Lately, it's been all the rage for Android smartphone manufacturers to introduce 'mini' versions of their flagship smartphones, with corresponding mini specs. Quad-core CPUs go to dual-core, RAM shrinks, flash storage often shrinks, the camera gets replaced - you get the idea. Sony's new Xperia Z1 Compact bucks the trend by using almost all the same components as its bigger brother.
Sony has decided to follow in the footsteps of other smartphone providers and offer a smaller version of its flagship phone in the form of the Xperia Z1 Compact. Unlike other manufacturers, however, Sony's accomplished this feat with few, if any, downsides.
Despite being hit with a shrink ray, almost everything else is the same as the bigger Xperia Z1: the amazing 20.7MP rear-facing camera, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, 2GB of RAM and even Sony's trendsetting water and dust resistance..
This phone deserves to be praised for its fantastic design, which lets you know from first glance that it's a premium device. In what is becoming typical for Sony's compact flagships, the Xperia Z1 Compact looks almost identical to the Xperia Z1, but comes in a variety of vivacious colors (yellow, green, pink, etc.). The front cover is entirely made of tempered glass, while the back is carved out of polycarbonate (the Xperia Z1's back is made of 'real' glass).
Since the plastic back is polished to look like glass, it quickly becomes a fingerprint magnet.
The smartphone's edge and frame are aluminum, while the rubber covers of various slots and hubs are waterproof on this Sony model, just like with the larger flagship phone. This is a rather important aspect of Sony's high-end Xperia series models and is surely one of the phone's most compelling features.
In relation to the bigger model, Sony's compact flagship has put on a little weight, with its thickness measuring 9.5 millimeters (0.37 inches) instead of 8.5 millimeters (0.33 inches); yet it still manages to look both elegant and robust. Being 65 millimeters wide (2.56 inches) and 127 millimeters tall (5 inches), the phone lends itself well to one-handed use.
There is a three-color (RGB) notification light at the very top of the smartphone's face, along with the standard proximity and ambient light sensors, and a 2.1-megapixel, front-facing camera. The back cover is permanently secured to the device, meaning the battery cannot be changed. It only features a camera, an LED flash and the Sony, Xperia and NFC logos.
The left edge includes the Power button, volume control and the camera shutter (which also turns it on), while the right side holds the microUSB hub, microSD and microSIM card slots, along with docking pogo pins. The device's top side includes a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack while the bottom side holds a perforation for the speakers and a tiny hole on its very right edge intended for a strap that comes in handy so that the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact can be worn around the wrist or neck.
A smaller display diagonal includes smaller resolution, of course, but not smaller pixel density. Thus, Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact comes with a 4.3-inch, 1280x720 "TRILUMINOS" screen, resulting in pixel density of 342ppi. This fact makes screen imaging on the compact flagship equal to that of the 'real' Sony flagship model. The above average sharpness makes individual pixels impossible to see with the naked eye, not even when running tests like the animation of sloped lines while altering the viewing angle - a situation which is common with screens of smaller pixel density that, ultimately, 'fail' the sharpness test.
The screen's contrast levels are also on an above average level, just as they were with the Xperia Z1, but I've seen darker black tones on other competitor's models. Viewing angles are generally very good, easily surpassing the display from the Xperia Z1 and nearing the performance of the Xperia Z2. The Compact offers a strong backlight which is powerful enough for the device to be comfortably used in daylight.
The 20.7-megapixel rear-facing camera deserves even more praise than the Z1 Compact's design and it is identical to the camera on the larger flagship. If you look at the quality of photographs and video clips, this is one of the best cameras on a smartphone. Its images are sharp, correctly exposed and a trifle oversaturated, which looks quite impressive and convincing on displays (whether smartphones or computers). The same goes for the camera's features - shutter speed is fast, just like its software.
The key is in the so-called G optics Sony delivers with the Xperia Z1 Compact, identical to that of the Xperia Z1. A 1/2.3" sensor and optics that enable F/2.0 aperture are credited for the fantastic nature of captured images and recorded video clips, especially in daylight. This is essentially a point and shoot Cybershot crammed into a smartphone. On the other hand, the Z1's images are just a shade better in night conditions, when objects or people photographed are close, given that it comes with a somewhat more efficient flash. However, longer exposure offers equally good contrast and minimal noise with both the smaller and larger phones.
Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact supports the so-called Superior Auto mode, which creates 8-megapixel images. These are down-sampled photographs which use software to eliminate some of the problems that pixel peepers will spot in full resolution, like noise due to poor lighting conditions. HDR images are also supported; however, not in full resolution.
When it comes to recording videos, the camera has a 1080p resolution with 30 fps, making the recorded footage about par for high-end smartphone recordings. The Snapdragon 800 and a great sensor should enable 60 fps or 4K resolution (a possible future firmware update?), but this will not be a deal-breaker for any user.
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