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Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review: Premium without the price tag

Can the Z3 Compact prove that bigger isn’t necessarily better?

Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 11.19.55

Although still fairly common, smaller Android phones have certainly taken a backseat to their much larger counterparts as of late. Sony is one company, however, that continually manufacture smaller versions of the newer flagships, and the 4.6-inches Xperia Z3 Compact is another example of that. Design wise, the Z3 Compact is styled virtually the same as the larger Z3. It includes the same reinforced glass back, the same curved design but lacks the aluminium frame. Instead, Sony has implemented a thick plastic frame that doesn’t really have the premium look we had hoped for. The smaller size means it’s easily more suited for one-handed use and each port has been cleverly placed so that your fingers won’t cover them up. There are no substantial options when it comes to ports, but all the basics are included, as well as Sony’s dedicated camera button for taking quick snaps.

For a smaller phone, the Z3 Compacts offers a gorgeous display. Similarly to its bigger counterpart, colours are bright, there’s miniscule pixilation and even third-party app icons look the part. It runs Android 4.4.4 and is 4G compatible, but this is another phone that Sony has plastered their own custom skin on. By no means does it take anything anyway from the device, but it’s just not as easy to use as stock Android. There’s also a number of bloatware apps readily included, with some being more useful than others, Users can expand on the 16GB storage up to 128GB of storage via microSD card, which you’ll probably do if you want to use Sony’s Walkman and Movies apps. If recent history is anything to go by, smaller devices are often left behind when it comes to receiving new updates, we can’t say for sure that it’ll happen here, but it’s something to bear in mind before purchasing if looking for a device that will get Android L immediately. It’s nice to see the same flagship Snapdragon 801 processor used here and it’s even clocked at the same 2.5GHz we saw in the Xperia Z3. The 2GB of RAM is less than the bigger device, but you won’t notice it through everyday use and only the occasional lag in processor-heavy applications.

The 20.7-megapixel rear camera is superb and image clarity is fantastic. Colours can be a little dull on occasion, but it performs well in low light conditions. You’d be hard pressed to find a better camera on offer in similarly priced smartphones, but it’s definitely not as good as what we saw in the full-sized Xperia Z3. Battery life is the one concern we consistently find in Xperia devices, but the Z3 Compact is the first one we’ve really seen that backs up Sony’s claims. Two days of use from the 2600mAh battery may seem far-fetched, but on low to medium use this is doable. If you start watching movies and other media-orientated tasks, then this will obviously decrease quite quickly, however.

After a few hours with the Xperia Z3 Compact, you’ll soon be able to see where the compromises have been made between this and the bigger Z3. It lacks the premium aluminium finish, the camera isn’t quite as good and there’s both a smaller battery and less RAM. But ultimately it’s hard not to fall in love with this device. It’s still a great looking phone and outperforms pretty much everything in the same price tag. For those on the hunt for a smaller device that really won’t break the bank, then the Xperia Z3 Compact should be up for serious consideration.

For further reviews on the latest Android devices, make sure to check out Android Magazine.

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