Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, review
When we talk about high-end Android, it is impossible to find a small smartphone. They have been increasing in size every year and it seems that the five inches, and the small variations around that figure, have become the reference. With its advantages and disadvantages, it is a solid standard where only a few dare to go against it.
Sony has decided to get out of that line and go back to a 4-inch format with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. Today we talk about it, our analysis and something equally important: the experience of returning to an Android terminal, powerful and that can be used again with one hand without any problem.
Technical characteristics of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
On paper, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact does not come to discover anything new. Powerful specs we've already seen on many other high-end smartphones that live up to their name: a compact Z1. We are talking about a hardware from last year that although it made its debut in late 2013 in Japan, its passage to the rest of the markets has not helped it to assemble the latest Qualcomm: the Snapdragon 801.
There are small differences, however, such as the fact that it mounts an IPS panel with 720p resolution, which translates into an excellent pixel density although somewhat lower if we compare it with the Sony Xperia Z1. All the current high-end ones go in the direction of 1080p and here the Z1 Compact lowers the step a bit, although it is justified by the screen size.
Nothing really surprising where the difference is made by size. Thus, Sony becomes the brand that takes care of its "mini" flagship. Samsung, LG or HTC have taken advantage of this category to pack more modest specifications at, it should be said, a lower price. However, this Z1 Compact becomes the first small to enter to fight with a lot of giants.
Its 2,300 mAh come to justify a somewhat chubby terminal in thickness. The camera remains intact with respect to the Z1. Serially we will find Android 4.3 Jelly Bean but from the first second we can download the update to 4.4 KitKat and keep it up to date. Now that we've talked about its specs, let's start with the exterior and its design.
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, video analysis
After some years trying different designs, with the Sony Xperia Z the Japanese found the keys to a unique, beautiful and resistant design. It is recognizable and this year the Sony Xperia Z2 validates this visual language. Glass, aluminum, a distribution of buttons that we already know where this time the power button has less prominence.
It is still there, but the thickness gain makes it an element that has less weight in the design and does not stand out as much. A minor detail, such as the slight reduction in size on the physical buttons. The button dedicated to the camera, a detail in which many manufacturers could have a note, has decreased slightly but is still easy to press.
In hand the terminal has a weight-size ratio where the 137 grams are noticeable. It is a matter of taste but it cannot be said to be particularly light. Still the feeling in hand is perfect and really comfortable. The corners have been slightly polished, one of the problems of the Sony Xperia Z1 and the grip is very natural and little suffered.
The glass is still a nice detail, but it is not perfect: it scratches easily and is a finger magnet, although it is true that in lime green, a beautiful color in my opinion, it is less noticeable. However, it is still a mobile that demands a lot of suede so that we leave it very clean and the small spots and finger marks do not affect a really nice terminal.
To gain the dust and water resistance it has, Sony turns to gates to cover the charging microUSB port, microSD card reader, and micro SIM. As in the Z1, the jack is always open but conveniently protected in case any of the mentioned elements enter it.
However, there is something that makes the difference in the whole design and it is the fact of using a four-inch smartphone again. In my case the jump has been remarkable, but it could have been greater. Coming from a Nexus 5 it was not difficult for me to adjust to using such a small terminal again. On the contrary: it has been easy and comfortable to meet again with such a terminal.
Very robust, compact design and where perhaps a little diet would not have hurt. Still we believe that the weight and dimensions are more than justified, for the sake of a battery that never lasts for what we would like. Sony has mastered this section and without making major changes has re-created a terminal that is pleasing to both the eye and the eyes. A great success extending the range of available colors.
Leaving aside the size, we are faced with the most innovative aspect of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. On the one hand, the Japanese abandon TFT technology to opt for an IPS LCD panel. A substantial change that shows that Bravia and Triluminos have not completely looked good to date.
This translates into more vivid colors, an image that doesn't appear washed out (one of the Z1's problems), and an almost full angle of view. High luminance and with very good visibility both indoors in low ambient light and outdoors with many reflections and the sun as the main source.
It is not surprising but the work in this section is very solid. Sony has managed to fix the problems of previous generations and brings us a screen that looks good, with a fairly wide color gamut but is in no way cutting edge. Now we come with another important and somewhat controversial novelty: resolution.
As you already know, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact steps down the step from Full HD to stand at about 720x1280 pixels, which apparently represents a step backwards. I say I suppose because at the moment of truth the 342 pixels per inch show us that more points are not enough, although they are welcome, to enjoy reading.
There is no lack of sharpness and the density is correct and it does not seem necessary to introduce more pixels in a format of these dimensions. Nothing dazzles and everything is appreciated with an excellent degree of detail. Sony has once again demonstrated, like Motorola in its day, that the 720p has a lot of travel in this size.
Make no mistake, in those 4.3 inches we are not going to spend hours and hours watching videos or reading texts. It is the own size of the screen that although it gains in mobility does not encourage us to use it as a multimedia player. It works well in this type of use but it is not its main virtue.
The negative point is put by the frames. Excessively wide both at the thinnest edges, where the colored frame helps camouflage that size, as well as at the bottom and top. It seems that Sony could have pushed the screen further to the limit. Sometimes the panel gets a little small on that body.
In summary, a large screen that comes to claim that there is life beyond Full HD in smaller terminals. The 720p is not only done enough but the combination with the panel give a sum that offers a lot of value. Sony takes a leap forward with which, hopefully, they also learn for future terminals.
Performance and autonomy
In this section we find a known reality and a surprise that more than one will like to read. Let's start with the first thing: performance. As we saw in the technical specifications section, we have nothing that we have not tested at this point.
A very well oiled machine that does not give rise to any type of doubts, let's review the data that it gives in the most popular benchmark systems:
High figures that translate into a fluid experience at all times. The only point where it slackens a bit, yet, is the speed with which the camera launches. Sometimes it suffers from slight delays that are quite uncomfortable when we want to take a quick photo.
Leaving that aside, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact dares with any game and application without any problem. A very good performance but, again, an aspect that is not surprising at this point both because of the dependence and massive use of certain chips and because of how refined the experience is.
The big surprise is the battery. A priori its 2,300 mAh sound little hopeful but after using it daily as the main mobile phone intensively for only one day I had to resort to an external battery to last a couple of hours. In total, more than six hours with the screen on and with a good optimization by the software.
The power saving mode is still present and is still a good addition to scratch the terminal a little longer. It does not overheat when we are using it at full capacity. It works very well and it seems that the upgrade to KitKat has benefited from the autonomy improvements that Google promised us.
The screen should also be highlighted: smaller than the terminals with which we usually make autonomy comparisons and with fewer points to illuminate on the panel. An aspect that has pleasantly surprised me and that makes him win integers.
As we turn on the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact for the first time we will see that by default it comes with Android 4.3. Fortunately, we will be able to update the new version at the moment, something that is appreciated not only for the innovations that KitKat introduces but for the small aesthetic change that Sony introduces.
I have never been a good friend of the Japanese software layer, a touch too much Playstation, but I must admit that updating to the latest great version of Android has helped them polish many aspects and give it a more refined finish: transparencies, bar of notifications and energy controls ... Many hits.
The software is consistent and Sony has done a good job customizing Android. Even so, there are also aspects that do not convince us, such as certain applications that come pre-installed. Xperia Lounge and Xperia VIP help foster the ecosystem of promotions and contests that they have but when it comes down to it they are expendable.
It is a success that some useful things, and that we sometimes forget to install, such as a unit converter, a sound recorder or an office suite come by default. The new themes to add more customization to the software layer are a success and there is already enough variety to choose from, both created by Sony itself and by users.
If there is something that Sony excels in telephony it is undoubtedly the camera. However, in recent years it has lived in a great paradox: they are great builders of sensors, but the processing software left a lot to be desired. Something that has been repeating model after model in the last two years and it seems that with the Z1 Compact they have hit the key.
The 20 megapixel EXMOR RS of the Z1 are maintained but it is very noticeable that Sony has worked on this weak point. The camera now takes great photos that are not crushed by the smartphone's processing. I'm not just talking about seeing the images on the mobile screen, but about taking them to a computer. Great job.
The focus is fast and although it is not perfect, it is a photographic solution to take into account if we do not want to get into more specific terminals such as the Nokia Lumia 1020. The shooting modes remain with respect to the Z1 and the fan is quite large, another question is that at the moment of truth we end up using them. Honestly, the editing applications on Google Play are more interesting.
The front camera offers good performance. Not only are you required to behave well in videoconferencing, but also to be able to allow yourself to make good-quality self-portraits. Sony has corrected its main Achilles heel and now, it shows with note in this section.
The software that comes with the Sony camera app by default is quite varied and offers many effects. However, a good part of this cast are more a technical demonstration of what the sensor and processor give of themselves rather than real effects that we will use many times. Some details like augmented reality are mere curiosities, but others like scanning business cards are really useful.
In this raw photo, we shot from outside in daylight on a storefront window display. With ISO 100 and an aperture of 4.9 focusing on the large bulb we see that it respects the colors and there is only a little noise in the dimly lit areas in the background. The details of the reflection of the bulb are easily seen as well as the filaments inside.
Indoor, raw photo with incandescent ceiling light. With a little more ISO (400) and automatic white balance, we see that the cream details are well captured but there is a little noise in the lighter areas such as the cone and the wall.
See complete gallery »Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (9 photos)
A small among giants, the opinion of Xataka
Sony has more than covered a niche that over time has become empty. Other brands have been increasing the size of their top of ranges and leaving as Minis terminals that the only thing they shared was the name and design. Here they have gone without half measures and have been clear: we offer you the best we have in a smaller size.
The message is clear and the experience of use these days with the Z1 Compact has been excellent. Re-using a terminal of just over four inches far from being a problem has become a very pleasant experience that reminds us that using the mobile with one hand is not impossible if we want the most cutting edge of the moment.
It is not a perfect terminal: the frames are somewhat wide, it is somewhat heavy and there is still room for improvement in other sections. However, it is a fully recommended terminal for all those that the five inches are excessive. This terminal also shows that Sony knows what its weaknesses have been and that it reinforces them to bring us a much more complete terminal. We will not forget about it when the Z2 reaches us.
8,5Design9 screen Performance8.5 Camera8.5 Software8.5 Autonomy9
- Power in a small form factor and very comfortable with one hand
- Improvements to the camera imaging process
- The display, the IPS LCD panel looks great
- Somewhat thick in relation to size
- Fairly wide frames
- Although the glass looks good, it suffers a lot from scratches
The terminal has been loaned for testing by Sony. Can inquire our policy of relationships with enterprises