Sony Xperia Z3 Compact hands-on

Believe it or not, size isn't everything. In fact some people like things a little smaller. For those disenchanted with the mass of 5-inch-plus flagship phones, Sony, with the Xperia Z3 Compact, has crammed high-end components into a more manageable form factor.

With a 4.6-inch display of its own, the Z3 Compact is hardly small. It does, however, make use of very slim bezels to offer this pleasing screen size within a device that features the same footprint as last year's Xperia Z1 Compact. Similar in size to the Motorola Moto G, the Z3 Compact packs far more grunt than its wallet-friendly rival.

The new model has been unveiled alongside its big brother, the Xperia Z3, during IFA 2014. We've had an early play to see whether this little smartphone packs a sizeable punch.

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Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Design

As you would expect from its name, the Compact looks like a scaled down version of the flagship Z3.

At 8.7mm thick and just 127g in weight, it is a very comfortable device to hold. Less angular than its predecessor, the boxy handset features new, rounded, corner sections. As well as improving the phone's aesthetic, these offer improved impact absorption if the _phone_ is dropped. As we have yet to send the device crashing to the floor, we will have to take Sony at its word on this for now.

Despite having a slightly plasticky air to its construction, the Z3 Compact does not feel cheap. Instead it feels robust and well pieced together. It has a solid, familiar design.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

It needs this strong build quality for its water resistant party piece. Given Sony's ongoing concerns about puddles and ponds, the Compact is both IP65 and IP68 certified. That means it can be submerged in 1.5 metres of water for up to 30 minutes or take a dust bath without risk of damage.

This outdoors friendly device is coming in a variety of colour options for those with more fashion-conscious demands. The standard black and white choices are partnered by more outlandish - and slightly garish - orange and green offerings.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Screen

As with its predecessor, the Z3 Compact's screen is where this handset loses some of its sheen. Unlike the full Z3, the 4.6-inch Compact has overlooked a 1080p Full HD display in favour of a 720p, HD option.

Although this is sure to help the device's battery life, visually it is lacking that extra spark. It is a notable step down on its big brother.

Watching video content, the visuals were perfectly satisfactory with a strong colour pallet and deep black levels impressing. Reading text and viewing still images, however, is where the screen’s weaknesses are highlighted. The 720p panel lacks the crispness offered by a Full HD display. Text in particular features weak, distorted edges. This is a noticeable distraction when reading web pages.

The Z3 Compact’s screen isn’t without its merits though. Based on first use we were impressed with the phone’s abilities in both bright, direct sunlight and areas of dingy shadows. A feature flawed on many smartphones, the Z3 Compact’s auto brightness adjustments felt natural and on point during our brief time with the device.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Features and Camera

While Sony might have made compromises on the phone's screen; this is where the cutbacks stop.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is powered by the same 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor as its big brother. As well as offering immense amounts of processing power (the _phone_ rifled through our early user tests), this chip's battery management credentials combine with the phone's 2600mAh Lithium-Ion to offer a 2 day, ‘standard use’, battery life.

Given our limited time with the phone, we have yet been to verify these claims. Stay tuned for our full Xperia Z3 Compact review for a more in-depth look at the phone's staying power.

Not content with a powerful motor, the Compact's specs sheet is further enhanced by 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The latter can be expanded up to 64GB via the use of microSD card.

Also pulled across from the full size Z3 is the 20.7-megapixel primary camera. Having been retained from the Z1 Compact, this camera option has been bolstered on the software side with a raft of new shooting modes and post-production effects.

Dual Shot and Sound Photo modes have been added, while a 2-megapixel camera around front provides selfie options.
Although the phone tackled low light shooting conditions with aplomb during our hands-on, we will bring you a more in-depth look at the Z3 Compact’s camera abilities in a full review shortly.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Software

These improved camera options are just the tip of the Z3 Compact’s new software inclusions. For those with fitness-themed intentions, the phone comes running Sony's new LifeLog application. This is Sony’s take on Apple’s HealthKit app.

LifeLog works with a variety of wearable devices – as well as the phone’s inbuilt sensor package – to offer instant user feedback on everything from distances covered and calories burned to sleeping patterns and dietary habits. It is a one-stop personal wellbeing tool which, from first use, looks set to rid Sony handset users of a mass of third-party apps.

Sony has new software additions for the less active among you too. For the first time, the tech giant is letting PS4 owners play their console games through a smartphone with the Z3 range.

Echoing the PS Vita’s Remote Play abilities, the Z3 Compact will double up as a mobile screen for PS4 gaming. With the handset connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the console, gamers can sync their phone to a DualShock 4 controller and carry on where they left off on the big screen.

Again further testing is required before we can fully pass judgement on this feature. On first use, however, it is an instant win for gaming fans, despite its location-based restrictions.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

First Impressions

With a flagship sibling which is a little underwhelming, the Z3 Compact is shaping up to be the star of Sony's winter offerings. The company has shown that a smaller size need not mean a less impressive product. If only a Full HD display had been included, we'd have been placing our pre-orders now.

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