There’s a lot to like about a smaller form factor smartphone with all the power, features and hardware of the larger flagships, especially when that smartphone is the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. While the device isn’t significantly upgraded over the Z1 Compact that was released earlier this year, it still comes with the same great hardware as the Xperia Z3 in a portable and easy to use chassis.
I was a little disappointed that Sony didn’t bother to give the Compact the same beautiful aluminium body as the upgraded Xperia Z3, but the functional design is still reasonably attractive and ergonomic. It’s always nice to have the peace of mind of water resistance, and although the necessary flap over the USB port can be annoying, the magnetic charging connector comes in handy.
The Compact’s 4.6-inch display is easily the best I’ve seen of this size and class. Yes, it’s only 720p so you don’t get the same crispness and clarity of the Z3’s 1080p panel, but who cares? You get better performance and battery life from not having to render as many pixels, and the display’s quality is simply awesome. It has all the fantastic characteristics of the Z3’s IPS LCD at a size that is easier to use, which is in keeping with the Compact’s name.
Performance is once again nothing to snort at considering it’s packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC, though it’s also nothing we haven’t seen before. The top-end speed of this handset is outshone by its battery life, which is awesome. Sony claims this device is good for two days of life and it delivers with ease, especially if you enable the battery saving modes. I didn’t worry about having to charge the Compact every night, and you shouldn’t either.
Most of my concerns with the handset are related to the software. Sony’s Android 4.4 offering is bland and outdated, adding in a few cool features for those of you well entrenched in the Sony ecosystem (like PS4 Remote Play), but mostly just piling in the bloatware. The camera app suffers the most, hindering the hardware by restricting features to certain shooting modes and using a difficult to navigate interface.
The camera itself is actually pretty decent, being capable of great photos in the best of conditions. No optical image stabilization and some less-than-ideal processing in poor lighting keeps this camera from consistently reaching its maximum potential, although I’m sure people will like the wealth of shooting modes including 4K video recording.
While the Xperia Z3 Compact is a very good device in its own right, it also succeeds because the lack of competition. At this stage I’d discount the Galaxy Alpha from the race, essentially leaving just the Z3 Compact and iPhone 6 as the main high-end competitors with smaller displays. The iPhone is actually larger than the Z3 Compact, and while it features a nicer build and better hardware in some cases, iOS will be a turn off for those wanting to stay (or join) the Android ecosystem.
So if you’re in the market for a compact Android device that doesn’t sacrifice on specs, get the Xperia Z3 Compact. It doesn’t just win by default: it’s actually a really good device.
Pros: Awesome battery life complements high-end performance. The compact, waterproof design makes the device easy to operate. Top-notch 4.6-inch display is awesome from all angles. Familiar camera hardware is still pretty decent.
Cons: Software needs a bit of work, especially the restrictive camera app. Sony didn’t use the sexy aluminium design of the Xperia Z3.