Introduction

Of all the features that set smartphones apart, screen size is as close to a decider as they get. Counter to the trend of the last decade that saw cell phones become as small as technology allowed, the emergence of touchscreen and the resolution race have brought about a major shift towards the larger form factor.

The 5.2" Sony Xperia Z3, 5.5" LG G3, and the 5.7" Samsung Galaxy Note 4 have all made it clear that screen real estate is in high demand. Even Apple has to play along now - the 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus, which looked less than certain until its very premiere, is now the platform's major weapon against Android flagships.

The actual iPhone 6 that should've been the star of the show, has in a way been relegated to the role of a mini - in Android terms. A giant leap for the 4.7" iPhone (up from 4") is a small step in an industry that has long crossed the 5" mark.

Yet, size is both an asset and a liability, making the redefined compact flagship an increasingly valuable commodity. Sony were among the first to realize this and the second generation of their Xperia Z compact series will look to consolidate their leadership.

Enter the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact.


Sony Xperia Z3 Compact official shots

The industry is no stranger to more reasonably sized screens, with the likes of Samsung, HTC, and LG all offering downsized versions of their past and present flagships. Unfortunately, most of these also come with a respective reduction in specs, which is a big no-no in our books. As you know, we're huge believers in capable compact smartphones.

Key features

  • 4.6" IPS LCD, 720 x 1280px, 319ppi, ambient light sensor
  • LTE connectivity
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat with Xperia UI on top
  • IP68 certified - dust and water proof up to 1.5 meter and 30 minutes
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset with quad-core 2.5GHz Krait 400 processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM
  • 20.7MP camera, single LED flash, 2160p video recording, dedicated hardware shutter key
  • 2.2MP front-facing camera with 1080p video recording
  • 16GB of built-in storage, expandable via the microSD card slot
  • Active noise cancellation with a secondary microphone
  • 2,600mAh battery; STAMINA Power Saving Mode
  • Stylish dual glass-panel design

Main disadvantages

  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • Lacks the metal frame of the Xperia Z3

With the release of its previous Xperia Z1 Compact, Sony was able to make the first proper compact flagship that didn't sacrifice much compared to its full-sized namesake. Despite seemingly skipping a generation (i.e. no Xperia Z2 Compact), the two Compact members of Sony's Xperia family are not profoundly different from one another as they come just eight months apart.

Sony's quick release cycle should be no news by now, but the improvements to the Z3 Compact are still significant. Although it doesn't sport the metal frame of the Z3 flagship, its protruding dual glass-panel design has a unique feel all to itself. The screen diagonal has been upped to 4.6 inches from 4.3, but Sony was able to actually make the device thinner and lighter than before - a very impressive feat, especially considering they were able to increase the battery capacity to 2,600mAh as well.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact in our studio

Initially, we were disappointed to not see a 1080p screen on the Z3 Compact spec sheet, but Sony more than makes up for it with sharp colors, a brighter display, and some vastly improved viewing angles over its predecessor. Other welcome additions include the 2160p video recording capabilities and the improved water resistance rating.

The Xperia Z3 Compact is not only a pleasure to behold but also has a markedly premium in-hand feel. Up next, we'll be taking a closer look at the design and handling, and what makes the Xperia Z3 Compact worthy of flagship status.

Robust retail package

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact comes with some healthy extras in its retail package. Besides a standard USB adapter comes a robust 1.5A charger, which means you'll be able to juice up your Z3 Compact that much faster compared to a standard 1A unit.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The robust retail package

More importantly, in some markets the smartphone is also bundled with Sony's MDR-NC31E Digital Noise Cancelling headset, which integrates with the built-in noise cancellation capabilities of the new Z3 series devices. It works quite well (you check out our own review of the headset), and is the only headset that can take advantage of the Z3's noise cancelling capabilities - third party units won't be able to. Keep in mind that the presence of the headset in the package is strictly market-dependent so you might need to purchase it separately.

Design and handling

Sony has greatly improved the design of the Xperia Z3 Compact over its predecessor, the Z1 Compact. The latest Compact generation is no longer a mere miniature copy of its fullsize counterpart, but remakes Sony's Omnibalance design into something uniquely its own. So much so, that you may even prefer it over the Xperia Z3.

While it lacks the metal frame of the Xperia Z3, the Compact does sport the former's front and rear glass panels. Although we would have liked to see some metal on the Z3 Compact as well, its glass panels are elevated - unlike those of the Z3 - giving the Z3 Compact a premium feel without the added weight that a heavier frame would bring.

Another benefit that the Z3 Compact holds over the Z1 Compact is that its rear panel is actual glass, like on the front, which does not tend to get scratched up like the plastic rear panel on the Z1 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The Xperia Z3 Compact's design stands apart from the rest of the Z3 series

In hand, the Z3's glass edges are pleasantly rounded to be comfortable to hold, and its small size makes one-handed operation a breeze. Although its thickness is greater than that of the Z3, it actually helps when holding the device as its larger size makes it easier to grip.

Speaking of, the glass panels have a tendency to be very slippery both in the hand and on smooth flat surfaces like wood or plastic. This, combined with its small size also makes it somewhat easy to drop, so care should be taken when handling the Xperia Z3 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Handling the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Controls

The Xperia Z3 Compact features a control layout that's identical to the rest of the Xperia Z3 series. Up front, you'll find the 2.2MP front-facing shooter above the display, next to the earpiece, a small status LED, and some sensors.

The capacitive control buttons are built into the display itself, so the only thing you'll find under the display is the front speaker.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The front of the Z3 Compact

Both sides of the _phone_ are chock-full of slots and controls. On the left side lies a dock for connecting the Z3 Compact to a charging cradle or car kit, flanked by a slew of ports on either side. The microUSB port and microSD card slot are under their own flap, while the nano-SIM card slot is under its own flap.

The plastic flaps are there to ensure IP68 water and dust resistance - certified for up to 1.5meters for 30 minutes - so you better keep them covered if you plan on exposing the Z3 Compact to the elements.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The left side of the _phone_ for connectivity

The right side houses Sony's characteristic rounded power/lock button, next to a tiny volume rocker and a dedicated camera shutter key.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The right side of the phone for control

Up top you'll find an exposed 3.5mm audio jack of the waterproof variety alongside a secondary microphone, while on the bottom rests a lanyard eyelet and the primary microphone.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The top and bottom houses dual microphones

Around back is the 20.7MP camera lens alongside an LED flash. The rear panel is not removable, so you won't have access to the 2,600mAh battery.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The back of the Xperia Z3 Compact

One final note on controls - Sony is planning on releasing complete PS4 connectivity exclusively to the new Xperia Z3 series this coming November. This means that you'll be able to connect the Xperia Z3 Compact to a dualshock 4 controller with the provided mount accessory, and stream full PS4 games directly from a PS4 system on the same wireless network.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The Xperia Z3 series will be getting full PS4 integration

4.6-inch IPS panel with ultra-slim bezels

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact has an IPS LCD just like its predecessor. That's where the similarities end, however, as Sony has not only bumped up the screen diagonal to 4.6 inches, but also squeezed it into the same footprint as the Z1 Compact. What's more, they've improved on it by making the colors more vibrant and brighter, while greatly reducing the contrast degradation when looked at from the sides.

The secret behind these improvements lies in the Live Color LEDs that Sony has incorporated into the TRILUMINOS display technology found in previous Xperia mobiles. Live Color LED combines red and green phosphor with blue LEDs to produce brighter and more uniform light without oversaturating the image.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact screen

Here's how the display looks under our digital microscope:

The Sony Xperia S3 Compact posted great scores in our display test. It provided some great contrast for its size.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact - - - 0.77 725 942
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - - - 0.34 626 1819
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
LG G2 mini 0.12 91 752 0.52 398 748
Sony Xperia Z2 - - - 0.41 488 1195
HTC One mini 2 0.19 220 1141 0.42 501 1196
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789
Oppo Find 7 0.22 248 1135 0.4 448 1123
Samsung Galaxy Alpha 228 456
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 226 432
OnePlus One 0.39 317 805 0.75 598 799


The screen proved to be not very reflective and resulted in some decent outdoor visibility, beating out its predecessor by almost a full number.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Windows phone 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Battery life

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact saw a healthy increase in battery capacity to 2,600mAh, up from 2,300mAh on the Xperia Z1 Compact. It also comes with the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat update, which means that you'll get all of the latest performance optimizations baked right in as well.

We were sure that the extra 300mAh would outshine the 65h endurance rating posted by the Z1 Compact, but we had no idea that it would almost double it! The excellent figures posted in web browsing and video playback mean that the Compact has a very power-conscious screen, while the 16 hours of call time aren't bad either. Excellent standby times also contributed to an overall endurance rating of over 100 hours.

This means that the Xperia Z3 Compact will last you for over four days on a single charge if you do an hour each of web browsing, calling, and video watching per day. Truly impressive!

We didn't even go into Stamina mode. It helps extend your battery life by toggling things like Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth screen brightness, auto sync and background data on and off automatically when the battery charge falls below a certain user-defined threshold. You can also turn off the Wi-Fi receiver if there is no saved Wi-Fi network in range or turn off mobile data when the screen is off, among other things.

Connectivity

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact comes in a single SIM version only, which has quad-band GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 support. 3G and LTE support depend on the region, with either quad- or penta-band 3G alongside a boatload of LTE networks including LTE TDD 2300.

The rest of the connectivity features include dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac and Wi-Fi Direct. There is also support for Bluetooth 4.0 with apt-X, GPS and GLONASS, plus an FM radio with RDS. There is also NFC connectivity with support for Android Beam for sending files to other Android devices.

The ultra-low power ANT+ connectivity protocol handles connections to various sports accessories such as heart rate monitors or bicycle speed & cadence meters.

There is a microUSB 2.0 port for charging and data connections. Media transfer mode is supported for accessing the phone's built-in memory and microSD card over USB.

The microUSB 2.0 port can also be used in USB On-the-go mode for connecting USB peripherals such as pen drives, keyboards or real USB hard drives. There is also MHL support for connecting the Z3 Compact with TV-out, and if you own a compatible HDTV, you can output your phone's screen wirelessly via the Miracast protocol.

Android 4.4.4 KitKat with custom Sony overlay

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact comes with the latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat out of box with the latest Sony improvements to its custom Xperia overlay. As Sony has made no sacrifices when it comes to the Z3 Compact's internals, the software side of things is virtually identical to what you'd find on the Xperia Z3 flagship.

Here's a demo of what the Xperia Z3 Compact can do:

The lockscreen is the usual affair - it supports widgets (one per pane), alongside a camera shortcut at the bottom. There are a few available default widgets, but you can always get more from the Play Store. Also third party apps oftentimes come with their own set of extra widgets.

Naturally, you can protect your lockscreen by Face, Pattern, PIN or Password unlock, in ascending order of security. With the Z3 Compact, Sony has also included tap to wake, which lets you activate the screen with a quick double-tap.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The lockscreen

The Xperia Z3 Compact lets you add or remove homescreen panes (you start with five) and set any of them as default. You can't have more than seven panes at any given time though, nor can you change the order they're in.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Xperia homescreen

Adding stuff on the homescreen is easy as customizing it. You can set various live and static wallpapers, add widgets and shortcut, or change the UI theme.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Managing homescreens • Themes

The notification area loses the quick toggles, which have been moved into their own separate tab. You can gain quick access to the Quick Settings tab with a two-finger swipe from the top. The toggles are customizable and you can choose between 20+ different toggles and have up to 12 of them visible on their dedicated pane.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Notification area

The app drawer is laid out across multiple pages and you can sort the apps manually, alphabetically, by the most used or most recently installed. The menu with these settings is accessible via a swipe from the left edge of the screen and you can also search and even uninstall apps from there.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

App drawer

The Xperia Z3 Compact uses the stock Android task manager that lets you switch between recently opened apps, as well as terminate them with a side-swipe.

The so-called "small apps" are also available in the Xperia Z3 Compact and are accessible via the task manager. They are similar to Samsung's Mini Apps, and pop up tiny widget-like applications on your homescreen, which you can move around and use without having to open the full-fledged app. So far, there's a default set of nine: Active Clip, Chrome Bookmarks, Browser, Calculator, Calendar, Gmail, Timer, Notes, and Touch Lock. You can launch only one instance of a Small App, but you can open multiple Small Apps simultaneously.

You can download more Small Apps off the Play Store or use the option to turn your favorite widgets into Small Apps. Just hit the Plus key at the top of the list and choose a widget.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Task switcher • Small Apps

Naturally, you can access Google Now by swiping from the bottom of the UI. There's another shortcut right next to the Google Now launch key called What's new. This app has a very slick UI and will show you the hottest apps and multimedia today. It isn't limited to just the Google Play Store, and will display content from Sony's PlayStation store too.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony's What's new

Finally, Google Now integrates with your Google account and can access your daily routine, internet searches, email, etc. and give you information relevant to your interests and daily needs.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact sports a MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801 chipset with a quad-core 2.5GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330 graphics. Apart from the 2GB of RAM (down from 3GB), it's the exact same configuration you'll find on the Sony Xperia Z3, so we're expecting flagship-grade performance. The latest Android 4.4.4 KitKat build should also provide optimizations to the web browser.

First off, we'll be testing the CPU and overall benchmarks. Geekbench 3 tests the processor in a variety of usage scenarios, and although the Z3 Compact doesn't top the charts, it ranks alongside the current top flagships. Basemark OS 2 also tracks processor performance and even provides individual scores for single-core and multi-core processing. Basemark 2's overall score also factors in graphics performance, which is why it's higher.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    3229
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3214
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    3011
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    2968
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    2856
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2856
  • OnePlus One
    2663
  • HTC One mini 2
    1526
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    1123
  • LG G2 mini
    1123

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • OnePlus One
    1196
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    1167
  • HTC One (E8)
    1146
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    1082
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1080
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    915
  • HTC One mini 2
    517
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    419

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    2579
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    2579
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    2415
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2282
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    2253
  • OnePlus One
    2213
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    1353
  • HTC One mini 2
    1304

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    15096
  • OnePlus One
    10234
  • HTC One (E8)
    10219
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    10063
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    10063
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    10044
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    5283
  • HTC One mini 2
    5182
Moving on to graphics performance, again we find the 720p display does the Z3 Compact a fair share of favors. The great onscreen numbers shown from the Adreno 330 GPU are brought down to earth in the offscreen tests, where the 1080p resolution evens out with the flagship competition. Basemark X also runs at its native 720p resolution, which is why we see such high numbers

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    31.3
  • OnePlus One
    28.3
  • HTC One (E8)
    28
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    27.8
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    27.4
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    27.2
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    6.7
  • HTC One mini 2
    5.8
  • LG G2 mini
    5.8

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    48.4
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    41.3
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    34
  • OnePlus One
    30
  • HTC One (E8)
    29.9
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    28.7
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    28.1
  • LG G2 mini
    14.9
  • HTC One mini 2
    11
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    9.3

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    13.4
  • HTC One (E8)
    12.3
  • OnePlus One
    12.1
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    11.8
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    11.8
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    11.7
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    9
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.7

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    25.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    25.3
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    17
  • OnePlus One
    12.9
  • HTC One (E8)
    12.9
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    12.2
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    11.7
  • HTC One mini 2
    3.8

Finally, we come to JavaScript and HTML 5 performance where we have Mozilla's Kraken 1.1 and Rightware's BrowserMark 2.1. JavaScript performance seems comes in at around the middle of the pack, but the HTML5-intensive Browsermark test was where the Z3 Compact really shined.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    4911
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    6043
  • HTC One (E8)
    6460
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    6480
  • OnePlus One
    7008
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    7041
  • HTC One mini 2
    15684
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    15885

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    1500
  • Galaxy S5 (Snapdragon 801)
    1398
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    1364
  • HTC One (E8)
    1362
  • OnePlus One
    1339
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1224
  • HTC One mini 2
    945
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    861

The Z3 Compact's flagship pedigree really stands out in these performance benchmarks. Not only is the Z3 Compact able to run with the big boys in every aspect, what's even more notable is how much better it is than other compact flagships. The likes of the HTC One mini 2, Samsung Galaxy S5 mini, and LG G2 mini are clearly a step behind the Xperia Z3 Compact, and should be considered as being in a separate category.

Phonebook

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact phonebook is integrated with the dialer using a tabbed interface - the Contacts, Phone, Favorites and Groups tabs can be side-swiped. The contact list has a dedicated search field plus it offers and a cool alphabetical scroll bar.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Phonebook

You can sync with multiple accounts, including Exchange and Facebook, and you can selectively show or hide contacts from some accounts (as well as filter specific groups in an account), or set the phonebook to display only contacts with phone numbers or only contacts that are online.

Linking contacts is available, and the quick contact feature is here too.

Telephony

Calling on the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is okay. It held onto signal just fine even in tight urban spaces and the sound coming from the speaker was loud enough. The clarity is only average on our side while the other line reported we came in fine enough.

The dialer support smart dialing.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Dialer

Loudspeaker is only average

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact scored an Average on our loudspeaker test. The quality of the sound generated is good, but is just not that loud, likely due to the waterproofing. Here's how it stacks up to other devices.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 60.9 66.6 58.7 Below Average
LG G2 mini 65.2 67.7 64.6 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 65.9 62.1 73.5 Average
Samsung Galaxy Alpha 66.6 61.7 75.7 Average
Sony Xperia Z2 66.7 64.6 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy S5 66.9 66.6 75.7 Good
HTC One mini 2 69.3 66.6 75.9 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 73.5 67.7 78.7 Very Good
Motorola Moto G 4G 77.1 76 83.3 Excellent


You can find out more about our testing here.

Messaging and email, text input

Text messages and MMSs use standard threaded layouts. Adding multimedia (photos, videos, sounds, etc.) will convert the message automatically into an MMS.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Messenger

Naturally, the Gmail client and the default Email apps are onboard. Gmail can sync only with (multiple) Google accounts, while the generic Email app can handle POP and IMAP and offers a Combined inbox.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Gmail and Email

As for text input, the Xperia Z3 Compact offers a customizable on-screen full QWERTY keyboard.

You can choose a different layout (keypad, QWERTY, QWERTY with extra symbols), add/remove the coma and period button, the smiley and voice input buttons and also enable things like bilingual word suggestions if you have more than one language enabled. Different keyboard skins are available too.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Keyboard

You can also try the so-called Gesture input if hitting those keys individually doesn't give you the desired typing speed. It's similar to Swype, and even if you've never used a Swype-like input before, you'll quickly get used to it.

Single-hand size keyboard is available too, but only in portrait orientation. If enabled, it squeezes the onscreen keyboard to the left or right side of the screen so it gets more comfortable for single handed text input.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Single-handed keyboard

Album

We should all be familiar with Sony's custom gallery - Album. It organizes images into groups of thumbnails and sorted by date. You can change the thumbnails size by pinching.

Unlike previous versions there isn't a homepage that hosts all of your albums, instead you get the same swipe-able menu the app drawer offers. There you can find all of your online and offline albums.

The gallery can connect to online albums (PlayMemories, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr) and also to other devices on the local network. Maps and Globe albums are also available, which use geotagging info to sort photos by the location where they were taken, and faces, which groups photos by the faces of the people in them.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Album

Editing can also be done from within Album app. It pops up a minimalist interface very similar to Google's Photos app, offering the ability to enhance your photos with a verity of filters, as well as adjust from a slew of settings including hue, levels, curves, and many more.

Images can also be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Viewing an image • Editing is compact yet powerful

There's a slideshow using the SensMe brand and much like the music player feature, this one scans files and groups similar photos together.

Walkman and FM Radio

The Walkman music player is part of the equipment of all recent Xperia smartphones. It features Music Unlimited integration and is not above trying to sell you songs, but you can hide the Music Unlimited stuff.

The Walkman interface is based on a hidden swipe-able menu that sorts your music collection by Artist, Albums, Playlists, all songs and even the songs your friends are listening to (via a connected Facebook account). You can pop up the menu the same way you'd do it in the app drawer or the gallery - just swipe from the left edge of the screen.

The Music Unlimited stuff includes ways to discover new music - Charts, New releases and Channels. Those can be hidden individually (same goes for the artist/album/playlist tiles) or you can disable the service altogether.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Walkman

The Infinite button is available in the Now Playing screen (just tap the album art) - it will help you find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google. Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art.

Digging into the settings your can select custom presets for a wide range of Sony headsets, including the bundled NC31E/EM noise cancelling headset, which takes advantage of the built-in noise cancelling features of the Z3 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Downloading track info • Selecting a headset preset

The Walkman player offers a variety of audio settings - ClearAudio+ option is here, which determines the best audio quality settings depending on the song you're listening to. We liked how it changed the music and carefully accentuated various details. Dynamic normalizer evens out the differences in volume between tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.

The Sound enhancements contain yet more settings. There's an equalizer with presets and manual settings (including tweaking Clear Bass). Then there's Surround sound mode, which imitates the Studio, Club or Concert Hall experience. The Clear stereo mode enhances the perceivable stereo channel separation. Dynamic normalizer minimizes the difference in volume between songs (great if you're playing a shuffled mix).

The Xperia Z3 series also includes Sony's Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE), which upgrades the quality of compressed music files by restoring high-range sound.

Speaker settings include Clear Phase, which adjusts the quality, while xLOUD boosts up the internal speaker.

There's also an FM Radio. The app features multiple visualizations and integrates with TrackID to recognize the currently playing song. You can even directly send an "I'm listening to..." post to Facebook.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

FM Radio

Movies

The video playing app is dubbed Movies and it too has a great custom UI. It's connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies and TVs you have on the phone. It will even download posters for them and for movies, it will download metadata like genre, synopsis, director and cast.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work very well for TV shows - it doesn't recognize the S01E02 format and won't pull info about individual episodes. It gets worse, Gracenote seems to be lacking info on TV shows in general, we couldn't find even popular shows like The Big Bang Theory.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Video player

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact was able to play most of the video files we threw at it but had some issues with AC3 audio and videos that combined AAC audio with the AVC video codec. MOV files played without problem, a rarity on an Android device. In any event, you can always download a more capable (codec-wise) third-party app from the Google Play store.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Watching a video

The video player supports subtitles, and you can customize their looks. Unfortunately, you cannot manually pick the subtitle file, it has to reside in the video folder to load up.

Very good audio output

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact did fairly well in our audio quality test. The smartphone did a great job in the first test, where it's connected to an active external amplifier and posted very scores top to bottom. Its volume levels come up somewhat short of the average though and we have to point out its score were slightly inferior to those of the Xperia Z1 Compact.

Plugging in a pair of headphones did harm the stereo crosstalk notably, but had no effect on the other aspects of the performance. Once more, the volume levels were nothing worth writing home about, though, so we have to deduct a couple of points and give this one a very good, rather than a perfect mark.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact +0.02, -0.08 -85.2 85.2 0.013 0.022 -85.3
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (headphones attached) +0.10, -0.01 -85.4 85.4 0.020 0.045 -45.1
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact +0.08, -0.02 -92.6 92.3 0.0052 0.012 -89.0
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (headphones attached) +0.15, -0.05 -91.7 91.3 0.054 0.090 -43.7
Samsung Galaxy Alpha +0.01, -0.04 -96.6 92.8 0.0058 0.0091 -97.1
Samsung Galaxy Alpha (headphones attached) +0.04, -0.01 -95.7 92.7 0.013 0.033 -65.6
HTC One mini 2 +0.02, -0.09 -94.8 93.8 0.010 0.011 -93.5
HTC One mini 2 (headphones attached) +0.08, -0.03 -94.9 93.8 0.028 0.022 -90.1
Apple iPhone 5s +0.02, -0.05 -93.6 93.7 0.0013 0.0068 -90.3
Apple iPhone 5s (headphones attached) +0.12, -0.00 -93.4 93.3 0.0016 0.060 -76.1

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact frequency response

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

20.7MP camera sensor with ISO 12800 support

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact's camera uses the same 20.7MP sensor that was introduced back with the Xperia Z1. It shoots with a maximum resolution of 5248 x 3936 pixels (20.7MP) in manual mode, or 3264 x 2448 (8MP) in Superior Auto. There is also a LED flash to help you with some low-light photos. Speaking of low-light, the sensor in the new Xperia Z3 series has received ISO 12800 support for improved shooting in poor lighting environments.

The Xperia Z3 Compact also has a hardware shutter key. It's quite tiny and many people would probably find it uncomfortable. The good thing about it is that you can set it up to unlock the phone and start the camera. It can also snap a photo or start capturing video immediately. This might come in handy for those occasions when you want to capture something quickly. It's especially handy for underwater shooting, as on-screen controls tend to not respond well in those situations.

The camera interface consists of two panes and is unified with the camcorder one - you can snap a photo or shoot a video without changing modes most of the times. Depending on the shooting mode you're in, the video shutter key may be replaced by a still/video mode toggle.

Selecting a shooting mode from the bottom right now reveals an additional tab that lets you download more third-party and Sony-made shooting modes.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The robust camera interface features downloadable shooting modes

In the full resolution Manual mode you also get access to "manual controls" on the viewfinder, which sounds more impressive than it really is. There's an exposure compensation slider and a white balance selector. You can also control the ISO, metering and focus modes, turn on/off image stabilization, but those are buried in the settings menu.

Then, there are the Augmented Reality effects, which stamp one of several virtual worlds over your scene and you can even move around in this world thanks to some intriguing motion tracking effect (note that it needs real-life visual cues in the scene to track your motion). Children will love this mode, and Sony has perfected the app since its initial iteration to make it impressive to adults as well.

Other modes include the Creative effect mode, which lets you browse from a range of effects in a scrollable carousel on the right and see them in real time. Social live is included, which can live-stream the video feed from your camera directly on your Facebook profile, and the Live on YouTube brings the same functionality but on YouTube. That's certainly not something you see every day.

Timeshift replaces the regular burst mode, it captures 30 shots in just 2 seconds. The intriguing thing is it starts shooting even before you've pressed the shutter button. Sound Photo lets you record sound along with your photos, while Multi camera allows you to shoot with multiple Sony devices connected to one and the same Wi-Fi network and combine their video feeds all in one as you go.

Traditionally, with the 20.7MP Sony Xperias we've noticed that Superior Auto mode captures sharper images while in manual, you'll tend to get some blurring at random spots across the frame.

Interestingly, here it's the other way around - Superior Auto mode is not as sharp as Manual mode, although things are certainly a lot closer.

The images captured in the 8MP in Superior Auto mode have good dynamic range, but a fair bit of noise - particularly when compare to Manual mode. The contrast is not quite right, and colors are tend to be a bit overblown - although Sony has toned it down compared to its previous 20.7MP sensors.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Superior Auto mode

The 20.7MP Manual mode images obviously have more resolved detail, but also tend to have noticeably less noise than their 8MP counterparts. The contrast is a little better here compared to Superior Auto, and colors are also a smidge cooler in temperature.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Manual mode

You can get to HDR mode from the Manual settings menu and only when you pick 8MP resolution - not ideal and about the slowest way to enable HDR in the industry (Samsung phones have it as a quick toggle) but it's there. It works as it should by normalizing underexposed shadows and blown out highlights, but turns the image into a blurry mess in the process. On the positive side, the Superior Auto shooting mode is supposed to auto select HDR whenever the scene requires it, but from our experience, you can't really rely on it turning on when it's subjectively needed.

That said, having it turn on less frequently may not be that bad as the results are nothing to write home about. Contrast and noise levels go out the window and ultimately you get a very poor excuse for an HDR shot.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

HDR On • HDR Off

There's Sweep panorama but, unfortunately, as with all other Xperia phones, panoramas come out in 5MP resolution, with poor stitching, downright bad contrast, and very poor resolved detail.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact panoramas: shot in landscape and portrait orientation of the phone

And finally, here comes the High ISO mode in which the Xperia Z3 Compact can go up to ISO 12,800. This sort of ISO levels are only accessible in Manual mode at 8MP resolution. Here's a sample, shot at ISO 12,800. Naturally, the resulting image is quite soft with high noise, but you can't really expect much better than that.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact in High ISO mode

If you want you can do some extra pixel peeping through our dedicated comparison tool below.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact in our photo compare tool

4K video recording

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact captures 2160p videos at 30 fps at most. There are the usual lower fps and resolution options like 1080p@60fps and even a slow motion mode at 720p. There's also HDR video, but only in 1080p resolution.

4K (2160p) videos carry a bitrate of 55 Mbps and are pretty good at staying close to the 30fps mark, although you will see the occasional stutter. The audio track bitrate is high at 156 Kbps and it sounds good thanks to the noise-cancelling dual microphone setup.

The quality of the videos is obviously very sharp at this resolution, but tends to suffer from the same mediocre contrast and slightly overblown colors we saw in the still images. White balance also tends to lean towards the red spectrum.

1080p videos obviously don't carry the same quality, but are an adequate alternative if you're looking to keep filesize low. Apart from a lower bitrate (17.5 Mbps) and slightly narrower field of view, you're looking at largely the same end result: good dynamic range but punchy colors and below average contrast.

There is also a 60fps mode that only works at 1080p or lower, and an HDR mode that only works at 30fps at 1080p. The latter is identical in bitrate to non-HDR videos and will boost your dynamic range heavily at the expense of resolved detail, just like with the still images. 60fps mode will almost double your filesize but ups the bitrate to 30 Mbps, and produces videos that are much smoother - great for shooting fast-paced action like sports and such.

You can check out these video samples directly off the device: 1080p@30fps (22.7MB, 00:10s), HDR (33MB, 00:15s), 1080p@60fps (39.3MB, 00:10s), and 4K (2160p) (67.6MB, 00:10s).

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact in our video compare tool

Chrome

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact comes with Google Chrome as the default web browser out of box instead of the generic Android browser. While the minimalist interface hasn't changed since Chrome launched on Android, the browser is being constantly refined by Google, and this has resulted in one of the smoothest and most powerful browsing experiences we've encountered on a mobile.

Of course, one of Chrome's strengths is its ability to seamlessly sync with the desktop version using nothing but your Google account. This allows you to open an article on your PC and finish reading it on your mobile phone. It also syncs your bookmarks and favorite sites.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Google Chrome

Other apps

Sony's Smart Connect app comes pre-installed. It allows you to set your device to do a variety of things - like launch an app or set an alarm - whenever you connect an accessory like a headset or a charger. You can also set events to occur during a time interval (e.g. mute alarms at night). As for NFC compatibility, the Smart Connect app doesn't work with ordinary NFC tags, but only Sony's Smart tags, which is kinda disappointing. However, one of our readers duly pointed out, you can purchase cheap generic NFC tags, which are programmed as SmartTags so the app can recognize them just fine.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Smart Connect

Sony Select does the same as the Sony's What's New app, but comes with much less functions and old UI. We feel Sony should retire it.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Select

The calendar has three different types of view - daily, weekly and monthly. The lower section of the screen is reserved for a list of upcoming events. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact comes with a Track ID TV app that will recognize a TV show if you have the device to listen to what you're watching - neat.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Calendar • Track ID TV

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact also features the Office Suite 7, which comes with a Premium license for one month, allowing for viewing and editing office files (docs, xls, ppt), and it can also read PDFs.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

OfficeSuite 7

Calculator, Clock app (with stopwatch, world clock and timer), Sketch, Notes and File Manager apps are also here by default.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Clock • Calculator • File Manager • Notes

There is the Sony PlayStation app too, which allows you to browse your PlayStation profile, avatar and achievements. It's far from Microsoft default Xbox app on Windows Phone, but it's something. It can also connect to your PS4 and extract various content from there.

The Power Saver - now part of the settings menu - helps you extend your battery life by toggling things like Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth screen brightness, auto sync and background data on and off automatically when the battery charge falls below a certain user-defined threshold. You can also turn off the Wi-Fi if there is no saved Wi-Fi network in range or turn off mobile data when the screen is off, and more.

Sony also provides a Backup & restore app, which can use the internal storage, a microSD card or even an attached USB mass storage device. You can backup the system and downloaded apps and their data along with any media files.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The Power saver app • Backup & Restore app is a great tool to have out of the box

Final Words

Sony was the first to redefine the compact flagships concept with its Xperia Z1 Compact, setting a pretty high bar for both the competition and the potential successor. The company's short release cycle, on the other hand, is doing the Z3 Compact no favors.

Although there obviously aren't many significant improvements in the Xperia Z3 Compact, it nevertheless brings a refreshed design and updates in key areas like display and battery life. Not only did Sony fix the screen's contrast degradation at an angle, which plagued the 4.3-inch IPS panel of the Z1 Compact, but it squeezed a 4.6-inch screen in the same size chassis, making it brighter along the way.

Here's what else that stood out about the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact:

  • Built quality is top notch, and stands apart from the rest of the Z3 series
  • The display is adequately bright and has good sunlight legibility
  • Battery life is phenomenal
  • It has an all-round connectivity package including LTE, USB Host and FM radio
  • Speaker loudness scored an Average rating, likely due to the IP rating
  • Benchmark performance is flagship grade, although helped by only having to push out 720p pixels
  • Audio quality is very good, with minor exceptions in some areas
  • Video player handles all the major formats except for AC3 audio and AAC audio with AVC video
  • Camera is OK, but not as good as competing offerings from Samsung. 2160p videos come out smooth

The healthy boost in battery capacity to 2,600mAh resulted in exceptional battery endurance, and the benchmarks produced truly flagship-grade figures. The Xperia Z3 Compact stands head and shoulders above other miniaturized flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S5 mini and HTC One mini 2, with its only real Android competition coming from the newly released Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

And we're comfortable saying that because the competition's mini flagships, in their second generation now, are still having trouble matching the original Z1 Compact. They're getting close, no doubt about that, but not quite there yet.

Despite a number of premium extras such as water-proofing and a fingerprint scanner, the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini is powered by a proprietary Exynos chipset that's roughly in the same league as Snapdragon 400. The latter is ticking inside the likes of the HTC One mini 2 and the Motorola Moto G (2014) - which may not be a mini in size but not far off in attitude and, above all, price.

Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
HTC One mini 2
Motorola Moto G (2014)

Samsung Galaxy S5 mini • HTC One mini 2 • Motorola Moto G (2014)

So, the 4.7-inch Alpha is probably the only droid that can hang with the Xperia Z3 Compact in terms of both looks and performance. It's Samsung's first Galaxy smartphone with a metal chassis and has a slimmer 6.7mm profile. The screen is of the 4.7-inch 720p variety, and its 12MP shooter provides both superior still images and 4K videos.

The Alpha comes with either a quad-core Snapdragon 801 or an octa-core Exynos chip inside, and the Mali-T628 GPU found on the Exynos version provided better graphics performance than the Z3 Compact's Adreno 330. The only drawback to the Alpha is its 1860mAh battery, which resulted in just about half the endurance rating we achieved with the Z3 Compact in our own testing.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

While the Z3 Compact is all about keeping dimensions small, a bigger screen may be what you're after, which is where the Sony Xperia Z3 comes in. The Xperia Z3 is virtually identical to its compact counterpart, except that it sports 3GB of RAM and a 5.2-inch 1080p display. Obviously, Sony was also able to squeeze in a larger battery, but the Z3 also comes in a stylish metal frame to complement the dual glass-panel design, resulting in a slightly different look and feel.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3

Finally, no way we can miss the latest member of the compact flagship club, the just-announced Apple iPhone 6. It features a 4.7-inch display of 750 x 1334px, which results in a slightly higher pixel density compared to the Z3 Compact. This also makes the iPhone slightly larger however, but the thickness is just under 7mm. You also get Apple's extensive app library and the new iOS 8 version. Keep in mind that the new iPhone 6 will retail for significantly more than the Z3 Compact.

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

With the release of the Z3 Compact, its predecessor could become a valid recommendation depending on how much its price drops. The Xperia Z1 Compact has many of the same features: a robust chipset with great performance, compact size with 720p display, along with dust and water resistance. The latest Android 4.4.4 update is in tow as well.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Ultimately, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact brings a very capable and stylish package in a comfortable footprint, at precisely the right time. If you're looking for a robust device at this size, Samsung's Galaxy Alpha and Apple's new iPhone 6 are the only real threats. Big ones though, quite obviously, especially considering the original Z1 compact ruled that same market segment virtually unchecked. Oh well, Sony's in for a fight - and looks up to it.

Robust retail package

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact comes with some healthy extras in its retail package. Besides a standard USB adapter comes a robust 1.5A charger, which means you'll be able to juice up your Z3 Compact that much faster compared to a standard 1A unit.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The robust retail package

More importantly, in some markets the smartphone is also bundled with Sony's MDR-NC31E Digital Noise Cancelling headset, which integrates with the built-in noise cancellation capabilities of the new Z3 series devices. It works quite well (you check out our own review of the headset), and is the only headset that can take advantage of the Z3's noise cancelling capabilities - third party units won't be able to. Keep in mind that the presence of the headset in the package is strictly market-dependent so you might need to purchase it separately.

Design and handling

Sony has greatly improved the design of the Xperia Z3 Compact over its predecessor, the Z1 Compact. The latest Compact generation is no longer a mere miniature copy of its fullsize counterpart, but remakes Sony's Omnibalance design into something uniquely its own. So much so, that you may even prefer it over the Xperia Z3.

While it lacks the metal frame of the Xperia Z3, the Compact does sport the former's front and rear glass panels. Although we would have liked to see some metal on the Z3 Compact as well, its glass panels are elevated - unlike those of the Z3 - giving the Z3 Compact a premium feel without the added weight that a heavier frame would bring.

Another benefit that the Z3 Compact holds over the Z1 Compact is that its rear panel is actual glass, like on the front, which does not tend to get scratched up like the plastic rear panel on the Z1 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The Xperia Z3 Compact's design stands apart from the rest of the Z3 series

In hand, the Z3's glass edges are pleasantly rounded to be comfortable to hold, and its small size makes one-handed operation a breeze. Although its thickness is greater than that of the Z3, it actually helps when holding the device as its larger size makes it easier to grip.

Speaking of, the glass panels have a tendency to be very slippery both in the hand and on smooth flat surfaces like wood or plastic. This, combined with its small size also makes it somewhat easy to drop, so care should be taken when handling the Xperia Z3 Compact.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Handling the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Controls

The Xperia Z3 Compact features a control layout that's identical to the rest of the Xperia Z3 series. Up front, you'll find the 2.2MP front-facing shooter above the display, next to the earpiece, a small status LED, and some sensors.

The capacitive control buttons are built into the display itself, so the only thing you'll find under the display is the front speaker.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The front of the Z3 Compact

Both sides of the phone are chock-full of slots and controls. On the left side lies a dock for connecting the Z3 Compact to a charging cradle or car kit, flanked by a slew of ports on either side. The microUSB port and microSD card slot are under their own flap, while the nano-SIM card slot is under its own flap.

The plastic flaps are there to ensure IP68 water and dust resistance - certified for up to 1.5meters for 30 minutes - so you better keep them covered if you plan on exposing the Z3 Compact to the elements.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The left side of the phone for connectivity

The right side houses Sony's characteristic rounded power/lock button, next to a tiny volume rocker and a dedicated camera shutter key.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The right side of the phone for control

Up top you'll find an exposed 3.5mm audio jack of the waterproof variety alongside a secondary microphone, while on the bottom rests a lanyard eyelet and the primary microphone.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The top and bottom houses dual microphones

Around back is the 20.7MP camera lens alongside an LED flash. The rear panel is not removable, so you won't have access to the 2,600mAh battery.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The back of the Xperia Z3 Compact

One final note on controls - Sony is planning on releasing complete PS4 connectivity exclusively to the new Xperia Z3 series this coming November. This means that you'll be able to connect the Xperia Z3 Compact to a dualshock 4 controller with the provided mount accessory, and stream full PS4 games directly from a PS4 system on the same wireless network.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The Xperia Z3 series will be getting full PS4 integration