We compare Sony's awesome new Xperia Z1 Compact with two of the biggest and best Androids out there, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One...
Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact may be a little fella, but don’t take it at size value: there’s enough awesome hardware packed away inside to make the big boys tremble, including the HTC One and Samsung’s Galaxy S4. We pitted the three phones against each other in a triple-threat showdown, to see which is best for your own particular needs…
Round one seems to be wrapped up before it’s even begun. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact - with its relatively small 4.3-inch screen - is more pocket-friendly than the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, and can slip inside even the tiniest of handbags. The Galaxy S4 is the big daddy of the bunch, rocking a five-inch screen, while the HTC One sits neatly in the middle at 4.7-inches.
However, despite the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact being more pocket-friendly than the others, there’s very little weight difference between the three phones. The Xperia Z1 Compact weighs 137g, the HTC One comes in at 143g, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 is actually the lightest at 130g, thanks to that plastic frame.
Winner: The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact’s mini frame makes it the most portable phone of the three.
Design and durability
Despite its new miniature build, the Xperia Z1 Compact still retains Sony’s slick rectangular design. The glass surfaces surrounding the aluminum border are glossy and gorgeous, although they do pick up fingerprints rather easily. You can grab the Compact in a range of colours, including a pretty pink number.
The HTC One’s sleek metallic body, on the other hand, looks just as smart and manages to stay smudge-free at all times. You can snatch it up in a metallic gold finish as well as original silver. There’s no memory card slot, and the SIM card slot is one of those fiddly pinhole ones that Apple popularised.
Then there’s the Galaxy S4, which is the usual glossy plastic affair. It’s a fingerprint magnet, and looks rather cut-price compared with the other phones here. As with the Xperia Z1 Compact you get a choice of colours, and we personally prefer the ominously-titled ‘red aurora’.
In terms of hardiness, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact easily comes out on top thanks to its waterproof design. You can throw it in the bath, dunk it in your pint, or simply yank it out in the rain, and the phone will simply shrug any water off. It can also survive a few knocks and tumbles.
The HTC One isn’t waterproof but it feels hardy, and proves satisfyingly resistant to scratches. And then there’s the Galaxy S4, which feels the flimsiest thanks to its plastic shell. We’ve seen a lot of smashed S4 screens in our time, so owners will want to invest in a case.
Winner: The Xperia Z1 Compact is the Tom Cruise of the smartphone world. It’s short and it looks good, but it’ll still kick your teeth down your throat.
When it comes to picture quality, the Xperia Z1 Compact’s IPS screen can’t quite manage the uber-crisp Full HD visuals of the others here, but the 720p resolution still produces gorgeously sharp images. Sony’s Triluminos technology once again scores a hit, with super-rich colours bombarding your eyes, and the panel is bright enough to stave off glare.
Of course, movie fans will want as large a canvas as possible to enjoy the latest blockbusters, so the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 will serve better. Both screens boast full 1080p HD, but use very different technology - the Galaxy S4 has a Super AMOLED display, while the One rocks an IPS panel like the Xperia Z1 Compact. Both put out vibrant images, but we prefer the more natural look of the HTC One.
When it comes to audio, there’s no competition - the HTC One’s dual ‘BoomSound’ speakers are the best around, firing powerful audio right at your face.
Winner: We love the Xperia Z1 Compact’s screen, but video fans will get the most from the HTC One, with its 1080p IPS screen and BoomSound speakers.
OS and apps
All three phones run Android but boast their own unique user interfaces, and they couldn’t look more different. For instance, Samsung has packed the Galaxy S4 full of motion gesture support for its heavy-handed TouchWiz overlay, a gimmick which you’ll either love to bits or immediately disable - the latter is a good plan to ensure smooth performance. There are some neat features such as S-Health, but fitness fans will likely use their own preferred health apps instead.
HTC’s BlinkFeed homepage keeps you updated with the latest headlines and social media updates, and while it’s a good idea for anyone who absolutely has to be kept in the loop, it still doesn’t quite feel like a final product - although it’s definitely close, with the likes of ‘Read Later’ and RSS support recently being added. We like the rest of HTC’s Sense interface, including the excellent photo, music and video galleries/players.
The Xperia Z1 Compact has a more low-key interface, but does come packed with plenty of Sony bloatware. If you aren’t fussed about handing Sony cash for its music, movies and apps services, you’ll be left with a lot of unused apps clogging up your phone’s storage - and we’re still not fans of Socialife. However, Sony fans will love the seamless integration with other products, including TVs and music systems.
Winner: A tough one to choose, as everyone will have their own preferences. Our personal pick is the HTC One, thanks to its streamlined Sense interface.
Performance and battery life
Sony’s baby may be the smallest, but it’s also the most powerful here with a nippy 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor packed inside. The HTC One and Galaxy S4 use older tech, but they’re still quad-core processors that can handle the latest games. Only the Galaxy S4 ever shows any signs of struggling, thanks to the heavy overlay of TouchWiz features - easily remedied by switching them all off.
Despite this, the Galaxy S4 comfortably lasts a full day on a single battery charge. The HTC One’s battery life is close behind, but the Z1 Compact is the true star, lasting a full day and a half between charges.
Winner: No question, the Xperia Z1 Compact is the most powerful portable device here, and also enjoys the longest battery life.
The area where all three handsets really shine is the camera. The Galaxy S4 takes sharp, vibrant photos in daylight and crams in a variety of cool gimmicks such as Dual-Shot and Drama Mode. Unfortunately it does struggle in dim conditions, producing grainy images.
That’s where the HTC One really shines, thanks to its impressive Ultrapixel sensor which sucks up plenty of light in a fraction of a second. Photos look sharp, and you also get the option of shooting mini three-second clips, which are automatically compiled into a ‘Zoe’ montage along with your photos at the end of the day. It’s a great way to capture your day and relive it later.
The Z1 Compact offers some very different features, including a funky AR mode that sticks virtual leprechauns alongside your family, but most importantly it boasts a brilliant Superior Auto mode which takes great photos in almost any condition. That alone makes the Xperia Z1 Compact one of the best cameraphones out there.
Winner: That excellent auto mode just about pushes the Xperia Z1 Compact ahead of the competition
Sony’s Xperia Z1 Compact doesn’t just stand up to the big boys from 2013, it truly trounces them. Of course, the real question is, will it put up a brave fight against the Samsung Galaxy S5 and new HTC One? Check back soon to find out...