Smartphones may well be getting bigger, but Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact aims to show people that a smartphone doesn’t need to be big to be powerful, boasting high-end specs in a small-scale body.
Part of Sony’s third generation of Xperia Z series — which is actually technically the fourth-generation if you include the original “Z” series — the Xperia Z3 Compact is a small model, drawing on many of the features from its brother, the Z3, but packing them into a smaller body.
As such, you’ll find similar technology, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor (AC model) clocked at 2.5GHz and paired with 2GB RAM, working with 16GB storage and letting you upgrade this using the microSD slot found inside the phone.
Connections are pretty standard for a flagship phone, offering 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, with Category 4 4G LTE for mobile connections, and then Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy (LE) and aptX, Near-Field Communication, and GPS, with wired connectivity handled through both a microUSB port hidden behind a door and Sony’s proprietary magnetic dock connector.
Cameras on the phone come in the form of an improved 20.7 megapixel camera on the back, capable of recording in both Ultra HD and Full HD for videos, while the front camera can handle 2.2 megapixel images with videos captured at Full HD’s 1080p.
Google’s Android operating system runs here, available in version 4.4 “KitKat” out of the box, and with Sony’s own interface sitting atop this.
All of this sits under a 4.6 inch screen running the high-definition resolution of 1280×720, also known as 720p, and displaying a pixel count of 319 pixels per inch.
Buttons on the phone are mostly handled by Android’s software, with virtual on-screen buttons taken care of by Google’s software, but there are physical buttons on the right edge of the phone, with a circular power button just above a volume rocker, and a camera shutter button at the very bottom of the handset.
Ports are equally limited, with a microUSB port hidden behind a door on the left edge, the same door that also hides the microSD slot, while the bottom door hides the nanoSIM slot, a first for Sony, which has previously used microSIM slots in its handsets.
Sony’s magnetic proprietary dock also sits along the left edge, while the 3.5mm jack sits at the top.
The battery on the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is rated for 2600mAh.
If it seems too early for a new Xperia, you’re right: Sony released new phones earlier in the year, and if you invested in one of them, there’s a good chance that you’re a little annoyed by the idea that new models are on the way to replace them.
Worse, the new models are very similar, with modest improvements meant to make the phones just that little bit better, all the while making your recently new Xperia Z2 lower in value.
But here we are with a six month refresh cycle, which Sony started last year when it replaced the Z with the Z1 at the end of the year.
This year, the Z3 is replacing the Z2, and is bringing the Z3 Compact alongside it, the latter of which we’re checking out.
This model — the Z3 Compact — is aims to be essentially what Sony’s name for it is: a compact edition of Sony’s Z3, and that’s important because so-called “compact” edition smartphones are generally not smaller iterations, but rather similar versions at a smaller size.
We say “similar” because often the speed and processor have changed, as has the memory and the feature set, resulting in products that aren’t just smaller versions, but shadows of themselves. These aren’t “compact” per-se, but totally different because they’re smaller.
But not the Z3 Compact, which on paper is — outside of the screen and battery — practically on par with the big phone, the Xperia Z3.
So is this a pint-sized Z3? And does it offer flagship performance to people with smaller hands?
In the hands, the Sony Xperia Z3 is a good fit, with soft curved edges holding together a 4.6 inch screen with a little under half an inch on either side for the bezels and a glass back.
The phone measures around 8.6mm thin and is marginally thicker than the Z2, but still comfortable all the same, with a phone size similar to Apple’s iPhone 5 and 5S, making it ideal for people who like smaller phones and have no desire to go with something bigger.