Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review

Time to step out of big brother's shadow?

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Our Verdict

If you are looking for a feature-packed phone that looks fantastic and performs brilliantly, then you'll be very pleased with the Xperia Z3 Compact.


  • Great design and screen
  • Very good battery life
  • Excellent performance


  • Preinstalled Sony apps aren't useful
  • Camera slightly disappointing
  • Camera app prone to crashing

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is one of the latest entrants in Sony's rapidly expanding line of Xperia Z handsets. Though the original Xperia Z was only launched in March 2013, there have since been three main entries into Sony's flagship line (the Xperia Z1, Xperia Z2 and the Xperia Z3) along with tablets and the occasional compact variant.

There's also been a Sony Xperia Z4 announced in Japan, with the handset arriving in the West under the guise of the Sony Xperia Z3+.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is the smaller version of Sony's Xperia Z3 flapship. As has become customary with Sony's compact variants, the Xperia Z3 Compact shares quite a bit of technology with its bigger brother, but is it more than just a shrunk down version?

With a 4.6-inch screen (compared to the Xperia Z3's 5.2-inch) and an original asking price of £429 (around US$630, AU$790) the Xperia Z3 Compact was one of the more expensive mini variants of flagship smartphones. The good news is it's now seen its priced slashed to around £300, $390 SIM-free, making it a rather more attractive option.

It means the Z3 Compact finds itself up against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, Galaxy A7, Moto X and HTC One M8.

Positioning the Xperia Z3 Compact against other companies' flagship handsets - even if they are 2014's high flyers - rather than the pared down mini variants, might seem like a risky move on Sony's part. However while smaller versions of flagship phones have often sacrificed a number of features of their larger brethren, the Xperia Z3 Compact does a very good job of keeping up with the full size Xperia Z3. There are some inevitable compromises, but they have been kept to a minimum.

What's more, with the Z3 Compact having received Android 5.0 via a firmware update, it remains a genuinely valid option even among bigger, newer, faster flagship phones.


The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact takes design cues from the bigger Xperia Z3, along with the Xperia Z devices that have come before, namely in the OmniBalance design.

The idea behind Sony's OmniBalance design is that the Xperia Z3 Compact should be comfortable to hold no matter what you're using the smartphone for, be it taking videos, making calls, playing games and more.

Another tenet of the OmniBalance ethos is that the phone should look great from any angle. From my time with the Xperia Z3 Compact I can certainly vouch for the comfort aspect of the OmniBalance design of the handset.

Sony Xperia Z3 review

Rounded corners soften the stark design

The Xperia Z3 Compact feels comfortable, no matter what the task. Though it has a rather stark look to it, the rounded corners certainly help make it feel nice to hold.

This is helped by the dimensions of the Xperia Z3 Compact. Though there's nothing particularly compact about its 4.6-inch display, the thin bezels around the screen don't just make the body look good, but also keep the dimensions down to 127 x 64.9 x 8.6mm.

The smaller size of the screen and body of the Xperia Z3 Compact is one of the areas in which the Compact may have an advantage over its bigger sibling, depending on your preferences for the size of your smartphone.

While 5-inch and above smartphones are certainly growing in popularity, with Apple being particularly pleased with the reception its 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus has received, not everyone will be comfortable with the Xperia Z3's 5.2-inch screen and 146 x 72 x 7.3mm dimensions.

Sony Xperia Z3 review

Although phablets have become the norm, but many will welcome a smaller frame

By offering a very similar experience but with a smaller form factor, the Xperia Z3 Compact could find a receptive audience with those who haven't been swayed with the phablet craze.

I certainly didn't have any trouble reaching each corner of the screen with the thumb of the hand I was holding the Xperia Z3 Compact in. Helping with the comfort, the Xperia Z3 compact weighs just 129g with a thickness of 8.6mm.

While the comfort of the Xperia Z3 Compact is pretty evident, aesthetics are far more subjective. To my eye, however, the Xperia Z3 Compact again impresses. It manages to be minimal without looking plain, with Gorilla Glass covering the front and back, giving it an attractive look.

Around the edge of the Xperia Z3 Compact is a translucent plastic surround. While it helps cushion impacts if you drop the Z3 Compact, it also gives the phone a frosted look that works very well.

Sony Xperia Z3 review

Ports are sealed to make the Z3 Compact waterproof

As with previous entrants in the Xperia Z line, the Z3 Compact is dust and waterproof, with IP65 and IP68 ratings, which among other things means it can be submerged in up to 1.5m of fresh water for 30 minutes.

This means that most ports are hidden under plastic covers. While it might prove to be a mild annoyance to have to remove the plastic cover every time you want to charge the Xperia Z3 compact, you'll probably be glad of it if you ever drop the phone in the bath or the loo. The covers also help give the body a much tidier look.

One port that doesn't need to be covered to be waterproof is the headphone jack, which is convenient while not compromising the waterproof nature of the Xperia Z3 Compact. However, we're starting to see opened charging ports for water resistant phones, which would have been great here.

Sony Xperia Z3 review

The headphone port is conveniently open

Button placement on the Xperia Z3 Compact is the same as on the full-size Xperia Z3. While the power button's location in the middle of the right-hand side is a welcome relief for users of the larger Xperia Z3 who don't have to stretch to the top side of the phone's body, with the smaller Z3 Compact the placement doesn't feel quite so essential.

However, the power button, along with the volume controls and the camera button below it, are all comfortable to reach. Though they don't protrude much from the phone's body, they still feel responsive with a satisfying click when pressed.

The Xperia Z3 Compact comes in four different colours: white, black, orange and green. During several test spells the TechRadar team has used the green, white, and black versions, and all looked very good. The orange and green versions share the same black front as the black version, while the white variant is white all over.

The design of the Xperia Z3 Compact isn't perfect, however, with the screen being a veritable magnet for fingerprints. I was often wiping the screen to rid it of paw marks, and though it's not a major issue in the grand scheme of things, it's never nice to have a touchscreen that makes you feel guilty about laying a finger on it.

Also while Sony's ability to cram a lot of power into a relatively small device should be applauded, the Xperia Z3 Compact has a habit of getting very hot during medium to heavy use. An hour of browsing the internet over Wi-Fi made the body quite warm to touch.

A few minutes of using the camera along with some of its more intensive video modes again heats the Xperia Z3 Compact up and can cause the camera app to shut down unexpectedly. Indeed, Sony even pops up a warning when you switch to 4K video mode warning you as much.