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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review: First look

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There’s been plenty of hype in the run-up to the launch of Sony’s latest Xperia model, with so many rumours and leaks that we’ve known more-or-less what to expect. The one thing that’s a bit of a surprise though is the name, it’s not the Xperia Z1S and it’s not the Xperia Z1 Mini. Sony’s miniaturised Xperia Z1 is in fact the Xperia Z1 Compact.

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But the naming convention does sit with the design ethos of the phone. The spec rumours were true, it does sport much the same set of hardware (bar a couple of justified exceptions) as the full-size Xperia Z1. Sony apparently asked consumers about calling the phone the Xperia Z1 Mini and found people associated the term “Mini” with a reduced spec, as has been the case with the HTC One Mini and Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. So the choice of the name “Compact” is as much to signify that the spec has stayed premium as the fact that the chassis has shrunk.

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And from a design perspective, it is quite simply a literal shrinking of the existing build, with the same aluminium surround dividing front and rear glass panels and, of course, that signature round power button. In the hand, the Xperia Z1 Compact feels just as premium, solid and well made as its larger counterpart and of course the smaller scale has meant a reduction in weight (137g) as well as improvements in handling. The Xperia Z1 wasn’t too tricky to operate but the Compact is much easier by a country mile. It fits neatly and comfortably in your palm with the chassis measuring 127x64mm and 9.5mm thick.

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I personally thought the Xperia Z1 looked great with its slightly industrial design, high-grade materials and clean lines, the Xperia Z1 Compact revives all of this good stuff.

The Xperia Z1 Compact also retains the IP55 and IP58 water and dust resistance to ensure it survives a dip in the kitchen sink or a sudden downpour.

The only other significant changes on the exterior include the display size (more on that shortly) and the colour options. You’ve still got your standard black and white variants, but instead of the purple hue we saw on the Xperia Z1, the Xperia Z1 Compact has pink or “lime” shades for those who want a bit of pop.

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As with the full-size Xperia Z1 and its glass back panel, I’ve noticed fingerprints do show up on the Xperia Z1 Compact in my short time with it and, once again, the white coloured variant is the most forgiving in this regard as it’s harder to see them.

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So that display then. This is one of the areas where Sony has reeled the spec in from the regular Xperia Z1. Instead of the Xperia Z1’s 5-inch full HD 1080p display you have a 4.3-inch 720p HD TFT. It’s still using Triluminos tech for enhanced colour and Sony’s X-Reality Engine to give contrast a bit of a boost. A quick calculation on the screen specs pegs the pixel density at a suitably sharp 341 pixels-per-inch (ppi), which just goes to prove Sony’s logical justification that on a screen this size you don’t need a battery draining 1080p resolution and sky high pixel density to get a decent picture. Certainly I found the visuals as impressive as the full-size Xperia Z1 with robust colour, good contrast and a nice clear image overall.

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The non-removable battery is the only other area to get a reduction, understandable given the lack of space, and it’s now a 2,300mAh unit. Time and testing, of course, will tell how this fares on lifespan when we get a review unit at KYM Towers.

Most of my hands-on time with the Xperia Z1 Compact was exposure to the superficial elements – the screen, the looks, the build, the feel and a little bit of the speed swiping between screens or loading apps. Inside it packs the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor we saw in the Xperia Z1, clocked at 2.2GHz with an Adreno 330 GPU plus 2GB of RAM and there’s every indication it gives like-for-like performance. As I found in the Xperia Z1 review, that means things are consistently nice and smooth whatever task you’re doing.

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Another area I didn’t get to test in any significant way at this early stage is the camera, which again is the same 20.7-megapixel BSI Exmor RS sensor harvested from Sony’s imaging division. It features a Sony G Lens, 1080p video recording, an LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, Sony’s BIONZ image processing engine and a whole host of other high-end imaging goodies.

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As with the full-size model, there’s 16GB of onboard space plus microSD support for cards up to 64GB – great news for those with extensive music or film collections. You also get a full suite of connectivity options including 4G/3G, Wi-Fi (plus Hotspot), Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA, GPS, MHL, NFC, microUSB and Miracast.

The software is still Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Sony’s UI on top, which appears more-or-less unchanged and includes a few bespoke treats brought across from the Xperia Z1, such as the ability to broadcast live video streams to your Facebook wall.

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All in all, the Xperia Z1 Compact does exactly what it says on the tin, makes the Xperia Z1 smaller. Pretty much everything that was nice about the Xperia Z1 has been repeated here and for those of us who enjoyed the original model this is great news indeed as it seems to be offering the same excellent design and performance. If you were put off by the Xperia Z1’s proportions but liked the sound of everything else then this has been specifically designed with you in mind.

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