Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

A flagship smartphone in a comfortable 4.3-inch body

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Pros

  • Flagship specs in small body
  • Great camera
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Ordinary looking

Bottom Line

Sony has achieved something special with the Xperia Z1 Compact. The company has created an excellent phone — first. Then its added wonderful features to it, like the high resolution camera, exquisite display and its I’m-not-scared-of-water attitude. By no means is it disadvantaged by its smaller size; this simply makes it more enjoyable to use every day.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 6 stores)

  • Xperia Z1 Compact 4G 499.00
  • Xperia Mini Pro (SK17i) 228.00
  • Design Your Own Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Custom Skin 5.99
See all prices

The Xperia Z1 was hailed as “the best of Sony in a smartphone”. Now the best of Sony is available in a smaller body and for a lot less with the new Z1 Compact. All of the features that make Sony flagships special are here, but with a little something extra.

Small body, big heart

Picture the Z1, albeit smaller, and you’ll have an accurate idea of what the Z1 Compact looks like. The minimalist styling of the front and back is crudely undermined by a cluster of ports on its right side. The tacky flaps covering them gives the impression the Z1 Compact's design was dictated by function and not beauty. The result is a smartphone that looks good, but by no means is it a show stopper.

This smartphone is all things

On its right is a micro-USB port, a micro-SD card slot, charging contacts and a micro-SIM slot. The left is a little less cluttered with its bespoke power button, volume rocker and shutter key.

Rival companies will have you believe the Z1 Compact’s 1cm thickness is an outrage. “It’s thicker than the 8mm Samsung Galaxy or LG G Pro 2”, they’ll say. In reality, Sony has found a sweet spot between screen size and comfort, and best of all the Z1 Compact doesn’t have to compromise on features in order to do so. This smartphone is all things.

What’s in a Compact?

A couple of points distinguish the Xperia Z1 Compact from its larger Z1 sibling, but the main distinctions concern the screen size and battery.

Whereas the original Z1 has a 5in, Full HD screen, the Compact variant settles for a 4.3in, 720x1280 resolution screen. The difference in experience is negligible as the Compact still benefits from a very healthy 342 pixel-per-inch density. Better yet, the smaller screen ensures the Z1 Compact consumes less power than larger ‘phablet’ alternatives.

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Sony can afford to equip the more economical Z1 Compact with a smaller battery. It comes with an in-built 2300 milliamp-hour battery, which averaged a day of use under our heavy testing. This involved phone calls, messaging, social networking, web browsing (over Wi-Fi and 4G), constant music playback, some YouTubing and a non-stop Bluetooth connection to a Jawbone device we’re currently testing.

Absolutely stunning display

Sony smartphones feature technologies that don’t quite translate well on spec sheets. The company will often tout ‘Triluminous’ displays and ‘Exmor RS for mobile’ imaging technologies, but how do you measure the material value of this jargon?

This is what you need to know: Sony makes great televisions, cameras and gaming consoles, and the Xperia Z1 Compact incorporates mobile versions of these technologies. The word we would use to measure the difference these technologies make is “substantial”.

This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact
This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact

Rivals with the same specs are outperformed by the Z1 Compact. For example, photos taken of Sydney harbour captured subtle tonal variations in the evening twilight, and the screen displayed the scattered colours, busy atmosphere and flashes of light truthfully. We can’t measure how it does this better, but it does have something to do with the technologies the Z1 Compact has inherited from Sony’s other divisions.

The 4.4 KitKat pledge

A great deal of the Z1 Compact’s appeal stems from its comprehensive software. Sony’s custom software has reached a point of refinement where there are no tell-tale signs that they don’t actually make Android. Most of the customisations the company does make aren’t superfluous; most of them add real value.

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Things we love include the customisable settings in the notification pane; the way the smartphone resumes music playback when we plug in headphones; how it manages to combine the stock Android task manager with its own widgets and still make it look like the two separate elements belong.

Sony’s theme isn’t perfect, but it complements the design of stock Android better than any other rendition we have seen yet.

The Xperia Z1 Compact will ship with 4.3 Jelly Bean, but Sony has pledged an upgrade to 4.4 KitKit
The Xperia Z1 Compact will ship with 4.3 Jelly Bean, but Sony has pledged an upgrade to 4.4 KitKit

Big hardware, Lag free

Making powerful hardware available in a smaller form-factors is fraught with challenges. Shrinking components is more expensive and making sure the smartphone operates without overheating is even harder. And to top it off, for the Compact to be a faithful Xperia Z device, it would have to do all this and be waterproof.

It is harder to make a powerful smartphone small

The reality is it is harder to make a powerful smartphone small, and the fact that the Z1 Compact overcomes these obstacles makes it even more special.

Powering the smartphone is the same components found in the larger Z1; there’s a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and the option of expandable microSD storage. Up until now, it hasn’t been possible to find this kind of hardware in an Android smartphone the size of Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact.

20 Megapixels, Augmented Reality

Imaging is a real strong point for the Z1 Compact as it comes equipped with 20.7MP rear camera. There’s a transparency to the way it captures colours — what you see in real life is what’s displayed on the screen — and environments with complex lighting are handled with ease.

Most smartphone cameras struggle with high contrast situations, which are often found when there is a strong backlight. We went walk-about with the Xperia Z1 Compact and found it handles these situations better than most rival smartphones. Some detail in shadowing is lost, but overall, photos look great.

This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact
This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact

This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact
This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact

There’s even the luxury of blowing photos right up at native 20.7MP resolution when the lighting is ideal. The photo below has barely any noise, even when you look closely at the fully blown inset.

This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact
This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact

The Z1 Compact features plenty of shooting modes, but one in particular livened the office. An augmented reality mode generates animations of dinosaurs, fish, dwarves and other cool game-like animations. The camera takes a moment to focus, and then an animated overlay interacts with whatever is being framed. Sure, it is a superficial and silly feature, but it is one that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact
This photo was captured with the Z1 Compact

One of the best phone cameras we’ve seen

Videos are recorded with the same diligence in Full HD (1080p) resolution. The camera continually focuses to ensure moving items are captured clearly, and it performs well in a wide range of lighting conditions.

The secondary front facing camera captures 2MP photos, and it too records video in Full HD resolution. A strong front-facing camera comes in handy for selfies and when holding videocalls over applications.

Waterproof, dust resistant and attitude

The Z1 Compact isn’t a smartphone that shies away from the elements. The smartphone has IP55 and IP58 certification, and that makes it waterproof and resistant to dust.

Jump in freshwater and the Z1 Compact can take pressure for thirty minutes at depths of 150 centimetres. A physical shutter key allows you to snap photos and record videos under water. When you’re done, simply wipe the smartphone dry and carry on with your day.

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Admittedly we didn’t have the chance to go swimming with the Z1 Compact, but randomly dunking it in water made for a hilarious party trick. Each time we whisked it out, the Z1 Compact worked without faltering.

Final thought

Sony has achieved something special with the Xperia Z1 Compact. The company has created an excellent phone — first. Then they’ve added wonderful features to it, like the high resolution camera, exquisite display and its I’m-not-scared-of-water attitude. By no means is it disadvantaged by its smaller size; this simply makes it more enjoyable to use every day.

The greatest compliment we can give the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is this: if we were spending our own money, buying a Z1 Compact would be money well spent.

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Related articles

Showdown: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact vs Apple iPhone 5S

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z

1

Hi, to what other did you compare the z1 compact when you tested the camera?

Tony Ibrahim

2

Z,

We have tested cameras on the Apple iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G Flex and many others. We found the Xperia Z1 Compact performed either as good or better than most of these.

Tony

Shelly Pillar

3

We can only use blue tick phones where we live.....how does it go in rural areas?

Mat Gibbs

4

It's Telstra blue tick certified :)

wgr

5

Any idea if they will make a Z2 compact? If I see a 4.5" Z2, I am sold!

wgr

6

Also, do Sony have anything like Samsung's Swype? I think that will be the biggest thing I miss about my samsung

Josh140

7

WGR,

Sony have their own version of Swype built in. It's very good and learns how you type, very similar to swiftkey.

Denis

8

I live in a rural area with marginal reception and have had a Z1 Compact for a bit over a week now. Whilst it has the Blue Tick, I've been a bit disappointed by its reception sensitivity - it's ok without being great. My wife's Galaxy S4 mini has marginally better reception, but both phones are poorer than the old Telstra Explorer that I had.

Tony Ibrahim

9

WGR,

We doubt Sony will release a Z2 Compact any time soon. Releasing a Compact version of the Z2 could cannibalise sales of the company's upcoming flagship.

Additionally, shrinking the current Z2 flagship would cost Sony more to make, and they would be inclined to charge less for it. Not a move in the business' interests.

Take another look at the Z1 Compact. People in the office have bought it and they're pretty content with its performance.

Let us know how you go,

Tony.

Sophie

10

I have the Z1 Compact and absolutely love it!
Why would you buy anything but a Sony!
I watched a movie on it and it was SO clear and sharp.
The camera is amazing and has SO many features.
The Walkman is of course fantastic - its a Sony.
Its easy to use and and has really made my iphone friends reconsider their next purchase.

Anne

11

I have replaced my Galaxy with the Sony Z1 compact, and apart from not having a speech to text component I love it!

Matt

12

Hi Tony, My current plan is about to expire, and the carrier I'm with offers this phone in a package and it looks the goods. I have a Nokia Lumia 800 and it's been a pain - nothing like the rest of the Nokias I've owned since my first mobile phone in 1995 (Nokia 101!!).A couple questions though; does Sony's offering include a call timer? Ie; duration of last call, duration of all incoming and outgoing calls, total duration of all calls - just like all my old Nokia's (sans my damn Lumia) ?? Also, can the phone be programmed to receive and SEND emails from the phone via my home ISP? (Currently, my Lumia will allow to see emails from home account, but cannot send from it - and no, Nokia couldn't help or explain it either!). Regards, Matt

Luke

13

As a tradesman, my biggest concern is a smashed screen. My s2 has dealt with some serious blows over the years, but it's plastic screen is probably why. Is the compact a glass or plastic screen and if glass, how breakable do you think it is?

Author

14

Matt,

The Sony runs Android. Android smartphones do display the call duration, both during active phone calls and in the history pane of the dialler.

Before I answer your second question, I'd like to double check that I do in fact understand what you're asking. It sounds like you want the email address you have with your home ISP to send and receive emails from your smartphone. Is that right?

If that is the case, then the Xperia Z1 Compact should work fine. The tricky part is getting the POP3 settings for incoming (to receive) and outgoing (to send) emails correct. Your ISP, unfortunately, will know these.

Android is a far more established operating system than the Windows OS used on the Nokia. You should benefit from its improved support.

Tony

Author

15

Luke,

This is a tough question. Here's what we know:

The Samsung Galaxy S2 actually uses Corning Gorilla Glass. Corning's glass leads the industry.

We can't confirm if Sony has used Corning's Gorilla Glass on the Z1 Compact because the company hasn't confirmed which glass they use.

Sony does have experience working with toughened glass. The company coats the front and back of its Z1 and Z2 flagships in scratch resistant and shatter proof glass. And we've barely seen cracked versions of those phones.

We recommend heading into a store and seriously fondling the Z1 Compact's construction. Compare the two for yourself.

Let us know how you go,
Tony

Pierre

16

i am vision impaired. can the size of the icons on the home page be increased. also can the text size in the applications such as email, contacts text etc be increase further than what is available on the phone. ie can i get apps to increase font size etc

Author

17

Hi Pierre,

The text used throughout Sony's software has four settings: small, normal, large and extra large. The font you pick will be applied throughout the software. This includes the font labelling icons on the home screen.

We don't believe there is one application that properly changes the font across the software. To our knowledge, any application that does so will require rooting (hacking).

Tony.

mic. b

18

Dont be in a rush to be sold this phone. Yes it may be better than the samsung in certain ways. But i strongly suggest you take a note book with questions and all the things your current samsung does and find someone who actually knows the phone and make them work for the sale. 1. You cant just press the video call button....cuz theyre aint one...unlike on the samsung. You need to go into the hangouts app and select the contact....then the z1 will tell you that the person you want to video call....who has a samsung....doesnt have the hangout app and asks you to send them a text message with a link to the app so they can download.....so you can video call them. Now do this for all the people you want to video call. Wish i hadnt bought three days ago. Out west and cant video call my wife n kids till she sets it up on her phone. So how am i gonna do this at work? Where i regularly video call others in a very noisy work environment so they can see whats going on.....what a screw up sony ! And i couldnt buy a case for it...and had to buy samsung stick on protective screen cover....and cut it/mangle/manipulate it to fit the screen....its already coming undone. Facebook is a total disaster...facebook partly to blame...not having the push button like my samsung is also a major downfall..it means fumbling the phone to press the side button every time i want the screen on. Hope you make a case that it fits in and enables this. Nice feel. Nice camera. Fast searches and net etc. But its not as practical as the samsung. Water proof and dust proof ive read about in previous comments. Find out tomorrow when it accompanies me to a coal mine wash plant. My original s2 went for three years...fishing...crabbing...coal mines...dust..sludge...magnetite and only just died. For sonys sake i hope this lasts and the annoyances get fixed or updated...otherwise ill be theyre new negative spokesman

Matt

19

Hi Tony, apologies for the very delayed response. re para 1 of your response, yes I can get call duration etc for individual phones but I'm yet to work out how I can view an actual call summary. Such as total number of Incoming Calls (# and total duration), Outgoing Calls (same stats), and All Calls duration, eg: say grand total of 10 incoming/outgoing calls, for total combined time of say, 01:36:01. Hope that makes sense. The Z1 phone is running Android 4.3 - same as a collegues phone which is a Samsung running 4.3 also, but his displays a total call register and mine doesn't!

re Para 2: what you describe is exactly what I am trying to achieve!

Many Thanks, Matt

ivan81TS

20

There isn't a total call time registry menu! There is only info for each call...
You can't know total time for outcoming and incoming calls and resets them!
If you want to know the lifetime call duration time you must enter in ServiceMenu typing *#*#7378423#*#* and then in Service tests-Total call time.
That's not acceptble!!!

Vanlev

21

For an android device, having adequate RAM is crucial. I am glad that this device has 2GB of RAM. I do not own this device but I do miss the high quality pictures that my old xperia took. I am quite confident that Z1 compact will take marvelous pictures.
I am very much a physical QWERTY keypad guy, so I am currently happy with my BB Q5 which was actually better than I expected (camera really not too good though), but if I am in the market to get an android device, this Z1 compact will be the one

roney

22

the only probelm of this phone is, it heats up more frequently! how can i overcome this???

Only Sony

23

Cracked the screen of my SONY Xperia Z1 Compact last week when it slipped out of my hands while cleaning it over the kitchen sink.

Can anyone recommend a good PROTECTIVE case?

SONY doesn't offer one at http://www.sony.com.au/productcategory/mob-mobile-phone-accessories

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