Pitched with a smaller screen, it aims to challenge the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2 in the stakes to be king of the baby flagship while being a great option for those who just won't compromise on specs.

It's been upgraded since to the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, but that doesn't mean the lower price and the year-old life are hindrances.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

We liked

The biggest draw of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has to be its flagship power. Packing four cores clocked at 2.2GHz and 2GB RAM into a shell that fits snugly around a 4.3-inch screen is something that can't have been done all that easily, yet all that power pays dividends, allowing for high-end gaming and super fast navigation.

l'm impressed by the Snapdragon 800 chip, bringing great power efficiency and strong 4G performance, and it's put to the best use yet in the Z1 Compact.

Design wise, the smaller Z1 also ticks all the right boxes. Sony has crafted a supremely gorgeous device that sits perfectly in one hand and forgoes all the issues that were found with the five-inch Xperia Z1.

On top of looking decent, the Xperia Z1 Compact's design is also highly functional as it is waterproof; perfect for those that have a habit of dropping phones in the bath.

In well lit situations its photos are second to none, and it packs a wide range of features that aren't available on other handsets. If you have kids, the AR mode will prove invaluable and those who need a decent camera with them for work will be well served by the 20.7MP offering.

We disliked

One of my biggest gripes with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has to be that keyboard. It is far too fiddly, the spacebar in particular isn't long enough and results in every other space being a full stop. For a keyboard based on what is probably the best third-party offering out there it was really disappointing.

The glass construction also proved to be a little frustrating. For those who find having a grubby screen one of the most annoying things in the world, having that problem replicated on the back of the Xperia Z1 Compact will be a massive bugbear.

The rounded edges make things a little chunky-feeling too, but that's largely subjective... the people I showed it to were divided, some thinking that the glass / metal combo was excellent, and some finding it over the top.

Low light photography was also noticeably poor, just as it was on the original Xperia Z1. I'm surprised this hasn't been improved on since the Z1, and would have meant that the Z1 Compact came way out on top of the HTC One M8 and One Mini 2 in terms of indoor and darker photography.

I also really take issue with the Sony subscriptions stuffed on there - Music Unlimited is too poor to warrant being so front and centre, and the Video Unlimited isn't that different from the rest out there, although is a good place to sniff out a movie and excellent if you've got a PlayStation in the living room.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is the perfect device for those who think that some of the leading smartphones are just too big, but still want the best specs on the market.

Those top-end innards crammed into a smaller device means high-end power isn't missing for those with smaller hands, or if you want something more akin to the iPhone 5S.

Sony has addressed a lot of the problems that were found on the original Xperia Z1, and has created a superb handset in doing so. The screen doesn't suffer from the same poor viewing angles the Z1's did, although it will never be able to live up to the size and resolutions that modern flagships pack in.

A lot of focus will also be on the camera, and rightly so. The Xperia Z1 Compact's camera will often leave you wondering what the point of the traditional compact camera is, unless you plan to take a lot of photos inside or at night. It's a shame that potential of this 20.1MP Bionz / Exmor RS sensor isn't fully exploited - I was actually left rather confused as to why it can result in such noisy and muddy pictures.

Were it not for that (and the overbearing services Sony is pushing, which don't really add a lot) this would be an almost perfect phone, especially for a segment crying out for something like this.

But here's the upshot: the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact was the best phone the Japanese company had ever produced - it's been bettered since then with the Z3 Compact, but the bar this raised still remains mostly intact.

It's attacked a segment of the market that's been underloved very well, and done it at an almost-perfect price point.

The Z1 Compact is a phone with the prowess of all that Sony has to offer but in a package a lot of people will love, and as far as mini smartphones go it is only bettered by its successor, the Xperia Z3 Compact.

First reviewed: January 2014