Channel 5

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Wednesday 29 January 2014


Rating of 5

The basics

Sony's current top-notch handset, the Sony Xperia Z1 is one of our favourite Android phones, but it might be a bit too big for some due to its five-inch body. Enter the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, a downsized version of the full-metal flagship, which packs in almost all the same specs in a tiny, and colourful, 4.3-inch chassis - but is it as equally as good? And is it the first true iPhone-sized Android rival? Let's find out.

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The good

This is what happens when you do a 'mini' version of a phone right. We've seen lacklustre efforts from the likes of Samsung and HTC with mini versions of their flagship phones before, but Sony has spared no expense while zapping the Z1 with the shrink ray - in fact, practically every tech spec remains the same in this premium handset. You're still treated to the snappy 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm processor, the same beefy 2GB of RAM, the incredible 20.7-Megapixel camera and 16GB of storage. The only change that Sony has made is with the screen - and it's a smart choice too. You won't find a 1080p display here, instead, there's a 4.3-inch 720p screen that still looks every bit as sharp and comes with Sony's Triluminos display tech - you'd most likely be straining your eyes if you could spot the pixels here.

Sony's dubbed it the Z1 Compact, and while it's much smaller than its bigger brother, it's still slightly larger than some of its rivals, like the iPhone 5s. That's down to the same waterproof and dustproof aluminium and glass chassis sandwich that we've seen before, only this time it comes in a iPhone 5c-rivalling array of colours. You can snap one up in either a basic black or white, or go for a bright and bold pink or lime - there's more choice given than with the full-sized Z1, and each colour is a welcome addition. Access to the micro USB port, SIM and upgradable microSD slots are all hidden away by sturdy flaps and are necessary additions to keep the phone waterproof, while the headphone jack has also been sealed - all to keep the Z1 Compact's internals nice and dry, as it can take a dunk for half an hour in depths of 1.5m, which is especially handy for the accident prone.

We're extremely pleased to see the impressive 20.7-Megapixel snapper with Sony's Exmor RS sensor tech make the transition to the Z1 Compact too, as it shoots brilliant photos that are crisp and clear and it excels in pretty much any situation. We'd advise to shoot on Manual if you can, as its Intelligent Auto mode can be fairly unintelligent at times, but it comes in handy for quick snaps when needed - and it's the default mode when hitting the shutter button when locked.

Despite its small size, Sony has managed to squeeze out a mammoth amount of battery life in the Z1 Compact - and that's not including the smart Stamina mode included on Sony's range of Xperia handsets that can eke out even more. We managed to squeeze out just under a day and a half of battery life, even with constant day-to-day use and YouTube streaming - that makes this a serious contender if you're after a long lasting champ.

The bad

There's not much to fault the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact on, as somehow, Sony has managed to cram in a ton of top-notch tech into such a small chassis. You could argue that it's a tad thick compared to an iPhone 5s at 9.5mm deep, but that's down to its waterproof aluminium and glass chassis. It won't win any awards for the thinnest phone on the market, but it's still pocketable and it's robust enough to take a few knocks too.

Unfortunately, you won't find the latest and greatest Android 4.4 KitKat running on the Z1 Compact. Instead, you'll find Android 4.3 Jelly Bean onboard, topped with Sony's own custom Android skin and a small collection of unnecessary apps. Sony's skin is a lot better than many of its peers, such as Samsung's TouchWiz, but if you're after a stock experience, you won't find it here.

Of course, there's also the price to consider: at around £450 off-contact, it's a fair amount of cash for a handset, and it definitely won't compare to the bargain beating Nexus 5. You still get plenty of top-notch hardware for your money though, but if you were hoping this was an even cheaper version of the vanilla Z1, you'll be disappointed - it's just a smaller version.

Read our review of Sony's Xperia Z Ultra!

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The bottom line

Sony's crafted the best 'mini' Android smartphone you can buy, and it's the first time we've seen a handset maker get a downsized flagship absolutely right - not to mention that it's a brilliant piece of kit on its own right too. If you've been considering the Xperia Z1 and have been put off by its size, it's worth giving the Z1 Compact a look, as it's not just the best mini phone we've seen, it's simply one of the best Android blowers on the market - this pint-sized powerhouse proves that good things do come in small packages, even when they don't run iOS.

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is tagged with Sony, Sony Xperia, Xperia, Sony Xperia Z1, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, Android and Smartphone. Select a tag (Sony, for example) to find everything on The Gadget Show about the subject.

User comments (2)

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I've just recanetly got my z 1 and I am finding it better than the samsung s3 which I loved up untill it stopped working. I thin k the camera is ace and the fact that it is water prove and can take a good few knocks is a good thing for acident prons like me. Just a little dissapionted that I can not seem to get the album art work for my albums once i've transfered them from my pc to phone with out having to pay the the album again. If any can help with this bit please do.

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One big flaw is no support for 3G-324M protocol. No native, mobile based video calls! One can say that I can use data based video calls but it uses my data transfer while my network operator provides 3G-324M based calls without additional charge. Minor cons include: - specific text selection method - you need to double click text, I got used to click and hold to get context menu - annoying way to add apps to desktop

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