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 3:19 pm 21/03/2014

Not a fan of big phones? You’re not the only one, and Sony may have found the perfect middle point for someone keen on flagship specs and performance without needing to tax the pockets too much.

Features

While the big phones tend to be the flagship devices for companies, there are those who want the same technology in a smaller frame.

Sony’s take on this is to take last year’s Z1 flagship and make it compact, which it ends up being called.

As such, there’s a nearly identical specification set in the Z1 Compact, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.2GHz and paired with 2GB RAM, while featuring 16GB storage and a microSD to easily expand on this.

Connection options are close to being the same too, with support for Cat4 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Near-Field Communication, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0 provided here. Like the Z1, there is no infrared port in this handset.

Sony has also made the cameras identical, with the same 20.7 megapixel rear shooter stuffed into a smaller body, while the front 2 megapixel camera is also the same.

Water and dust resistance is identical between the two units, and you’ll find a rating of IP58 applied here, making it dust-proof and water resistant for around 30 minutes of immersion.

About the only thing that has changed between the models has been the size and screen, with a much small set of dimensions leading to a shorter screen. In fact, the 5 inch Full HD screen of the Xperia Z1 drops to a 4.3 inch HD screen in this model, in turn dropping the pixel clarity from 441ppi to 342ppi, which is still higher than Apple’s Retina-grade display in the iPhone, even if it’s a marginal increase.

Ports on the Z1 Compact are covered by flaps which you’ll want to push into place if you plan on immersing the phone in water, and these cover the microUSB port, microSD slot, and microSIM slot. The 3.5mm headset jack is left uncovered and waterproof.

Most buttons on this phone are touch-based, thanks to that 4.3 inch touchscreen on the front, but there are some physical buttons hanging around, all on the right edge, in fact, with a circular power button, volume rocker, and a shutter and camera activation button down below all of them.

Android is also provided here, with 4.3 “Jelly Bean” coming preinstalled on the Z1 Compact, though an update to 4.4 “KitKat” is coming.

The battery is built into the phone and is rated for 2300mAh.

An extra docking port is provided using a proprietary port from Sony.

Performance

There was a time when a phone could fit in your pocket comfortably. It seems strange to believe that this was only a few years ago, when companies hadn’t yet explored the 5 inch mark, and were making their phones sized for hands, and not a massive window to the web and more.

Now, the world we live in features big phones, sized to provide the maximum viewing space for our online exploits, our social successes, and all the video that the visual parts of our body can possibly take in.

But not everyone wants a big phone. You might want flagship performance without the dent it does — not just to your wallet — but also to your pants and hand-hold, so compact phones are still a thing.

Enter the Z1 Compact, Sony’s answer to this quandary, providing a small handset with the guts of one of the bigger ones, borrowing from the template of the Sony Xperia Z1.

From a design point of view, Sony has practically nailed it, taking the slightly softened rectangular form of last year’s Z1 and running it under hot water until it drops in size. The result is something that is smaller, one millimetre thicker, and altogether more comfortable than what the company had last year in the Z1.

People upgrading from the iPhone will be more at ease here than anyone else, as the 4.3 inch size feels like a slight extension of the 3.5 and 4 inch sizes Apple has been using in its iPhone models.

Smaller hands will find the Z1 Compact easy to grip with the fingers wrapping around the middle power button, with the volume close by, while the 4.3 inch screen will mean your thumb doesn’t have to travel far to hitting the right buttons or swiping if you’re using the phone one-handed.

The build of the phone feels about as strong as it was on the Z1, with a mineral-strengthened front, while we think the back is glass, too. While the slickness of the materials might bother some, the phone wasn’t overly slippery for us, and with the smaller size, fit in the hands more easily, too.

Durability is just like the Z1, too, with water and dust resistance, meaning it can survive a dip in the drink, provided you keep the side ports sealed.

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Price (RRP)

$552

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Excellent system performance; Mobile broadband speeds are solid; Fantastic design and build quality; Built to survive a chance encounter with the elements; Better battery life than its big brother;

Product Cons

Camera has load of megapixels, but will only spit out either an 8 megapixel image if you actually want controls (like the Z1); No 4K shooting;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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