Size matters

Written by Pranay Parab | Updated: Apr 3 2014, 08:13am hrs
The sweet spot in terms of a phones size has moved from around 3.5 inches to 5 inches. Every time we have reviewed a phone larger than 5 inches, we have been uncomfortable with the size. Does anyone even make phones smaller than 4.5 inches anymore Sony said yes, with the launch of the 4.3-inch Xperia Z1 Compact. It packs powerful hardware in a smaller body and is a rather welcome change in a market full of phones that look like footwear.

Build & design

Xperia Z1 Compact looks just like the bigger Z1 and Z1 Ultra. The only difference is the size. Although the Z1 Compact is easy to use with one hand, you will notice that there is a lot of empty space above and below the screen. At the top, theres the Sony logo and the front camera, but the area below the screen could have had buttons. When you switch on this phone, you will notice three icons (back, home and switch apps) near the bottom edge of the screen. These take up valuable screen space and could easily have been shifted to the empty space below the screen. In a smaller phone, it would have been nice to see full use of available space.

Sony claims the phone is water and dust-proof, as long as all ports are sealed and you dont immerse it for more than 30 minutes in fresh water. However, the user manual clearly says that if any water is found in the phone, warranty will be void. Also, the phone doesnt have a sealing flap for the headphone port, but it is water-proof, Sony says.

The build quality is impressive. The phone feels good to hold and weighs just 137 grams. Thats pretty light, but not light enough to feel fragile. Buttons on the

Z1 Compact (volume, camera, power) are all on one side. These are placed well and feel sturdy.

Display

The display on the Z1 Compact is excellent. The screen resolution is 1280 x 720 pixels and the pixel density is 342 ppi. I enjoyed watching videos on this phone and reading for five to six hours at a stretch left me with no eye strain, which is remarkable.

However, the font size on the Z1 Compact is too small. It looks like Sony simply scaled down the software from a bigger Xperia phone. At first, I thought I was taking time to get used to a smaller Android phone. But when I compared font sizes with an iPhone, Z1 Compacts default font size looks tiny. Thankfully, all you need to do is go to Settings > Display > Font Size and increase it. Extra large is the option I liked most, although it led to some minor issues such as some app names taking up two lines in the menu (example, Messaging, Alarm & Clock).

Software & performance

The phone comes with Android 4.3 (upgradeable to 4.4). Sonys own software customisations are quite good when compared to other manufacturers. The phone has a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor,

2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage

(64 GB microSD card supported). Similar hardware is found in most of todays flagship phones. The phone runs anything you can throw at it with ease. I had no trouble with any app or game I tested. However, the phones

20.7-MP camera is the icing on the cake. It is superb, and the dedicated camera button helps a lot while clicking pictures. You can half-press this button to focus on your subject, which is a real boon.

I found the camera button a tad too small, but that apart, the camera impressed us. While the phone has specs to match todays flagship phones, it unfortunately doesnt have the battery life. I started with full charge in the morning (8 am) and ran out of juice by 9 pm. Thats enough for most people, but some of us have longer working hours. Heavy use (gaming) further reduces battery life. Hence, a battery pack is recommended.

For R34,990, Xperia Z1 Compact is a powerful phone with a great camera. If you want an Android phone that you can use with one hand, theres nothing better than the Z1 Compact. Had the battery life been better, there would have been no complaints.