Sony Xperia Z3 Compact phone review

Introduction

For personal and business users who are looking for a serious alternative to the iPhone 6, the petite Sony Xperia Z3 Compact phone may be just what you are looking for.

Following the release of the Xperia Z3, Sony unveiled a smaller version of the Z3 known as the Xperia Z3 Compact.  The nice part is Sony did not sacrifice the technology included in the original Z3 when producing a smaller version of the device. In fact, they deserve credit for fitting a lot into this little device.  Most of the specs are identical to the flagship Sony Xperia Z3 phone, so it offers the same experience only in a smaller, more pocket friendly and more affordable form.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact sports a 4.6-inch screen, compared to 5.3 inches on the Z3, and is quite affordable when compared to other phones of this calibre with a price tag of around £300.  This price was recently reduced from the initial price of £420, making the Z3 Compact one of the most affordable phones on the market for those seeking an alternative to the pricey iPhone 6 or Nexus 5 smartphones.

The Z3 Compact does not have the traditional Android 4.4.4 operating system.  Instead, it is equipped with Android 5.0 Lollipop through an update in the firmware. The operating system also includes Sony’s own overlay which increases the versatility and provides additional features.

Design

The overall design of the Xperia Z3 Compact is a continuation of the Xperia Z3 and its predecessors.  Sony has maintained its signature OmniBalance design which was first introduced in the flagship Xperia Z phone.  The main idea behind the OmniBalance design is to create balance and symmetry in the aesthetics from all directions, meaning it looks great and feels comfortable to use whether you are watching videos in landscape format or using your phone vertically to text.

As part of the OmniBalance design, the Z3 Compact is designed with subtle rounded edges and smooth surfaces which are held together by a sturdy frame.  The rounded edges are nylon and act as bumper guards. As well as this the phone’s frame is made of slightly pearlescent, rubberised plastic, with an extra rim running along the top and bottom, reassuring you that it can survive a few falls.  The 4.6-inch screen sports thin bezels which help to reduce the dimensions to 5.00 x 2.56 x 0.34 inches and a lightweight feel of just 4.55 ounces which matches the iPhone 6.  It’s not the thinnest phone on the market at 8.7mm thick, call me old fashioned but I prefer to hold a thicker phone compared to an ultra-thin one that could slip through your fingers too easily.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact side on

As for the glass back – it can feel a bit slippery but as the phone is small it’s easy to hold in one hand anyway, so it’s not exactly a downfall for me.

Overall I love the design and size. I have no trouble in reaching my thumb from one end of the screen to the other when texting, which is something I miss when using a large device such as the iPhone 6 plus.

Gorilla Glass

The aesthetics offer a minimal appearance without being too understated.  The sleek and smooth surfaces are finished with tough Gorilla Glass on both sides of the device which provides an upscale high tech look.

To complement the Gorilla Glass on both sides of the device, the edges have been finished in plastic which is translucent and provides a frosted look.  This is a change over previous Xperias which contain a metal surround on the edges of the device.

Waterproof and Dustproof

Like other Sony devices, the Xperia Z3 Compact is both water and dustproof.  It is designed to specific standards that allow the device to be submerged in water for up to half an hour without sustaining damage.  So, if you occidentally drop your phone into a puddle or it gets left out in the rain for 30 minutes, it should be fine.  Needless to say it can deal with splashes or drink spillages no problem.  Due to the water and dustproof design, the ports along the sides of the Z3 Compact are protected by plastic covers.  I’ve heard complaints that these covers are annoying but I consider the effort to pull back the cover to use the port well worth it for the protection against water and dust.  As well as providing protection, the covers give it a tidy finish so absolutely no complaints from me.  All of the ports contain covers with the exception of the headphone jack which does not compromise the dust and waterproof capabilities.  Additionally, there are two speakers located above and below the bezel and are designed to be dust and waterproof as well.

Take a look at this underwater test!

Strategically Placed Function Buttons

In terms of the function buttons, the power button is located directly in the centre on the right hand side of the device.  This prevents you from having to reach up to the top side of the device to toggle the power button.  Additionally, the volume controls are conveniently located right below the power button and are easy to access while being designed flush to the device chassis.

Located discreetly on the left hand side of the device, you will find one USB port which provides a microUSB connection and is designed with the protective cover.  Additionally, there is microSD and a SIM card slot as well.  Additionally, you will find the headphone jack located at the top of the device.

The Xperia Z3 Compact is available in a selection of colours which include black, white, green, and orange.  White being my personal favourite, but it’s nice to see a company catering to different tastes.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact different colours

What About the Screen?

As mentioned earlier, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is equipped with a 4.6-inch screen with a thin bezel for increased screen real estate.  Sony downsized the screen on the Z3 compact to a 1280 x 720 resolution which is reduced from 1920 x 1080 resolution in the full-sized Xperia Z3.

Regardless, the colours are still vibrant and the display is quite impressive looking despite the downplayed resolution.  It is not quite up to par with the iPhone 6 with a 1334 x 750 resolution and Retina high definition display.

But, the display is still very impressive thanks to Sony’s proprietary Live Colour LED and Triluminos technology which is what provides the vibrant colours in Sony’s line of Bravia televisions.  Additionally, the pixel density for the 4.6-inch screen is just under 320ppi which is very close to the iPhone 6 with a pixel density of 326ppi.

The screen is also equipped with an adaptive display setting.  This helps to save on battery life by automatically adjusting the screen brightness to your surroundings, making it easy to view in all environments including outdoors.  The screen on the Z3 Compact is one of the best 720p high definition screens currently available, the only little criticism I have for it is: it’s a finger print magnet!  Not a huge deal but I found myself wiping the screen a lot more that I would on other smartphones.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact outdoor use

What Are the Technical Specifications?

One area in which Sony did not make sacrifices when designing the Z3 Compact, is in the technical specifications.  While they are not identical, the Z3 Compact comes close to matching the Z3. An impressive achievement on behave of Sony.

Some of the specifications include:

Processing Performance

The Xperia Z3 Compact is equipped with a speedy Snapdragon 801 processor running at 2.5GHz, which is the very same as the Z3.  The performance is extremely fast and is supported by 2GB of LPDDR3 Random Access Memory (RAM).  The amount of RAM is an important part of processing performance and the LPDDR3 is designed specifically for mobile devices and significantly enhances the performance.

Additionally, the Z3 Compact offers 16GB of internal storage.  When you subtract the space that the operating system occupies, there is actually about 12GB of storage space.  However, you can expand the storage by as much as 128GB using the microSD card slot.

It’s a very powerful device and for its price range it’s one of the best on the market.

Wireless Connectivity

In terms of wireless connectivity, the Xperia Z3 Compact offers dual-channel Wi-Fi which always connects to the fastest available connection.  You also have access to 4G LTE connectivity which is capable of speeds of up to 150 Mbps (megabits per second) which is respectable speed for wireless connectivity.

The Z3 Compact is also equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, Near Field Communications (NFC) for use with transactions, and a GPS system for finding your way around.  You also have support for FM Radio and USB Host, in addition to access to the Chrome web browser.

Camera

sony xperia z3 compact cameraThe Z3 Compact has a 20MP camera which takes vivid photos and offers a sharp image quality.  20MP is impressive considering most mobile devices have a 5MP or 8MP camera at most.  There is also access to 4K video recording which takes sharply coloured videos that provide plenty of details.  Additionally, Sony has included their stabilisation technology to ensure videos are not subjected to hand tremors.

On the front of the Z3 Compact is a 2.2MP (megapixel) camera which is just okay.  It will do a fairly decent job when it comes to video-conferencing or skyping family and friends.

The camera app itself is packed with a wide variety of different camera modes.  This increases the versatility with some of the modes reserved for 20MP resolution and others designed for an 8MP resolution. There is also a selection of camera modes designed for capturing images and videos in dimly lit environments.

The bottom line is, this camera will please the most avid instagramers.

Audio

The audio quality for the Z3 Compact has been greatly improved since the inception of the Z1.  Sony has included its S-Force Front Surround in the dual front facing speakers.  The stereo speakers provide a much better sound quality than the quiet audio in the Z1.  The S-Force Front Surround was first introduced when Sony unveiled the Z2 series of devices.

Battery

One of the most common and irritating traits of smartphones is the short battery life.  But don’t worry, Sony have tackled this problem.

The Xperia Z3 Compact is equipped with a 2,600mAh battery which is surprisingly large for a device this size.  Sony claims the battery life is just over ten hours when streaming video with more than 105 hours of life when listening to music.  If you are talking on the phone over a 3G connection, the approximate talk time is about 13 hours.

During benchmark tests, the battery in the Z3 Compact scored the highest when compared to all other smartphones with a life of just over ten hours.  This means you can potentially have a battery life that lasts over a two day period.  This is also two hours more than the Z1 and almost three hours more than the Nexus 5.  The Z3 Compact battery also exceeds the iPhone 6 which is equipped with an 1810mAh battery that is significantly less than 2600mAh included in the Xperia Z3 Compact.

Sony has also included a new technology known as Ultra STAMINA mode.  This feature is designed to reduce the Z3 Compact to barebones functionality by blacking out the wallpapers.  This helps you to make the most of the battery life which can then last up to four days when the device is in this mode.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact the best bits.fw

How Does the Z3 Compact Compare to the Previous Generation Z1?

In terms of performance, the Z3 Compact offers faster performance with a Snapdragon 801 processor over the Snapdragon 800 processor in the Z1 series. Additionally, the microSD storage has been increased to a capacity of 128GB from 64GB in the Z1.

Although the back facing camera has remained pretty much the same, the front facing camera has improved.  The Z3 Compact offers a 2.2 megapixel camera over the 2 megapixel camera in the Z1. Additionally, the Z3 Compact features noise cancellation and video recording which was not present in the Z1 series.

The most obvious difference in the change in size, dimensions, and device weight.  The Z3 Compact has dimensions of 5.00 x 2.56 x 0.34 inches and weighs in at just 4.55 ounces. The Z1 offers dimensions of 5.00 x 2.56 x 0.37 inches and weighs in at 4.83 ounces.

What is the Performance Like?

Sony’s return to the smartphone market has been successful due to the company’s ability to build phones with speedy performance.  Although the full-sized Z3 has 3GB of Random Access Memory (RAM) with the same Snapdragon processor as the Z3 Compact, the Z3 Compact still performs remarkably well despite the fact there is 2GB of RAM. This stacks up to the Samsung Galaxy S5 which is larger than the Z3 Compact and provides speedy performance as well.

Benchmark tests for the Z3 Compact held its own against the larger Samsung Galaxy S5 with a score of 2772 on the Geekbench 3 test. The Samsung Galaxy S5 scored just over 2900 which is quite close in comparison plus, the S5 costs more than the Z3 Compact.  Additionally, the graphics processing is also competitive with other devices in this class and is designed for graphically demanding games.

If you would like to view a chart of the performance benchmarks, the Phone Arena website provides a helpful chart with this information.

Would I Buy a Z3 Compact Instead of an iPhone 6 or Nexus 5?

When you look at the competition, the Xperia Z3 Compact gives the iPhone 6 and the Nexus 5 a run for their money.  The speedy performance, increased storage, impressive battery life, and 20MP camera surpasses the iPhone 6 and Nexus 5.  All of this while being a lot more affordable.  The only trade-off is the smaller sized screen, which for me isn’t a problem but may put people off if they use their smartphone to stream television programmes or prefer a larger screen for browsing the web.

If you already have the compact version of the Z1 which costs about £300, you may not see any need to upgrade to the Z3 Compact.

Would I buy it over other smartphones on the market right now?  Definitely.  As someone that prefers a smaller handset, as well as considering the performance of this device, it’s hard to beat it.

Accessories

If the nylon and rubberised edges of the Xperia Z3 Compact are not quite enough to protect your phone (maybe you’re accident prone?), the Case-Mate offer good quality and simply stylish cases.  To have a look on their website, click here.

What are the Pros and Cons?

The Xperia Z3 Compact provides a great selection of features and performance at an affordable price point. To complete the review, here are a few pros and cons:

Pros

  • Speedy performance stacks up to other devices in this class.
  • Impressive battery life surpasses other well-known devices on the market.
  • Superior audio features provide you with excellent listening as well as great call quality.
  • Waterproof and dustproof protection guards against accidents.
  • Sleek design.

Cons

  • Device ships with a fair amount of bloatware.
  • Camera interface requires a learning curve.

Final verdict. Excellent. 

Overall, Sony has done a great job of making the Xperia Z3 Compact appealing to customers, thanks to its ability to keep sacrifices to a minimum when designing a smaller sized device. They squeeze a LOT into its water and dust proof little body. The company has also succeeded in maintaining the best specifications from the full-sized Z3.

If you like the Sony ecosystem and the idea of the best of both worlds with Android 5.0 Lollipop and the Sony modified overlay, it is highly likely you will like the new Z3 Compact. The recent update to the Lollipop operating system has significantly improved the look and feel of the software interface. Additionally, if you are seeking high performance, a wide selection of features, and a long battery life, then the Z3 Compact is worth taking a look.

 About the Author

Our IT Department is a Professional IT Support company based in London. We provide onsite and remote IT services including third party support for Smartphones and iPads. Contact us for more information on how we can help you.

 

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