Sony announces the Z1 Compact, a proper mini device

CES 2014 certainly saw a lot of action in terms of new devices being revealed. Just hours ago, Sony took the wraps off the international version of the Xperia Z1f – the downsized version of the flagship Z1 available only in Japan.

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Unlike its competitors Samsung and HTC, Sony did not simply use the ‘mini’ moniker (or in this case, Compact) to attract consumers and bundle them with shoddy specs. Their Z1 Compact is the real deal. It fulfils all the promises its name implies by packing exactly the same specs as the Z1 into a slightly smaller chassis with a 4.3-inch display.

That’s right. The Z1 Compact has the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.2 GHz, the Adreno 330 GPU, 2 GB of RAM, the very same 20.7 MP G Lens camera, 2300 mAh of battery, IP55/58 (waterproof and dustproof) and 16 GB of expandable (via micro-SD) storage. The sole difference is the size and screen resolution – it will have a 720p 4.3 inch IPS LCD display. This means that the old TFT tech used in the Z1 is gone, and should mean improved viewing angles.

It also shares the same drop-dead gorgeous looks of the Z1, thanks to Sony’s OmniBalance design philosophy.

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While the drop down to 720p will irk some, it should be noted that the pixel density is still 342 ppi. This is still higher than the iPhone’s pixel density, and there’s no way you’re going to be able to see individual pixels, try as you might. It will have the same X-Reality engine, a step up from the Xperia Z’s Mobile Bravia engine, but viewing angles have been much improved from the Xperia Z1, which is widely criticized for having contrast compression beyond 80 degrees.

The fact that the 2300 mAh battery is the same as the Xperia Z’s, and that it will be powering less pixels, we should be seeing a much better battery life from the Z1 Compact. Unfortunately, unlike Samsung which has moved forward with their Tab and Note Pro announced today as well, Sony will still be shipping the Z1 compact with 4.3 Jellybean.

Just like Sony’s other recent Android phones, the Z1 Compact consists of a solid aluminium frame in a waterproof casing and has a glass front and back, but it can be distinguished from its big brother by the range of colours it’s available in. Black and white options are still available but the moody purple has been replaced with fluorescent lime and pink.

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A downside is that to fit the powerful specs and the massive 1/2.3 inch camera sensor under the small chassis, the thickness had to be bumped up by 1 mm. The hardware shutter key is also smaller than the Z1 and might be slightly more difficult to use. Other than this, the phone feels as a sturdy and solid as the near-identical Z1, so if you want to get a feel for it ahead of its launch, pop into any Sony or telco store and take a look at the Z1 first.

Sony has also improved the Z1 Compact by shaving 36g off the 170g weight of the Xperia Z1. Many reviewers panned it for being so bulky (personally I find the weight reassuring), so they should be happy to see the relatively light weight, considering that the phone has glass and aluminium all around.

Continuing along the same theme, the phone’s 20.7 MP camera is identical in every way to the one perched on the back of the Z1. It charmed us a lot, so we’re expecting similarly impressive results from the Z1 Compact.

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One new element Sony has introduced with the Z1 Compact is the Xperia Transfer Mobile feature, which allows for direct and speedy transfer of contacts, photos, messages, bookmarks and apps from your old Android or iOS device to your new phone either using NFC or a cable. This feature, just like their stock Backup program should become a staple in all devices, iOS, Android and Windows Phone alike.

Sony has done what other top manufacturers have refused to and built a high-end phone with a more petite form factor. If you’re after a slightly smaller version of a top Android phone there really is no other viable alternative at the time of writing. It should be out in the middle of February, and while Sony hasn’t officially announced its price, it has said it will fall somewhere in between the Z1 and other “Mini” devices, so we might be looking at a price of $750.

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