Skip to navigation

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Verdict

Great battery life and superb performance in an attractive waterproof package; what’s not to like?

Review Date: 21 Feb 2014

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £367 (£440 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £303
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

The size of smartphones has been following an inexorable upward curve in recent times, but Sony is bucking the trend with the Xperia Z1 Compact. It's a smartphone with top spec components, but squeezed into a smaller chassis with a 4.3in display. See also: the 11 best smartphones of 2014.

It's certainly easier to slide into a tight jeans pocket than, say, a Samsung Galaxy S4 or Nexus 5, but it isn't quite as light or thin as you might expect. It weighs a rather porky 134g, and measures 9.6mm from front to back, which makes it a good deal chunkier than the super svelte Apple iPhone 5s.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

That's presumably down to the design of the Z1 Compact, which as with previous Xperia smartphones is clad in glass at the rear as well as on the front. The phone's large battery may also have something to do with its heft. At 2,300mAh, it's big for a phone of this size, and even matches far larger phones, such as the HTC One for capacity.

It certainly delivers impressive stamina. Our battery tests, newly updated this month, revealed that for light tasks and 3G data, the Z1 Compact is highly efficient. Streaming a 128Kbit/sec podcast file using SoundCloud over a 3G connection, uses up only 2.7% of total battery capacity per hour. Playing back a 720p movie using the stock video player consumes 5.4% per hour.

Gaming drains capacity fast, however. The GFXBench battery test gave an estimated runtime of 3hrs 20mins, or a consumption of 30% per hour. Still, the results indicate that overall battery life is excellent, and anecdotally, we found it we were able to get two days use out of it with care.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The Z1 Compact also turns out to be very fast indeed. Not only does it feel responsive, but its 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 SoC and Adreno 330 GPU helped it post a superb set of benchmark results, the most notable of which were its GeekBench 3 multi-core and GFXBench T-Rex HD scores of 2,713 and 34.9fps. These are both results that put the Z1 Compact amongst the quickest Android handsets we've seen.

For many, such excellent battery life and fast performance will be reason enough to put this excellent handset on their shortlist, but it has plenty of other things to recommend it. As with its Xperia siblings, the Z1 is waterproofed, with flaps covering all the ports and sockets; as long as all the seals remain intact, it can be submerged to a depth of 1.5 metres.

It has a 20-megapixel camera with a 1/2.3in sensor that snaps highly respectable stills and crisp, smooth digitally stabilised 1080p video. It's much better than the Nexus 5's snapper, and on a par with the Galaxy Note 3 for quality. And the Z1 Compact lacks little when it comes to features: there's 4G compatibility, NFC and 802.11ac on the wireless front; 16GB of storage expandable via a microSDXC slot; plus an FM radio tuner and HDMI output via MHL.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The only caveat to all of this is the Z1 Compact's 720p display. Although it's superbly bright at a maximum 504cd/m2 and has an apparent contrast ratio of 1,680:1, Sony makes heavy use of dynamic contrast, adjusting the intensity of the backlight depending on what's on screen.

In some ways this is a good thing. It helps conserve battery when watching TV or movies with lots of dark scenes – this goes some way towards explaining the phone's good result in our video-based battery depletion test. We normally set the brightness level of the display calibrated to 120cd/m2 using a colorimeter to measure a white screen, but brightness dips as soon as darker movie content appears on screen. We tested again with the brightness adjusted up manually (we had to estimate 120cd/m2, and the result was a more realistic consumption of around 14% per hour. That's still superb, mind.

On the other hand, our experience was that it tended to give a rather bleached look to brightly lit photos and videos.

That puts a dent in what was looking like a perfect showing for the Z1 Compact. It isn't cheap either, at £440 SIM free. Nevertheless, it's still an excellent smartphone, and one that currently has no direct rival among high-end Android phones. The Nexus 5 offers more bang for your buck, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is more accomplished all-round, but if you're after a powerful, long-lasting Android smartphone that won't stretch the seams of your trouser pocket it's the only phone to buy.

Author: Jonathan Bray

Best Prices

Price comparison powered by Reevoo

£303
£307
£307
£307
£365
Subscribe to PC Pro magazine. We'll give you 3 issues for £1 plus a free gift - click here
User comments

I wish I waited for this rather than getting a Nexus 5. The perfect phone for me is between 3.5 and 4 inches. For me the 5 inch Nexus 5 is in a bit of a no mans land. not large enough to comfortably surf the net (unlike say an ipad mini) and not small enough to use with one hand / put in any pocket you want.

By wyson on 21 Feb 2014

oh dear, the phone has a 4.3 inch display, not a 4 inch display as stated in the article.

By wyson on 21 Feb 2014

Looking at it they could have gone edge to edge on the display and reduced the top/bottom edges a bit and got a 4.5" display in a slightly smaller package.

By Jaberwocky on 22 Feb 2014

Annoying known fault

I have one of these. I've been using it now for a couple of weeks. Whilst, in normal use, it's a superb phone, potential buyers need to be warned about a known and as yet uncorrected fault. The screen can be locked with a brief press of the on/off button or will time out after a set period. From time to time the screen will not then unlock. The phone is essentially dead since the screen will not reactivate. The only solution is to do a Hard Reset, which involves simultaneously pressing the on/off button and the volume up button until the phone buzzes. The phone is then off and can be switched on again. At this point you may find that data has been damaged, especially on the external Micro SDHC card. I found several photos I had taken had been destroyed.

By grahamft on 27 Feb 2014

Annoying known fault

I have one of these. I've been using it now for a couple of weeks. Whilst, in normal use, it's a superb phone, potential buyers need to be warned about a known and as yet uncorrected fault. The screen can be locked with a brief press of the on/off button or will time out after a set period. From time to time the screen will not then unlock. The phone is essentially dead since the screen will not reactivate. The only solution is to do a Hard Reset, which involves simultaneously pressing the on/off button and the volume up button until the phone buzzes. The phone is then off and can be switched on again. At this point you may find that data has been damaged, especially on the external Micro SDHC card. I found several photos I had taken had been destroyed.

By grahamft on 27 Feb 2014

Fantastic!

At last somebody has realised not everyone wants to carry a Cinema screen around all the time. And small does not need to mean crap (Galaxy Mini - fail).

But does it do USB-OTG?
My Nexus 4 is superb for me (and can't see why they made the new one even bigger...), but if I plug in a device which needs power, the N4 refuses to work, even if the device is running from an external power supply! It should just put up a warning and not supply power, instead of just not working at all.

My interest is in Multi-track sound recording in as small a device as possible - obviously not counting the Soundcard and it's Inputs!

By Wilbert3 on 27 Feb 2014

More serious problems

Have now had my Z1 compact for over a week now.
There is a wakeup process which is consuming a considerable amount of battery power
The only solution seems to be a Force Stop of the process each time you reboot the phone - but I am not sure even this is working.
Apparently this problem has been fixed in the new KitKat upgrade but that seems to bring its own problems.
http://blogs.sonymobile.com/2014/03/19/new-sony-so
ftware-upgrade-including-android-4-4-kitkat-rolls-
for-xperia-z-ultra-xperia-z1-and-xperia-z1-compact
/

By harry66 on 27 Mar 2014

Leave a comment

You need to Login or Register to comment.

(optional)

Latest Category Reviews
Motorola Moto X (2014) review

Motorola Moto X (2014)

Category: Smartphones
Rating: 5 out of 6
Price: £350
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Category: Smartphones
Rating: 6 out of 6
Price: £348
Samsung Galaxy Alpha review

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Category: Smartphones
Rating: 5 out of 6
Price: £550
BlackBerry Passport review

BlackBerry Passport

Category: Smartphones
Rating: 4 out of 6
Price: £529
Hands on: Nokia Lumia 830 review

Hands on: Nokia Lumia 830

Rating: 4 out of 6
Price: £529
Compare reviews: Smartphones

advertisement

Most Commented Reviews
Latest News Stories Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest Blog Posts Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest Features
Latest Real World Computing

advertisement

Sponsored Links
 

 
SEARCH
Loading
WEB ID
SIGN UP

Your email:

Your password:

remember me

advertisement


Hitwise Top 10 Website 2010
 
 

PCPro-Computing in the Real World Printed from www.pcpro.co.uk

Register to receive our regular email newsletter at http://www.pcpro.co.uk/registration.

The newsletter contains links to our latest PC news, product reviews, features and how-to guides, plus special offers and competitions.