Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review

Introduction

Compact in size, but not in performance: welcome to the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact.

Nearly a year after Sony released its first Xperia Z1 Compact following a simple recipe for a non-compromise flagship-grade device in a compact size, it’s time for its successor: the Z3 Compact. While last year’s Z1 Compact was in a class of its own, as practically all other Android manufacturers were making only cut-down versions of flagships that were just not as powerful or alluring, this year, competition has just started to appear. The Z3 Compact, however, has time on its side: Sony has tried to keep what people liked about the original Z1 Compact, and improved on the things that needed some polish. Despite getting a larger, 4.6” screen, the Z3 Compact remains just as petite and single-hand-use-friendly as the original, and it’s got an even faster processor and longer-lasting battery.

Sony, however, admits that hardware innovation has plateaued recently, and in the Z3 Compact the bigger focus was on software. And software is where Sony starts to really bring all of its know-how together: the Z3 Compact can connect to a PlayStation 4 and basically mirror games: hook it up to a DualShock controller and you have the PS4 experience on your smartphone. It also leverages hi-res audio and image processing technologies from grand-parent Sony.

Interestingly, Sony also simply skipped a generation and went from the Z1 Compact straight to the Z3. Let’s see if the change is as big as this leap suggests.

In the box:

  • 1.5A wall charger
  • Sony MDR-NC31E Digital Noise Cancelling headset (only included in some markets)
  • User manual
  • microUSB Cable

Design


With a mass exodus to larger screens and subsequently bigger devices all across the Android top-end, the spec-stuffed Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is a welcome change with its petite dimensions. In fact, it retains the same width and height as its 4.3” predecessor, while at the same time packing a more spacious, 4.6” display. This remarkable feat is achieved by reducing the screen bezel all-around, so that the screen can occupy 70% of the front side. Needless to say, such a compact 4.6” phone fits easily in pockets and is a pleasure to use with a single hand. Speaking of size, the Z3 Compact is also thinner than its predecessor - it clocks in at 8.6mm (0.34”) thickness, and it’s lighter as well.

While at first sight the handset looks similar to its predecessor, the devil is in the detail and little changes make a big difference: first, the bolder, more vivid and lively colors (the Z3 Compact comes in a choice of white, black, orange, or green) add character, but also gone are the metal sides of the original, and instead we have a special plastic material with a very captivating translucent finish (something that Sony calls a “rounded liquid reflection frame”). It’s unlike any other phone we’ve recently seen on the market, and - in combination with the bold color options - it definitely makes the Z3 Compact design stand out.

In terms of materials, the Z3 Compact features tempered glass panels on the back and the front, which don’t get scratched as easily as the plastic panels on the Z1 Compact. The front now also matches the color of the backside - another minute detail that Sony has worked out in the Z3 Compact. Interestingly, Sony has embedded separate pieces of polycarbonate on the four edges of the phone, which should theoretically take the hit if you drop your phone and help it resist impact better.

Up front, there are stereo speakers (more on sound quality later) and no buttons as it usesvirtual, on-screen Android navigation keys. Тhe rest of the keys are on the right hand side of the device. The signature round Sony power/lock key is in the middle, with slightly evolved looks, a bit larger size and a nice click. Тhere is the tiny volume rocker below it and also a dedicated camera shutter key. The left of the phone is where all the ports and slots are located, but all of them fit seamlessly in the design and you’d have to pry open the protective lids to actually see them. This is the place to note that apart from the standard microSD card slot, you have a slot for a nanoSIM card, and not microSIM here. And if you don’t want to open the lid every time to access the ports to charge up the device, there’s also a magnetic connector on the left of the phone that you can use with a Sony dock as an alternative charging method.

On top, there is a microphone and a new, 5-pin 3.5mm headset jack (don’t worry, it’s perfectly compatible with all headsets) that enables the neat noise-cancellation effect on the bundled-in earbuds. On the bottom, Sony includes a second microphone and something typical for smartphones out of Japan - a lanyard eyelet.

We’ve left one of the best design features last: the Z3 Compact is waterproof and carries an IP68 certification. What this means is that Sony’s compact gadget is protected against dust and can withstand immersion in fresh water up to 5 feet deep for as long as 30 minutes. Nice!


Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Dimensions

5 x 2.56 x 0.34 inches

127 x 64.9 x 8.6 mm

Weight

4.55 oz (129 g)

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3

Dimensions

5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 inches

146 x 72 x 7.3 mm

Weight

5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Dimensions

5 x 2.56 x 0.34 inches

127 x 64.9 x 8.6 mm

Weight

4.55 oz (129 g)

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3

Dimensions

5.75 x 2.83 x 0.29 inches

146 x 72 x 7.3 mm

Weight

5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

Dimensions

5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches

142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Display

A 4.6” display in the same body as the 4.3” Xperia Z1 Compact is an impressive feat, but screen quality on the Z3 Compact is underwhelming.

The Z3 Compact comes with a 4.6-inch 720x1280 pixels IPS display featuring Sony’s TRILUMINOS technology. Some people would be disappointed with the fact that Sony has not gone for a 1080x1920 Full HD display (and yet others will point out that we already have Quad HD screens out there), and might be wondering whether a 720p resolution is not a critical flaw. The short answer is no - pixel density comes in at 319ppi, which translates into a fairly sharp picture. A little jagginess of pixels can be noticed when you read tiny fonts, but for common use and pretty much everything else, you won’t be bothered by pixelization. On the flip side, a 720p display consumes less energy, which in turn allows for a longer battery longevity.

Color accuracy is way off on the Xperia Z3 Compact. Sony has gone purposefully with a colder, noticeably bluish display with color temperature reaching the whopping 10000K (while 6500K is the reference value, and everything above it is cold). Color balance in greyscale is noticeably skewed towards the blue across all brightness levels. Color purists have the option to adjust color balance with separate controls for red, green, and blue. With some fiddling (you’d need to add in a lot more red, and a bit more green to get to more balanced colors, we tweaked it to the following values: red ~ 250, green ~ 190, blue ~ 0), you can get to the point where colors are not outrageously blue, but getting this right is no trivial task and requires either a trained eye, or a colorimeter.

Sony advertizes the TRILUMINOS technology in the Z3 Compact as delivering 30% wider coverage than the industry-standard sRGB color gamut. This, however, is a double-edged sword – as with older generation AMOLED screens, colors do look more eye-popping, but with this decision gone is any notion of color accuracy. More is not necessarily better when we speak about the color gamut. Not surprisingly, color targets are also way off. Disappointing.

Sony’s X-Reality is also on board and the feature boosts contrasts in the default picture and video apps, making for even more eye-popping colors. Naturally, this worsens rather than fixing color accuracy issues - colors are even less accurate in this mode.

Our measurements show that the Z3 Compact screen brightness reaches around 450 nits. There’s also ‘Adapt’ mode that would automatically adjust screen brightness. All in all, real-life experience shows that the screen is very readable even under direct sunlight, and that’s great. Viewing angles are also excellent with little distortion to colors and brightness when you tilt it.

It’s also worth mentioning that the screen features a ‘Glove-on’ mode that recognizes touch even when you operate it with your gloves on, but you first need to enable the feature in settings.



FEATURED VIDEO

90 Comments

1. kalloud

Posts: 155; Member since: Jun 21, 2012

Honestly this Z3 COMPACT is a very impressive phone, especially battery life!

9. spin9

Posts: 310; Member since: May 31, 2014

Fortunately Z3/Z3c have the color temperature adjusting feature, unlike Galaxy S5 that has seemingly way-off colors

77. zetachaox

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 01, 2014

I'd love to see color accuracy charts after the white balance has been tweaked. Are they still off the mark?

36. Ashoaib

Posts: 3309; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Z3c is looking more cool than z3

46. pwnarena

Posts: 1129; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

z3 looks better in photos especially with the metallic frame and amazing thinness. however, the compact version is the practically better one.

41. cheetah2k

Posts: 2299; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

I thought the same when the Z1C came out but it was seriously flawed. To many amateurish mistakes like the back plastic allowing nasty flash bleed in indoors/night photos, as well as the continual camera crashing/freezing/unresponsiveness Sony has yet to fix. Other issues like the cross feeding of sound to the microphone was another big issue.. Other than that the phone was a cracker. I just hope Sony have fixed all of the above and don't repeat the mistakes of the past :/

56. techguyone

Posts: 214; Member since: May 18, 2013

Sony have changed the camera/flash placement, which will help, and the back is now glass, that's two changes

50. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

I like this a lot, what is the price?

90. robocopvn

Posts: 504; Member since: Mar 10, 2010

just bought it for a week. the best fone ever

2. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2363; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

Lol @score against the Z3

3. RuiBacelar

Posts: 153; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

Nice, it is rightfully deserved! iPhone 6 killer? or Great android option??

6. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

iP6 is not compact anymore so I'll say that Z3C is better. With 5S it's king of its department.

7. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Definitely iPhone 6 killer, and of course, the iFanboys won't agree with me but who cares about them anyways? The iPhone 6 already lose miserably on the price. Z3C >>>>>> iPhone 6

10. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

iPhone 6 killer? Won't even reach 10% of the total sales. Idk what you fans are thinking...

12. RuiBacelar

Posts: 153; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

Thinking about value for your money. Z3 compact- 499€ ( battery life, IP68, expandable storage) IP6- 699€....now of course it'll sell 100x better. But that's life :s

23. f35hunter

Posts: 241; Member since: Dec 12, 2013

the Iphone 6 will sale more than sony or even samsung because .......... (you know the reason) !!!!!!!!!!!!

42. cheetah2k

Posts: 2299; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Brainwashed lol

52. iluvsonynokia

Posts: 161; Member since: Aug 27, 2013

HMMMMMMMMMMMMM

17. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

High amount of selling volume is not important.....look at the phone dude... Not sales....sales doesn't have specs and features.

20. greathero1

Posts: 584; Member since: Jun 13, 2008

To kill something, you have to dethrone it. A nice spec sheet is cool but if nobody is paying attention to that and buying the other product then its not killing anything. I think Papa is right on this one. It's not a killer, it's an alternative. A mighty nice one at that!

22. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

think about iphone sales compare to Note 4. of course is higher but which one is great phone, of course Note 4.......!!!

29. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

You sir, nailed it. +1

54. Odiin

Posts: 373; Member since: Apr 23, 2013

Completely agree with you akki20892. +1 Well said. Note 4 is a beast. but you PapaSmurf , so do you agree with xperiaDROID? If not then how come you will justify your comment to akki20892?

55. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Because he is Sammy boy.

58. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Avid supporter or Apple, HTC, LG, Samsung and Motorola so joke's on you.

57. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I think you need glasses because my comment was a response to comment #20 instead of #22. If you read my original comment correctly, I disagreed with him. Make sure you're not making a fool out of yourself before you comment. :)

59. Odiin

Posts: 373; Member since: Apr 23, 2013

I just asked a question. No need to get hyper n use your personal vendetta over me n before advising someone better you look at yourself. you are contradicting your own statements, one side your saying Z3C not able to reach 10% sale of iPhone n another side you agree with akki20892? Only because he mentioned Note 4? xperiaDROID said about feature wise not sales wise. No need to fun at others when someone asking you something. You dont have a common sense how to reply n advising me? Great!

61. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

right....dude

64. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Again comment # 55 he's Sammy boy.

48. kwirin

Posts: 26; Member since: Sep 16, 2014

that's swell
Xperia Z3 Compact
  • Display 4.6" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2600 mAh(14h 3G talk time)

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