Sony Xperia Z3 Compact review: Not your usual suspect

Not your usual suspect

GSMArena team, 12 September 2014.

Album

We should all be familiar with Sony's custom gallery - Album. It organizes images into groups of thumbnails and sorted by date. You can change the thumbnails size by pinching.

Unlike previous versions there isn't a homepage that hosts all of your albums, instead you get the same swipe-able menu the app drawer offers. There you can find all of your online and offline albums.

The gallery can connect to online albums (PlayMemories, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr) and also to other devices on the local network. Maps and Globe albums are also available, which use geotagging info to sort photos by the location where they were taken, and faces, which groups photos by the faces of the people in them.

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Album

Editing can also be done from within Album app. It pops up a minimalist interface very similar to Google's Photos app, offering the ability to enhance your photos with a verity of filters, as well as adjust from a slew of settings including hue, levels, curves, and many more.

Images can also 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 Editing is compact yet powerful

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

Walkman and FM Radio

The 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 a hidden swipe-able menu that sorts your music collection by Artist, Albums, Playlists, all songs and even the songs your friends are listening to (via a connected Facebook account). You can pop up the menu the same way you'd do it in the app drawer or the gallery - just swipe from the left edge of the screen.

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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Walkman

The Infinite button is available in the Now Playing screen (just tap the album art) - it will help you find the track's video on YouTube, look up info about the artist on Wikipedia and search for lyrics on Google. Gracenote is used here too and it can automatically download information about your tracks and album art.

Digging into the settings your can select custom presets for a wide range of Sony headsets, including the bundled NC31E/EM noise cancelling headset, which takes advantage of the built-in noise cancelling features of the Z3 Compact.

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Downloading track info Selecting a headset preset

The Walkman player offers a variety of audio settings - ClearAudio+ option is here, 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).

The Xperia Z3 series also includes Sony's Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE), which upgrades the quality of compressed music files by restoring high-range sound.

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

There's also an FM Radio. 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.

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FM Radio

Movies

The video playing app is dubbed Movies and it too has a great custom UI. 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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Video player

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact was able to play most of the video files we threw at it but had some issues with AC3 audio and videos that combined AAC audio with the AVC video codec. MOV files played without problem, a rarity on an Android device. In any event, you can always download a more capable (codec-wise) third-party app from the Google Play store.

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Watching a video

The video player supports subtitles, and you can customize their looks. Unfortunately, you cannot manually pick the subtitle file, it has to reside in the video folder to load up.

Very good audio output

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact did fairly well in our audio quality test. The smartphone did a great job in the first test, where it's connected to an active external amplifier and posted very scores top to bottom. Its volume levels come up somewhat short of the average though and we have to point out its score were slightly inferior to those of the Xperia Z1 Compact.

Plugging in a pair of headphones did harm the stereo crosstalk notably, but had no effect on the other aspects of the performance. Once more, the volume levels were nothing worth writing home about, though, so we have to deduct a couple of points and give this one a very good, rather than a perfect mark.

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

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact+0.02, -0.08-85.285.20.0130.022-85.3
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (headphones attached)+0.10, -0.01-85.485.40.0200.045-45.1
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
Samsung Galaxy Alpha+0.01, -0.04-96.692.80.0058 0.0091-97.1
Samsung Galaxy Alpha (headphones attached)+0.04, -0.01-95.792.70.013 0.033-65.6
HTC One mini 2+0.02, -0.09-94.893.80.010 0.011-93.5
HTC One mini 2 (headphones attached)+0.08, -0.03-94.993.80.028 0.022-90.1
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

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact frequency response
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

Reader comments

Where you buy?

  • Dan

I chose z3 compact in 2019. Why? Battery 2-3 days and dimension. Thank you gsmarena!

My z3 compact been around since 2015 and got no problems with it just make sure you dont let it sit on high heat for long periods of time or else the display would act up and the back will stick out due to heat melting the back glass adhesive.