You little beauty: Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact reviewed

100% human

Switch the phone on using the circular button on the side and phone comes to life, the display lighting up and showing a screen that looks excellent from nearly every angle.

Sony’s version of Android is still one of the easiest we’ve used, modifying the simple several home screens, app menu, and drop down notification bar to look more like its Xrossbar interface seen on the Bravia TVs, and it’s more of the same here.

Screens have that Sony look to them, and there’s even a choice of a slightly animated background, giving you the wave effect from the PlayStation background on your phone.

Shortcut docks can all be changed too, as can the dropdown power controller shortcut bar and app menu categorisation.

It’s easy to understand and simple to get across, and thanks to the combination of Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB RAM, the phone performs very well.

In fact, we had very little lag as we worked, with apps and games loading very quickly, and multitasking letting us jump from app to app quickly and easily.

System performance isn’t a huge increase on what we’ve seen from other flagship smartphones this year, a note which will probably make people wonder why they’re paying for a new phone, but it’s a solid effort all the same, and if you own a 2012 or 2013 model, this will be an excellent update in specs alone.

Battery performance is one area you won’t have any issues with, and while the body of the Z3 Compact is smaller than any of the flagships we’ve seen all year, Sony has managed to squeeze so much life into this phone, we’re truly surprised.

We have found roughly a day and a half was possible running the phone normally, and as many as as two full days possible with Sony’s battery saving “Stamina” mode switched on. That is a solid amount of battery life, and while you’ll probably want to charge it nightly if you’re a phone addict, the Z3 Compact will get you through the work day without any problems, that much we can attest to.

Our test had us making phone calls, sending texts, checking and sending emails, social networking, taking photos, playing games, listening to music, and generally using the phone, and the day and a half of life was from all of this.

Stamina mode (below) makes the full second day possible for our tests, offering a solid amount of life for a smartphone.

Sony's Stamina mode makes two days of life possible without problems. Wow.

This excellent day-long battery life doesn’t seem to come at the expense of any performance, either, with virtually no lag found on the slightly faster variant of the Xperia Z2 that the Z3 Compact is, with a slight increase in processor speed, and still the highly useful 2GB RAM accompanying this.

The camera is also impressive, with some minor improvements on the excellent module already in the Z2, but shrunk down to a smaller size.

Sony has left the camera button in this smaller phone, and we’re grateful for it, but the performance is the seriously impressive part, with fantastic images in daylight and still excellent images when the light decreases and its dark outside.

A sample image from the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact's camera

Macro support isn’t the greatest, that said, so don’t expect a lot of versatility when bringing objects directly in front of the camera, but the image quality is still good all the same.

We’re pleased to see 4K Ultra HD video included as a feature in the Z3 Compact, providing yet another way to make content for the few UHD TVs out there in the world, especially useful if you’ve indulged and bought one already.

Even the front-facing camera feels a little better when taking a photo, though there hasn’t been much of an improvement to the module here, with the same 2.2 megapixel camera as last time.

A sample image from the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact's camera

Our one quibble with the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact camera comes from the software, and while it’ll let you get a shot quickly and easily most of the time, enthusiasts who want to get a little more from their 20 megapixel camera will be a touch frustrated.

That’s because the 20 megapixel shooter only lets you shoot at 20 megapixels when you’re in the 4:3 mode with virtually no controls, shooting things the way they are, but without any extra controls or manual modes.