For some people flagship phones such as the original Sony Xperia Z1 are a little on the large size. A 5″ screen could be a little too much,
Whilst we have ‘mini’ versions of some phones, like the S3 Mini, S4 Mini etc; normally picking a mini device drops the specifications. This creates effectively a whole new phone which doesn’t match the experience of the bigger brother. Always a disappointment that.
Thankfully Sony is the exception to the rule, which is why their smaller Z1 device goes under the “Compact” name. This is for a good reason.
A big thank you to Clove who loaned me the Z1 Compact to be able to write this review.
The Z1 Compact features the same 20.7 megapixel camera, the same Snapdragon 800 processor at 2.2Ghz Quad-Core, and the same 16GB of built in storage. This also has microSD support to expand your storage space even further. Not only that, but it even still features the water resistant features which really make the Sony phones stand out from the rest.
Whilst the screen is lowered to a 4.3 inch at 720p and the battery dropped to 2,300mAh, the built in software enhancements mean the battery goes just as long as the larger version and the screen still looks stunning when being used.
These days an impressive screen is key to a device selling well. It’s the main way you interact with your device and is such an instant decision-maker.
The Z1 Compact does have an impressive screen due to the 720p resolution mainly. Alsom thanks to the smaller size you really don’t notice much of a downgrade over a larger screen. You would if you had a 5 inch screen perhaps, but the Compact is made to be small and this is taken into consideration
However, something which Sony seem to insist on doing is putting a plastic film over the glass screen which yes, does protect the glass from being shattered, but also gets scratched quite easily and takes away from the glass finish of the screen.
Removing this yourself is possible but could void your warranty so we would not advise you do so. Again, as with so many things pointed out in the review, the Z2 has fixed this and is just a pure glass finish with no film over the top.
Up top there is a 2 megapixel camera which also captures video in full HD format (1080p). This can take some pretty good selfie photos if you need it too, and is great for a video blogger who wants to see what they are recording. You can of course then upload direct from the phone.
As with most front facing cameras the quality will depend on decent backlight to get the best results. The lower megapixel count will not really matter when it comes to apps such as Instagram or Snapchat.
There is also the speaker, the Sony logo and the light sensor which will help save with battery life. The phone will adjust the backlight depending on your surroundings.
Under the screen is nothing, really, nothing at all, just a blank space which seems a shame. Something that the Z1 Compact has picked up from the previous Z range is the large bezels top and bottom with nothing there.
The Z2 will improve on this a little but with phones like the LG G2 having little bezel at all. Sony have big room for improvement in the wasted space area on future phones.
On the back is a decent 20.7 megapixel camera complete with a single LED flash. This can be used for taking better evening photos or at a time you need to have a brighter photo.
This is the same camera seen on the larger Z1 and can produce some rather mixed results.
Whilst the Z1 Compact may have the most amount of megapixels on an Android phone on sale in the UK right now, it is not always about megapixels. The lens used is important and some clever software can help to adjust the image to produce a more natural image.
In the past I have not been too impressed with low light photos on the original Z and the Z1, unfortunately the same has to be said with the Z1 Compact.
Whilst the photos are ok, considering the focus on the camera uses a new Exmor RS lens, this was the biggest area of disappointment for me, especially with night photos.
Video recording is the same as before at 1080p resolution, which is great for YouTube sharing on the move, if you are after 4K then you will need to look at the new Sony Xperia Z2 which supports this but is a much larger phone so you do lose the smaller design.
On the top you have the 3.5m headset jack used for either the supplied headset or your own if you have a pair you prefer using.
Nothing else to really write about this that has not been said 100 times before in every other review, the supplied headset are very good quality and fit very well in the ear and the sound quality, as you would expect from a Sony product , is very good also.
I often see people wearing large headphones that go over the ear and totally cover your ears, Sony are a big manufacturer of these and will also work very well if this is your preferred type of headset design
On the bottom of the Z1 Compact you have the larger speakerphone grill area, the speakerphone is very clear and also very loud but just as important as being loud, it is clear even at full volume so you get great sounding music from it too.
Something else Sony thought of considering is a simple yet important camera strap so, if you are like me who takes open-top bus tours but is always scared of leaning over to take a photo, worry no more.
The left side has all of the ports which are for the microUSB charger, the microSD card (the Z1 Compact supports up to 64GB cards if you need one) and the micro SIM card slot in a tiny flimsy plastic tray that pulls out.
If you are someone who swaps SIM cards a lot, whatever you do make sure you do not lose this little tray or you will not be able to use any SIM card in the phone.
You also have a bit in the middle that looks like it is missing, don’t worry it is supposed to look like that and is a magnetic connector for putting on certain stands for charging and displaying your content.
With these ports that have the cover on each of them, always make sure these are closed fully because this is what gives the phone the water resistance up to 1.5 meters. If any of these are open they will leak water and could damage your phone!
The right hand side has all the buttons. The large circular power button is perfectly placed to tap on and off using your thumb, a simple task you could do over 100 times a day so the location of this was important.
You also have the volume up and down buttons used for volume control and also for putting the phone into silent mode quickly and easily.
Finally something I love seeing on camera focussed devices, a dedicated camera button which, when pressed half way, will focus. When pressed down fully it’ll take the photo or start recording a video.
Having a dedicated camera button is important if you use the Z1 Compact in water as the touch screen will not work.
- All the benefits of the Z1 in a smaller package
- Awesome battery life
- Cat4 LTE so 150Mbps LTE support
- Highest megapixel count on Android
- Camera still has some noise issues
- Glass back replaced with plastic
- Hidden screen protector on front prone to scratches
Sony have done something many others have tried and failed on in the past, and that is managing to take a flagship phone and shrink it down with very minimal compromise.
HTC and Samsung have tried but the smaller ‘mini’ devices have always lacked some key features in the spec wars compared to their larger brothers.
This is why Sony went with the name ‘Compact’ instead and apart from a few little things, you really do get a Z1 experience in a smaller body. This means it’s more suited to a wider range of customer, plus it adds some new cool colours like the lime green one especially.
With the same 20.7 megapixel camera, the same waterproof design, the same Snapgragon 800 processor at 2.2Ghz and 2GB of RAM, you also have the same 16GB built in storage with microSD support… the Compact seems to have all the boxes ticked.
With the screen being 720p but smaller in size the lower resolution does not make much of a difference, and with Stamina mode and the less power hungry screen working together the smaller battery is not an issue either. In fact the Z1 Compact has one of the best results with battery life on the market today.
The only two drawbacks I can think of right now. The first is the fact that the glass back on the Z1 has been replaced with a plastic one here (for cost saving). It does also impact the overall feel as it’s not as smooth or “premium feeling” as found on the larger model.
Also, whilst the camera does have some great options with software and a 20.7 megapixel lens, the results that came out are very mixed even with ‘superior auto’ enabled.
Overall though the Z1 Compact is one of the best Android phones on sale right now, it is by far the best phone under the 4.5 inch screen size. As I write this review Android 4.4.2 KitKat has just been made available which speeds it up and makes it even more impressive.
If you are looking for a good all-round phone with little compromise but with a smaller screen, the Z1 Compact would be the ideal phone for your hand