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March 24, 2014

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Review

Phone manufacturers have steadily increased the sizes of their screens from the 3.5 – 4 inches two years ago, to the current norm of 5 to 5.5 inches. Sony bucks the trend with its Xperia Z1 Compact.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is probably one of the most feature-packed phones for its size. Just like Manny Pacquiao, today’s greatest pound-for-pound boxing champion, the Z1 Compact has all the goodies packed in one small package.

Design and Construction

The Xperia Z1, Z1 Ultra and Z1 Compact all share the same design signature, including the water- and dust-proof casing. Compared to its larger siblings, the Z1 Compact only has 4.3 inches. The smaller form factor (only 2.56 inches wide and 5 inches tall) makes the phone surprisingly easy to handle with one hand.

The front is made of scratch-resistant tempered glass, where you’ll find the Sony logo, earpiece, front camera, a three-color (RGB) notification light, and proximity sensors on the top portion of the screen. The bezel measures around 4mm at the sides. The Z1 Compact’s edge and frame are aluminum.

As there are no capacitive buttons on the lower part of the phone, the back, home and switch buttons appear near the bottom edge of the screen only when you turn on the phone. Unfortunately, these take up valuable screen space, which could have been shifted to the empty space below the screen.

Only the headset jack is on top of the phone. The power button and volume controls are on the right side along with the dedicated camera button. The water-sealed caps for the microSD card slot, micro-USB port, the micro-SIM slot and the docking pogo pins are all on the left side. The speakers and a provision for straps are at the bottom.

Flip it on its back, and you’ll see the non-removable back plastic (polished to look like glass), the 20.7 megapixel camera and a single LED flash.

As claimed by Sony, the phone is indeed water- and dust-proof. With all the ports sealed, we took and played pictures, videos and music while the phone was under water. Because the touch screen won’t work while under water, you can only take pictures and videos using the dedicated camera button.

And since this phone doesn’t float, make sure to hold it or use a strap while under water.

With its heft and excellent build, there’s no question about the quality of the Z1 Compact.

Display

The 4.3-inch display also looked richer and more vibrant on the Z1 Compact versus the original Z1. While the screen resolution is now down to just 720p (1280×720 pixels), the display quality is still very good.

With above average sharpness and contrast, the Triluminos screen makes individual pixels almost impossible to see with the naked eye. Viewing angles are also very good. The auto-brightness function makes using the phone outdoors a synch.

OS, UI, Apps

Sony uses its own lightly modified UI on top of Android 4.3 Jellybean. It looks simple, really clean and well-done. Access to Google Play gives you thousands of options to customize your handset.

With a Snapdragon quad-core chipset, the handset performs extremely well, is very snappy and loads apps quite fast.

Even if it’s “only” a quad core phone, it delivers way better performance than a Mediatek octa-core. With graphics settings on high, the Z1 Compact even delivers smoother gameplay on Dead Trigger 2.

Camera and Multimedia

With its 1/2.3-inch 20.7MP Exmor RS CMOS image sensor, 27mm wide angle and bright F2.0 aperture, BIONZ for mobile image processing engine, and fast shutter speed, plus a single LED flash, it’s no surprise the Z1 Compact camera takes really good photos and videos both above and under water, in broad daylight or under low light conditions.

Video fanatics won’t be disappointed. Both the 20.7MP rear and the 2MP front cameras can take 1080p videos with 30fps.

Tick on the HD settings to see the full 1080p video.

Sony’s homegrown camera app suite gives users a plethora of options: Superior Auto, Manual Adjust, Timeshift Burst, AR & Picture Effects, Sweep Panorama, and more. The Z1 Compact can also take still shots while recording video. It even has an option to take multiple photos that save directly to your Evernote account.

Except for the obviously smaller screen size, the Z1 Compact is a very capable multimedia device. The Z1 Compact can play HD movies, and has a Walkman app for listening to music.

The speaker placement (at the bottom of the phone) may pose some problems though. Holding the phone in landscape to watch a movie may mean one of your hands would inevitably block the speaker, muffling the audio. You may want to use earphones as a workaround.

Performance and Benchmarks

Under the hood of the Z1 Compact is Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset running at 2.26GHz, paired with Adreno 330 graphics, and 2GB of RAM.

After a couple of weeks of using the phone, we’re happy to report that apps launch fast, animations and transitions are smooth, and overall, very responsive.

Benchmark results are also impressive with Antutu scores reaching 33,442 points and Quadrant at 21,523 points. Vellamo scores are 2,688 and 1,187 for HTML5 and Metal, respectively. Nenamark 2 got a final score of 59.6fps.

Call Quality and Connectivity

The Z1 Compact handled calls normally as expected. We can be heard clearly on the other line and vice versa.

Since the Z1 Compact comes with the new LTE chip, it’s supposed to reach up to 150Mbps. Of course that’s just the theoretical speed. We tested it out using our Smart LTE microSIM and got up to 14Mbps at one time in SM MOA.

Battery Life

The battery rating of the Z1 Compact is 2,300mAh. In our usual battery test which includes playing a 1080p movie file in Airplane mode with volume set to 50% and brightness at 50%, the result is a respectable 8 hours’ worth of movie playback.

The smaller screen size and the phone’s power management suite help the phone last more than 1 day on a single charge.

If you always have data (3G/H+) on, use it as a mobile hotspot for about 6 hours and the occasional calls and texts, the Z1 Compact’s 2300ma battery can last 22 hours on a single charge.

The battery’s normal operating temperature (when on idle or doing non-processor intensive tasks) will range between 30 to 34 degrees Celsius.

But using processor-intensive apps (like Dead Trigger 2 on high settings) can push the battery to a high of 43.2 C.

Conclusion

Just like Manny Pacquiao, the Z1 Compact has all the goodies packed in one small package.

It certainly has its target market — those who yearn for a powerful handset in a not-so-huge form factor.

But this phone is not for everyone. Its size may be too small for some. We know a few people who had difficulty using the phone, probably because they were now used to 5 – 6 inch phablets.

That being said, it’s either you’ll love that combination or you’ll just settle for the original Z1 altogether.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact specs:
4.3-inch IPS LCD Triluminous display @ 1280×720 pixels, 342ppi
Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 2.2 GHz quad-core CPU
Adreno 330 Graphics
2GB RAM
16GB of internal storage
up to 64GB via microSD
HSPA+, LTE 150Mbps
WiFi a/b/g/n, WiFi Hotspot
NFC
ANT+ support
Bluetooth 4.0
GPS with aGPS support, GLONASS
DLNA
MHL support
1/2.3-inch 20.7MP Exmor RS CMOS image sensor
27mm wide angle and bright F2.0 aperture
BIONZ for mobile image processing engine
IP55/58 dust and water resistance
2,300mAh battery
9.5mm
137 grams
Android 4.3 Jellybean

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact was officially launched a couple of weeks ago and is set for release this week for a suggested retail price of Php25,490.

Widget City provided us the review unit last month and selling it for Php22,500 (see listing here).

What we liked about it:
* Excellent build and construction
* Waterproof and dustproof
* Top notch specs in a small package

What we didn’t like:
* Odd speaker placement
* Screen size may be too small for power users

Huawei Ascend Mate & Review

Sony introduces Xperia Z1 Compact
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact: The Mini Review

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