REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

REVIEW: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

With the world moving towards larger smartphones, consumers wanting smaller devices have been left behind. Sony has attempted to fill the gap with the Xperia Z1 Compact.

The Bandwidth Blog’s Theunis Jansen van Rensburg provides an in-depth review.

The ‘mini’ in the name of smartphones has, inexorably, become to mean inferior these days. With HTC and Samsung it has meant smaller (obviously), lower-spec versions of the beloved big-screened version of the devices in question.

Since the advent of the Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphones have started to grow in size (at an alarming rate) and we feel for the people that have been left behind. The people that want a smaller sized smartphone, but also don’t want to sacrifice top-of-the-line specs. Until recently, arguably, the iPhone was the last island of salvation for these people.

That’s where Sony is coming to the rescue, the Xperia Z1 Compact is a smaller device (actually pretty similar to the iPhone) that delivers premium specs and premium performance.

Here are some of the key features:

  • 4.3″ 16M-color 720p capacitive touchscreen Triluminos display (342 ppi)
  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
  • Quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400 CPU, 2 GB RAM, Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset
  • 20.7MP autofocus camera with a 1/2.3″ Exmor RS sensor
  • 1080p video recording @ 30fps, continuous autofocus and stereo sound; live video streaming to Facebook
  • IP58 certification, dust- and waterproof
  • 16GB of built-in storage; microSD card slot
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • 2,300mAh Li-Ion battery

To be honest, when we got the device we thought it had the making of a winner – not just for a smaller device. We thought it may fight to be one of the best Android smartphones on market. So is it? Let’s take a look.

Design and Build

Some people have equated the Xperia Z1 Compact to a ‘fun-sized’ version of the Xperia Z1. With that insinuation it is easy to suspect that this is not a top of the line smartphone (like the GS4 Mini and HTC One Mini). This cannot be further from the truth. Both the aforementioned were, well… jokes when compared to their full sized brethren. This is not true of the Z1 Compact.

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Yes, my review device is pink. In fact, very pink. I had the opportunity to sit and wait for other colours but I was so excited about this device that I had to try it out as soon as possible. As you can imagine, a full-grown man in professional attire gets some strange looks when walking around with a pink phone (and I have to use it often in public). I couldn’t care less, I was fully invested in this device as with any other I have reviewed.

This phone is a looker, with a single piece metal frame, glass on the front and a very glass-like hardened plastic on the back. It has the same design and metal build as its bigger brother (which we cannot say for the aforementioned ‘Mini’ devices).

Its very well put together like many Sony devices, and the same flaps found on previous version are seen here to protect the device from dust and water. It’s actually where Sony has a big advantage on competitors – they are waterproof, not water resistant. In this version though, the flaps are a lot less finicky than on the bigger sibling and Xperia Z1 smartphone.

The design and build is stellar, but there is only one negative – it is not the slimmest smartphone in the world. In truth, it is thicker than most. We didn’t expect any different, however. We would trade premium specs for the couple of millimetres lost any day of the week. Also, it is lighter than the bigger version, which really helps with handling of the squared device.

As always, the look of the device is quite subjective. For what it’s worth – even though it’s pink – we really like the look of it. What is not subjective, however, is the great build quality. Check out more samples here.


The screen is always an important part of the smartphone – you are staring at it all the time. Even though some people don’t want to admit it, there are many smartphone screens out there that aren’t as great as you would like it to be. The Sony Xperia Zq had one of these aforementioned screens. While it was a 1080p screen, colours weren’t really great and it probably was one of the worst screens in a long time when it comes to viewing angles.

Many may scoff at the lower resolution of the screen of the Z1 Compact, but Sony has given the screen a lot of attention – certainly more than was provided to the original Z1.

The pixel count is better than that of the comparably sized iPhone 5S, coming in at 342 pixels per inch, even though it has a 720p screen. People are expecting 1080p screens when it comes to flagship these days, but because of the smaller size it is just as impressive as a 1080p screen on a Galaxy Note 3.

All in all, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact display may not look like it on paper, but it is actually one of the best screens you can find on an Android, and THE best on a sub 5-inch display.

User Interface

Also, what immediately changed upon the update is the notification menu. It has always been relatively similar to stock Android, but it has been made more useful than before, which cannot be said for some competitors. The quick settings are extremely easy to get to and are more concise than on 4.3 Jelly Bean.

What is very interesting is how Sony’s Custom UI has tried not to become like Samsungs and LGs. It doesn’t try to fit unneeded, unused features into the software which could potentially slow it down and kill the whole experience. The custom icons are minimalistic and classic-looking.

To add icons or widgets to the homescreen just tap and hold on a blank area or pinch to zoom. A context menu appears, allowing you to apply various customisations. The folder icons aren’t quite as customisable as on the LG, but it looks great.

The app tray on Sony’s are also great – it is so well thought out and easy to use and display to your heart’s content. The Xperia Z1 Compact uses the stock Android task manager that lets you switch between recently opened apps as you would on Nexus devices. What has been added by Sony is the mini apps. They aren’t very useful, as you would expect on a screen of this size.

Applying a new theme changes the lockscreen and homescreen wallpaper and the colour of the system icons. It’s extremely easy to change if you don’t want to go through the effort of changing the Android experience as manually as is the point of the whole experience.

The whole Android experience is very subjective, to be honest. While we can list the objective positives and negatives of the whole experience, in actual fact it is OUR experience and what we believe when compared to other OS experiences. Be sure to leave your comments below as comparison.

Performance and Battery Life

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact packs a 2,300mAh battery – 700mAh smaller than that of its larger sibling. It has a smaller display than the bigger Xperia Z1, though. So you would expect the battery life to be relatively comparable, right?

As it turns out, it is actually a bit better. We easily managed a heavy day of use, with lots of calls and watching YouTube videos. The impressive battery life can be attributed to the smaller screen and lower resolution placing a lot less strain on the GPU.

In terms of hardware performance, it is a beast as can be expected. It performs better than the Xperia Z1, and is outstripped by few. Only the Note 3 and LG G2 perform better (we haven’t been able to test the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2).

The Xperia Z1 Compact is the fastest device of its size, but all that power comes with a minor problem. It gets hot – very hot (and not because of the pink exterior). When playing graphically intensive games it is especially bad, but luckily the heat dissipates just as quickly when you stop playing those games


Sony has clearly put a lot of work into the Xperia Z1 Compact’s camera. It packs a 20.7MP camera, just as the Xperia Z1 did. Unfortunately, just like the Xperia Z1, it is slightly disappointing. It is actually better than on the Z1, which is entirely down to software features as the sensor is also identical.

Standard images in well-lit conditions are great, although the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact does appear to suffer in lower light conditions as the Xperia Z1 did.

We would have like the colour contrast to be a bit better, but in general there aren’t complaints in that area.

We’ve said this about Sony’s before and we will probably again, but the hardware shutter button is great. In fact, we feel it should be standard on all smartphones. Just think about that for a moment – why isn’t it standard?


Whether it was by design or a lucky fluke, it’s good that the Xperia Z1 Compact is not called a ‘mini.’ All the Mini devices out there are mediocre monstrosities made to imitate their more illustrious counterparts. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact breaks the mould. It is a true, genuine, fully-fledged flagship device unlike its competition. Actually, if we’re honest, its only competition is the iPhone. Really, truly, we love this phone.

Premium specs, manageable size for all, and a competitive price means you can’t go wrong with this phone. Sony finally sorted out their screen issues, the design is as good as ever and the waterproof status pushes it over the edge. The Sony Android experience is also one of the best.

If you don’t want a 5-inch phone, but still a premium one, there are only two choices – the Xperia Z1 Compact and the iPhone. This means that if you prefer Android, there is no question to which device you should choose.

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