For some time now, Sony has been offering some of the more underrated Android phones around, led by the water-resistant Sony Xperia Z1. The latest addition to the line is the Xperia Z1 Compact with its 4.3-inch display, which has begun to show up in Europe and unlocked on eBay after being introduced at CES 2014 in Las Vegas.
Like the Z1 and the over-sized Z Ultra, the Z1 Compact is a handsome, polished-looking phone that's resistant to both water and dust while being designed for the smartphone user with smaller hands or pockets, or who just can't understand the trend towards phones that feel more like tablets.
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With a resolution of 720 x 1280, the Z1 Compact's smaller display still packs 342 pixels per inch and presents colors and tones that are as vivid as what you'll find on comparable top flight phones. Just as Sony imports some of its proprietary television technologies like its BRAVIA display to its phones, the 20 megapixel rear camera on this phone also inherits technology that the company says creates a phone camera on par with its stand-alone compact digital cameras.
Playing around with Sony's camera software was one of the more intriguing parts of my hands-on with the Z1 Compact. In addition to above-average low-light shooting, motion detection and fast auto-focus, the camera app can completely integrate with Facebook to a degree that's a little scary, allowing you to receive instant feedback on your photos from friends within the app.
The camera's burst mode can also take 61 frames in two seconds, starting even before the shutter is pressed and makes it easy to scroll through all the images in the burst.
Other key specs like its Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.2 GHz, 2 GB RAM and Adreno 330 GPU put the Compact solidly in the middle range of Android phones. A 2300 mAh battery is also run-of-the-mill, but Sony has taken a novel approach to power management with a "stamina mode" that disables Wi-Fi and mobile data while the phone is in standby, but allows texts, calls and a customizable list of other notifications to come through. The company claims as much as a 400 percent improvement in battery life in this mode.
The Xperia Z1 Compact also leans heavily on NFC to extend its capability through accessories like Sony's take on the smart watch, activity tracker and even an attachable professional Carl Zeiss camera lens.
After getting a good share of the spotlight at CES, we've begun to see the Z1 Compact pop up in Europe, although the Sony store currently says it's out of stock after a pre-order period in late January for sim-free models at £449 in the UK. Some of these models have already begun to show up on eBay, so they're slowly trickling out into the wild.
Watch the Z1 Compact in action in the promotional video below.