Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review: The best ‘mini’ Android flagship by a mile

Price

46,000

Tech2 Rating

8

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Sony proves that good things do come in small packages
13
By Roydon Cerejo /  10 Mar 2014 , 13:40:39

Making a mini version of a flagship phone is the latest trend among smartphone makers and to some extent, we have Samsung to thank (or blame) for this. The reason for doing this is so that consumers can have the next best thing to the flagship, which might be otherwise too expensive for them to afford. The trouble is, most end up going a bit too far with cost reduction, leaving you with a highly inferior smartphone that has nothing in common with its flagship apart from the name.

Buying a flagship today means you’re dealing with a display size of 5-inches and above. While there is a strong demand for large screen phones, I still believe the sweet spot for the ideal display size lies somewhere between 4-inch to 4.7-inches. This is one of the reasons I was very excited when Sony announced the Xperia Z1 Compact. It’s the Xperia Z1 with a better display and a more manageable size. Could this very well be the best mini version of a flagship droid we’ve seen so far?

Design and Build
The Z1 Compact looks identical to the Z1 from every angle. It’s lighter than the elder sibling but a tad thicker at 9.5mm. It feels a little chunky to hold but that’s a good thing. When you have a phone at this size, a little heft gives it a reassuring feel when you use it. The Z1 Compact looks and feels the part of a premium smartphone. Sadly, the glass back attracts scratches very easily and your brand new phone will end up looking badly scuffed by the end of the week.

Excellent design and build
Excellent design and build

The 4.3-inch HD display gets a new IPS panel instead of the standard TFT LCD, which makes all the difference. Sony also adds their special sauce to the mix in the form of Trimuminos, X-Reality and BRAVIA Mobile technologies which adds to the punchy colours and vivid picture quality. The display is noticeably better as compared to the Z1 and we still have a decently high pixel density of 342ppi for comfortable text and image viewing.

The rear is extremely prone to scratches
The rear is extremely prone to scratches

All the ports are covered by a IP58 certified rubber flaps and just like it’s elder sibling, the Z1 Compact can survive up to 30 minutes underwater.

Features
Sony has their custom interface on top of Android 4.3, which is incredibly smooth and snappy. There are plenty of customisation options that come standard and Sony even throws in a whole bunch of bundled apps like Sony LIV, Sony Music JIVE and BigFlix movies.

A familiar interface
The familiar Sony interface

The phone is powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC found in the Z1. You even get 2GB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage, which is expandable up to 64GB. The phone is equally powerful as compared to the Z1 or any other flagship droid in and above this price band.

Keeps up with the big boys
Keeps up with the big boys

Media
The Walkman music player is very similar to the ones we’ve seen in the past and so is the video player. Audio quality is very good through a good pair of IEMs and so is the loud speaker. While it’s not the best for music or videos, it’s more than adequate for alerts.

Excellent audio quality
Excellent audio quality

The video player won’t read WMV, FLV and some AVI files, but everything else, including MKV files, works just fine. There’s 16GB of onboard memory, which is expandable to 64GB via microSD card. Out of this, you get about 11.7GB for your media.

Connectivity
Sony doesn’t skimp on the connectivity either as there’s full support for LTE, quad-band 3G and GSM along with Wi-Fi ‘ac’, Bluetooth v4.0, GLONASS, NFC, MHL and USB OTG. Call reception is handled very well and we didn’t have any issues with the earpiece. The stock keyboard is great to type on by the word prediction isn’t as good as Swype or SwiftKey. There’s a notification LED hidden within the earpiece itself which glows white for alerts and amber when charging.

Good media and productivity apps bundled
Good media and productivity apps bundled

Camera
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is blessed with the same 20.7MP sensor from its sibling and the single LED flash. The UI pretty much remains the same as well and you can add more effects from the app store similar to how Nokia has with their lenses. Image quality is simply brilliant for almost any type of lighting condition. The camera fares very well with macros and landscape shots and the large resolution means you can actually go about printing the shots you’ve taken and there’ll be no way of telling they were ever shot from a phone camera. Burst mode works very well too but when enabled, it’s nearly impossible to capture a single shot with the shutter button.

Plenty of scene modes to play around with
Plenty of scene modes to play around with

You can switch between two modes for burst – ‘Standard’ and ‘High Speed’. Focus speed is very fast and the frame rate is a steady 30fps.

The sensor is great for capturing variations in colours
The sensor is great for capturing variations in colours
Burst mode at its best
Burst mode at its best
Colours are vibrant and accurate
Colours are vibrant and accurate
Can achieve some crazy macros
Can get some crazy macros

Battery Life
The battery is another area which has been cut down a bit but that doesn’t stop the Compact from delivering all-day battery life. The 2300mAh battery sailed through our 8-hour loop test with about 30 percent battery remaining. This is with ‘STAMINA’ mode off.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact makes an excellent choice if the price drops a little bit more
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact makes an excellent choice if the price drops a little bit more

Verdict and Price in India
At Rs 36,990, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is nearly the same price as the Xperia Z1, which makes it a bit too expensive. Other than the smaller form factor, there’s no reason to buy this over the Z1, which has a higher resolution display and a bigger battery. We reckon a street price of around Rs 32,000 would make the Z1 Compact a very good buy. Sony has a little Catch 22 situation on their hands right now and we can see why they’ve priced both phone so closely. If the price gap was any bigger, it just made good common sense to pick the Compact. By leaving just a miniscule gap, Sony won’t be losing out too much on revenue no matter which phone buyers pick.

However, with the Xperia Z2 on the way, a price drop should not be too far long and the Z1 will soon be entering its EOL cycle. Untill Sony launches the Z2 Compact, we feel they should just replace the Z1 with the Z2 and continue selling the Z1 Compact for a lower price. So to answer our initial question – Yes, the Xperia Z1 is indeed the best mini flagship out there and we highly recommend it once prices settle closer to the Rs 30,000 mark. The Google Nexus 5 is our obvious first choice in this range but if you’re not craving barebones, stock Android and don’t mind Sony holding your hand through the Android experience, then the Z1 Compact is better in almost every respect, which makes it the next best alternative.


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