• Paul Fingleton

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact: Review

Can the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact live up to its larger sibling?


Are you a middle child? Have you had to constantly live in your older sibling's shadow? At school, the teachers would always measure you against their performance; At home, your parents would always ask why you couldn't be more like them.


That is the feeling that we initially had with the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact as we began testing it just after reviewing the Sony Xperia XZ1: "Oh, do you do it that way?", "I preferred the way it went on the XZ1". Then we realised that the Xperia XZ1 Compact is plenty good in its own right and didn't deserve to be reviewed in the shadow of it's larger twin.


You see, with the Xperia XZ1 Compact, Sony is not releasing a cut-down version of a flagship phone several months after it released. The XZ1 Compact continues a trend that Sony has been creating with recent handsets - a larger full-featured handset and a slightly smaller handset with almost identical features.


Clearly, this does not cannibalise their market, as they continue to do so. Some of us do not like the larger handset and prefer a more pocket-friendly, in every sense of the word, smartphone. The Xperia XZ1 Compact retails for at least €100 less than it's sibling.


Changes

When we say almost identical features, that is not to say that the XZ1 Compact is nerfed in any great fashion, just small changes are made in order to make it more affordable.


  • The 5.2-inch 1080p screen is replaced with a 4.6-inch 720p screen - the screen is still extremely clear, with lovely deep blacks and vivid colours, just a little smaller.

  • The front camera drops from a huge 13-megapixel camera to a still excellent 8-megapixel shooter, yet still has 120-degree viewing angle to get everyone into those selfies.

  • The LTE wireless drops from 1Gbps (CAT16) to 800Mbps (CAT15), but in the real world, you may never have gotten 1Gbps anyway.

  • The metal casing is exchanged for a polycarbonate shell.


Strong Contender

Enough about what is different, let's mark what is great about the Xperia XZ1.


Almost all that was good about the Xperia XZ1 is present here in the Xperia XZ1 compact. The CPU, RAM and Battery size are identical between the handsets, so performance in the phone is exactly as snappy as it was for the full XZ1. The latest applications and games will run with nary a drop in performance, even when using the split-screen functions of Android Oreo.


The rear camera is outstanding, it takes excellent photographs and so much thought has gone into the camera experience that it makes the Xperia XZ1 Compact an excellent contender to replace the point-and-shoot camera that you might be using.


The 19-megapixel rear camera with Sony's Motion Eye technology is excellent at taking pictures in most common scenarios, with very deep colours during various daylight conditions and a good performer in low light conditions. The macro performance of the camera is almost second-to-none.


The smaller screen is just not as great as it's full-size sibling for viewing those photos - it's still very good, but we were spoiled to test the XZ1 first.


The 3D scanning functionality is present in the XZ1 compact also extremely quick to allow you to scan and sculpt your 3D models of objects and faces that you can later import into any 3D program, use as a fancy wallpaper or even 3D print. The process is so quick to create in real-time what previously would have taken dedicated rigs to accomplish. It is an astounding tech, that we are flabbergasted by, but also wonder of its practical applications or how many times we would return to it in a consumer world.


Let's not forget that this is a phone. Phone. Remember, the devices that we use to call people and talk to them. When it comes to call quality, the XZ1 Compact has the same pin-sharp sound quality that we came to expect from the XZ1.


Battery / Power The strange thing was that on the first day that we used the XZ1 Compact, we were sure that there was something wrong with the battery. It drained really quickly and had to be charged during the day to top it up.


We thought that perhaps the great battery from the XZ1 had been replaced by a smaller unit to save on size. However, we were wrong. The battery has exactly the same 2,700mAh as the XZ1 and the same Stamina smart power usage tech. It was after that second top-up and when we had stopped fiddling and installing apps and updates that the battery shone - easily giving a full-day performance and having some to spare when you get home.


Watching a two-hour full-HD Movie from Google Play, streaming over 4G Network, we had only used about 35% of the battery. Handy for the long commute, that's for sure. Our only complaint with this test was that we tested with Ghostbusters (2016) and we can't get those two hours back - although, that's really not the fault of the handset.




Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 makes it easy to get back up and running, as you can get hours of power in just a few minutes charging.


Rainproof Surfing

The device is listed as IP65/68, meaning that it is water resistant and protected against dust, so don’t worry if you get caught in the rain or want to wash off dirt under the faucet water. Although be sure that all ports and attached covers are firmly closed. It is nice not to have to worry about standing waiting for a train or bus in the rain and taking the phone out to kill some time or see how long you have to wait for the next train to come along.


It is a small item on the list of features, but it shows the thought that has gone into this family of devices. They are phones to be used and phones that you will enjoy using.


Summary We were a little hesitant when starting out with the Xperia XZ1 Compact that a smaller handset could pack the same punch as the full-size XZ1. We were wrong and had to lay our prejudices aside. The slightly smaller screen and selfie camera are only an issue if you are coming directly from the larger phone.


The XZ1 compact is a great little handset, easy to use without stretching, with plenty of speed, memory and power to keep you connected all-day long. The camera and photography experience of the XZ1 Compact, as with it's larger sibling, are very well thought out and a simple experience - we would almost say that it is a joy to use as a dedicated camera.


It is wrong to keep comparing the Xperia XZ1 Compact with the XZ1. The Xperia XZ1 Compact is an excellent phone with much to recommend in its own right, but when the two handsets appear together and the larger one has that slight edge, we are drawn to the full XZ1 for the best experience.

We Liked

  • Internals - CPU, RAM, battery and rear-camera from the larger XZ1 handset in the smaller form factor.

  • Buttons - As with the XZ1: a dedicated camera button and excellent fingerprint sensor location.

  • Camera Experience - we probably harped on about this too much, but as a point-and-shoot camera, the Xperia XZ1 compact is excellent.

  • Headphone Socket - Using your own headphones is becoming a luxury today, as some manufacturers are dropping the socket in favour of wireless. It is strange that a once-standard feature becomes a positive about new handsets.

We Disliked

  • Smudge Magnet - the polycarbonate (plastic) body that replaces the metal XZ1 body is a bit of a fingerprint magnet.

  • Smaller Screen - at 4.6-inch, 720p, it's perfectly useable. The colours and black depths are amazing. It can just feel a little cramped if you are moving down from a larger phone.

The Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact is available SIM-free for €599 from Sony Mobile, €549 on pay as you go and from Free (depending on your mobile phone plan) from various mobile phone operators.

Disclaimer: We received a review XZ1 Compact handset from Sony Mobile for the duration of this review period

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