Sony Xperia Z1 Compact puts top-end specs into a 4.3-inch body (hands-on)

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact takes the supercharged processor and 20-megapixel camera of its big brother, but packs it into a more pocketable 4.3-inch, waterproof body.

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Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
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Andrew Lanxon
4 min read

Sony is jumping on the bandwagon of making smaller, more pocketable versions of flagship phones, much as we've already seen from Samsung and HTC. Unlike its rivals however, Sony seems to be doing the mini phone right.

The Xperia Z1 Compact packs the same waterproof, metal and glass design, supercharged quad-core processor, 4G LTE connectivity and 20-megapixel camera as the top-end Xperia Z1, but shrinks the screen down to a much more manageable 4.3-inches.

While the HTC One Mini and Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini both bear the names of their elitist brethren, both models actually come with considerably watered down specs that won't keep hardcore tech fans happy. The Z1 Compact provides cutting-edge tech without forcing you to have a phone so big you can camp under it.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is due to go on sale in the UK and wider Europe in the middle of February, but Sony hasn't yet stated if it will make its way to the US. It also hasn't said how much it will be, but did suggest that its similar specs to the Z1 indicates a similar price -- expect it to be somewhere between £400 and £450.


Size aside, the Z1 compact is almost identical to its bigger brother. It has the same all-glass front and back, with the one-piece aluminium band running around the edge. The same chunky power button pokes out of the side and there's a dedicated camera shutter button below.

The power-packed, pocketable Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (photos)

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The Compact will be available in a host of bright colours, including hot pink and a rather vibrant lime green. They might not be to everyone's tastes, but they certainly stand out from the crowd. If colours aren't your thing, you can pick it up in white or black instead.

Like the Z1, the Compact is waterproof to a depth of one metre for up to 30 minutes. Not only can you drop it in the bath or spill a drink on it without worry, you can dive into the chilly sea and happily snap away at the jellyfish that live within. The camera shutter button means you don't need to tap on the display to take a photo -- which won't be able to register your finger underwater.

The Z1 compact has slimmer bezels than the standard Z1, which helps maximise screen size, without bulging out the phone's body. I found it much easier to hold in one hand and it shouldn't embarrassingly bulge out your pocket when it's in your jeans.

It comes with 16GB of internal storage as standard, but you can find a micro SD card slot under a waterproof flap, allowing you to expand the space to fit all your music and photos.


The Compact packs a 720p display, which is a step down from the Full HD of its brother, but the smaller screen size means it doesn't need as many pixels to remain sharp. Indeed, it has a pixel density of 340 pixels per inch, which is a step above the 326ppi of the iPhone 5 -- and you'd have to be in a pretty foul mood to call that low resolution.

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In my hands on time, I couldn't really tell much difference in sharpness and clarity against the Compact and the standard Z1. The Compact's screen also seemed marginally brighter, which should help if you're using it under bright office lights or glaring sunshine. I'll reserve my full judgement on this for the full review though.

Software and processor

It'll arrive sporting the last but one version of Android, known as 4.3 Jelly Bean. At the time of writing, Sony wasn't able to give a firm word on when the compact, or indeed the full-sized Z1 would see an update to the latest 4.4 KitKat, but suggested that it will be coming at some point.

The software looks identical to the interface on the Z1, with the same customisable app tray layout and Sony-made image and video galleries. While I'm not keen on the custom galleries -- which I find to be a little more clunky to use than the stock Android one -- the rest of the interface is simple enough and won't challenge existing Android users.

Unlike other miniaturised versions of top end phones, the Z1 Compact comes with the same supercharged processor as its larger sibling, rather than a weaker, cheaper chip. It's a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor that, in my time with the Z1, proved to be blisteringly fast.

I haven't been able to put the Compact through its paces yet, but I'm expecting similarly impressive results and am confident that it will easily outperform the HTC One mini and Galaxy S4 mini.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Compact also crams in the same 20.7-megapixel camera from the Z1. I found the Z1's camera to be capable of capturing some great shots, and with exactly the same sensor and optics, I expect the Compact to achieve similar results.


Sony has done with its mini phone what we hoped other manufacturers would do with theirs -- shrink the size of the flagship, but keep the elite lineup of specs. Mix in the waterproof, attractive design and Sony might well have a top-end Android phone for those of you who don't want their pockets stretched out by 5-inch goliaths.