Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review Scoring Summary
| Style & Handling
|+ Stylish build
||– Chunky design
|+ Great camera
||– Big for a compact
|+ Brilliant battery
||– Disappointing screen resolution
Verdict: With a better screen the Xperia Z3 Compact might be the best ‘small’ phone around, but even so it’s still one of the best and an easy recommendation for Sony or Android fans.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact had it easy as at the time no other phones really combined a small screen size with high end specs, with the possible exception of the iPhone 5S, but now Sony’s back with the Xperia Z3 Compact (having skipped the Z2 Compact, possibly due to lack of competition) and this time it’s up against the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and iPhone 6.
Plus by upping the screen size Sony has muddled its main selling point, the whole ‘compact’ angle and in fact produced a phone not much smaller than 2013’s flagships. With all that in mind is this still a handset you should buy? Read on to find out.
There’s a lot to love about the Xperia Z3 Compact but the screen arguably isn’t among those things. It’s a 4.6 inch 720 x 1280 IPS LCD display with a pixel density of 319 pixels per inch.
So let’s break that down. First of all at 4.6 inches it’s a good size, big enough to comfortably use but not so large that you need two hands to operate it. But it’s also a little larger than the 4.3 inch Xperia Z1 Compact and is really stretching the concept of a small phone.
In fact while the Z1 Compact can be thought of as a small smartphone, the Z3 Compact is small only in comparison to the Z3. That’s fine but it means that it’s not quite angled at the same underserved segment of the market as the Xperia Z1 Compact, which may come as a disappointment to some and by equipping it with a larger screen Sony also gives it more competition as most handsets these days have big screens.
Then there’s the resolution and pixel density. A 720p screen with a ppi of 319 pixels per inch isn’t bad at all, but at 4.6 inches it’s large enough that it would benefit from a 1080p display.
It’s still a great screen on the whole, with a strong colour gamut and good viewing angles and it’s fairly sharp too, but it could be sharper. Thankfully for Sony its most direct competition- the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and iPhone 6, have similar resolution screens, so it doesn’t feel weaker, but with a better display it could have been king of the compacts.
The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact has an undeniably stylish build, with tempered glass panels on the front and back joined by a translucent plastic frame, which helps it stand out from other phones including its metal-clad sibling.
It’s a good look, helped by a fairly thin 8.6mm build, but it keeps the rectangular look of its predecessor and sadly also keeps the large bezels above and below the screen which leaves it looking a little chunkier than we’d like.
To end on a more positive note it’s IP65/68 certified dust and water resistant, which means it’s dust tight and can survive being fully submerged in water for an extended period. Not that you’re likely to want to do that, but more practically it means that you can use it in the rain and it will still work after you spill a drink on it.
The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact certainly feels high end when you use it, as there’s rarely any lag and apps open in a snap. That’s presumably down to the 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor that it’s packing, alongside 2GB of RAM.
That leaves it slightly less powerful than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or the Sony Xperia Z3 for example, but an easy match for the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and iPhone 6.
The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is also packing 4G, so it can download, upload and stream with the best of them.
Sony makes some of the best smartphone cameras around and it’s equipped the Xperia Z3 Compact with one of them. Specifically it’s got a 20.7 megapixel snapper with a wide-angle lens and the ability to shoot in ISO 12800, which makes it a lot better for low-light photography than previous Xperia’s.
That’s a good thing too as that was one of their main failings in the past, so with these improvements the Xperia Z3 Compact can take great photos in any condition.
It can also shoot 2160p video at 30fps and there’s a 2.2 megapixel camera on the front which is more than adequate for the occasional selfie or video call.
Sony has put a lot of focus on audio in the Xperia Z3 Compact. If you’re listening to something without headphones then you can make use of the dual front-facing speakers, which almost give the HTC One M8 a run for its money, while with headphones you can enjoy noise cancelling technology.
Sony has also added support for high-resolution audio, so if you have compatible tracks then you’ll be able to listen to them in all their glory. But even if your music isn’t saved in high-resolution the Xperia Z3 Compact can upscale tracks to bring them closer to it.
The other main feature of the Xperia Z3 Compact is PS4 Remote Play, which allows you to play your PlayStation 4 games on your Xperia Z3 Compact.
You do need to jump through a few hoops for this as it streams them from the console, so your PS4 needs to be on with the game running and ideally you need to be on the same Wi-Fi network, but it means you can play on a portable screen anywhere in your house and also frees up the TV for other people to use.
Battery life, memory and connectivity
When it comes to battery life the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact does remarkably well. It has a 2600 mAh juice pack, which might not sound huge but in practice it just keeps on going and going. With moderate use it could conceivably stretch to two days of life, which makes it one of the longest lasting smartphones around.
Plus it has a Stamina mode which can limit background processes to help it last even longer.
There’s 16GB of storage in the Xperia Z3 Compact and it also has a microSD card slot with support for cards of up to 128GB, so there’s no need to run short.
For connectivity options you get Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC so it’s a well-connected little phone.
Equipping the Xperia Z3 Compact with a bigger screen than the Z1 Compact, especially when the resolution stayed the same, is likely to be a divisive decision, but in all other ways this is a remarkable handset.
Its battery life is worthy of particular note, as it can keep on going for longer than almost any other smartphone, but the Xperia Z3 Compact also has a stylish, unique design, lots of power, a brilliant camera and great audio capabilities.
Unlike the Xperia Z1 Compact it has some competition and that along with the larger screen size means that it’s not the definitive ‘small’ screen handset, but it’s right up there with the iPhone 6.
Have you read our Sony Xperia Z3 Review?
Dimensions : 127.3 x 64.9 x 8.6mm
Weight: 129 grams
Screen size: 4.6” IPS LCD (720 x 1280)
Screen Resolution: 720 x 1280 display resolution
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 319
Processor: 2.5GHz Quad core application processor
RAM: 2 GB
On-board Memory: 16GB (microSD card support)
Camera: 20.7MP (rear) (2.2 megapixel front-facing)
Operating system: Android 4.4.4
3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes
Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ Yes
Battery capacity: 2600mAh
Colours: Black, White, Green, Orange
Launch Date: October