There is a natural tendency among Android smartphone makers to make their latest flagship smartphone thinner, faster and for some reason larger than the previous generation. If you were in the market looking for a top-end Android smartphone that would easily fit into your hand, there were none. The closest you’d have gotten is the HTC One, which too has a 4.7-inch display. Not exactly comfortable for one-handed use but close enough.
Sony wants to change that and rightfully so. The Xperia Z1 Compact is a top-end Android smartphone with the latest hardware and easily fits in the hand with its 4.3-inch display. Rather than going with the current trend of “mini” smartphones that translates into smaller phones with stripped down features, the Xperia Z1 Compact does not compromise on any features. You essentially get the same hardware as the Xperia Z1 (barring the display) in a much handy form-factor. What’s not to like?
The Xperia Z1 Compact has the trademark Sony Omnibalance design, which essentially means straight lines, glass on the front and rear, an aluminum frame and a big round power button on the edge. If you have seen the Xperia Z1, the Xperia Z1 Compact is a smaller and slightly thicker version.
Like the Xperia Z1, this is also water and dust resistant, so all cavities like micro-SIM, microSD card and micro-USB port come with their covers, which need to be in place to offer protection from water. The phone feels sturdy and true to its name, compact. And the best thing is it fits snugly in the hand, though the flat rear and straight edges can take some time getting used to.
Talking about the industrial design, there are two things that bugged me through the fortnight I used the device. First, the back glass panel is a scratch magnet. It doesn’t seem to have any scratch-proof protection and by the time I ended the review, it was covered with scratches. That’s something I didn’t expect from a smartphone that could take on water and dust. If you buy this phone, do ensure you use a cover or something to protect the back.
Second, whoever came with the idea for the insane SIM card tray? It is essentially a thin rubbery, plastic tray that is not stiff. Not only is fitting the SIM card into it a pain but you can never be sure whether you are inserting it in the right direction. Why do SIM card trays have to be THAT complicated? While most users are unlikely to remove their SIM card till they decide to buy a new phone, the tray drove me nuts.
But beyond the SIM card tray and the scratch-prone rear, the Xperia Z1 Compact turned out to be everything I’d ever wanted in an Android smartphone. Sony has listened to the criticism about the Xperia Z1′s display and we finally have an IPS display with decent viewing angles. It still is far from being the best display in the business but it is certainly something I could live with. The Xperia Z1 Compact has a 4.3-inch 720p display, which gives a pixel density of 342 pixels per inch. While some might crib about it not having a 1080p display, which is the norm for all flagship smartphones, it would have been an overkill on a 4.3-inch display.
Display aside, the Xperia Z1 Compact also features Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. Top-of-the-line specifications that one would expect from a flagship smartphone.
It also has the same 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS sensor equipped 20.7-megapixel camera with a F2.0 G Lens. The performance of the camera seems to have improved over the Xperia Z1 and I could get some great shots without having to resort to the manual mode. However, there is still no consistency in quality and image processing. While some shots turn out great others seem to fall victim to heavy post processing and getting shots with close to actual colors a rarity. While it is great to have a dedicated camera shutter button but it is a bit spongy and induces shake while clicking photos.
But when things go right, the Xperia Z1 Compact does take great shots both with proper depth of field effect and great details when clicked in good lighting conditions. While photos clicked in low-light turn out to be better than most smartphones in this price range, it cannot compete with the Nokia Lumia 1020. While the shots look great on the phone’s display, they have more noise and are duller when viewed on a bigger display.
If one doesn’t consider all the marketing terms Sony loves to throw around that raise a user’s expectations from the camera, the Xperia Z1 Compact has one of the best cameras one can find on Android smartphones. It also impressed me with its overall performance as a phone. The call quality was top notch and I never faced any cellular signal related problems. Considering it has a tiny 4.3-inch 720p display, the 2,300mAh battery easily lasted me an entire day and some more, which is usually not the case with most Android smartphones. Then there is the whole water resistant feature that I truly love and that is one feature every high-end smartphone should have.
The Xperia Z1 Compact fills an important hole left in the Android smartphone world, being a tiny smartphone without compromising on any feature. If, like me, you feel intimidated by the big 5-inch and beyond displays of most flagship smartphones but use them anyway because there are no other high-end phones available, the Xperia Z1 Compact should be on your shopping list. Don’t be fooled by its size, it is worth the Rs 34,990 tag it carries on most online retail stores.
Photos: Harshita Rastogi shot with the Nokia Lumia 1020