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Is this 2014's BEST smartphone?

March 09, 2014 11:08 IST

Is this 2014's BEST smartphone?

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Himanshu Juneja

By packing in a quad core processor, a high end camera, memory card slot among other features, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact may shatter the tradition that any phone with the 'Mini' tag has to take a hit on specs, says Himanshu Juneja.

For the first time, it seems the 4-inch screen size segment has a phone which does not compromise on any of the key areas from the big screen devices.

Sony has carefully avoided the tag of 'Mini' with the Sony Xperia Z1 compact. The device is truly a compact version of its flagship Xperia Z1 device.

Specs:

  • Display: 4.3-inch IPS LCD @ 1280 x 720 resolution
  • Processor: 2.2 GHz Quad Core
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Memory: 16 GB, MicroSD slot upto 64 GB
  • Camera: 20.7 MP Primary, 2 MP Secondary
  • Battery: 2300 mAh Li-Ion (Non-removable)

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Image: The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Photographs: sonymobile.com

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Design

The phone is a fine example of craftsmanship from Sony and one is bound to notice the high production values.

The phone looks identical to the Z1, and has been given a generous treatment of metal and glass.

The phone is a bit thicker than the Z1 and at 137 gms, it feels a chunky piece of slab when held.

It is not bothersome though and adds to the phone's premium feel.

The corners are rounded and the back is made up of glass, which means it is prone to smudges.

The headphone jack is located at the top of the phone; the bottom of the phone carries the speaker grill and the lanyard hole.

The left side of the phone carries the well covered parts of SIM, microSD slots and the charging port.

The right hand side of the phone carries the power button, the volume rocker and the dedicated camera button.

Sony has done well to make this device IP55 and IP58 standard compliant, which means that the phone is water and dust proof.

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Image: The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Photographs: sonymobile.com

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Display and speakers

The phone gets a beautiful IPS LCD enabled by its proprietary Triluminous display technology.

The 4.3-inch screen comes with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, with the pixel density of ~342ppi.

The screen is not full HD, but for the screen size, one shouldn't really be bothered too much.

One will find the sharpness of full HD not there, but that is noticeable only upon very careful inspection or fully zooming the available text or images, which is not something one does often.

For its 4.3-inch real estate, the display is truly excellent and the experience is superb, with Web browsing going crisply through.

Sitting on top of the display in a subtle way is the notification LED which is a welcome addition. The LED can display the full range of colours from the RGB range.

Interestingly, and annoyingly for some, the screen is covered with a scratch guard right from the word go, which unfortunately is prone to scratches.

If one feels like removing it and replace with a better one, the Sony logo on the top gets removed as it is printed on the screen protector. This means the user loses the warranty.

Bad move Sony.

The phone being water and dust-proof, the speaker does a fine job. The sound quality is very good and the volume is adequately loud.

The placement of the speaker is at the bottom and not on the back of the phone, which means one can easily listen to the notifications, calls or music without the speaker volume getting obstructed.

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Image: The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Photographs: sonymobile.com
Tags: LED , RGB , Sony , BEST

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OS and other features

It was surprising to find the phone to be on Android Jelly Bean right out of the box.

Given Sony's keen support and the speed with which it updates its products, one should expect the latest version of Android to be available soon.

Sony phones carry their own user interfaces atop the stock Android OS.

Sony's UI/skin is generally lightweight and the OS here gives users 7 home screens for usage, which ought to prove adequate.

Shifting through the screens is a breeze and a testimony to the ample hardware power Sony has packed in.

The phone provides 8 themes to customise the phone's look. Users can also download more themes from the Play Store.

Sony has implemented multi-tasking as well, and users can work with different apps' panes, much like the Samsung's multi-window feature.

This is something which will make Samsung take notice of the phone even more.

Sony has looked at little details with this phone and the UI allows users to operate the handset even with gloves on.

The skin layout is clean and not heavy on resources.

The keyboard layout borrows heavily from the app Swifkey, yet makes the spacebar smaller. This proves irritating as pressing the spacebar accurately becomes a task.

Pre-loaded apps like remote device security, to allow better protection and remote wipe will bring value to the bundled apps.

Also onboard is the 'Throw' app which allows transfer of content among Xperia devices.

Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited are default apps which come pre-installed. Both proved cumbersome and lacklustre with their overall content.

PS3 controller support should bring better responses from users.

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Image: The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Photographs: sonymobile.com

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Camera

One expects Sony to provide an impressive camera and Sony has not disappointed here.

Since the phone is an exact copy of the Xperia Z1, the compact edition gets the same 20.7 MP camera with the Exmor RS sensor and the G Lens by Sony. A single LED flash is provided as well.

The phone has been provided with a dedicated camera button, which is a pleasant surprise looking at the current trend of skipping this button altogether.

Although the button might be a bit tricky to work with owing to its small size and should have been a bit bigger, it is a welcome move to include one.

Making the phone waterproof means the phone is capable of taking underwater photographs.

The outdoor photographs come out stunningly beautiful. The phone has the default setting to 8MP and users can switch to manual mode, allowing one to click photographs at 20.7MP.

However, that doesn't bring about the brilliant quality the 8MP option has to offer, making it the non-preferred option.

The night shots are not patricularly good, and this is the one area which disappointed majorly.

The device performed stunningly in all aspects to such an extent that this flaw gets hard to overlook. Especially after having a heavy duty camera module. I hope this issue is fixed via a software update.

The videos come out fine and are captured at 1080p resolution. The colours are accurately reproduced and the video is shot at the rate of 30 fps.

The phone's app is richly populated with features which will appeal to experienced and novice photographers.

The former will be inclined to experiment with the options, adjusting essential parameters like exposure, white balance etc.

Scene modes further alter the output to suit personal preferences. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is equipped with modes like Sweep Panorama, Timeshift Burst, Info Eye and Social Live.

The Sweep Panorama allows a series of photographs to be clicked of the same instance and lets user choose the best one.

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Image: The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Photographs: sonymobile.com

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Battery

The phone performs more than impressively with the 2300mAh Li-Ion battery.

The battery will easily last two days on heavy usage of SMS, calls, Wi-Fi, media playback, gaming etc and this is music to hardcore gamers and music fans.

The Xperia Z1 Compact's stamina mode allows users to conserve battery. This mode basically switches the data off and the phone only performs basic functions.

Verdict:

Offering a premium device with craftsmanship, stellar hardware and battery back up, Sony has struck the right chord.

This could be the turning point for phones sold with the 'Mini' tag, but with massively snipped specs.

True, the price is on the higher side. Having said that, the Xperia Z1 Compact is worth its current price of approximately Rs 35k.

If Sony wants to sell more of these phones, it should cut the price soon.

Night photography remains a major gripe, but a software update may fix this problem.

This is the best phone of 2014 so far.

Reader Invite

Are you a gadget/gaming wizard/afficianado? Would you like to write on gadgets, gaming, the Internet, software technologies, OSs and the works for us? Please mail us a sample of your writing atgadgetsandgaming@rediffmail.comwith the subject 'I'm a tech wizard/afficianado' and we will get in touch with you.


Image: The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
Photographs: sonymobile.com

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