Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact hands-on

Key Features

  • 4.6-inch 720p screen
  • Snapdragon 835
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB storage and microSD
  • USB-C
  • 2700 mAh battery
  • Android Oreo
  • 19-megapixel camera with face scanning
  • 8-megapixel wide-selfie
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Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact hands-on, price, features and release date: High-end features in a tiny body

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact release date: September 2017

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact price: £499

Sony Mobile has used IFA 2017 in Berlin to unveil a few new smartphones. While the Sony Xperia XZ is likely to receive many plaudits as a result of its HDR display, I’m far more excited about the rebirth of the Compact line.

Related: IFA 2017 – Everything you need to know?

It’s true that Sony did launch an Xperia X Compact last year, but this was a mid-range handset hamstrung by the fact that it looked like a bathroom tile from the 1970s. The Xperia XZ1 Compact conforms far better to what the line is trying to achieve: a device that features top-end specs, in a body that’s comfortable to use in one hand.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Design

Sony’s mobile design has barely changed since the Xperia Z way back in 2013. The Xperia XZ1 Compact follows the XZ1 and XZ Premium, but just in a smaller – and chunkier – shell.

The company has ditched the aluminium of the XZ1 for a woven plastic, but it actually feels super-nice. It lacks the cold touch of metal, and I imagine it’s far more durable and will wear well. There’s a fingerprint scanner baked into the lock-button on the side of the device, below the volume rocker, and it’s IP68-rated for water-resistance – a good-to-have feature that was missing in the last Compact device.

The boxy look that is typical of Sony’s handsets isn’t really to my taste, and in a world where the Essential Phone and LG G6 are ditching the bezel, the XZ1 Compact feels old-fashioned in comparison. It lives up to its name at least, feeling diminutive compared to the typical Android smartphone. It’s noticeably smaller than the iPhone 7, which makes it unique. If you’ve been longing for a small Android phone then the XZ1 is really your only choice.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Display

A 4.6-inch, 720p display is a rarity in 2017, and the panel on the XZ1 Compact will feel instantly odd if you’re used to something bigger. You’ll initially notice the low-resolution; even though the LCD panel is small, it could still do with a few more pixels. Icons felt fuzzy and text lacked that crisp edge you’d normally expect.

Everything apart from the resolution is fine: it’s bright, colourful and the use of LCD over AMOLED means viewing angles are better; but blacks are slightly murkier.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Performance and software

What has set previous iterations of the Compact apart from other, smaller Android phones is the inclusion of high-end components. The Xperia XZ1 Compact features exactly the same internals as the XZ1 – and that’s a good thing. There’s a Snapdragon 835 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot.

Considering all that is powering only a 720p display, it won’t be a surprise to discover that the Xperia XZ1 Compact is likely to be a fluid, fast phone.

It will also be one of the first handsets to run Android Oreo out of the box. You’ll still have to put up with some of Sony’s software ‘enhancements’, but the majority of its additions are fine. The Stamina modes offer a huge improvement over the basic Android power-saver options, and even Sony’s selection of media apps are well designed. Sony’s audio heritage comes into play with support for both Hi-Res tracks and DSEE HX for upscaling.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Camera

Like the Xperia XZ1 and XZ Premium, the XZ1 Compact packs a 19-megapixel Sony sensor with an f/2.0 aperture. It’s a ‘memory stacked’ sensor, which basically means there’s a modest amount of RAM attached to the camera to speed things up and reduce lag whilst you’re shooting. It’s capable of capturing 960fps slo-mo video at 720p, but you’ll need to be shooting in good lighting for this to be useful.

There’s a wealth of tech inside this camera, and I found it fast to both focus and shoot during my short time with it. Captured images display plenty of detail, but it does have a tendency to oversaturate bright, colourful pictures.

3D scanning is one of the new Xperia lines biggest tricks – although whether or not it will prove useful remains to be seen. This nifty feature uses some software trickery, along with the high-res camera on the rear, to scan faces, which you’ll then be able to manipulate and share on Facebook. It’s a clever party piece, and the results I was shown looked surprisingly good.

The biggest difference between the camera in the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact is the front-facing sensor. The Compact’s bonus wide-angle 8-megapixel selfie camera will mean that you can cram a greater number of faces into the shot.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Battery life

Sony’s strangest move with regards to the Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact is including the same 2700mAh battery in both. This is disappointing for the larger Xperia, but a bonus for the Compact.

That’s a decent-sized battery for a phone running a small 720p display and an efficient Snapdragon 835 processor. Previous Compact phones have been able to see out two days from a  single charge; hopefully, the same will be true here too.

First impressions

The Compact is Sony’s most interesting line of phones, simply because there isn’t anything else quite like it on the market. This is the only Android phone boasting both high-end components and camera, but which isn’t a phablet.

Although the Compact still struggles with being a little thick, and it lacks the metal body of the Xperia XZ1, it still benefits from the majority of the flashier phone’s features and will great for anyone looking a smaller phone.