Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Is the solution to the Z1 conundrum to make it smaller?

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One of the first things most will do when checking out a phone is have a look at the spec list. I know that specification lists only tell half the story of a handset, but this is a half that Sony has given a lot of thought to.

The power

One of the biggest things that stands out on the spec sheet is the Z1 Compact comes with flagship-sized insides. Sony has kept the same Snapdragon 800 SoC that packs a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU and Adreno 330 GP, as well as the 2GB RAM that keeps it all running smoothly.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

This puts it on par with the likes of the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, not just the Mini versions of these devices - and at a price that's not too dissimilar either. Both these market-leading flagship alternatives come with 2GB RAM and quad-core CPUs clocked at 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz respectively.

It also means that the Xperia Z1 Compact comes more impressively specced than the Mini rivals it sits alongside. Both the Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2 are equipped with 1.5GB and 1GB of RAM respectively. Though the Galaxy S5 Mini has a quad-core processor, it's only clocked at 1.4GHz, quite a bit lower than the older Xperia Z1.

The camera

Sony has given the Xperia Z1 Compact the same camera technology from the original Xperia Z1; namely the goliath 20.7MP sensor and the G Lens.

While it may not match up to the same 41MP that is found within the Windows Phone-toting Nokia Lumia 1020, it is one of the most advanced sensors found in Android handsets.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

This dwarfs the sensors that are found in the HTC One M8 which comes with four 'UltraPixels', as well as the 16MP and 8MP sensors that are found in the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Mini.

The most impressive thing here is how all these specs have been left largely untouched and yet still squashed into a smaller frame than the full flagships of the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, meaning that the Xperia Z1 Compact sits incredibly nicely in the pocket and even more comfortably in the hand.

That same frame is also built out of metal and glass, that while adding a noticeable heft also allows the Xperia Z1 Compact to feel high end, even allowing it to retain the same waterproof nature of its bigger brother.

Using the phone in the bath has never been so simple.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The interface

Being a Sony handset also means the Z1 Compact comes loaded with Sony's Android UI, giving it some tweaks from the standard Android UI that graces the Google Nexus 5, as well as giving it a completely different feel from Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense.

Sony's Android UI is something that's worth looking at - it's a stripped down version of the heavier skins of the rivals and will please those looking for a more sleek version of Android while still enjoying some tweakery.

That said, there's still a lot of emphasis on Sony products when you turn on the phone, with the likes of Video and Music Unlimited being rammed down your throat as 'Recommended' content and the main media apps front and centre.

Sony's media offerings are decent enough, but they're not real USPs at this time, with things like Music Unlimited a poor alternative to Spotify, meaning you'll have to head out into the Play Store to update these after purchase in some instances.

Sony's Video Unlimited section, for instance, allows the purchase and streaming of movies without needing to sign up to a monthly subscription in much the same way as Tesco's BlinkBox service.

Peer beyond the extra apps though and you're greeted with a phone that's really got a lot of power in a small package without being too obtrusive - and that's going to appeal to a lot of people.


Phones and Tablets Editor

Gareth (Twitter, Google+) has been part of the mobile phone industry from the era of the brick to the tiny device in the pocket... and now watching them grow back up to behemothic proportions once more. He's spent five years dissecting all the top phones in the world as TechRadar's Phones and Tablets Editor, and still can't resist answering the dreaded question - "which new phone should I get?" - with 15 choices.