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Full Review

 Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review

Now that handsets are getting bigger – with screens measuring up to six inches – the makers have realised that they can offer similar hardware in a smaller package. HTC, LG and Samsung are among the competition but Sony got off to a roaring start with its Xperia Z1 Compact. Now it returns with its Z3 Compact, a medium-sized handset that aims to cram all that is good about the Xperia Z3 into a neater device.

First impressions

This is a surprisingly small phone. It has a 4.6in display (fractionally smaller than the iPhone 6) and yet when you hold it, it feels far smaller. It is a tad narrower than Apple’s iPhone, but a bit thicker (although it still measures up at 8.6mm). That’s because there is less space wasted around the screen. The result is that it is a good 12mm shorter than the iPhone 6 and yet weighs in a 129g – exactly the same weight.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review - Design

Sony has brought back its Omnibalance design here, with its squared edges, large power button sitting on the right, waterproof capabilities and a glass back and front.

The slots for micro USB and micro SD are both covered by flaps, and the headphone jack remains waterproof even though it doesn’t have this protection. There’s a pair of front-facing speakers plus a snapper button.

It’s a shame that Sony has seen fit to get rid of the metal body and replaced it with a plastic one, but it still feels like a quality product, and is far better looking than the LG and Samsung plastic covered handsets.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review - Ports

The one thing we don’t like about the design is that the glass back proves rather slippery. Despite the fact that it feels good in the hand, it’s apt to slide off surfaces – it fell off our couch, an admittedly wonky pile of magazines and a leather wallet.

Display

The screen measures 4.6ins, has a resolution of 720 x 1280, and offers 319 ppi – not quite up there with the iPhone 6. However, increased pixel density doesn’t always equate to a better picture and Sony has carefully weighed up the benefits of more pixels or better battery life (see more about that below).

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review - Display

The image is still clear and sharp, although colours do seem cooler – we found that whites were affected by a sight blue tinge. However, it is really only noticeable if you are comparing it with another phone next to it that has warmer colours – such as the iPhone 6.

Of course games and films are going to look better on the Z3, with its bigger screen and higher resolution, but the Compact still does a great job of offering a high-end visual experience on a medium-sized handset.

Performance and software

The Compact is on a par with its bigger brother the Z3, featuring the same 2.5GHz quad-core chip under the hood (Qualcom’s Snapdragon 801) along with Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The OS has Sony’s own UI overlaid.

It both looks good and offers a top user experience. The only place where it differs is the RAM – 2GB compared with the Z3’s 3GB. They both have the same storage – 16GB, which can be expanded by 128GB using a microSD card.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact - Software and Performance

The user interface is not always user friendly – for instance, go to look at a photo and it will ask if you want to use a standard Android viewing app or Sony’s own. The same happens when viewing videos.

Performance wise, it has been excellent – no app crashes, slow downs or unexpected closures. And battery life is extraordinary. Most phones these days need to be charged at night, but both of the Z3s managed to get through a full two days of average to heavy use without dying on us. For instance, we saw a 10% drop in battery charge every hour that we watched Netflix using Wi-Fi.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact - Android Software

To help improve battery life even more, switch to Stamina mode, which turns off mobile data and Wi-Fi and stops apps running in the background. There’s also an Ultra Stamina mode, which allows the phone to only send text and make calls – it can continue for two weeks on standby in this mode.

Snapper

The camera is a 20.7MP model, offering 4K video, and numerous shooting options – you can even place virtual dinosaurs in your image – what’s not to like?

The megapixel count is the same as its bigger brother – and better than the camera on plenty of Android handsets, and the Phone 6. Of course it can’t match up to the 41MP behemoth on the Lumia 1020, but neither can anything else.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review - Camera

There’s a complete manual mode which should allow keen photographers plenty of tweaking – timeshift video recording, white balance, panoramic images and augmented reality effects are just some of the things on offer. Results are impressive.

On the Z2, the 4K video recording resulted in the handset overheating and the camera app closing – and in fact on the Compact we got a warning stating that if the phone got too hot the app would close. However, we recorded video for more than nine minutes and the phone was hot on the back. But that was it. Compare this to the Z2, which overheated before we had been recording for two minutes.

Our conclusion

Neat and nifty, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact offers top performance, an excellent snapper and lovely new software, as well as a good, easy-to-hold design, decent build quality and waterproof abilities. It offers a flagship handset experience in a mid-tier device. If you don’t want a huge phone, this is the answer.

There are some downsides – the body is not all-metal, there is less RAM and the display is not Full HD – but despite this, we think Sony has given us one of the best handsets this year – made for consumers who want a top phone that will easily slip into a pocket.

Specifications

Specifications

Dimensions: 131.1 x 64.8 x 9.1mm

Weight: 129 grams

Screen size: 4.6” IPS LCD display

Screen Resolution: 720 x 1280 pixels

Pixels Per Inch (PPI): 319

Processor: 2.5GHz Quad core processor

RAM: 2 GB

On-board Memory: 16GB (microSD support)

Camera: 20.7 mega-pixel rear camera with 4K video recording, 2.2 megapixel front-facing

Operating system: Android KitKat

3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes

Bluetooth / NFC: Yes/ Yes

Battery capacity: 2600mAh 

Colours: Black, White, Green and Red

Launch Date: Autumn 2014

Price: £429 SIM-free

 

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