Sony Xperia Z1 Compact vs HTC One
Sony's miniaturized version of its flagship Xperia Z1 – the Xperia Z1 Compact – arrived at the smartphone arena to an expectedly enthusiastic fanfare. It ventures into previously uncharted land, as while competitors from HTC and Samsung have already come out with their respective 'mini' editions of their high-ends, neither quite did it with the bang with which Sony has. The Z1 Compact, said simply, puts pretty much every other 'mini' to shame, as its specs sheet reads literally the same as the one attached to its bigger brother. Moreover, Sony has donned the Z1 Compact with the same premium-looking, water- and dust-proof body.
But there's somebody else in the arena that also knows a thing or two about building some seriously premium devices. HTC's One is likely one of the most widely-acclaimed devices out on the market right now, at least in terms of design. The aluminum-clad big hitter from Taiwan may not be the most up to date in the hardware department, but what it lacks in processing power, it more than makes up for it in polish and charm.
Put next to each other, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and the HTC One send a powerful message: this is how the smartphone world could look and feel like. Elite, uncompromising. But what happens if we set on the two on each other? It's about time we found out.
The Z1 Compact is distinguished by its 'OmniBalance' design language, and looks a lot like the rest of the Sony Xperia family of devices. But that's not a bad thing necessarily. The phone sports a front side made of glass, and a back side made of plastic, with a metal frame hugging its profile, all of which set it apart from the sea of Android phones. The premium effect is slightly diminished, as both the left and right side of the device are littered with port flaps and the power, volume, and shutter keys. Those are all well-built, however, and provide satisfying feedback. On the back, you're treated to a markedly different view – the glass is only occupied by the camera and LED flash units, along with the Sony and Xperia logos, giving it a much cleaner look.
But the high-end looks of the Z1 Compact are faltering when put next to the aluminum-clad HTC One. The industrial design of HTC's flagship, along with the various, but simplistic ornaments throughout, give it a hand over Sony's petite handset. The front of the HTC One leaves a lasting impression, thanks to the stereo Boom Sound speakers on the top and bottom. Unlike the Z1 Compact, the One has a very clear-cut and minimalistic profile, unencumbered by numerous openings and flaps. The One doesn't sport a dedicated camera shutter key – just a power button on the top left side, and a volume rocker on the left. These are both extremely flush with the surface, and kind of unresponsive. This serves to showcase the lengths to which HTC went with the One's design – functionality and user experience are sacrificed at the alter of fashionably good looks.
Seeing as the One is also a pretty narrow, but tall device, we're also forced to exert some serious effort to reach something as essential as the power key on the top. At 5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 inches, HTC's flagship is kind of rapacious in its physical footprint. In comparison,the Z1 Compact (5.00 x 2.56 x 0.37 inches) manages a more ergonomic feel, despite its dust- and water-proof, IP58-certified body. Handling the device one-handed is a pleasure, thanks to its petite proportions and adequately-placed buttons. It honestly feels like, for once, Sony is the one making a slightly better use of space.
Sony's stubbornness has finally receded, and the company has fitted an IPS LCD panel in the Z1 Compact. The fairly dense, 720x1280 pixel screen (342ppi) has an accurate color temperature of about 7250K, with brightness peaking at the excellent 515 nits.
On the other hand, the HTC One's 1080x1920 pixel (469 ppi) Super-LCD3 screen is sharper, though it's less visible in bright sunlight (it peaks at 460 nits of brightness) It's color temperature is also less on target, at 7656K, so whites exhibit a cold overtone, but gamma is spot on, at 2.21 (vs. 2.68 for the Z1 Compact).
Overall, colors are reproduced correctly by both displays, though Sony's screen is slightly more true to the actual, target colors. On the other hand, the One's display is considerably sharper, and also disproportionally bigger, as it houses the software navigation buttons on its bezel, unlike the Z1 Compact. When it comes down to calling this, we thought that the One is the slightly better option, as we felt that the added benefits of a larger, crisper display largely make up for the miniscule superiority of the Z1 Compact's panel in terms of color fidelity.