Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review

Is smaller better when it comes to Sony smartphones?

T3 Platinum Award
Reasons to buy
  • +

    Great design and screen

  • +

    Very good battery life

  • +

    Excellent performance

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Camera slightly disappointing

  • -

    Camera app over heats

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Sony seems to have managed the impossible by shrinking down its flagship smartphone into a compact design without making too many compromises.

Sony isn't the first handset manufacturer to create a shrunk down version of its flagship phone, with HTC recently bringing out the HTC One Mini 2 and LG coming up with the LG G2 Mini.

What makes the Xperia Z3 Compact stand out from the crowd is that it's a smaller and cheaper version of the flagship Xperia Z3, but still retains a lot of the key specifications.

The 5.2-inch Xperia Z3 costs a wallet-trembling £494 while the 4.6-inch Xperia Z3 Compact costs a much more palatable £350. The fact that Sony has managed to fit some excellent tech into a smaller phone is an exciting prospect.

Good things might come in small packages after all

As with the more expensive Xperia Z3, the Z3 Compact sports a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, and it's great to see it powering the smaller, cheaper handset as well.

The fact that Sony has seen fit to include the same processor in both the Z3 and Z3 Compact means that you don't feel like you're getting penalised just because you'd rather have a smaller handset.

The Xperia Z3 Compact also shares the same graphics grunt as it's more expensive sibling, with the Adreno 330 GPU giving the phone an impressive amount of power to play the latest mobile games with ease.

Although the Z3 Compact and the Z3 share the same GPU, an interesting quirk in the design of each handset means that the Z3 Compact actually performs slightly better with graphic-intensive games.

This is down to the fact that the Z3 Compact's smaller screen is only capable of 720p resolution, whilst the bigger screen on the Z3 displays at 1080p in all its glory, so although the Z3 Compact doesn't offer quite the visual fidelity of its bigger brother, it does have more consistent frame rates

PS4 on the go

One of the coolest aspects of the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is the PS4 Remote Play. With a PlayStation 4 and Z3 Compact on the same Wi-Fi network you can stream games from the PS4 direct to the Z3 Compact.

Even better, you can connect the PlayStation's DualShock controller to the Z3 Compact via Bluetooth and use it to control the games. An add-on for the controller, the Game Control Mount, lets you mount the Xperia Z3 Compact to the controller for ease of use.

We tried a number of games including Shadow Of Mordor and Assassin's Creed: Unity, and all performed very well. The screen might only be 720p, but games looked fantastic on it. Crucially there was very little input lag whilst playing no matter where you are in the house.

Media machine

Remember the days when Sony used to rule the portable music player market? Sony obviously does with the inclusion of the Walkman app, which handles music playing duties. You can play your own music or stream tunes from Sony's Music Unlimited. This is a subscription-based music streaming service that's pretty similar to Spotify. So similar, in fact, that if you already have a Spotify subscription then it's unlikely you'd want to pay for a Music Unlimited one also.

Music playback through headphones and over the built-in speakers are very good, with Sony's background in audio technology being put to good use with a number of feature that can be used to improve sound quality. The Xperia Z3 Compact is also capable of playing lossless high-definition music for superb audio quality.

The Movies app works in a similar way, with the videos you've imported from your PC nestled alongside videos you've taken with the Xperia Z3 Compact's camera as well as video rentals from - you've guessed it - Sony's Video Unlimited service. If you don't fancy streaming from Sony's service, you can always stream from other devices in your house thanks to the Z3 Compact's DLNA support.

Video playback on the Xperia Z3 Compact is also extremely good thanks to the handset's excellent screen, though you have to make do with 720p resolution, rather than the 1080p of the Xperia Z3.

How does it perform?

Considering the spec and the price tag, it should come as little surprise that the Xperia Z3 Compact is pretty impressive performance wise. The 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor means that on paper the Z3 Compact can go toe-to-toe with some of the most powerful smartphones on the market today.

This processor, along with the 2GB of RAM, means that the Z3 Compact feels fast and responsive, with most apps opening up quickly.

Hey good lookin'

The Xperia Z3 Compact is a fantastic looking smartphone, and one that could even elicit appreciative noises from Apple owners. It sports Sony's 'OmniBalance' design that makes it comfortable to hold no matter what you're using it for, such as taking videos, making calls, playing games and more.

The dimensions of the Xperia Z3 Compact help make the handset so comfortable to hold. The thin bezels around the screen don't just make the body look good, but it keeps the dimensions down to 127 x 64.9 x 8.6mm, with a weight of just 129g.

With a screen size of 4.6-inches, the Z3 Compact isn't exactly a tiny handset, despite its name. However, if you're not keen on the phablet trend of ever larger smartphones, then the Z3 Compact's smaller frame is ideal.

By making the Z3 Compact smaller, yet keeping most of the same high powered components crammed inside, the Z3 Compact does suffer from getting pretty hot when used regularly, which detracts from the otherwise premium feel of its design.

Say cheese

Sony is clearly proud of the snapper it's included in the Xperia Z3 Compact. The 20.7MP Exmor RS sensor, with an ISO rating of 12800 and Sony's own wide-angle G Lens, is far more capable than many cameras found on smartphones of a similar price range.

This is the exact same camera that is included in the more expensive Xperia Z3, so we have to give Sony credit for once again sharing some of the Z3's most impressive technology with the Z3 Compact, helping to prevent it from feeling like a lesser product.

However although the Z3 Compact's competitors, such as the iPhone 6, have less impressive sounding camera specs on paper, unfortunately quite a few of them still perform better.

The camera app also comes with a number of augmented reality modes that add 3D graphics to your real life photos, such as a T-Rex that can roam around family gatherings, occasionally roaring into the face of a bemused granny.

These effects work fine, and they range from the reasonably impressive to the downright awful, and most will be played with once, then never used again.

The video camera of the Xperia Z3 Compact does a decent job of filming, and as with still photos, there are a number of effects you can add. Perhaps the best one is timelapse, which takes a sped up version of a film, which you can slow parts down to 120fps for ultra slow motion – ideal for taking videos of sports.

The Xperia Z3 Compact is also capable of videoing in 4K, however that too is not without its problems. Unfortunately the Z3 Compact gets very hot whilst recording, which means the app crashes letting you only film 4K video in short bursts.

Battery life

If Sony is to be believed the 2600 mAh battery that comes with the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is capable of 14 hours of talk time, and a whopping 920 hours in standby. In reality we found that the Z3 Compact didn't quite reach those loft heights of battery life, but it still did pretty good.

In medium to slightly heavy use the Z3 Compact managed 2 days and 5 hours without the need to charge. This is the sort of use most people would normally see on a day-to-day basis, so if you want a phone that doesn't need to be charged every day, then you'll be reasonably happy with the Z3 Compact.

When the battery reaches a certain level, the Xperia Z3 Compact suggests you switch to stamina mode which disables the Wi-Fi and mobile data connections while the screen is off.


With the Xperia Z3 Compact Sony has done an excellent job of showing its competition that you can release a compact version of a flagship smartphone without butchering the specifications. The Z3 Compact more than holds its own against the more expensive Z3, as well as other rival flagship devices.

In fact we'd go so far as to say that the Z3 Compact is one of the best sub 5-inch smartphones you can currently get. Sony's mobile division isn't in a great shape at the moment, which is a shame as it seems to have hit its stride with its latest release.

The Z3 Compact isn't perfect, however, with the camera disappointing us despite its fancy specifications. The handset's habit of getting hot when in use is also a shame. We know that Sony is already working on the Z3 Compact's successor for a 2015 launch which will bring an improved camera and (we hope) improvements to prevent the phone from overheating.

Sony Xperia Z3 Release: Out now

Sony Xperia Z3 Price: £350