Now that "mainstream" smartphones are 5-inches and 5.5 to 6-inch phablets have become commonplace, there's a market for smaller phones with screens that are 4.3-inches and below. In recent months, we've seen smaller entries from the largest handset makers, including HTC, Samsung and Motorola. Now Sony has entered the small phone business with its 4.3-inch Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. Announced at CES 2014, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has the kind of high-end specs you'd expect in a larger device, including a 20.7-MP rear camera, water resistance and a Snapdragon 800 processor.
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We had a chance to go hands-on with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and were impressed with its light weight and attractive chassis. At just 4.8 ounces and 5 x 2.5 x .37 inches, the Xperia Z1 Compact felt very light in our hand. The Motorola Droid Mini weighs a similar 4.5 ounces while the HTC One Mini clocks in at 4.4 ounces. However, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini weighs just 3.9 ounces.
One of the most fashion-forward phones on the market, the Xperia Z1Compact comes in four attractive colors: white, black, yellow and pink. We particularly like the deep fuchsia-toned pink model with its vibrant back panel and metalllic pink sides. Sony's chrome-colored power button and color-coordinated port cover for its microSD card slot give it a particularly classy aesthetic. We didn't get a chance to drop the phone in water, but Sony claims that the Xperia Z1 Compact is waterproof. If it's like the the original Xperia Z1, it will survive for up to 30 minutes under water and allow you ot use its touch screen with wet hands.
We were also impressed with the vibrant colors we saw on the Sony Xperia Z1's 4.3-inch, 1280 x 720 "Triluminos" display. As we navigated through the Android 4.3 UI, which has Sony's attractive but fairly subtle skin, colors like the red, yellow and green in the Chrome icon shortcut seemed particularly deep and rich. We wish that Sony had given the Xperia Z1 Compact a full HD 1920 x 1080 screen like the 5-inch Xperia Z1, but most users won't notice the difference in pixel density on a display this size.
On the inside, the Xperia Z1 Compact packs 2GB of RAM, 16GB of Flash storage and a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, the same CPU you'll find in high-end handsets like the Galaxy Note 3. Considering that Samsung, HTC and Motorola hobble their compact models with lackluster dual-core chips, having this processor is a huge advantage for Sony. If the 16GB of internal storage is not enough for you, Sony includes a microSD card slot for expansion.
Undoubtedly, the Xperia Z1 Compact's most intriguing feature is its 20.7-MP rear facing camera. The rear-shooter has more than just a high megapixel count as it offers HDR for both stills and video, high shutter speeds and 8x digital zoom.
The Compact's 2,300 mAH battery promises 12 hours of video playback time, but we'll have to see how long the phone lasts when we are able to run on our web-surfing-based battery test on it. Unfortunately, the battery is sealed in, preventing you from carrying a spare or replacing it with an extended unit.
There's no word on pricing or availability for the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and we don't know whether it is coming to the U.S. However, the phone sounds extremely promising and we look forward to testing it more thoroughly in the near future.