Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review

When Sony released the Xperia Z1 Compact, a non-outsized phone
with specs nearly identical to the flagship Xperia Z1, we hoped it would
be the beginning of a new trend. Large screens might be nice, but 
users who prefer something a little easier handle had been left out of 
the flagship market altogether. Unlike its "mini" counterparts, the 
Z1 Compact boasted of a top-end processor and camera, with only the 
screen really scaling down to suit the smaller body.
Sony didn't refresh the Z1 Compact (Review | Pictures) when the Xperia Z2 (Review |Pictures) was released, but thankfully the company hasn't
given up on the idea altogether. After skipping a generation, the brand new
 Z3 Compact is here. It's a little less premium and a lot more expensive than
 before, which means there isn't much of a gap between it and its
full-fat sibling. We're curious about whether the Z3 Compact will carry on the
 mission its predecess or started, or will find a new niche for itself in the
 market.
Look and feel

The first thing that struck us about the Z3 Compact is that it has ditched the 
metal frame that stood out so prominently on the Z1 Compact. There's plastic
 all around, which gives it a slightly lower-end feel, but the aesthetics have 
actually improved. Sony has toned down the colours - beyond the standard
black and white, you can now choose a deep orange or a pale green instead 
of the bright pink and yellow.
The opaque front and back sandwich a translucent middle band. The corners
have the same shock-absorbing properties as the ones on the new Xperia Z3 (Review | Pictures), but you won't find any of its slick curved metal. The
 advantages of this are that the magnetic dock connector is far better concealed,
 and the flaps covering the ports and slots are easier to open. One thing the
two siblings do have in common is that their glass backs are so smooth, they
 both slide around on flat surfaces like air hockey pucks.

Sony's trademark round silver power button is in its usual place on the right
edge, with the volume rocker right below it. Both are too low to be used easily,
 and we wish Sony had placed them more appropriately considering how this
 phone will typically be held. There's also a dedicated two-stage camera shutter
button which doubles as a shortcut to launch the camera app even when the
 phone is in standby.
There are twin stereo speakers on the front. Our white review model had clearly
 visible cutouts for the front camera and sensors. All the other variants have black
front panels, which we think looks a little better. The Z3 Compact has the same
 IP68 rating as its sibling, which means it is resistant to damage from exposure
 to dust and liquids. That's always a good thing, but the tradeoff is that you'll
 have to deal with the fiddly side flap every time you need to plug this phone in
 to charge.
The Z3 Compact is only a hair bigger than the Z1 Compact was , but it's
 also nearly a millimetre thinner. It's light enough to be comfortable, and it
isn't too much of a stretch to use it with one hand. In terms of size, this phone
 is a little wider than an iPhone 5s and about the same height, but its screen
 occupies more of the front face. Interestingly, the Z3 Compact is smaller than
 (but not as thin as) the newly announced iPhone 6.
Specifications and software
The list is pretty much identical to that of the Xperia Z3. Both use the same
 quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 running at 2.5GHz with integrated
 Adreno 330 graphics and LTE modem. However, while the Z3 has 3GB of 
RAM, the Z3 Compact has only 2GB. 16GB of internal storage and support 
for 128GB microSD cards are common to both, along with Wi-Fi ac,
Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS, and a full complement of environmental sensors.
The biggest difference is of course the screens. The Z3 Compact steps down
 from full-HD to 720x1280. It's a little less crisp in absolute terms of pixels per
inch (ppi), but it still looks very crisp and should be more than enough for
most people. Interestingly, the screen has been bumped up to 4.6-inches
 diagonally, from the Z1 Compact's 4.3 inches, without any significant increase
in body size.

As a result of the smaller body and less power-hungry screen, the Z3
Compact can get by with a 2,600mAh battery rather than the 3,100mAh
 required by the Z3. We'll be very interested in seeing whether this
compromises battery life in our tests and in real-world usage.
The camera is the same 20.7-megapixel unit as the one on the Z3,
and is also capable of recording 4K video. High-resolution audio support
 and PS4 Remote Play also make their way over. Nothing has been reserved
 or made exclusive to the more expensive model. Considering our excellent
impressions of the Z3, these are all tempting reasons to buy the Z3 Compact
instead, and we're glad we get to choose between the two.

The software is identical to that on the Z3 - Android 4.4.4 with Sony's rather
 overbearing UI skin. The two phones behave identically and their software
looks just the same. You can read all about the software usage experience
, including the unfortunate bloatware and the new camera app modes, in our
 detailed review of the Z3.
Now that Apple has announced its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus with nearly
 identical specifications, comparisons to the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact are
inevitable - no one else offers such similar hardware in two sizes. However,
where Apple has tweaked its software to offer more options and a richer
 UI on its larger model's bigger screen, Sony has just scaled things up and
down, pixel for pixel.

Performance
If you were expecting lower performance than that of the Xperia Z3, prepare
 to be surprised. The Z3 Compact actually pulls ahead in a number of 
tests - the lower-resolution screen is easier to push, giving the smaller model
 an edge in tests that measure graphics performance. The score of 41.2fps
 in GFXbench is the highest of any device we've tested all year, and is 
comfortably higher than the Z3's score of 29.9fps (and a decent improvement 
over the Z1 Compact's 34.9).