Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Display
Staying true to its name, the XZ1’s diminutive 4.6-inch screen keeps the overall size of the phone down. But it could have been reduced further had it not been for those pesky bezels at the top and bottom of the device, which make it look dated next to most other smartphones released in the past six months.
The display is still 720p, which isn’t really an issue since its smaller size doesn’t negatively affect the pixel density as much. Granted, icons on the homescreen still aren’t as sharp as I’d like, but this isn’t one of my more significant concerns with the display.
My main issue is that it’s just so difficult to return to a smaller display once you’ve been using 5-inch+ phones for some time. I found typing quickly on the minuscule keyboard particularly difficult. Typing and walking at the same time was even more frustrating.
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For some time now, my tablet at home has been gathering dust due to the convenience of various phablets, but I ended up digging it out for some couch browsing because the experience proved just too fiddly on the tiny XZ1 Compact.
However, image quality of the screen is fine. The use of LCD over AMOLED makes for better viewing angles, even if colours don’t pop quite as much nor are blacks as inky. Brightness is decent, so I never encountered problems with outdoor visibility.
A smart backlight control mode stops the display dimming when you’re holding the phone and looking at the display. It’s a feature I wish other phones had; there’s nothing more annoying than a display that dims when you’re watching a video on Instagram.
Like the bigger XZ1, there are three colour gamut options: Standard, Professional and Super-vivid. The Professional uses the sRGB colour space. You won’t be surprised to discover that, unlike the XZ1, the XZ1 Compact offers no HDR support.
What I did miss while using the XZ1 Compact was an always-on display, and better handling of incoming notifications. There’s a little notification LED, but it’s really easy to miss. There’s also no way to have the display turn on even momentarily to show an incoming notification.
Even more irritating is the vibration pattern of a notification if the phone is sat on a desk. It has a sort of vroom vroom pattern to it that makes a lot of distracting noise.
Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Software
Like its bigger brother, the XZ1 Compact is one of the first phones to launch with the latest version of Android (8.0 Oreo) right out of the box.
This brings with it some new additions, including ‘notification dots’ on your homescreen that allow you to more easily spot when you’ve missed a notification. For those obsessive about keeping things neat and tidy, they can be another distraction, however. Especially when it isn’t obvious what you need to do to clear away the notification dot (Google app, I’m looking at you).
You also get ‘picture in picture’ for compatible apps. One useful application I’ve found so far has been with Google Maps. If navigation is on and you move away from the app, you’ll still get a little window with your next instruction overlaid on your screen. Other little changes to Oreo include a new lick of paint in the notification shade. Apps such as Spotify can now customise their notification cards, so you get album art and a different background colour.
Sony’s taken a relatively restrained hand overall to adding its own customisations. The app launcher scrolls horizontally rather than vertically, and there are recommended apps if you swipe left.
The biggest annoyances are pre-installed apps such as AVG anti-virus and a bunch of Sony-related apps. I also get annoyed by notifications from Sony’s Xperia app trying to pedal me theme packs. No-one wants micro-transactions on a phone they’ve already paid a lot of money for.
Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact – Performance
While the previous Xperia Compact offered mid-range performance, the XZ1 Compact delivers some serious pocket power courtesy of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. That’s the same chip powering big-hitters such as the Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30 – all phones with much bigger and higher resolution screens. This is teamed with 4GB of RAM.
Performance, not surprisingly, is as swift as the similarly high-spec-packing Sony Xperia XZ1. For those keen on numbers, it actually pips the bigger XZ1 marginally with a Geekbench 4 score of 6554 and 1882 for each core. Needless to say, combined with that lower-resolution display, performance never feels sluggish. Apps load up in an instant and scrolling and swiping all feels super-slick.
More graphically intensive games such as Dead Trigger 3 also aren’t a problem, with r0ck-solid frame rate performance. The XZ1 Compact really is a pocket powerhouse thanks to that Snapdragon 835 and having a screen with less pixels to push.