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(Pocket-lint) - Until last year, the Sony Compact handset was one of our all-time favourite Sony devices. It was hard evidence that good things can come in small packages, offering the same power and hardware as the flagship smartphone it launched alongside.

That all changed with the Xperia X Compact though, where the size remained the same but the design found itself on the plasticky side and the hardware inside took a dive compared to the Xperia XZ.

Well Compact lovers, fear not because the new model sees this range return to form. Here are our first impressions of the Xperia XZ1 Compact, which has been announced as one of three Sony smartphones during this year's consumer electronics show IFA. 

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact preview: Design

  • Plastic unibody design
  • Squarer than the Xperia XZ1 with flatter edges
  • IP65/68 waterproofing
  • Available in Black, Snow Silver, Twilight Pink, Horizon Blue

The Sony Compact range has always been a little on the fatter side compared to the larger flagship model it traditionally launches with and the Xperia XZ1 Compact is no different, measuring around 9.5mm thick.

In the Xperia X Compact, this thickness wasn't justified as it lacked the brains inside meaning it was a compromise not everyone might have been willing to take. In the XZ1 Compact though, the brains are back, as is IP65/68 waterproofing, so it can once again be forgiven for not being the slimmest device on the market.

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The XZ1 Compact is a little squarer than the Xperia XZ1 too, taking on a slightly stockier look with flatter edges, but it does continue the Loop Surface and OmniBalance design for a seamless transition between the screen and the body so there are some distinguishable similarities between the two handsets.

Rather than aluminium like the XZ1 however, the XZ1 Compact opts for what Sony is calling "glass fibre woven plastic". Basically, it's plastic, but unlike the X Compact, it doesn't feel cheap. Instead, it feels like a solid and sturdy device that fits beautifully into one hand.

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On the rear, the camera lens sits in the top left-hand corner with the flash module to the right in a horizontal format, like the X Compact. The signature power button is present on the right edge, along with the dedicated camera launcher button, while the microSD card slot is present on the left, hidden by a flap. 

There are no antenna lines visible on the XZ1 Compact as there are on the XZ1, which means the edges are a little less fussy than on the larger device, but most people probably wouldn't notice the difference.

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On the front, 2.5D glass covers the screen, helping with that smooth transition between display and edge of the device we mentioned previously, and the bezels are slightly smaller than they are on the XZ1. 

Like the XZ1 and the X Compact, the XZ1 Compact has a USB Type-C port at the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. Overall, the XZ1 Compact is a lovely little device that returns this range to the form we knew and loved. You might even go as far as to say it's cute, if you can really call a phone that.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact preview: Display

  • 4.6-inch display, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • 1280 x 720 resolution, 319ppi
  • No HDR

The Compact series is more about screen size than design though and the XZ1 Compact has the same 4.6-inch display its predecessors have come with. This is the reason this range exists - to offer those who want the power but not the huge displays many smartphones now feature.

The 4.6-inch screen comes with a 1280 x 720 resolution, as it has always done. Some might turn their nose up at that, especially if you compare it to the Quad HD and Quad HD+ screens now available but at this size, the 319ppi does a fine job. It's bright, it's vibrant and it looks good from all angles.

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We didn't have a chance to test it fully during our brief amount of time with it but we have high hopes it will be a decent performer.

Unlike the Xperia XZ1 though, Sony hasn't included HDR on the XZ1 Compact. This probably isn't a huge deal given the size of the screen doesn't make it the number one choice for watching videos or movies, but it's worth mentioning the technology is missed off the spec sheet nonetheless.

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact preview: Cameras

  • 19MP Motion Eye rear camera with 960fps super slow-motion video
  • 8MP wide-angle front camera
  • Smile shutter added to predictive capture feature, plus new autofocus burst feature

While the screen of the XZ1 Compact misses out on a couple of things compared to the XZ1, the camera doesn't. The XZ1 Compact is equipped with the same Motion Eye memory stacked sensor as the XZ1 and the XZ Premium.

That means you'll find a 19-megapixel sensor on the rear with 1.22µm pixels and the amazing 960fps super slow-motion feature we had a lot of fun with when we reviewed the XZ Premium. Most smartphones offer 240fps capture so the results from the XZ Premium were far more dramatic and fun than on other devices, something we're pleased to see come to the XZ1 Compact.

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Sony has enhanced a couple of the other camera features too, which will also appear on the XZ1 Compact, like the XZ1. The Predictive Capture functionality, which detects movement in front if the camera and starts to buffer images before you hit the button in order to capture moments you might miss, has been expanded to include a smile shutter.

As you might expect, the smile shutter predicts when your subject is smiling or laughing, buffering up to four images prior to you hitting the shutter button to make sure you capture the smile you intended.

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There is also a autofocus burst mode that will allow for up to 10fps and up to 100 photos at 19-megapixels. Hold down the main shutter button as an object comes towards you, like your dog, and each image captured using the mode should be in focus, no matter how close the object gets to you and the camera lens.

Both of the new features are turned on by default in the Superior Auto mode so there is no need to fiddle with settings and based on the demos we saw, both have some great potential to be useful.

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The Xperia XZ1 Compact also features an 8-megapixel super wide front camera, which is different to the sensor found on the XZ1 in order to cater to a different market. The XZ1 Compact's front camera allows you to switch between a 120-degree field of view and an 80-degree field of view, depending on how much you want to capture within your selfie.

The field of view is changed by just moving the toggle in the top corner between the single person icon and the multiple person icon and it can be used for video too, not just photos. We didn't get a chance to test the camera quality during our time with the XZ1 Compact but we will be sure to do so when we review the device in full. 

Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact preview: Hardware and software

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM
  • 2700mAh battery
  • Ships with Android Oreo

The Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 platform under its hood, supported by 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. There is microSD support on board too for storage expansion up to 256GB.

This means the XZ1 Compact offers the same specs as the XZ1, reiterating what we said at the start in that the brains have returned in this smaller handset. It comes with a 2700mAh battery capacity, like the X Compact and XZ1 and it features the Stamina Mode software too, which should see you through the day though we will test it properly when we come to review it.

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Pocket-lintSony Xperia XZ1 Compact preview shots image 13

In terms of software, the XZ1 Compact will ship with Android Oreo with Sony's software over the top, though we didn't see final software during our time with it. Although it has been stripped back over the years, Sony offers more bloatware than some other manufacturers so there are a few more preloaded apps and reworkings of apps on Sony devices than there are with others, like HTC.

One of these pre-loaded apps is called 3D Creator, which debuts on the XZ1 Compact and the XZ1. Designed to bring 3D scanning to the masses, it offers four scan modes including face, head, food and freeform.

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After selecting the applicable mode, users will be able to scan an object by following the instructions and the app will create a 3D scan which can then be shared on social media, sent to a 3D printer, used to create an avatar or GIF or sent to an online retailer to pay for a 3D model to be made. It might be seen as a gimmick and some will never use it but it has potential to be a useful feature in the future.

Overall though, the Sony launcher is nice with some good options on board and the apps tray is useful, not just offering search but suggested apps too. For Sony users, the experience on the Xperia XZ1 Compact will be familiar and although we would love to see some of the bloatware removed, the XZ1 Compact offered a smooth experience during our time with it.

First Impressions

The Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact is a lovely little device that brings the Compact range back to form.

It might still be plastic but it's solid while also reintroducing waterproofing, a feature we will never understand why Sony ditched for the X Compact. It delivers in terms of hardware too, not just when it comes to the chipset but the camera too, offering the same as its larger brother, the Xperia XZ1 for the most part. 

The screen might not be the most resolute out there, but at this size, it really doesn't matter. We're excited to get our hands on the Xperia XZ1 Compact to review in full as based on what we've seen, it's the upgrade Z5 Compact owners were waiting for.

Writing by Britta O'Boyle.