Sony’s re-emergence as an esteemed smartphone brand has been precipitated by the release of a series of superb Android devices under the Xperia name.
But perhaps the one that’s garnered most attention is its Xperia Z1 Compact.
Revealed in January at CES, the device took the concept of ‘mini’ smartphones, but kept in all the good stuff, like a 20.7 megapixel camera, quad-core processor and the ability to withstand a dunking in water.
The Z3 Compact is that handset’s successor (there is no Z2 Compact as this is essentially a smaller version of the flagship Xperia Z3).
How does it measure up to its predecessor? And should you ditch your older Xperia device for this newbie?
Read our full Sony Xperia Z3 review to find out.
First impressions and design
The first thing you notice about the Xperia Z3 Compact is its size.
Compared to the hulking handsets that have become the norm in recent years, this device is a lot more comfortable to use one–handed.
The screen is actually larger than the Z1 Compact, coming in at 4.6–inches compared to 4.3–inches.
That added girth might not seem much, but it actually makes a surprising amount of difference, making the Z3 Compact feel more like a full–sized phone than one that’s meant to be going the other way.
The plastic design mimics other recent Xperia handsets, with a neat, squared-off finish that means it looks the part compared to other, similar–sized but bulkier smartphones.
However, the flaps which cover the microSD slot and USB charging port feel flimsy. After a few months use, we could easily imagine these coming loose.
Android 4.4.4 KitKat keeps things ticking under the hood of the Z3 Compact.
But Sony has added its own design tweaks and software to supplement Google’s platform.
These are largely centred around its special ‘Themes’ which essentially let you tweak colours and menus to suit your ‘style’.
This all feels a touch gimmicky and doesn’t do the sometimes clogged homescreen any favours.
However, Sony’s proprietary services are well worth shouting about.
Aside from its music and video unlimited stores, available through the Walkman and Movies tabs respectively, the big draw here is PS4 Remote Play.
The app comes preinstalled and allows users to connect to their console and play games remotely.
This device is one of only three phones and tablets to be able to do so (the others being the Z3 and Z3 Tablet Compact).
At the time of writing, the service is due to go live in November.
Be aware that in order to play, you’ll need to hook up a Dualshock 4 Controller, ideally using Sony’s special GMC10 mount.
The Big S also advises that users hop onto the same wi-fi network as their PS4, meaning this remains an at-home proposition at present.
Still, it promises much, especially as you can play a different game at the same time your housemate or partner is parked in front of the telly mastering FIFA 15 or Destiny.
As with all top-of-the-line Xperia phones, its rugged, tough phone credentials are a core part of the Z3 Compact's appeal.
It can handle being plunged into water and take drops without the screen smashing or bodywork coming apart.
The Z3 Compact's water-resistant smarts also mean that it can double up as an underwater camera.
And the camera is most definitely worth writing home about.
While it features the same 20.7-megapixel sensor as on the Z1 Compact, it can take pictures with stunning clarity in most conditions.
We used it on a night out down our local and the shots of our pals after a couple of jars were upsettingly detailed.
It can even shoot 4K video, although you’ll need a 4K output in order to see your handiwork in all its glory.
The screen itself is a 720p HD version, belying those ‘compact doesn’t mean mini’ claims.
The Z3 manages to be full 1080p HD and it would be nice if this device was too.
The feature that we love, however, is hi–res audio.
Apple let the side down by not including this in its new iPhone 6 range, but Sony has used its audio nous to deliver big time.
Combined with its support for digital noise cancelling, the Z3 Compact serves up stunning sound which no smartphone we’ve used before can match.
Tunes sound brilliantly detailed and dynamic.
It even upscales lower quality files, which is perfect if you’re conscious of using up all your data while streaming via Spotify.
The Z3 Compact is a doddle to get on with.
Android makes it so and while Xperia Themes add an unneeded level of clutter, smartphone first-timers won’t struggle to get their head around the simple menu structure, well–placed hardware keys and perfect touchscreen.
The Z3 Compact is not a phone without issues.
It’s strange that Sony has made the screen larger when it’s supposed to be a scaled down phone.
And as we mentioned, the display isn’t up to snuff compared to its larger Z3 stablemate.
However, the superb camera, PS4 access and hi–res audio more than make up for it.
The Z3 Compact is a superb Android phone that’s well worth stumping up for.
- Android 4.4
- 4.6-inch Triluminous display
- 20.7-megapixel camera
- 16GB internal storage
- Up to 128GB microSD card support
- Qualcomm quad-core 2.5 GHz processor
- 4G Cat4