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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £399
inc VAT

The Z1 Compact isn't perfect but it's still very good, a top-end smartphone in a smaller package


Android 4.3, 4.3in 1,280×720 display

Most of the big phone manufacturers release smaller versions of their flagship handsets. They’re ideal for those who prefer more compact handsets, but they often sacrifice a top-end specification in order to hit a more acceptable price. Key examples include the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and HTC One Mini. Now Sony has released its Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, but it’s actually very different to its apparent competition.

The new phone is indeed a smaller version of the flagship Sony Xperia Z1. However, Sony has taken a stance that a smaller handset shouldn’t necessarily be cut-back one and so has, where appropriate, matched the specifications of its larger sibling, so you get all the power in a smaller package.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
The Z1 Compact comes in four different colours, one of which should appeal

The Xperia Z1 Compact measures a fairly svelte 127x65x9.5mm and weighs 140g. It’s much smaller than the recent crop of superphones, it fits easily in your hand or even the smallest pockets. Admittedly, it’s 1mm thicker than the full-sized Z1 but that’s still pretty impressive given everything has to be packed in behind its smaller 4.3in display – 26% smaller than the Z1 and most other flagship phones.

The display’s resolution has been reduced from 1,920×1,080 resolution to just 1,280×720, but that still works out to an impressive 342 pixels-per-inch (PPI). That’s more detail than you get from the iPhone 5S, it matches the resolution on the HTC One Mini and is superior to that on the Galaxy S4 Mini.

The screen itself is an IPS type and is very impressive. Colours are nicely saturated, looking richer than those on say the Nexus 5. It’s bright, with a peak brightness of 502.06cd/m2 according to our testing kit. Whites are pure too, with no colour cast perceivable. Again the Z1 Compact shows its flagship pedigree here, with an all-round, great-looking display.


The Xperia Z1 Compact does have the same quad-core SnapDragon 800 chipset as its big brother, which is running at the same 2.2GHz clock speed. That’ll make it far faster than anything its size that’s running Android. It blazed through our various benchmarks, with a SunSpider JavaScript benchmark of just 833ms.

Its 3D rendering is just impressive. In 3DMark’s Ice Storm test it ‘maxed out’ the normal and Extreme settings and scored 19,193 in the Unlimited. All of this was groundbreaking when first saw the Z1, and though SnapDragon 800 is now more common it’s still the best Android chipset around.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
We like Sony’s take on Android, it’s largely stock with a few useful tweaks

Android 4.3 ran very smoothly with no hint of hesitation as we switched between apps. We like the custom icons (for a change) and the restrained pallet. There’s quite a few apps trying to sell you Sony content but they’re easy enough to remove. You get around 12GB of free memory out of the 16GB provided, and you can add up to 64GB thanks to a microSD slot.


The battery is smaller than the Z1’s, just 2,300mAh versus 3,000mAh as a larger one would have been hard to fit behind the smaller display. However, that smaller screen has a smaller power draw and the results therefore are impressive, with 12 hours and 32 minutes in our video playback test. Again it’s a bigger battery than its competitors have managed to pack into their Mini handsets – the HTC One Mini has only an 1,800mAh battery, which lasted for just eight hours and 38 minutes.


The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact comes in four different colours, with lime-green and pink models joining the usual sombre black and silver/white ones. The handset has the same design as its bigger sibling, with the attractive and sturdy metal frame.

It’s waterproofed too, like the original, so it will survive a big splash or even a quick dunk, but this does mean that the ports all have to hidden behind flaps. It makes the handset look smart during the day, but popping open a flap every time we wanted to charge it was a nuisance. Overall, it’s a small faff we’re happy to live with for the benefits.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

We’re not sure if it’s due to the waterproofing or just a matter of styling, but we didn’t particularly like the small round power button, which is the only way to wake up the handset from standby. It’s well positioned, for us with either hand, half-way down the right-hand side but you have to press it pretty hard. The small volume rocker is just below this, though we’d have liked it just above to fit our large hands.


Below these controls is a dedicated camera shutter button. This won’t activate the camera from standby but it will shortcut to it from anywhere else. It has a dual-action press, just like a proper camera, with a half-press focusing and locking the exposure, you can then frame your shot and press fully to activate the shutter. The camera interface is excellent to, with clearly laid-out options and explanations for the various shooting modes.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
The camera interface is obviously influenced by Sony’s camera range and is excellent for it

The camera is identical to the Z1’s, using the same sensor with a monstrous 20.7-megapixel resolution, it also has the same optics and the same image processing. We weren’t that keen on the Z1’s image processing, by default it takes super-sampled 8-megapixel images, trading in resolution for noise reduction. However, even then it struggled to take good-looking images in our low-light tests. Flick to manual mode and you can get the full resolution, but here we reckon there are just too many pixels packed onto its sensor, and in anything less than good conditions, it suffers badly from speckled noise. In bright outdoors conditions it performs far better admittedly, but the detail in the photos still doesn’t stand up to that headline figure.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Taken using the default Superior Auto mode, the top image shows how capable the camera is at balancing exposures and producing vibrant colour, however, the bottom image is a 1:1 pixel grab and here there’s a distinct lack of detail


The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact’s specification is unrivalled at this screen size – on an Android handset at least. If you want a compact, top-end smartphone before then your only other choice is an iPhone 5S. The price certainly reflects that, with the Z1 Compact rivalling other flagship handsets at around £30 a month on contract.

It’s fast, splashproof, has a great screen and a long battery life. The camera is the weak point here from our perspective, as it was on the Z1, and it’s here that the iPhone 5S surpasses it. However, if you’re looking for a top-end Android smartphone and don’t want a pocket monster, this is the handset to buy.




Main display size4.3in
Native resolution1,280×720
CCD effective megapixels20.7-megapixel
Internal memory16384MB
Memory card supportmicroSD
Memory card included0MB
Operating frequenciesGSM 850/900/1800/1900, 3G 850/900/1700/1900/2100, 4G 800/850/900/1700/1800/2100/2600


Operating systemAndroid 4.3
Microsoft Office compatibilityN/A
FM Radioyes
Accessoriesheadphones, USB charger
Talk time18 hours
Standby time670 days

Buying Information

SIM-free price£399
Price on contract£27 per month contract
Prepay price£480

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