Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review: A flagship at 4.6-inches
All things a smartphone should be and nothing more
- Water and dust proof
- Playback of FLAC music files, with AAC and MP3 upscaling
- 20.7MP camera
- Exceptional battery life
- PS4 compatibility
- Some might find 4.6in screen too small
- Flaps cover the charging port
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
Few criticisms could be levelled against the Z1 Compact. The smartphone packed flagship guts into a comfortable 4.3in form factor. It was near perfect.
Sony has since taken a red pen to the original and made subtle refinements — important refinements — that inches the succeeding Z3 Compact closer to perfection.
The bezel-heavy body, for instance, has been shaved down to such an extent that even with a bigger 4.6in screen, the Z3 Compact stands no taller, is thinner and lighter. Metal has been used for the corners in order to improve rigidity, while the plastic bumpers lining its side are rounded for comfort’s sake.
Cutting the fat down hasn’t cost the Z3 Compact its ability to take on water or dust. The smartphone works without fault in water 1.5 metres deep for up to thirty minutes. The touchscreen stops working under water, though you can still take photos thanks to the inclusion of the good ol’ shutter key.
And those photos will be quality pics at 20.7 megapixels. Don’t be fooled by the idle resolution; Sony has improved its low light capability with ISO going up to ISO12,800, which truly encroaches on digital camera territory. Another perk is support for Ultra high-definition video recording.
We took advantage of the camera during a concert. The dark arena, interrupted by rapid flashing lights, quick-fire lasers and enough bass to tickle your insides, challenged the Sony cam. Still photos blown to native resolution revealed some image noise, but when fitted to the size of a 13.3in notebook screen, the photos dazzled.
Video recording was characterised by a quick autofocus — most of the time. Blowing us away was the sound quality of a video recording. The bass should’ve overwhelmed the simple microphone, and yet somehow the accompanying audio track is crisp and clear and legible; it is reminiscent of a standalone digital camera.
Using this smartphone leaves the impression all of the separate divisions within Sony are working closer together.
Plug in a premium set of headphones and the Z3 Compact will play your music in richer quality. It supports high resolution audio (HRA) and FLAC music files, while run-of-the-mill AAC and MP3 files get an upscale in quality.
Then there’s the Z3 Compact’s distinct ability to play PS4 games on its screen. A specialised mount connects any member of the Z3 family to a PS4 controller. This means when the PS4’s TV is in use, the gaming can continue from the rich screen of your smartphone.
We didn’t get to use PS4 Remote Play extensively, but from our hands on, it worked without showing signs of lag. The experience could vary as the tech works over a home’s Wi-Fi connection.
Sony has adopted a healthy combination of hardware when it comes to the Xperia Z3 Compact. The screen stretches 4.6 inches, and although it has a resolution of 1280x720, it manages to squeeze 319 pixels into each inch. Frankly, anything with a higher pixel density is overkill.
The company has instead focussed on balancing a rich screen with superior battery life. Our highest recorded battery life was a remarkable 44 hours with Stamina Mode enabled. Deactivating the mode and using the smartphone heavily still delivered a commendable 27 hours. The joys of packing a bag for a weekend trip without having to worry if our phone would last is something we had forgotten; the Z3 Compact offered a nice reminder.
The Sony smartphone could’ve lasted longer had we enabled Ultra Stamina Mode, which strips the phone’s functionality down to just the basics for more than a week of battery life. Sony isn’t the first company to include this feature, but its rendition is our favourite so far.
This Herculean battery life is squeezed from a relatively small 2600 milliamp-hour (mAh) battery.
Sneak a peek behind the tempered glass skin of the Z3 Compact and you’ll find it is flagship powerful. The smartphone packs a 2.5GHz quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. It’ll take up to a 128GB microSD card if more memory is needed.
Tying this vast repertoire of features together is Sony’s rendition of Android 4.4 KitKat. The company’s overlay doesn’t try to redefine Android as much as it proves complementary. The application drawer, for instance, is stock, but swipe your finger from the edge left, and Sony’s custom menu pops up.
The overlay’s colour scheme works with that of stock Android, and it is applied consistently throughout the smartphone. This way Sony keeps the software light. This is software done right.
Some bloatware comes with the Z3 Compact, but the vast majority can be uninstalled without having to meddle with the smartphone.
Sony has nailed the basics with the Z3 Compact. It has a long list of features most people will use everyday, and its list of shortcomings is blank. Good Gear Guide doesn’t award smartphones 5 stars on a whim. In fact, it’s something this writer has never done.
But the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is a 5 star phone.
Click over for a spec-showdown and sample photos
Join the newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 LG V50 ThinQ 5G review: Two bad
- 2 Oppo Reno 5G review: Big Deal
- 3 Huawei P30 review: How badly do you need a headphone jack?
- 4 Moto G7 Plus review: Better where it counts
- 5 TP-Link Deco M4 review: Expansion pack
Latest News Articles
- Motorola's new One Vision smartphone looks as smooth as a Pixel 3a (and cheaper!)
- Prime Day seems like a great time for Australians to import a OnePlus smartphone
- Vodafone to refund customers over ‘premium’ content billing
- You can now nab one of Huawei's best smartphones for $849
- Huawei renew their Watch GT giveaway for all new P30 and P30 Pro buys
PCW Evaluation Team
As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.
The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.
This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.
Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications
I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)
It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!
- Best Australian Amazon Prime Day deals
- Oppo Reno 5G review: Big Deal
- Everything you need to know before you buy a 5G phone in Australia
- Everything you need to know about Smart TVs
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?