Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review: Mini gone big

Mini gone big

GSMArena team, 28 January 2014.

Smooth gallery with great functionality

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact comes with the custom Sony gallery, called Album. Images are organized into groups of thumbnails and sorted by date.

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Adjusting the thumbnail size in the Album gallery • viewing photos where they were taken on the globe

You can resize the image thumbnails, either with a pinch gesture or a sideways swipe. The whole thing is very responsive and hundreds of thumbs fall in and out of differently sized grids in a smooth animation.

There is a second tab here, My Albums, which includes online albums (PlayMemories, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr) along with albums stored on devices in the local network. Alternatively, you can turn the Z1 Compact into a DLNA server and view photos from the device on a computer or compatible TV.

Also here are some special albums - Maps and Globe, which use the geotagging info to sort photos by the location at which they were taken, and faces, which groups photos by the faces of the people in them.

Images can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled.

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Viewing an image

There's a slide show using the SensMe brand and much like the music player feature, this one scans files and groups similar photos together.

HTPC-style video player needs just a bit more work

The video playing app is dubbed Movies and it too has a great custom UI, reminiscent of HTPC interfaces. It's connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies and TVs you have on the phone. It will even download posters for them and for movies, it will download metadata like genre, synopsis, director and cast.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work very well for TV shows - it doesn't recognize the S01E02 format and won't pull info about individual episodes. It gets worse, Gracenote seems to be lacking info on TV shows in general, we couldn't find even popular shows like The Big Bang Theory.

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The Movies app

The good news is that Sony has fixed up its codec support and the Xperia Z1 Compact plays just about everything - AVI (DivX, XviD), MP4 and even MKV. Just about. DTS, DD and AC3 audio are not supported.

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Watching a video on the Xperia Z1 Compact

The video player does support subtitles and it gives you access to both sound effects (the same as the Walkman music player) and display settings (X-Reality, White balance and Brightness are of interest here).

Walkman music player

The updated Walkman music player is part of the equipment of all recent Xperia smartphones. It features Music Unlimited integration and is not above trying to sell you songs, but you can hide the Music Unlimited stuff.

The Walkman interface is based on tiles that sort your music collection by Artist, Albums, Playlists, all songs and even the songs your friends are listening to (but you need to connect the player with your Facebook account).

The Music Unlimited stuff includes ways to discover new music - Charts, New releases and Channels. Those can be hidden individually (same goes for the artist/album/playlist tiles) or you can disable the service altogether.

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The music player is decent looking and snappy

The Now Playing screen shows a carousel with the tracks in the current playlist and the usual music controls below that. You can swipe left and right to move between tracks and view the current playlist (where you can rearrange the songs). If you tap on the album art three more buttons appear - add to playlist, star and the Infinite button. The latter will help you find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google.

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The Now Playing interface

Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art.

Sony has improved on the Walkman player's settings. There's the familiar ClearAudio+ option, which determines the best audio quality settings depending on the song you're listening to. We liked how it changed the music and carefully accentuated various details.

Dynamic normalizer evens out the differences in volume between tracks, which is great if you've mixed multiple albums from multiple sources.

The Sound enhancements contain yet more settings. There's an equalizer with presets and manual settings (including tweaking Clear Bass). Then there's Surround sound mode, which imitates the Studio, Club or Concert Hall experience. The Clear stereo mode enhances the perceivable stereo channel separation. Dynamic normalizer minimizes the difference in volume between songs (great if you're playing a shuffled mix).

Speaker settings include Clear Phase, which adjusts the quality, while xLOUD boosts up the internal speaker.

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Sound enhancements and EQ

There are music controls on the lockscreen. Swiping them to either side brings back the clock. The notification area also offers the now playing screen with music controls and the option to jump into the Walkman player.

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Music player controls on the lockscreen and notification area

Google's own music player called Play Music is also on board. The Listen Now feature tries to determine what you like and the sequence of your track-changing so that it can start offering you music you might like to play next.

The Now Playing screen uses the song album art and gives you a quick shortcut to the rest of the artist's songs along with the play controls.

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Google's Play Music

The Now Playing screen uses the song album art and gives you a quick shortcut to the rest of the artist's songs along with the play controls.

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Google's Play Music

FM radio with RDS and social networking

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact also features an FM Radio aboard complete with RDS support. The app features multiple visualizations and integrates with TrackID to recognize the currently playing song. You can even directly send an "I'm listening to..." post to Facebook.

Sony has updated the FM Radio app and as a results it's now more stable than it was on some recent midrange Xperia smartphones.

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The FM Radio

Audio output is clean but quiet

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact did excellently in the active external amplifier part of the audio quality test. The smartphone posted great scores top to bottom with the below average volume levels being the only weak point to its performance.

Better still, there's only a slight quality drop when you plug in a pair of headphones. The stereo crosstalk rises significantly, but distortion remains undetectable and signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range remain great. Volume levels are below average here as well, so we can't give perfect marks for overall performance.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact+0.08, -0.02-92.692.30.00520.012-89.0
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (headphones attached)+0.15, -0.05-91.791.30.0540.090-43.7
Apple iPhone 5s+0.02, -0.05-93.693.70.00130.0068-90.3
Apple iPhone 5s (headphones attached)+0.12, -0.00-93.493.30.00160.060-76.1
HTC One mini+0.14, -0.12-94.494.00.015 0.013-87.9
HTC One mini(headphones attached)+0.83, -0.58-94.594.10.021 0.034-77.9
Samsung Galaxy S4 mini+0.06, -0.05-93.592.70.0090 0.056-86.2
Samsung Galaxy S4 mini (headphones attached)+0.08, -0.04- 0.089-53.3
LG G2+0.03, -0.28-91.991.90.0097 0.011-91.3
LG G2 (headphones attached)+0.07, -0.03-91.591.80.037 0.041-54.3

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact frequency response
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

Reader comments

  • Hani
  • 07 Apr 2020
  • HI{

Its been 4 years that I have Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and never failed me. only 2 times I changed the battery and I can open heavy files with it easily. I Love it, it is a loyal phone :_)

  • norber
  • 17 Aug 2017
  • Bw@

Great 4g enabled phone Only mediocre battery life Sorry sony but galaxy s3 took far better pics...

  • Khalid
  • 19 Jan 2017
  • 8n}

How can I prepare battery for Z1 compact ?? Or how can I get new one