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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 9

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Sony has a unique take on Android, and we actually don't mind it.

As any other popular Android smartphone manufacturer, Sony has its own, custom user interface. We certainly aren't in love with it, but we do have to admit that Sony's Android experience is more than usable. Most notably, it has this unified look across all menus and apps, which provides a sense of consistency and coherence. What's more, there are numerous bonus features by Sony, which bring additional value to its UI.

Running on top of Android 4.3 (an update to Android 4.4 is to follow), the custom UI is not so in-your-face, but is quite comprehensive. In our opinion, this is one of the more polished custom UIs for Android. It's certainly not the most feature-rich, but it's quite lively and pleasant to use.

The custom homescreen is very easy to get used to. Sony has done a good job at creating an intuitive experience that makes things like icon and widget placement (and widget resizing, too) easy as pie. Sony has found a good use for the pinch-in gesture on the homescreen. In the Xperia Z1 Compact, it initiates the homescreen editing screen, where you can easily add/discard homescreen pages, add wigets/apps, change the wallpaper, or the theme.

The otherwise standard main menu sports a special options panel that can be accessed with a swipe from the left hand side of the screen. Those options let you change the sorting or filtering of your app catalog, as well as initiate the Uninstall mode. This one's a bit irritating, as you can accidentally reveal the panel while simply scrolling through the main menu. It's probably not such a big issue on the Z1, but the smaller screen of the Compact means there's less space for you to swipe, and more chance of accidentally bringing up the options panel.

All of the essential apps like Phone, Contacts, Messaging and so on have been customized. They are quite simplistic and straightforward, which isn't a bad thing. We'll get back to the core applications, after we go over the silicon!

Processor and Memory

720p display + Snapdragon 800 chipset = cutting-edge performance

Powered by the potent Snapdragon 800 SoC, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is a true beast, despite the fact that its size is not as imposing as that of the other high-end Androids. Performance will never be an issue with this handset, at least considering the current generation of software available for Android. What's more, overall system performance is also great, probably even better than that of the Z1, due to the lower screen resolution – there are no visible hiccups or slowdowns. The CPU found in the Z1 Compact's Snapdragon 800 SoC is a quad-core Krait 400 beast that can go up to 2.2 GHz, if needed. Meanwhile, the Adreno 330 GPU is a worthy companion with its superb processing power when it comes to graphics. You can easily run every game out there and you'll enjoy sky-high frame-rates at all times.

Sony has installed the healthy 2 gigs of RAM on the Xperia Z1 Compact, which guarantees smooth performance even when you have multiple heavy apps running in the background. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact comes with 16 GB of internal storage, but thankfully, it also gives you the option to install a microSD card for additional storage space. You can't buy the Z1 Compact with a larger amount of internal space, but that won't be such a big deal for most consumers, as easy memory expansion will be just a walk to the store away.

Performance benchmarks

Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 20567
Sony Xperia Z1 20277
Samsung Galaxy S4 12078
Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 33468
Sony Xperia Z1 30838
Samsung Galaxy S4 24701
Vellamo Metal
Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 1183
Sony Xperia Z1 1115
Samsung Galaxy S4 704
Vellamo HTML 5
Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 2947
Sony Xperia Z1 2889
Samsung Galaxy S4 1702
View all


The phonebook of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is mostly pleasant to use. It looks and works well, although we don't like how little space is left for your call log, as it shares a single screen with the dialer. Other than that, switching between dialer, all contacts and favorites is pretty seamless.

Meanwhile, it's great to see that Sony has kept the good old T9-style dialing, where you can start T9-typing the name of the contact you want to call using the numeric keypad, and the phone will automatically find that person for you. It's very comfortable to dial this way.

The busy man's best friend, the calendar, is well represented in the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. The phone's calendar app features all the basic necessities like month, week and day views, as well as some 'bonus' features such as the ability to expand the appointments for the selected day in month view. The pinch-to-zoom function from the stock calendar has, thankfully, been preserved.

The handset also comes with a simple calculator, as well as a versatile notes app, which isn't the most convenient notes app ever, but makes up for it by offering a good array of options. Using Sony's Small Apps is very convenient. Once you press the multitasking button, you gain access to a good number of shortcuts to handy mini-apps, including a calculator, timer, notes and voice notes. It's great that this list is customizable, so you can put those apps that you need most in the more accessible positions. In the end, we found it pretty easy to make quick notes or recordings using the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and its Small Apps. In some cases, it can be even faster to use a Small App to accomplish a certain task, rather than the respective full-blown version.


Sony's has found a very good balance between comfort and versatility with the Z1 Compact's QWERTY keyboard. Featuring only the most needed keys, plus some additional ones such as the dot and the comma, typing is quick and easy with this keyboard. Sure, the keys aren't as big as on a 5” display, but still, composing messages and emails with this phone isn't bad at all. The landscape layout is also great, as it takes advantage of the full screen width.

The messaging app of the Xperia Z1 Compact is very well designed, with a versatile and intuitive interface. You can easily do stuff like attach a photo, video, sound, note, location, etc. to your messages. The default email app will do the job, though it lacks some more advanced settings like tweaking the preview text length, for example.

Internet and Connectivity

Unlike many other popular Android manufacturers, Sony isn't bundling its own Android browser, meaning that Chrome is the only browser available on the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact out of the box. For most users, though, Chrome will be all they need, as it tends to perform lovely on this device. Plus, it's always weird to see a phone ship with multiple internet browsers. As always, loading is super-fast with mobile Chrome, while navigation around pages, including scrolling and zooming, is very fluid and trouble-free. The browser inflates text mostly correctly, so usually it's just the right paragraphs that need to be read comfortably that are the ones to get an increased font-size.

LTE is supported across numerous bands, so as long as your carrier of choice offers 4G, the Z1 Compact should have access to those blazing-fast data speeds. If no LTE is available from your carrier, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact should default to HSPA+ (42.2 Mbit/s down and 5.76 Mbit/s up).

Further completing its full set of connectivity options, the Z1 Compact is also the proud owner of support for all the latest Wi-Fi protocols (802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac), Bluetooth 4.0, internet tethering, NFC, MHL and DLNA. If you're the type of user who loves to explore the possibilities with these new technologies, the Xperia Z1 Compact will certainly prove to be a fine playground.

  • Options

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:31 10

1. JerryTime (Posts: 468; Member since: 09 Nov 2013)

Yet another Sony phone that makes me drool. And yet another phone that Sony should've sold in the states. Bring your phones back to the states on every major carrier in the States please Sony!

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:38 4

4. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Would sell pretty well on AT&T and T-Mobile.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:21 5

13. JerryTime (Posts: 468; Member since: 09 Nov 2013)

Would sell well on any major network not just a GSM provider.

posted on 24 Jan 2014, 14:55 2

58. FredoGavera (Posts: 7; Member since: 09 Jan 2013)

To be honest, I was never really a huge fan of xperias. The only sony phone I ever owned was the play which was great except for the complete lack of support...

Regardless, the last xperia to catch my eye was the Z1, never got it though because I'm in the category of people who find phones that size absurd. Once this phone is out I'm pretty much a guaranteed buyer.

I just really hope that updates won't be delayed too bad for future android OS's... I hear sony isn't the best with keeping up... already had to deal with LG's shenanigans

posted on 25 Jan 2014, 08:44

59. RickB (Posts: 6; Member since: 25 Jan 2014)

Sony has been doing very well with open sourcing their builds so even if they don't provide updates as fast as we want, you can always upgrade the ROM yourself.

I'm running a custom ROM on my Xperia ZL and it easily doubled my battery life. It's still a Sony ROM so I have the great apps like Walkman and Dual Shock controller, but none of the bloatware that I don't need that just consumes the battery.

posted on 09 Feb 2014, 19:35

84. HarryWild (Posts: 60; Member since: 18 Oct 2012)

I finally found a phone that I want to buy and it not going be sold in the U.S.! It a high end phone too! Just crazy, Sony! No wonder you are in trouble!

posted on 10 Apr 2014, 14:11

87. Heretic (Posts: 18; Member since: 12 Jun 2012)

I agree.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:33 23

2. AppleHateBoy (unregistered)

Relatively Small Display??

Yeah. We at PA expect phablet size displays in a phone barely bigger than an iPhone.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:48 19

7. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3535; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)

Yeah, and I guess they didn't realize that the phones name is Z1 COMPACT. It's supposed to be smaller than average!

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:37 30

3. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Ray, I read the whole review. Now how the hell does having a small display count as a con when the iPhone 5S and 5C (as mentioned under the display category) has a 4" display?

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:34 5

15. JerryTime (Posts: 468; Member since: 09 Nov 2013)

See my comments under the Z1S vs 5s article and you'll have your answer. ;)

It's gotten to the point where these reviews and phone comparisons are laughable at best.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 13:11 4

26. buccob (Posts: 2714; Member since: 19 Jun 2012)

Also my comment... I will summarize.

What readers should pay attention is to User Rating... And if that rating somehow is close to what PA gives, then you have a fair review... But the norm is that most user gives Sony smartphones a higher rating than what authors do, and that shows a disparity and probably a bias review.

We all know this phone is going to get >9.3 on user rating so it does not worry me... I will still buy it

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:39 27

5. imparanoic (Posts: 88; Member since: 15 Oct 2012)

phonearena crap bias review, relatively small displaÿ4.3, yet you don't mention this supposed disadvantage on iphone 5s or 5c even though the screen is smaller at 4"

I think phonearena should called iphone -arena

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 22:07

42. jael206 (Posts: 146; Member since: 18 Jul 2012)

But no matter how we bash PA for being bias, they still stand unapologetic.. What the face man!!

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:43 1

6. Xperia_droid (Posts: 40; Member since: 07 Nov 2013)

now IPS+Triluminos+X-reality display sounds interesting

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:50 1

8. Xperia_droid (Posts: 40; Member since: 07 Nov 2013)

of if i forget about camera
iphone 5s need to be scared

posted on 28 Jan 2014, 23:03

74. Lauticol (Posts: 370; Member since: 25 Jun 2011)

Triluminous, Bravia and X-Reality are all gimmicks Sony adds in it's smartphones displays, but you compare them to other company's flasgships and Sony screens are the worst

posted on 29 Jan 2014, 07:31

76. Xperia_droid (Posts: 40; Member since: 07 Nov 2013)

Bravia/X-reality are awesome when watching videos. they makes videos a bit oversaturated and boost contrast. yes sony's previous screen panels are not too great but i still prefer this for watching videos.
but i want 6" retina display with X-reality :D

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:52 2

9. mokhtar (Posts: 405; Member since: 06 Jan 2014)

now do a test between 5s / s4 mini / htc one mini , or you will avoid that " phone arena" because you know sony will smoke the others ??
Sony now : best phone z1 , best compact phone , best tablet ... you made phone area :p ?

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 22:07

43. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Z1 is not the best phone lol. Best compact is a tie between the 5S. Best tab? iPad Air/Mini 2.

posted on 28 Jan 2014, 15:22

72. mokhtar (Posts: 405; Member since: 06 Jan 2014)

For you yeah, for the world.and.reviewrs tablet z the best tablet and the award winning of 2013 :), best phone is z1 and ray and the other reviewrs say that not me :) ( note 3 is a phablet :))

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:52 13

10. Amir1 (unregistered)

best compact phone ever made. iphone is a thing of the past.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:05 2

11. R-vjn (Posts: 262; Member since: 07 Jan 2013)

Finally IPS comes to Sony, thank god. I always hated the displays of xperia's, even Triluminos, when compared to the best IPS panels around.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:12 2

12. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3535; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)

Ray, could you add 20 mpx photos, since those are just 8 mpx and they look quite bad imho.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:30 8

14. emadshiny (Posts: 1144; Member since: 05 Dec 2012)

I cant see such a con as "relatively small display" for iPhone which is even smaller than Compact. Oh! I forgot here is iPhone arena

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:34 1

16. zhonghua (Posts: 2; Member since: 14 Jan 2014)

Mr. Ray, please share the video review if you do have. I can't wait to have this phone soon.. :) Nice review by the way.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:40 5

17. spiderpig2894 (Posts: 597; Member since: 10 Jan 2012)

A cons that states "Relatively small display". Say whuut? How can you never say that to an iPhone yet you can say it to a "Compact" branded phone?! What kind of logic is that?

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:50 12

18. Joshing4fun (Posts: 1237; Member since: 13 Aug 2010)

The small display is a pro for this phone- that's the selling point!

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 11:15 4

19. Feanor (Posts: 845; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)

Hmm...9.0 is clearly a bit unfair when the larger Z1 brother with the significantly worse display, slightly worse performance and potentially less battery life received a better note. Also in comparison to iPhone I was expecting at least same score.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 11:55

20. papss (unregistered)

Great phone other than the OS it uses. Honestly that's a deal breaker

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

OS: Android 5.1 5.0 4.4.4 4.4.2 4.3
view full specs
Display4.3 inches, 720 x 1280 pixels (342 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera20.7 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2200 MHz, Krait 400 processor
Size5.00 x 2.56 x 0.37 inches
(127 x 64.9 x 9.5 mm)
4.83 oz  (137 g)
Battery2300 mAh, 10 hours talk time

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