The Xperia Z3 compact is great little smartphone offering pretty much everything available on the full-size Z3 (including PS4 Remote Play and High-Res audio) apart from a Full HD screen. The new design is thinner and lighter plus the display is bigger than previously. At £349, this is not only the best mini smartphone you can buy, it’s one of the best smartphones around.
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is one of the best examples of a mini smartphone around, offering top-notch specs in a smaller handset at a cheaper price. Sony, for whatever reason, decided not to launch an Xperia Z2 Compact but is back with the Z3 Compact at IFA 2014.
The device has launched alongside the flagship Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact and is available to buy from Sony at £429. However,
Clove has a much more attractive price of £349.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact hand-on review: Design
Like the full-size Z3, we’re pleased to report that the Xperia Z3 Compact is slimmer and lighter than its predecessor at 8.6 mm and 127 g. It’s not a massive amount but it’s a step in the right direction and that’s perfectly thin and light for a mid-size smartphone.
As with almost any smartphone, you can get the Xperia Z3 Compact in black and white. The Z1 Compact was also available in pink and lime but this year’s model comes in a more palatable green and a more intense orange.
Waterproof design is becoming synonymous with Sony and the Z3 Compact has a high rating of IP68 meaning it’s fully dust proof and can be plunged into water up to 1.5m deep continuously. This does mean slightly annoying flaps – although not for the headphone port – but that’s the price you pay. You can barely notice them when in place.
Once again, build quality feels top-notch with Sony’s combination of glass and aluminium. The Xperia Z3 Compact feels desirable in the hand. A new feature to the design are nylon corner pieces (where it’s more likely to land) to avoid damaging the metal if you drop the phone.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact hand-on review: Hardware
Although the phone is exactly the same size as before (the Z1 Compact), Sony has managed to increase the screen size from 4.3- to 4.6in thanks to smaller bezels around the edge. The resolution remains at 720p so the bigger display does mean a drop in pixel density to 319ppi but this isn’t really a big deal.
The screen is crisp, bright and the most important thing for us is the amount of real estate on offer for the diddy size of the phone. The display is almost as big as the iPhone 6’s which is a much larger device. The display is also responsive and has optional glove and double tap to wake options. The ‘smart backlight control’ will keep the screen on as long as you’re looking at it.
Much of the device’s hardware is the same as the full-size Xperia Z3 which is what most mini versions do not achieve. Inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked at 2.5 GHz. It does have less RAM at 2GB, but this is nothing to worry about really. Storage remains at 16GB and there’s the usual microSD card slot for adding more memory (up to 128GB) if you should wish to do so.
The phone benchmarked very well and unsurprisingly similar to the Z3, although better in graphics tests because of the lower resolution. The GFXBench results acrtually match and outpace the impressive iPhone 6 Plus which scored 41fps and 18fps respectively. See below for the results compared to the full-size Z3.
Sony touts a two day battery life for the Xperia Z3 Compact which is the same as the flagship model. The battery itself is larger at 2600mAh compared to 2300mAh of the Z1 Compact but the processor is clocked higher. Stamina mode remains a staple feature helping users get better battery life by switching off functions like Wi-Fi when the screen is off.
We’ve found battery life to be quite simply immense, lasting comfortably between two and three days between charges. If left alone, the device will only drop a few percent each day.
Compared to some handsets on the market, namely Samsung, the Xperia Z3 Compact appears lacking in additional features. Yes, it has 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC but nothing along the lines of an IR blaster, fingerprint scanner or wireless charging.
Instead, Sony is aiming the Z3 range at music fans with support for High-Res audio including a first for smartphones, playback of DSD files. Sony says this will apply if you have a compatible pair of headphones but we’ve experienced no problems with regular pairs. The phone also supports noise-cancelling (this time you do need the right pair of cans) and there’s front facing stereo speakers.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact hand-on review: Cameras
There’s no scrimping when it comes to photography so the Z3 Compact has the same 20.7Mp rear camera with Exmor RS sensor as its big brother. Sony has used this in previous smartphones but the Z3 devices include a new 25mm wide-angle lens and a super high ISO of 12800 for improved shooting in low light. There are also new camera apps including Sticker creator and Live on YouTube.
By default, it takes photos at 8 Mp (below) but in manual mode you can switch up to 15.5 Mp (16:9) and 20.7 Mp (4:3) if you like.
The Compact can now shoot video in 4K and there’s an improved Steady Shot with Intelligent Active Mode for keeping content smoother. At the front is a decent 2.2Mp camera with Exmor R sensor, a slight upgrade compared to the Z1 Compact.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact hand-on review: Software
There’s one big new feature on the software front and it will appeal to gamers. Along with the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, the device supports PS4 Remote Play meaning you can play full-blown PS4 games on the smartphone over a Wi-Fi connection using a DualShock 4 controller.
That’s pretty cool if you own a PS4 or plan on getting one but unfortunately we haven’t been able to test this out yet as the feature won’t launch for the Z3 range until some point in November.
Other than this, the software remains familiar so if you’re not into gaming or High-res audio then it’s pretty much the same old story. The Xperia Z3 Compact comes with Android 4.4.4 KitKat and Sony’s usual style tweaks which are nothing drastic – if it ain’t broke and all that.
New features like the double tap to wake and smart backlight control are welcome (see hardware above). Sony has also decided to make app icons larger than before, which is odd at first but easy to get used to.
We like Sony’s wallpapers, widgets and apps such as Walkman but there are other pre-installed apps taking up valuable space. Out-of-the-box there is Kobo, AVG, OfficeSuite, Vine and Garmin Navigation. Luckily you can uninstall them all apart from Vine.
Xperia Z3 Compact vs Xperia Z3
It’s important to note that pretty much all of the features of the full-Z3 are present on the Compact which Sony deserves respect for. The key difference is the smaller screen and lower resolution. And, of course, the large price difference so unless you want the bigger Full HD screen, there’s no reason to spend more on the Z3.
Tech Advisor's Reviews Editor, Chris has been reviewing all kinds of tech for over 10 years and specialises in audio. He also covers a range of topics including home entertainment, phones, laptops, tablets and more.