When Sony released the Xperia Z1 Compact last year it was a breath of fresh air in a mobile industry that typically throws second rate hardware into the ‘mini’ versions of smartphones leaving those lusting after a premium quality, smaller sized handset in the cold.
The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact continues in that vein offering a near like-for-like spec sheet with its larger brother the Xperia Z3 which just happens to be our current favourite smartphone. The two phones are so similar in fact that you may have to forgive the constant reference back to our review of the full sized Z3 because it just makes sense to speak of the Z3 Compact as a small Z3.
With the full weight of expectation on its shoulders we unboxed the Xperia Z3 Compact to find out just how good the baby of the Z3 family really is.
As dust and water resistant as its big brother the Z3 proper, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact definitely loses out in the design stakes when compared to the rest of the range. Gone is the aluminium frame replaced instead with an opaque plastic frame that houses the front and back covering glass.
The power, volume and camera shutter buttons sit in a line on the right hand side of the phone while the left houses the two waterproof flaps that conceal the nano SIM slot under the one, and the microSD and microUSB charging ports under the other.
Small bezels and a thin ‘forehead’ and ‘chin’ make for a very small footprint and one of the last truly one-hand-usable smartphones. Polycarbonate corner inserts that soften the impact of a drop on the frame’s edges are present in the Xperia Z3 Compact as they are in the full sized Z3.
In the end while the cost of the Z3 Compact is less than that of its big brother the removal of the premium looking and feeling aluminium frame is a real shame.
Sony has thrown all but the kitchen sink into the Xperia Z3 family and the Compact is no different with a quad core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor paired to 2GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage.
Sony’s excellent 20.7 megapixel camera with its 4k recording capability give serious cred to the imaging capability of the Xperia Z3 Compact but the disappointingly low resolution720p display lets down the look of the pictures on the Z3 Compact itself.
A much larger than expected 2 600mAh battery is included along with the holy trinity of wireless communication in LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and dual band 802.11ac WiFi rounding out the spec list.
Currently the Xperia Z3 Compact runs on Android 4.4.4 but an update to the new Android 5.0 is already in the pipeline for sometime early next year. We continue to enjoy using Sony’s customised version of Android and, as with the Xperia Z3, we really can only really level hatred towards the ‘What’s New’ app and its shortcut which continue to remain pointless to us.
At 4.6inches the display in the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact falls just one decimal point shy of the size of the iPhone 6’s new, larger-than-ever display. They both use IPS LCD technology making for fantastic colour reproduction both in doors and outside with brilliant viewing angles to boot.
Where Sony loses out though with such a small display is in the fact that its on-screen action buttons and menu bar take away precious pixels from the usable display area meaning that the actual display feels drastically smaller than that of the iPhone 6. With only 720×1 280 pixels on the display it really can’t afford to sacrifice many of them and perhaps a resolution bump in the next iteration of the Compact series of Xperia phones may go some way to alleviating this problem.
On the plus side it is one-hand-usable making it the logical choice for those left disgruntled by the lack of options with the particular box checked in the premium Android smartphone space.
Since the camera is identical in the Xperia Z3 Compact to that of the Xperia Z3 we’re not going to go over all of the minutia again. Suffice to say that it takes incredible pics in the full brightness of the African sun – or any reasonably well lit room for that matter – while eking out new levels of performance in low light thanks to the new lenses and higher ISO rating.
This is often make-or-break time for most of the smartphones that we review. Considering its small frame the Xperia Z3 Compact actually packs quite a large 2 600mAh battery pack into its frame which, when combined with the relatively low resolution of the display, makes for epic battery life.
It even managed to outperform its big brother on our battery run down tests and was more often than not still packing some juice away at the end of a long day out and about with us.
Once again Sony’s battery saving software wins the day here with its granular control over what exactly is allowed to chow down on your battery life.
If you’re in the market for a small Android smartphone that doesn’t skimp on the specs then there is simply no question that the Xperia Z3 Compact is the only choice in that category that you should even consider.
It’s not as premium a smartphone as the full size Xperia Z3 is and the relatively small display size makes for some problems with usable display area but it’s battery life, camera performance and price all make for one incredibly good smartphone.
Price: R6 800
Display: 4.6 inch, 720×1 280 resolution IPS LCD display (319ppi)
Operating System: Android 4.4.4
Processor: 2.5GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
Memory: 2GB of RAM
Storage: 16GB expandable by up to 128GB with a microSD card
Battery: 2 600mAh non-replaceable battery
Camera: 20.7 megapixel camera
Networking: 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE
Other: IP68 certified dust proof and water-resistant at depths over 1 meter for 30 minutes