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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

evan kypreos




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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact


Our Score:



  • Great screen
  • Solid battery life
  • Premium design and materials
  • Waterproof to 1.5m


  • Disappointing camera
  • Back scratches too easily

Key Features

  • 20.7 megapixel camera; Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB RAM; 4.3-inch 720p screen 341PPI; microSD; Android 4.3; IP55/58 water and dust proof
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £430.00

First Reviewed: March 2014

What is the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact?

The Sony Xperia Z1 has now been superseded by the Xperia Z3 Compact. If you’re wondering where the Z2 Compact is, well Sony seems to have skipped a generation.

At a time when phone manufacturers are competing to offer the biggest screens possible, Sony has gone against the tide with its diminutive Xperia Z1 Compact. Packing just a 4.3-inch display, it may be small, but you won’t find the performance compromises that the HTC One Mini and Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini are stuck with. Now down from £430 at launch to £319 SIM-free this diminutive model is a powerhouse of a phone.

The question we had before picking this phone up was whether packing such top-rate specs in a compact phone would WORK. Read on to see how we think Sony has done this with some class.

Watch Sony Xperia Z1 Compact video:

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact – Design

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact looks like a fun-sized version of its 5-inch big brother, the Sony Xperia Z1. And that’s a really good thing.

Sony has rounded off the edges of the phone to make it more comfortable to hold, and its single-piece aluminium frame gives it a strong, sturdy feel. The frame rests between two pieces of glass with a thin plastic join.

The construction has a lot in common with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, but if anything the Xperia Z1 Compact sits better in the hand than its bigger counterparts because of the curved edges. The toughened glass back is prone to picking up fingerprint marks and, even worse, scratches. That’s not so much a problem if you are going to put it in a case, but it seems such a shame to do so with such an excellently designed phone.

Xperia Compact

The Z Ultra on the left, the Z1 in the middle and the Z1 Compact on the right

The button layout of the Z1 Compact is similar to that of the Z1. All the covered ports and slots for microSD, SIM and charger are placed on the left, while the power button, volume rocker and dedicated camera button are on the right.

It would have been a nice touch for the volume and camera buttons to match the stylish metal Xperia power button but instead they are plastic. It’s a small issue and, on the plus side, the power button is perfectly placed for easy access.

Z1 compact

The flappy plastic covers that keep the ports dry are a necessary evil and one we’d happily live with for the IP55 and IP58 dust and waterproofing benefits they provide. This means the Z1 Compact is dustproof and can be dunked in water without dying. You'll hardly ever need to open the microSD and SIM, but the power socket will get regular exercise.

The 3.5mm headphone jack at the top is open, meaning you can plug in headphones without any messing around with flaps. The speaker grille sits on the bottom of the Xperia Z1 Compact, which also has a wrist-strap hole.

It’s a tried-and-tested design that works well – the only thing that breaks the sleek lines is a proprietary charging port in the middle of the left hand edge, for use with a charging dock accessory (not included). On the Xperia Z1 this felt a little awkward, but the smaller size of this phone means it’s not as much of an issue. Another bonus of the design is that there is enough of a flat surface to balance the phone on its side, although not if you also want to be charging it at the same time.

Xperia Z1 compact

While you would quite rightly expect the Z1 Compact to be a small phone, it’s not quite as small as the name implies. At 127 x 64.9 x 9.5 mm the Xperia Z1 Compact is a lot smaller than the thumb-cramping 144 x 74 x 8.5 mm Z1 although it is slightly thicker.

It’s also not that slim or light when compared to other 5-inch Androids like the Galaxy S4 and Nexus 5 either, which, while several millimetres taller and wider, actually weigh 10g less than the 140g Xperia Z1 Compact.

So what’s the benefit of having a smaller screen if the phone isn't all that much smaller or lighter?

The biggest plus is that it’s easy to reach every area of the screen. Juggling a phone with one hand to try and reach the back browser button, all the while being crushed between sweaty commuters, is an experience we have had once too often with a 5-inch phone. The smaller size of the Compact and its ergonomic design means that it’s much easier to handle.

Xperia Z1 Compact front

Trying to fit a big screen into as small a frame as possible comes with its own set of issues. The tiny bezels on some phones mean you occasionally touch an area of the screen by accident, making the rest of it unresponsive. You won’t have any such problems with the Z1 Compact as it comes with particularly chunky 6mm border from screen to phone’s edge. We would prefer a thinner bezel, but the 4.3-inch screen size means it’s not as much of an issue as it would be on larger-screened phones like the Z1.

Xperia Z1 compact

There are the two new colours that the Z1 Compact comes in: lime and pink. Both are surprisingly tasteful, helped by the lightly coloured shaved aluminium edges of the frame. The other colours are black and white – similar to the Z1 but with a slightly darker frame.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Charlie Briggs

February 5, 2014, 8:21 pm

"If a Full HD 5-inch phone is a must, consider the Nexus 5 for £130 less or the olderGalaxy S4 for around the same price. Both have a less impressive processor and, in the case of the Nexus 5, an inferior camera and no microSD."

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but doesn't the Nexus 5 share the Snapdragon 800 processor with the Z1 Compact?


February 6, 2014, 9:03 am

Hello. i guess he meant N5 had slightly lower clock 2.2 vs 2.3 , which isn't much but it would perform better due to lower 720p resolution . cheers


February 6, 2014, 10:13 am

Pre-ordered this as soon as I you guys had posted it. Had my Z1 Compact since Monday, it is a fantastic thing. Literally exactly what I've wanted from an android phone in years - sleek, rugged, premium, top specced with a small screen. There is literally nothing bad I have to say except that even with great care, the back gathered mysterious scratches only after a few hours of taking it out of the box!


February 19, 2014, 11:33 am

Hi you're right it is the same processor but our benchmarks showed it was a little slower - not enough as you'd notice in real life though so I'll rephrase that.


February 27, 2014, 10:53 pm

what's wrong with the camera ?


March 17, 2014, 1:18 pm

I have had the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact for over a month now and the screen has numerous indents/scratches which are very very poor considering that this is supposed to be a premium phone. I upgraded from a HTC Desire which I have had for over 3 years and the condition of that screen is better than the the new one. Yes both phones have case (which were the same style design) and my lifestyle hasn't changed at all. I'm going to get back to the manufacturers and see what they will do (probably nothing) but it's not great that they have screens that can get damaged so easily. I'm not sure what it will look like in 12 months time. My advice is to avoid this phone until Sony do something about the screen. Besides the screen issue the rest of the phone is great. S Dyson


March 17, 2014, 1:24 pm

What about the screen - any scratches there? I love the phone but mines got a few indent/scratches which I don't know how they happened. I was aware of the scratch potential so I got a suitable case immediately (one of the ones authorised by Sony and) but still the screen has been damaged. Pretty sick about it really because I'm sure all that Sony will do is put it down to me


April 3, 2014, 6:50 am

just a simple tip: during the time of buying, get also the surface protection kit that is sold separately or have it covered with Clear Coat product scratches will be nowhere. Camera; Thanks to those excited users who updated their phones at the time of Kitkat launch, we learned a lot from you and i'm pretty sure that fix will be released shortly, every performance issues will be taken care of. To stephen, don't get disappointed so fast, you must know that the sony phones glass panel is substantially covered with shutter proof film that perfectly built on the glass surface those scratches you found are only on that film so, get a sharp cutter look at carefully in any edge of your screen to find that layer and carefully strip it out and simply replace it. Check Youtube.

Doris Eves

May 28, 2014, 2:51 pm

Do any of you guys know if this phone supports wireless charging as I have a wireless charhing plate for a lumia 920, willthat work? If not ill just sell it to recoup some of the outlay for the phone....


June 6, 2014, 4:29 pm

My month old Xperia Z1 Compact suddenly died due to hardware failure. Sent the phone for repair to their THIRD PARTY repair centre (SBE Ltd. Sony doesn't handle its own repairs) on 20/05/14. According to the last status update I received, TWO weeks ago, the phone needed a new component that SBE did not have in stock and as of today I still have no news about the repair. Each time I contacted Sony I was given a different answer: first I was told that a replacement device had been dispatched, then I was told that the component had still not been delivered, then that the device was in testing, then that the component was still not available. A situation that Sony could have easily handled by issuing a replacement, which would have made me a happy customer, has instead turned me into a Sony hater because of the appalling customer service I received.
DO NOT BUY SONY or, if you do, pray that your device will not break

Mind Hack

June 6, 2014, 9:45 pm

don't use with dock dk32. I have been really carefull with this phone. I havent dropped it. I even pull it out of my pocket when I sit.

after docking it at night and undocking it in the morning for 3-4 months. The dock port on the phone came out.

seems like a design flaw that the dock port can't survive after docking and undocking it several times.

and it's not covered in warranty.


March 1, 2015, 12:20 pm

Sony Xperia
Z1 Compact – one of the most annoying phones I’ve ever had. First of all the
camera performs very poorly - 20,7 mpx doesn’t mean that it takes good
pictures. They’re just big and that’s it. And it doesn’t really give you much.
In the daylight they’re comparable to photos from other phones but when there’s
a little less light, everything is always blurred. And I mean always. Only
putting it on a tripod would help but still not enough for it to take sharp
pictures when there’s little light. Then there is the flash which is useless –
again I mean it. You cannot use it as pictures are becoming blue. So forget
about pictures after dark. This issue has been reported to Sony ever since the
phone appeared on the market and thousands of people bought it and started
complaining. No reaction from the manufacturer, no adequate software update to
address this issue. Check other comments on this phone and you’ll see that
every Z1 Compact fails here. Video recording is ok though. The quality is
decent but it often cannot focus properly and struggles for several seconds.
Also, the view is very narrow (doesn’t apply to photos – it’s much better
there) which has just ruined my yesterday’s video when I tried to record
something from the top with a stretched arm – this has led me to finally writing
this review after a year of using the phone to warn the potential buyers about
what lemon Sony has introduced to the market.

thing it the additional camera button (which not always works properly by the
way) which if you hold opens automatically a camera app. Nice thing to have but
it sets the camera only to 8 mpx mode/720p video. No way to switch so that you
can take a full res picture or a video. I’ve search for that with no success.
If you want to use 20,7 mpx and full HD, you need to unlock the screen and choose
the camera app or after holding the button and starting the 8 mpx/720p mode you
need to go to camera settings and switch to 20,7/full HD. Putting it simply –
there’s no way of quickly taking a full resolution photo/video. Great!

the phone doesn’t freeze at all. After having it for a full year, it has never
frozen during all kind of actions. Never – and that’s a nice thing. Some apps
happened to die several times but I think it’s no the phone’s fault but some issue
with the apps themselves. The phone runs on 4.4 Android KitKat software which
is the latest available so far.

And here I
have to get back to the camera app which sometimes (5% of the time you run it)
says that the camera is unavailable. Of course it usually happens when you want
to take a picture quickly. No, you have to restart the phone and hope for the
camera app to work this time.

software has made the quick settings menu to split to two parts (tabs). If you
open it (drag from the top) it only shows you notifications which I always read
when they appear. I don’t store them so I’m not interested in seeing that 150
times a day. To get to the quick settings you need to click once more in the
second tab. So you need to drag and click to get where you want. This has come
with the 4.4 KitKat. Great improvement again! And now imagine that you do that
every single time for almost a whole year (update was released later). This is
just about the most annoying thing about this phone. If you want to open
Internet connection, GPS, adjust brightness or anything other to work from that
menu, you do not necessarily want to get through all kinds of different menus.

about speed, the reaction times are not bad. They’re not really impressive
either. Switching through home screen’s pages is slower than in iPhone 1. Yes
it is. It’s not a huge disadvantage but surprises me that a phone that is 6-7 (iPhone
from 2007 or 2008) years younger does some simple things not as good as the “grandpa”
iPhone (it’s battery still holds enough to use it as an music player :)).

Then there
is the auto dimming screen that often doesn’t switch off. It just stays lit up
all the time if you don’t turn it off manually using the side button. It will
stay on until the battery dies, I checked. It’s like that since I bought the
phone. Doesn’t always behave this way but it happened several times a week and
the only solution to that is to reset it or completely turn off the phone. I
thought it may be caused by some app running in the background and forcing the
display to stay on but after turning all of them off, the problem didn’t
disappear… So annoying. I’m now just waiting to swap it for a 2x as expensive
iPhone which I do not need but the useless camera and the annoying way of the
way the Sony works is too much for me and leaves me no choice. I had a Samsung
Galaxy S before and it wasn’t perfect either. It was ok but was freezing a lot
and that was its biggest problem. Some problems with reading the SD card also
appeared (unfortunately Samsungs like to do that).

On the
other hand the battery life is superb. Wi-Fi and data transmission work very
fast. The screen quality is also good even though the factory brightness
adjustment may not be enough for some of us and you’ll need to download an app
that expands its range of adjustment.

The main
speaker is rather quiet comparing to any Samsung which may not be a big deal
bit it surprised me. The quality of sound (and music) is noticeably worse
though (comparing to the SGS3 and a very old Galaxy S1).

notification LED is barely seen so it’s basically useless unless you look at it
directly. You may miss some messages because of that and it really, really
bothers me in everyday life as I have to constantly look and check the phone
being worried that I miss something important. Also, when you get a text
message, the display doesn’t light up and all you get it that LED flashing from
time to time. You also may not get any visual preview on the center of screen
of what the message contains. Only after pushing the side button you may see an
icon in the upper left corner and a part of a message at the time. Then the
text disappears and all you’re left with is that tiny icon. Very frustrating,
especially if your screen background is rather bright and it’s hard to see the
little text message icon. These are the everyday problems living with the
Xperia Z1 Compact.

If you use
the alarm clock, you need to know that when it rings there’s only one way to
turn it off – you have to slide your finger on the screen from a certain point
to the side of the screen. It’s impossible to do that without looking at the
phone because there’s no tolerance and you need to touch the screen in an
exactly indicated spot. It usually takes several times to manage that
especially if you’ve just opened your eyes. Better have something else for an
alarm clock...

One last
thing that is almost funny and ridiculous. When I grab the phone with one hand
and hold it, I put my little finger underneath it to prevent it from slipping
and falling on the ground. Now the bottom end has very sharp edges around the
speaker and the microphone. You can feel them every single time. I just cannot
comment on that…

This phone
is just not well-thought and it makes using it very, very annoying. I really do
not recommend this phone to anyone. I bought it because the camera was supposed
to be so good. I’m never going to buy anything from Sony again, ever. It was
released in 2014 and they still cannot get simple things to work. I spent some
time to write all of that hoping that some of the ones that read it, avoid
making a really bad decision.

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