When Sony released the Xperia Z1 Compact, a non-outsized phone with
specs nearly identical to the flagship Xperia Z1, we hoped it would be
the beginning of a new trend. Large screens might be nice, but users who
prefer something a little easier handle had been left out of the
flagship market altogether. Unlike its "mini" counterparts, the Z1
Compact boasted of a top-end processor and camera, with only the screen
really scaling down to suit the smaller body.
Sony didn't refresh
the Z1 Compact (Review | Pictures) when the Xperia Z2 (Review | Pictures) was released, but thankfully the company
hasn't given up on the idea altogether. After skipping a generation, the
brand new Z3 Compact is here. It's a little less premium and a lot more
expensive than before, which means there isn't much of a gap between it
and its full-fat sibling. We're curious about whether the Z3 Compact
will carry on the mission its predecessor started, or will find a new
niche for itself in the market.
Look and feel
thing that struck us about the Z3 Compact is that it has ditched the
metal frame that stood out so prominently on the Z1 Compact. There's
plastic all around, which gives it a slightly lower-end feel, but the
aesthetics have actually improved. Sony has toned down the colours -
beyond the standard black and white, you can now choose a deep orange or
a pale green instead of the bright pink and yellow.
front and back sandwich a translucent middle band. The corners have the
same shock-absorbing properties as the ones on the new Xperia Z3 (Review | Pictures), but you won't
find any of its slick curved metal. The advantages of this are that the
magnetic dock connector is far better concealed, and the flaps covering
the ports and slots are easier to open. One thing the two siblings do
have in common is that their glass backs are so smooth, they both slide
around on flat surfaces like air hockey pucks.
round silver power button is in its usual place on the right edge, with
the volume rocker right below it. Both are too low to be used easily,
and we wish Sony had placed them more appropriately considering how this
phone will typically be held. There's also a dedicated two-stage camera
shutter button which doubles as a shortcut to launch the camera app
even when the phone is in standby.
There are twin stereo speakers
on the front. Our white review model had clearly visible cutouts for the
front camera and sensors. All the other variants have black front
panels, which we think looks a little better. The Z3 Compact has the
same IP68 rating as its sibling, which means it is resistant to damage
from exposure to dust and liquids. That's always a good thing, but the
tradeoff is that you'll have to deal with the fiddly side flap every
time you need to plug this phone in to charge.
The Z3 Compact is
only a hair bigger than the Z1 Compact was , but it's also nearly a
millimetre thinner. It's light enough to be comfortable, and it isn't
too much of a stretch to use it with one hand. In terms of size, this
phone is a little wider than an iPhone 5s and about the same height, but
its screen occupies more of the front face. Interestingly, the Z3
Compact is smaller than (but not as thin as) the newly announced iPhone
Specifications and software
The list is pretty much
identical to that of the Xperia Z3. Both use the same quad-core Qualcomm
Snapdragon 801 running at 2.5GHz with integrated Adreno 330 graphics
and LTE modem. However, while the Z3 has 3GB of RAM, the Z3 Compact has
only 2GB. 16GB of internal storage and support for 128GB microSD cards
are common to both, along with Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS, and a
full complement of environmental sensors.
The biggest difference
is of course the screens. The Z3 Compact steps down from full-HD to
720x1280. It's a little less crisp in absolute terms of pixels per inch
(ppi), but it still looks very crisp and should be more than enough for
most people. Interestingly, the screen has been bumped up to 4.6-inches
diagonally, from the Z1 Compact's 4.3 inches, without any significant
increase in body size.
As a result of the smaller body and less
power-hungry screen, the Z3 Compact can get by with a 2,600mAh battery
rather than the 3,100mAh required by the Z3. We'll be very interested in
seeing whether this compromises battery life in our tests and in
The camera is the same 20.7-megapixel unit as
the one on the Z3, and is also capable of recording 4K video.
High-resolution audio support and PS4 Remote Play also make their way
over. Nothing has been reserved or made exclusive to the more expensive
model. Considering our excellent impressions of the Z3, these are all
tempting reasons to buy the Z3 Compact instead, and we're glad we get to
choose between the two.
The software is identical to that on the
Z3 - Android 4.4.4 with Sony's rather overbearing UI skin. The two
phones behave identically and their software looks just the same. You
can read all about the software usage experience, including the
unfortunate bloatware and the new camera app modes, in our detailed review of the
Now that Apple has announced its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
with nearly identical specifications, comparisons to the Xperia Z3 and
Z3 Compact are inevitable - no one else offers such similar hardware in
two sizes. However, where Apple has tweaked its software to offer more
options and a richer UI on its larger model's bigger screen, Sony has
just scaled things up and down, pixel for pixel.
you were expecting lower performance than that of the Xperia Z3,
prepare to be surprised. The Z3 Compact actually pulls ahead in a number
of tests - the lower-resolution screen is easier to push, giving the
smaller model an edge in tests that measure graphics performance. The
score of 41.2fps in GFXbench is the highest of any device we've tested
all year, and is comfortably higher than the Z3's score of 29.9fps (and a
decent improvement over the Z1 Compact's 34.9).
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3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test gave us 19,465 points as against the
16,995 that the Z3 managed. AnTuTu 5, which is a mixed test, showed a
lesser advantage to the Z3 Compact with a score of 42,493 compared to
39,441. Quadrant's overall score tipped in favour of the Z3 Compact, but
the CPU and memory sub-scores indicated that the Z3 a clear advantage
in these areas - they just get overshadowed by graphics performance.
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this means that the Z3 Compact will be an excellent device for gaming
on. The experience might not be very immersive, but games will be
smoother and look better. HD videos played perfectly, and the sound from the front stereo speakers was impressively loud, though just a little tinny. This isn't just the most powerful compact
phone on the market - it's one of the most powerful, period.
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performance is also just as good. We couldn't find anything to complain
about in terms of UI responsiveness or app behaviour. This phone was a
total pleasure to use. Call quality was perfectly good, though you have
to make sure you position the tiny earpiece correctly.
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entirely sure how the battery life equation would work out, with a
smaller battery but less demanding screen than the Z3. It turns out we
shouldn't have been worried - the Z3 Compact posted one of our best ever
battery life results with a very impressive 15 hours and 5 minutes of
uninterrupted video playback. You should easily get two or three days of
usage out of every full charge.
We were constantly impressed by
how slowly the battery life percentage reduced, even during demanding
test situations. We charged the phone fully and put it away in storage
one night, only to find it happily kicking back at 99 percent the next
morning. In fact we tested the battery twice, because our initial
finding of 11 hours, 13 minutes (despite being impressive on its own)
didn't adequately bear out our impressions of what we should find.
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were also very happy to note that the Z3 Compact's camera is every bit
as good as the one on the Z3. There's still a lot to discover,
especially since Sony only makes various features available as separate
"camera apps", no matter how useful (or frivolous). Despite the
20.7-megapixel rating, we'd stick with the default 8-megapixel setting
which really is good enough, and makes storage and management easier.
terms of image quality, we were more than happy with the camera's
performance in all conditions. Low-light and video reproduction could
have been a little better, but what we have is still miles ahead of the
competition at this price point.
As you can probably
tell, we are tremendously impressed with the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. If
you've ever wanted a top-end phone but held back because of the sheer
size of the things today, this is easily the one for you. The only thing
working against it is its price - at Rs. 44,990, you might not see much
point in "stepping down" from the Z3, which costs Rs. 51,990. It's also
quite a bit more expensive than other manufactures' full-sized
flagships - the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) included. The
decision truly comes down to just screen size, not budget.
disappoints us a bit, because the Z1 Compact had the same equation with
its bigger sibling yet cost a lot less when it launched, making it a
very attractive proposition. In fact, the Z1 Compact is still available
for around Rs. 29,500 today, which makes it not only one of the best
choices at that price, but also a very compelling reason not to buy the
There isn't much difference between the Z1 Compact and
Z3 Compact - a little CPU speed, LTE support, a few camera tricks, a
marginally smaller screen, and 1mm of width. Despite all its amazing
qualities, the Z3 Compact has a deadly competitor in the form of its own
predecessor. As we noted in our wrap-up of the Xperia Z3 review, it's a
fantastic device when seen on its own, but it really makes its
lower-priced predecessor look even better.
The Xperia Z3 Compact
represents a criminally under-exploited market segment and we're still
waiting for competition to jump in. Maybe the strategy will catch on now
that Apple has adopted it. It's high time that our fixation with huge
screens was reined in, and for now, Sony has the only options in town on
the Android side of the fence.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact in pictures