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Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) Android smartphone. Announced Jan 2017. Features 5.2″ Super AMOLED display
791.28 SAR (213.65)USD
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Quick Overview
  • This Mobile runs on Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), upgradable to Android 8.0 (Oreo) powered with Octa-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A53.
  • This Mobile has 16 MP, f/1.9, 27mm (wide), AF and has 16 MP, f/1.9 Secondary camera
  • This Mobile has 5.2 inches, 74.5 cm2 (~71.5% screen-to-body ratio) inches display Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors.
  • This Mobile has 32/64 GB, 3 GB RAM of internal memory.
  • This Mobile has Non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery
  • This Mobile has Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by) sim
  • Compare prices for Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 in Saudi Arabia:
Lowest price for Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 is 791.28 SAR

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GENERAL
Sim Single SIM (Nano-SIM) or Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
Status Available. Released 2017, January
BODY
Dimensions 146.1 x 71.4 x 7.9 mm (5.75 x 2.81 x 0.31 in)
Weight 157 g (5.54 oz)
DISPLAY
Display Size 5.2 inches, 74.5 cm2 (~71.5% screen-to-body ratio)
MultiTouch YES
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 4
SOUND
AlertTypes Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
LoudSpeaker yes
3.5mm jack yes
MEMORY
CardSlot microSD, up to 256 GB (dedicated slot)
Internal 32/64 GB, 3 GB RAM
DATA
GPRS Yes
EDGE yes
Speed HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A (2CA) Cat6 300/50 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Blue Tooth 4.2, A2DP, EDR, LE
NFC yes
USB 2.0, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
CAMERA
Camera Primary 16 MP, f/1.9, 27mm (wide), AF
Camera Features LED flash, panorama, HDR
CameraVideo 1080p@30fps
CameraSecondary 16 MP, f/1.9
FEATURES
OS Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), upgradable to Android 8.0 (Oreo)
CPU Octa-core 1.9 GHz Cortex-A53
Sensors Fingerprint (front-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser HTML5
Radio FM radio
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
Colors Black Sky, Gold Sand, Blue Mist, Peach Cloud
Others Fast battery charging - ANT+ support - MP4/WMV/H.265 player - MP3/WAV/WMA/eAAC+/FLAC player - Photo/video editor - Document viewer
BATTERY
Battery Non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery
StandBy Up to 16 h (3G)
TalkTime Up to 53 h
MISC
SARUS 0.88 W/kg (head) 0.55 W/kg (body)
SAREU 0.52 W/kg (head) 1.39 W/kg (body)

IN DEPTH: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge vs LG G Flex 2

Battery, camera comparison

Smartphones have reached the point where designs are more iterative than innovative. While the look and feel changes only slightly on new models each year, manufacturers haven't done much to wow consumers beyond the traditional rectangular slab of glass, metal and plastic.

LG attempted to shake things up last year with first G Flex, a 6-inch smartphone with a curved display and slightly flexible frame, and Samsung soon followed with their own take on this concept, courtesy of the Galaxy Note Edge, a phablet-sized model featuring a display that wraps around the right side.

These Korean tech titans wasted no time announcing all-new versions of these devices for 2015, and we sat down with both in an effort to determine whether curved and flexible displays actually enhance the experience or are little more than a marketing gimmick.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge display

Screen

Although it won't hit stores until April 10 (with preorders now available in 20 countries), the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is little more than a variant of this year's Samsung Galaxy S6, featuring nearly identical specs with one notable exception: The Edge's display gently wraps around both sides of the front.

Otherwise, the Galaxy S6 Edge offers the same 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display as its less curvaceous sibling, with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 that packs in a whopping 577ppi.

The new LG G Flex 2 one-ups Samsung's latest with a 5.5-inch Full HD P-OLED display which curves slightly from top to bottom, and like its predecessor, can handle a bit of bending without breaking.

Despite the larger screen, the G Flex 2 tops out at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with a pixel density of only 403ppi, but LG attempts to make up for this shortcoming by comparing the curved display to its high-end televisions, offering a more cinematic viewing experience in landscape mode with three modes (Standard, Vivid or Natural) to make any content look great.

LG G Flex 2 profile

Design

Weighing only 4.66 ounces (132 grams), Samsung's curved Galaxy S6 Edge offers a premium feel that's slightly less ergonomic along the edges, but the aluminum frame and 7mm thickness make the device feel lighter than the Galaxy S6.

Roughly the size of an iPhone 6, Samsung borrowed a somewhat annoying trait from Apple's latest flagship handset: The rear camera protrudes from the back ever so slightly, presumably a design compromise to keep the device slim and trim.

Instead of curving around the edges, LG's G Flex 2 bends the entire case inward vertically, and because of the larger display size, its contoured body weighs slightly more at 5.36 ounces (152 grams) with a 5.87 x 2.96 x 0.37-inch (149.1 x 75.3 x 9.4mm) frame.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge both sides

Processor and Storage

Just because it looks so nice on the outside, that's no reason to be a slouch when it comes to what's on the inside.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge obliges with an octa-core, 64-bit Exynos 7 Octa 7420 processor clocked at 2.1GHz capped off by a Mali-T760 MP8 GPU and a whopping 3GB RAM and up to 128GB of storage for good measure.

LG mostly made up for the lack of oomph on the first G Flex by slapping an octa-core, 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor into the sequel, clocked at 2.0GHz with Adreno 430 GPU and the same 3GB RAM.

Unfortunately, the built-in storage on the G Flex 2 maxes out at 32GB, but up to a totally insane 2TB of additional storage is available from an optional microSD card – a feature sadly lacking on the otherwise hardware-rich Galaxy S6 Edge.

Battery, cameras and features comparison

LG G Flex 2 back cover removed

Battery

If you love the flexibility of swapping in a new battery when the current one runs out, neither of these curvy smartphones are likely to make you smile.

It's too early to know what the battery life will be like on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, but the 2600mAh power pack doesn't offer a whole lot of encouragement on this front.

By comparison, the G Flex 2 packs a 3000mAh battery (reduced from 3500mAh in the previous model), but before LG can boast about having more power, there's the matter of that larger 5.5-inch display to consider.

Thankfully, the fast charging capabilities of both models should have you back in action quickly – our own review of the LG G Flex 2 topped up from a complete discharge in just over an hour and a half.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge camera

Cameras

Samsung hasn't held back when it comes to the Galaxy S6 Edge camera: Rocking a 16MP, f1.9 aperture sensor with dual LED flash and optical image stabilization capable of shooting 4K video up to 3840 x 2160, the rear camera is no slouch.

By comparison, the LG G Flex 2 borrows liberally from the LG G3 to provide a 13MP sensor that otherwise checks off the same feature list above on the Galaxy S6 Edge, although the laser auto focus is one noteworthy addition.

Neither model breaks much new ground with the front camera, however: Samsung touts a "best-in-class" 5MP sensor with 120º wide angle lens, while LG's tops out a 2.1MP, which the manufacturer claims is enough to use it as a "full HD camcorder."

LG G Flex 2 in hand

Features

The remaining feature checklist is relatively the same for both handsets: Each ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the gate, with the usual Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless on board.

Aside from curved edges, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge also offers built-in Qi and Powermat-compatible wireless charging.

LG instead opted to include a selfie-friendly "Gesture Shot" mode on the G Flex 2, which provides a three-second timer on the front-facing camera that can be activated with a gesture; tilting the camera down allows the user to review images instead.

Like the original G Flex, the sequel also features that bizarre self-healing back, which didn't do all that much to impress in our own review of the G Flex 2. More impressive is the Glance view, which offers a peek at what's happening without the need to actually turn on the device.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge connected

Galaxy Edge 6 vs G Flex 2 Verdict

This two-horse race ultimately comes down to just how curvy you want: Along the edges of the handset with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, or on the entire smartphone with the LG G Flex 2.

LG has a slight advantage since the handset is already available from two carriers for early adopters to take home, but to be honest, the whole concept of curved displays on a smartphone still causes us to scratch our collective heads more than be impressed.

Samsung isn't likely to woo many potential Galaxy S6 buyers away from the flagship device in favor of the Galaxy S6 Edge either, but those in search of a more premium edition worthy of making friends envious will want to wait it out a bit longer – assuming you can afford it, that is.








IN DEPTH: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge vs LG G Flex 2

Battery, camera comparison

Smartphones have reached the point where designs are more iterative than innovative. While the look and feel changes only slightly on new models each year, manufacturers haven't done much to wow consumers beyond the traditional rectangular slab of glass, metal and plastic.

LG attempted to shake things up last year with first G Flex, a 6-inch smartphone with a curved display and slightly flexible frame, and Samsung soon followed with their own take on this concept, courtesy of the Galaxy Note Edge, a phablet-sized model featuring a display that wraps around the right side.

These Korean tech titans wasted no time announcing all-new versions of these devices for 2015, and we sat down with both in an effort to determine whether curved and flexible displays actually enhance the experience or are little more than a marketing gimmick.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge display

Screen

Although it won't hit stores until April 10 (with preorders now available in 20 countries), the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is little more than a variant of this year's Samsung Galaxy S6, featuring nearly identical specs with one notable exception: The Edge's display gently wraps around both sides of the front.

Otherwise, the Galaxy S6 Edge offers the same 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display as its less curvaceous sibling, with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 that packs in a whopping 577ppi.

The new LG G Flex 2 one-ups Samsung's latest with a 5.5-inch Full HD P-OLED display which curves slightly from top to bottom, and like its predecessor, can handle a bit of bending without breaking.

Despite the larger screen, the G Flex 2 tops out at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with a pixel density of only 403ppi, but LG attempts to make up for this shortcoming by comparing the curved display to its high-end televisions, offering a more cinematic viewing experience in landscape mode with three modes (Standard, Vivid or Natural) to make any content look great.

LG G Flex 2 profile

Design

Weighing only 4.66 ounces (132 grams), Samsung's curved Galaxy S6 Edge offers a premium feel that's slightly less ergonomic along the edges, but the aluminum frame and 7mm thickness make the device feel lighter than the Galaxy S6.

Roughly the size of an iPhone 6, Samsung borrowed a somewhat annoying trait from Apple's latest flagship handset: The rear camera protrudes from the back ever so slightly, presumably a design compromise to keep the device slim and trim.

Instead of curving around the edges, LG's G Flex 2 bends the entire case inward vertically, and because of the larger display size, its contoured body weighs slightly more at 5.36 ounces (152 grams) with a 5.87 x 2.96 x 0.37-inch (149.1 x 75.3 x 9.4mm) frame.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge both sides

Processor and Storage

Just because it looks so nice on the outside, that's no reason to be a slouch when it comes to what's on the inside.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge obliges with an octa-core, 64-bit Exynos 7 Octa 7420 processor clocked at 2.1GHz capped off by a Mali-T760 MP8 GPU and a whopping 3GB RAM and up to 128GB of storage for good measure.

LG mostly made up for the lack of oomph on the first G Flex by slapping an octa-core, 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor into the sequel, clocked at 2.0GHz with Adreno 430 GPU and the same 3GB RAM.

Unfortunately, the built-in storage on the G Flex 2 maxes out at 32GB, but up to a totally insane 2TB of additional storage is available from an optional microSD card – a feature sadly lacking on the otherwise hardware-rich Galaxy S6 Edge.

Battery, cameras and features comparison

LG G Flex 2 back cover removed

Battery

If you love the flexibility of swapping in a new battery when the current one runs out, neither of these curvy smartphones are likely to make you smile.

It's too early to know what the battery life will be like on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, but the 2600mAh power pack doesn't offer a whole lot of encouragement on this front.

By comparison, the G Flex 2 packs a 3000mAh battery (reduced from 3500mAh in the previous model), but before LG can boast about having more power, there's the matter of that larger 5.5-inch display to consider.

Thankfully, the fast charging capabilities of both models should have you back in action quickly – our own review of the LG G Flex 2 topped up from a complete discharge in just over an hour and a half.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge camera

Cameras

Samsung hasn't held back when it comes to the Galaxy S6 Edge camera: Rocking a 16MP, f1.9 aperture sensor with dual LED flash and optical image stabilization capable of shooting 4K video up to 3840 x 2160, the rear camera is no slouch.

By comparison, the LG G Flex 2 borrows liberally from the LG G3 to provide a 13MP sensor that otherwise checks off the same feature list above on the Galaxy S6 Edge, although the laser auto focus is one noteworthy addition.

Neither model breaks much new ground with the front camera, however: Samsung touts a "best-in-class" 5MP sensor with 120º wide angle lens, while LG's tops out a 2.1MP, which the manufacturer claims is enough to use it as a "full HD camcorder."

LG G Flex 2 in hand

Features

The remaining feature checklist is relatively the same for both handsets: Each ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the gate, with the usual Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless on board.

Aside from curved edges, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge also offers built-in Qi and Powermat-compatible wireless charging.

LG instead opted to include a selfie-friendly "Gesture Shot" mode on the G Flex 2, which provides a three-second timer on the front-facing camera that can be activated with a gesture; tilting the camera down allows the user to review images instead.

Like the original G Flex, the sequel also features that bizarre self-healing back, which didn't do all that much to impress in our own review of the G Flex 2. More impressive is the Glance view, which offers a peek at what's happening without the need to actually turn on the device.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge connected

Galaxy Edge 6 vs G Flex 2 Verdict

This two-horse race ultimately comes down to just how curvy you want: Along the edges of the handset with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, or on the entire smartphone with the LG G Flex 2.

LG has a slight advantage since the handset is already available from two carriers for early adopters to take home, but to be honest, the whole concept of curved displays on a smartphone still causes us to scratch our collective heads more than be impressed.

Samsung isn't likely to woo many potential Galaxy S6 buyers away from the flagship device in favor of the Galaxy S6 Edge either, but those in search of a more premium edition worthy of making friends envious will want to wait it out a bit longer – assuming you can afford it, that is.








Review: UPDATED: Moto X

Introduction, display and design

Update: Moto X continues to be one of the most stylish Android phones in 2015 and looks even better with Android Lollipop. Our review reflects that.

The Moto X name didn't changed in 2014, but rest assured, this updated Android smartphone packs enough new specs to deserve its own Moto X+1 or Moto X2 title.

With a larger screen, a better but not perfect camera, surprisingly useful first-party apps and, of course deeper customization, the original Moto Maker returns with a competitive price.

It's just $99 on-contract and on sale for as little as $1, or $499 (£419.99, AU$534). Don't let Motorola's low ball price fool you either. Like its low-key name, the Moto X 2014 has a deceptive asking price.

Motorola's flagship phone is slightly bigger in every sense, enough to make it one of the best Android premium phones next to the more expensive Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9. Though not groundbreaking like the curved Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge or LG G Flex 2, it's still one of the most stylish phones in 2015, enough to be part of our best phones list.

Moto X 2014 review

Availability and price

The Moto X 2nd generation launched on September 16, 2014, but that was the AT&T release date in the US. It came out for Verizon on September 26. Both carriers sold the 16GB phone on-contract for $100 and 32GB version for $150.

On sale, it was reduced to $1 during the holidays by some retailers, and Motorola eventually followed suit on its Moto Maker website in December. The unlocked price begins at $399.

In the UK, the new Moto X GSM unlocked edition became available at the end of September for £420 through Motorola's official website. Bumping the internal storage from 16GB to 32GB takes it to £460.

Wood and leather adds to the price. Moto X 2014 with a premium back costs $425 and £439.99 for the 16GB version and $175 and £479.99 for the 32GB edition, based on the original pricing.

Android 5.0 Lollipop premiered with the Motorola-made Nexus 6 and has arrived soon after on Moto X, at least from some carriers. Both the unlocked version and Verizon variant benefitted from the upgrade right away, while AT&T customers with Moto X 2nd generation had to wait several months. The same may happen with Android 5.1 in the offing.

Nexus 6, by comparison, has the Android Lollipop from the get-go, a larger 6-inch screen, a camera with optical image stabilization, dual front-facing speakers and a bigger battery. But it's also much more expensive at $650 (£499) for the 32GB base model and it loses that one-handed appeal.

Display

There's more to the Moto X 2014 now that the display literally measures up to its competition. It's 5.2 inches, the same size as the new Sony Xperia Z3 and a hair larger than the 5.1-inch Galaxy S5.

That's up half an inch from last year's 4.7-inch Moto X, a size that Motorola left to the likes of Apple and its, by comparison, pint-sized iPhone 6 display.

With a little reach and large enough fingers, the new Moto X is still a one-handed phone that almost ventures into two-handed territory. Yet it doesn't compromise much on the display when compared to a phablet.

Moto X 2014 review

It's again protected by Corning Gorilla Glass with the same AMOLED technology behind it, but the 1080p Full HD resolution makes for a much crisper screen with 423 pixels per inch. You won't want to go back to the original's 720p and 316 ppi display specs, that's for sure.

This sharper display is put to the test as soon as the new Moto X is booted up thanks to the bright and colorful default wallpapers that Motorola included with the handset. It really sets the tone for this premium smartphone experience, especially next to the still 720p Moto G 2014.

Moto X 2014 review

It stands bezel-to-bezel with the Samsung Galaxy S5 in this regard, though it lacks the Super AMOLED display. In a few cases, we found the Moto X screen harder to read outdoors. But keep in mind that Motorola has made its smartphone much cheaper than anything in its class.

The Moto X 2014 makes up for its direct sunlight shortcomings with a better way to conserve battery life by default. The return of the extremely efficient Motorola Active Display means that waving your hand over the phone or taking it out of your pocket brings up the current time and simple notification icons in white. The rest of the screen remains off. The popular, always-on microphone is here as well, giving you a way to cut to the chase with voice commands.

Moto X 2014 review

Tapping an Active Display icon reveals more information about the notification, like the gist of your latest emails or Hangout messages. It's a great use of AMOLED's ability to selectively light up individual pixels and it sure beats an ambiguous blinking status light on a phone.

Design

An all-new aluminum metal frame means that Moto X 2nd generation is stronger than its predecessor, not just bigger than before. Plastic is no longer binding together Motorola's flagship device. It's closer to the build material of the iPhone 5S, sturdier than the pliable iPhone 6 Plus and, most importantly, doesn't feel as cheap as the metal-looking polycarbonate Samsung Galaxy S5.

What's surprising is that despite the Moto X's naturally larger size care of the 5.2-inch display, Motorola once again used tricks to minimize the overall dimensions, and it worked in its favor. For example, there's very little bezel around the edges and the soft buttons are on-screen, as opposed to the capacitive buttons used by Samsung devices.

Moto X 2014 review

This makes the Moto X 2014 roughly the same size as the Galaxy S5 and, remarkably, even the iPhone 6. Its official measurements are 2.9 in (72.4 mm) x 5.5 in (140.8 mm) with a sloped 0.2 in (3.8 mm) to 0.4 in (9.9 mm) curve.

The S5's width and height are 2.9 in (72.5 mm) x 5.5 in (142 mm) with a narrower overall depth of 0.3 in (8.1 mm). iPhone 6 is nearly as big: 2.64 in (67.0 mm) x 5.44 in (138.1 mm) x 0.27 in (6.9 mm). As much as I appreciate the iPhone's home button and Touch ID, it has half an inch less screen real estate to show for its almost-as-tall dimensions.

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 reviewMoto X's premium frame thins out along the corners, but forms a fairly thick bow shape at the center for a curved back. This leaves plenty of room for a top-center 3.5mm headphone jack, an adjacent nano-SIM card slot and bottom-placed micro USB port. Along the thinned-out sides, there's just enough depth for a volume rocker that's smooth and power button that's accented with ridges. This makes it easier to tell the two stainless steel buttons apart in your pocket.

Moto Maker returns with additional customizations to match the now-premium Moto X with even more personalization. Leather, for example, is now among the choices that can back your phone in one of four colors. It joins last year's four wood options and 17 plastic colors. Black or white fronts and 10 accent colors for the front-facing speaker grills and rear Motorola logo dimple round out the most pressing Moto Maker decisions.

Moto X 2014 review

Cradling the Moto X backed in soft leather is a delight, but it's also the most delicate material within Moto Maker. Yes, the Moto 360 smartwatch uses the same genuine leather sourced from Horween Leather Company, but the supple material bruised more easily in our pockets than on our wrists. That's what's great about Moto Maker, though. It's filled with more options than your standard one-size-fits-all smartphone in case that doesn't work for you.

Moto X weighs in at 144 grams vs last year's 139 grams. Considering the aluminum metal frame and 5.2-inch screen, that's a worthy trade-off. Of course, there are beefier specs too.

Specs, performance and interface

Moto X 2014's specs, like its larger display size, complement the fact that it's no longer the runt of the Android litter. Its Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor is identical to the 2.5GHz quad-core chip that's found at the heart of the LTE-equipped Galaxy S5.

Moto X 2014 review

Motorola also answers Samsung's graphics performance with the same Adreno 330 GPU at 578 MHz and its memory with a healthy 2GB of RAM. The new Moto X isn't an also-ran when it comes to the most important specs. It's snappy performance backs this up even when all of our favorite apps, photos and video are clogging the internal storage.

There's a caveat: you can only fill up the Moto X so much because you won't find a micro SD card slot anywhere. Expandable storage isn't a part of the Moto X like it is on the Moto G 2014 and the earlier Moto G 4G model. You'll have to contend with the 16GB and Moto Maker-exclusive 32GB internal configurations.

Moto X 2014 review

Also missing is any sort of fingerprint sensor, heart rate monitor (not that you really need that) and waterproof seal. It doesn't measure up to the IP67 rating of many Android smartphones, so it's not water resistant up to 30 meters for an hour. Instead, it's just "splashproof." It's more than the leather back that's delicate in wet conditions.

Moto X did get the speakers right where others often fail. Its front-facing bottom grill projected music the right way - forward - not down at the ground, and its four microphones for voice calls and noise canceling reduced background noise to appropriate levels in all our test calls.

Interface and apps

Google may have sold Motorola to Lenovo, but the company is still dedicated to providing a pure Android experience that helps its phone contrast with devices from Samsung and HTC. You won't find TouchWiz or Sense changing the experience with a wonky overlay.

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X's Android KitKat 4.4 interface is much the same as last year save for the Google Now Launcher, a few fresh Motorola-branded apps and some carrier-loaded bloatware depending on your provider. Once again, the aforementioned Moto Display shows up when the display is off, providing a discreet and battery-saving method of peeking at notification icons.

Moto Assist takes driving seriously by reading text messages aloud while you're on the road. It also knows when to keep quiet without disruptive noises during meetings or when you're ready for bed. The next day, it wakes up when you wake up, according to your schedule.

Moto X review of apps for Verizon and ATT

Moto Actions takes advantage of the Moto X's IR emitters that resemble the sensor-spotted Amazon Fire Phone. The built-in app recognizes hand motions from all directions to turn on the Moto Active Display, silence calls and a snooze alarms with a simple wave. Just hop out of the shower and want to know the time? Look no further than Moto Actions. That's really convenient for a phone that's only splashproof.

Moto Voice builds upon Google Now by letting you change the always-listening voice prompt. Instead of the "Okay Google Now" command that seemed futuristic in 2013, the new Moto X lets you use custom phrases - everything from "You there Moto X?" to "Wake up buddy!" were among the Motorola-suggested examples. But I preferred the Motorola staffer / X-Men fan who used the prompt, "Okay Professor X" to get things started. And, again, unlike Siri, there's no need to hold down a button or have the phone plugged in to get the attention of Moto Voice.

Moto X 2014 review apps

Outside of the main Moto suite is Connect, a way to bridge the messaging gap between your Moto X smartphone and computer. It delivers text messages to a Chrome browser extension, though not as reliably as third-party apps like MightyText. I'm still hoping that Google one day brings SMS to Hangouts on a PC. Apple aced this with iMessages among its device owners two years ago and is further building upon it (by relaying all texts) with Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. Connect is hopefully a stopover to something broader from Google.

Everything else about Motorola's Android KitKat 4.4 setup is untouched next to the Nexus 5, and for the most part, this pure interface is really appealing. It does mean that Google's quick settings for brightness, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are buried behind one and two extra steps compared to what Samsung's pull-down menu. I really hate having to adjust the brightness outside with an swipe down, a poke at the left quick settings button, a stab in the dark at the brightness grid label and a feel for the brightness slider. Even with this, pure Android a lighter and cleaner alternative in all other cases.

Camera

Moto X 2014 can't pull off "premium" without a vastly improved camera considering last year's middling snapper. Motorola bumps the specs to 13 megapixels, up from the 10-megapixel rear camera that proved extremely inconsistent 12 months ago.

Moto X 2014 review

With a 13MP sensor that's identical to many of today's Android smartphones, the new Moto X took much sharper pictures than its predecessor. It also put the autofocus in the right place more times than not. That's not to say that its performance was flawless or as responsive as the speedier LG G3, but I walked away with higher-resolution photos and subjects in focus without the need to plead for retakes. It's a step in the right direction for Motorola.

Moto X 2014 review

The default camera app is simple and straightforward like last year, offering a tap-to-snap touchscreen shutter button, Auto HDR and Panorama. The controls are hidden to the left, while swiping right explores the gallery. What's interesting here is that Motorola's software tries to pick out the best pictures via its Highlight Reel functionality. It's not always perfect, but it does weed out blurry shots and handily group images for a quick comparison.

Moto X 2014 review

Keep in mind that Moto X's stripped-down manual focus and exposure options may make you leap for third-party alternatives in the Google Play Store, but Motorola's camera app is the only one that opens with two twists of a the wrist. Even if you don't use the default app all of the time, this shortcut makes for easy to capture photos in a minimal amount of time.

Moto X 2014 review

The 13-megapixel camera is accompanied by a unique-sounding ring flash, which essentially means the lens is flanked by two LED flash bulbs. The right and left lights do an admirable job brightening up subjects to balance shots, but approaching subjects too closely still results in overblown pictures.

Moto X 2014 review

When the Moto X gets things right colors temperature are oversaturated and pushed to the extreme on the equally saturated AMOLED. It's vibrate-looking, though not true to life in all cases. Selfies are best shot with the front-facing camera that's 2 megapixels and doesn't have a flash even if you want one.

Moto X 2014 review

Both cameras can shoot 1080p HD video, but only the rear-facing camera is capable of slow motion video at 120fps and Ultra HD video quality at 30fps. The pixels extend to 2160p, which means Motorola is now welcomed into the 4K smartphone capture club. Whether or not you really want to use up your limited internal storage for such video files is up to you.

Camera samples

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Moto X 2014 review

Battery life

The new Moto X has a 2300 mAh battery backing up its larger screen, which is bigger than the 2200mAh battery found in last year's model. That seems better on paper until you realize that the 5.2-inch screen requires more power throughout the day. Throughout our testing the new Moto X lasted us 24 hours with mixed use.

That's enough to plug it in at night without fail, but not as long-lasting as something like the Galaxy S5 with a 2800mAh battery. Motorola does benefit from the AMOLED Active Display because checking the time and notifications doesn't light up the entire screen. It also doesn't accidentally light up in this mode when face down or in a pocket.

Moto X 2014 review

The company's Moto 360 smartwatch has a significantly shorter battery life of less than a day and it's yet another thing to charge. However, also shored up our notification-checking addiction on the Moto X 2014 and ultimately helped the battery last even longer than 24 hours some days.

When battery life is critical, though, it's Samsung that swoops in with its Ultra Power Saving mode. It can be a real battery life-saver. Motorola's 10% is the same as its 90%. You also won't find a backward compatible micro USB 3.0 connection on the Moto X for faster charging and transfers, as seen in the Note 3 and S5.

Moto X 2014 review

Motorola does sell a Turbo Charger that can add an impressive eight hours of battery life in just 15 minutes thanks to Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 technology. Its ideal for juicing up during work breaks in the day and layovers at the airport, but it's not something you'll get out of the box.

It costs $35 (about £21, AU$40) through Motorola's Moto Maker store, unlike the Nexus 6 and Droid Turbo that come with the larger power brick.

Verdict

Moto X 2014's display size jumped half an inch, but the overall quality leapt a full foot from its also-ran origins. That's not to say that it was a terrible mid-range device the first time around. Motorola has just updated the design and specs enough to make it a high-end contender in 12 short months.

It takes on the "premium" label without sacrificing the low price point in most regions. In fact, the US price is actually a lot cheaper: $99 on contract, making it half the price of its leading competitors. SIM-free it's still a deal: $499 (£419.99, AU$534).

Moto X 2014 review

We liked

The 5.2-inch display gives us more screen real estate without verging on phablet territory. It's still a one-handed device for people with large enough fingers and coupled with the AMOLED Moto Active Display that we wish all smartphone manufacturers would blatantly copy already.

A metal frame makes it feel as good as the screen looks, while Moto Maker combinations now total in the thousands. The pure Android OS is thankfully only supplemented by Motorola's useful apps and the price makes it Android's hidden treasure. X truely does mark the spot.

Moto X 2014 review

We disliked

It's premium, but it's not without pitfalls. Moto X 2014 doesn't have a micro SD card slot, so you're either stuck with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. You can also forget about taking it in any sort of water. It's not IP67 waterproof like many other Androids so hold onto it tight.

Wait, don't hold onto it too tightly. That all-new premium leather back cost more, but bruised on us rather easily. The 13-megapixel rear camera takes better photos than before - not much of an accomplishment. We're still not convinced it'll ever take the shot we want every time.

New Moto X 2014 review

Final Verdict

Don't think that just because the Moto X 2014 name didn't get much of a change that the phone is just a basic specs bump. Motorola's new flagship smartphone proves that the reinvented company is listening to customer feedback with a bigger screen and aluminum metal frame, all for a price that's better than its competition. It only half-listened the requests for a superior camera and didn't pay attention to pleas for a micro SD slot.

The good news is that Motorola continuing with its popular Moto Maker customization policies. That means personalized backs including new soft leather and trim accents on the front and around the camera lense. And yet the firm doesn't tinker with the pure Android experience set forth by Google. The specs are more robust while the software stays minimal, the opposite of other Android phones out there. That's just the way Motorola rolls, and we rather enjoy it.

First reviewed: September 2014








Review: Updated: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Introduction

A mini handset has, inexplicably, come to mean a smaller, lower-spec version of a popular big screen device, which does nothing for those that want a slightly smaller display.

With the release of the Xperia Z1 Compact in 2014 (having launched in Japan in 2013) we were pleased to see Sony bucking the trend by shrinking down the powerful Xperia Z1 but losing almost nothing on the spec list, giving the Z1 Compact a real chance to fight fight in a fierce market, that at the time was dominated by the HTC One Mini 2 and Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, two devices that launched to critical acclaim but with a poorer spec list.

It's a trick that Sony has since repeated with the Xperia Z3 Compact, which again manages to pack a lot of the Xperia Z3's best features into a smaller body.

Eagle eyed readers will have noticed that the Sony Xperia Z1's baby brother hasn't adopted the traditional "Mini" moniker but rather comes with the title of "Compact".

Yes, Sony has given the Z1 Compact the smaller screen, but it has kicked diminutive RAM and lesser cores to the mobile kerb. Sony has even allowed the Xperia Z1 Compact to keep the waterproof nature of the Z1.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact can now be picked up from as little as £215 SIM-free ($317, around AU$413) and free on contracts starting at £18 per month.

Despite the recent price drops, this does mean that the Xperia Z1 Compact is still more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and the HTC One Mini, which launched around 6 months earlier and have also seen their fair share of price drops since their newer versions (the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One Mini 2 respectively) came out.

This higher cost does allow much better specs though: it means the inclusion of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2GHz quad-core CPU backed up by 2GB RAM for instance.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact's successor, the Xperia Z3 Compact, has also seen a few price drops of its own, and can be had for around £290 (around $428, AU$557). With a Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz CPU, the Xperia Z3 Compact has a slight edge over the Xperia Z1 Compact, but not enough that you should discount the cheaper handset, which offers fantastic value for money.

The "Compact" name also alludes to more than just the smaller size; it can be no coincidence that the Xperia Z1 Compact shares its name with the style of camera that it is looking to replace. A 20.7MP Exmor sensor housed behind an award-winning G Lens aims to be the final nail in the compact camera coffin.

Unsurprisingly, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact follows in the same design language that was started with the Xperia Z1.

A full frontal glass assault is joined by an all glass rear that gives the Xperia Z1 Compact a really clean feel. The choice of four colours (black, white, pink and lime) means that the business feel can be offset a little if you wish.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

While the glass adds to the industrial feel, I found that it also meant I became a little obsessed with keeping it clean. Those that find they are forever trying to clean the screen to remove pesky fingerprints will find that that feeling transfers identically to the back.

It also hoovers up dust from the pocket, making it a real eyesore when you're just trying to look at a quick text.

The chassis, measuring at 127 x 64.9 x 9.55mm, curves slightly at the edges allowing the screen to be protected from side impacts, as well as allowing it to sit comfortably in the hand. I found that the metal and glass often left the Xperia Z1 Compact cold to touch when left out, but the material combination also leaves it feeling premium.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

It's this combination of materials that leaves the Z1 Compact sitting on the scales at 137g, although I found that I still needed to check my pocket occasionally to see if it was still there. There is no doubt that the phone feels a little heavy at first, especially when compared to the almost impossibly light Galaxy S5 Mini, but this feeling disappears as quickly as it is noticed.

The smaller frame made using the Xperia Z1 Compact easy to use one handed, and didn't suffer the same problems of grip that beset the original Xperia Z1. The power key in particular was pretty easy to hit.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The curved edges also meant that I found it was more comfortable in one-handed use than the iPhone 5S, retaining the same business feel but without the sharp edges. However, the feel in the hand is one of a chunkier device - it doesn't have the same smooth stylings of the HTC One M8, for instance, and does feel quite hefty compared to other, better-balanced, phones.

Behind all that glass sits the first clue that the Xperia Z1 Compact isn't quite a fully-fledged flagship; a 720p 4.3-inch screen.

Many may scoff at the lower resolution, but Sony has given the screen a lot of attention, certainly more than was provided to the original Z1.

Pure stats show that the Xperia Z1 Compact has enough to compete, as its 340ppi outstrips that of the four-inch iPhone 5S, and even the newer iPhone 6. The Xperia Z3 Compact's larger 4.6-inch screen keeps the same 720p resolution, which means the newer handset has a slightly lower pixel density at 319ppi. Even so, the level of attention goes deeper than that as Sony looked to address issues that were found when the Xperia Z1 launched.

Gone are poor viewing angles thanks to the inclusion of IPS technology to join the Bravia and Triluminos tech that were found in Sony's largest handset, the Xperia Z Ultra.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

However, coming to this from looking at a 1080p screen and you will be able to see the drop in level of sharpness - it's not massive, but the Z1 Compact doesn't have the clearest screen on the market.

Making the Xperia Z1 Compact dust and waterproof (to IP55 and IP58 standards) can't have been easy with the number of ports that the modern smartphone requires. Thankfully, Sony has managed this well, leaving me impressed with the way they are securely covered.

All bar one of the ports comes with an attached bit of plastic that stands up to some rigorous pulling, with Sony having fully waterproofed the 3.5mm headphone jack. Even the external speaker that runs across the base of the Xperia Z1 Compact has been given the treatment.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The microUSB port and microSD slot (the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact supports up to a further 64GB of storage) are housed at the top of the left side, with the microSIM tray sat at the base. I found that this tray was rather flimsy, as well as being difficult enough to require tweezers to remove. Popping in a microSD card was a lot simpler.

With all the ports in the left side, Sony has left the right-hand edge to be populated with a couple of buttons. Amongst these is the standard volume rocker sat just below Sony's round and imposing power/lock button, as well as a TechRadar favourite: a dedicated camera shutter button.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

This serves a few purposes as it allows the Z1 Compact's 20.7MP camera to be loaded (and even have the photo shot right away) in one touch, as well as allowing photos to be taken underwater as the screen doesn't have to be pressed.

It also allows the camera app to function more like a fully fledged camera, with focussing and snapping being really easy.

The top and bottom edges contain only the waterproofed 3.5mm headphone jack and external speaker, respectively.

As with every smartphone, the back of the phone contains the camera sensor and LED flash. Elsewhere, only the Sony and NFC branding break up the solid glass rear.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

The Xperia Z1 Compact may come a higher price tag than its 'Mini' counterparts but also packs a smarter more professional feel backed up with whizzier insides that warrant a second and third look.

Big Heart, Big Camera, Small frame

One of the first things most will do when checking out a phone is have a look at the spec list. I know that specification lists only tell half the story of a handset, but this is a half that Sony has given a lot of thought to.

The power

One of the biggest things that stands out on the spec sheet is the Z1 Compact comes with flagship-sized insides. Sony has kept the same Snapdragon 800 SoC that packs a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU and Adreno 330 GP, as well as the 2GB RAM that keeps it all running smoothly.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

This puts it on par with the likes of the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, not just the Mini versions of these devices - and at a price that's not too dissimilar either. Both these market-leading flagship alternatives come with 2GB RAM and quad-core CPUs clocked at 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz respectively.

It also means that the Xperia Z1 Compact comes more impressively specced than the Mini rivals it sits alongside. Both the Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2 are equipped with 1.5GB and 1GB of RAM respectively. Though the Galaxy S5 Mini has a quad-core processor, it's only clocked at 1.4GHz, quite a bit lower than the older Xperia Z1.

The camera

Sony has given the Xperia Z1 Compact the same camera technology from the original Xperia Z1; namely the goliath 20.7MP sensor and the G Lens.

While it may not match up to the same 41MP that is found within the Windows Phone-toting Nokia Lumia 1020, it is one of the most advanced sensors found in Android handsets.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

This dwarfs the sensors that are found in the HTC One M8 which comes with four 'UltraPixels', as well as the 16MP and 8MP sensors that are found in the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S5 Mini.

The most impressive thing here is how all these specs have been left largely untouched and yet still squashed into a smaller frame than the full flagships of the Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, meaning that the Xperia Z1 Compact sits incredibly nicely in the pocket and even more comfortably in the hand.

That same frame is also built out of metal and glass, that while adding a noticeable heft also allows the Xperia Z1 Compact to feel high end, even allowing it to retain the same waterproof nature of its bigger brother.

Using the phone in the bath has never been so simple.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The interface

Being a Sony handset also means the Z1 Compact comes loaded with Sony's Android UI, giving it some tweaks from the standard Android UI that graces the Google Nexus 5, as well as giving it a completely different feel from Samsung's TouchWiz and HTC's Sense.

Sony's Android UI is something that's worth looking at - it's a stripped down version of the heavier skins of the rivals and will please those looking for a more sleek version of Android while still enjoying some tweakery.

That said, there's still a lot of emphasis on Sony products when you turn on the phone, with the likes of Video and Music Unlimited being rammed down your throat as 'Recommended' content and the main media apps front and centre.

Sony's media offerings are decent enough, but they're not real USPs at this time, with things like Music Unlimited a poor alternative to Spotify, meaning you'll have to head out into the Play Store to update these after purchase in some instances.

Sony's Video Unlimited section, for instance, allows the purchase and streaming of movies without needing to sign up to a monthly subscription in much the same way as Tesco's BlinkBox service.

Peer beyond the extra apps though and you're greeted with a phone that's really got a lot of power in a small package without being too obtrusive - and that's going to appeal to a lot of people.

Interface and performance

Sony originally equipped the Xperia Z1 Compact with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, which was a little disappointing given that KitKat had been out for a while.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The good news is that the Xperia Z1 Compact has since been upgraded to Android 4.4.2, bringing you all the latest goodies from Google.

Sony also announced that it will be bringing the latest version,Android 5.0 Lollipop, to the Xperia Z1 Compact in due course.

Sony has already begun rolling out Android 5.0 Lollipop to the newer Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact devices, so we will hopefully see Google's latest and greatest mobile operating system hitting the Xperia Z1 Compact pretty soon.

Over the top of KitKat, Sony has equipped the Xperia Z1 Compact with a very well rounded and intuitive design.

Every OEM installs a level of customisation to differentiate themselves; Samsung has its TouchWiz design and HTC has Sense.

From the attractive slide-style unlock to the clean icons and the customised app drawer, it's clear that Sony has given its UI some real thought.

I am particularly fond of the app drawer, as it allows easy navigation though a toolbar located at the far left. It's these little touches that make smartphones feel smart.

The inclusion of themes is also pleasant, giving the Xperia Z1 Compact a slightly different feel and allowing you to change the whole look depending on your mood.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The multitasking pane hides a feature that I think Sony should have made more of a song and dance about, as it rivals the multi-window feature on the Galaxy S5.

The ability to have floating apps such as a browser or screen shot made multitasking a lot easier and have long been a good feature of Sony devices - being able to simply open up a timer or calculator can be a godsend, although not having a torch option there seems weird.

A notification light (with multiple colours) also comes equipped on the Xperia Z1 Compact, giving it a leg up over the HTC One Mini 2 and Galaxy S5 Mini.

For those that like to know whether they have a missed message, this is an almost vital inclusion.

My love for widgets was also well catered for with Sony allowing you to add up to seven home screens, long-pressing open areas to add them. I was disappointed to find that there is no infinite scrolling though, something that makes the Xperia Z1 Compact feel a little less fluid when swiping around.

Fluidity is something that exudes from the phone, aided by the 2.2GHz quad-core CPU and 2GB RAM. Moving between screens is a dream, and I found no hint of slowdown even when downloading large files, playing music and web browsing simultaneously.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Looking at the GeekBench 3 results it is easy to see why; the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact averaged 2731 on multi-core performance.

Interestingly though I did find that before the Android 4.4 KitKat update, the Xperia Z1 Compact had a slightly better average at 2884.

That's not a huge difference, and when it comes to every day performance you won't notice any change between Jelly Bean and KitKat.

Comparing the new score with those listed on the GeekBench site, the Xperia Z1 Compact still scores higher than nearly all the listed devices on multi-core.

This can be attributed to the smaller screen size, with the Adreno 330 GPU not being put under extra strain having to redraw the extra pixels that full HD displays require.

Whilst many may have scoffed at the idea of a handset that 'isn't even full HD', this has been beneficial to the Z1 Compact whilst still providing a crystal clear viewing experience.

Sure, it's not got the razor sharp clarity, but that boost in performance (and, as you'll see later, battery life) is certainly worth having. If you like a smaller screen anyway, this is quickly turning into one of the main phones to be packing.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The hardware within the screen also hides a really nifty feature; the ability to use it with gloves on.

With winter proving that capacitive screens aren't best suited to texting in the cold, the ability to wear normal gloves whilst sending texts is a godsend.

It also means that if you're deft enough, you can pretend to be a Jedi and move the screen without touching it.

This mode does show a larger circle on the screen when activated, which will pop up on occasion even when you're not using gloves.

I'd say it's worth having it turned off most of the time as it also sucks power - unless you're in a particularly icy country. Or just fricking love gloves.

Battery life and the essentials

Battery life

With the amazing specs that sit inside the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, it would be a more than reasonable assumption to believe the battery pack would have to be enormous. Instead, it sits at a rather meagre-sounding 2300mAh.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Battery life is all relative though. For instance, the Galaxy S5 has a 2800mAh option, but has as much larger screen, less efficient CPU and more pixels to deal with, so I think this size to weight combo from Sony is spot on.

During general day to day use, I found that the battery behind the Xperia Z1 Compact was a lot more than sufficient.

To help properly quantify this, from 7am one day I sent and received four emails, 140 SMS messages, had a race on Asphalt 8and took 70 pictures as well as uploading them via Wi-Fi to Dropbox in an area with patchy signal.

I still had a whopping 53% battery left at midnight. Lighter users should achieve two days' usage easily.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The Xperia Z1 Compact also performed well against the top-endHTC One M8 (which packs in a 2600mAh battery) in day to day use.

The impressive battery life can be attributed to the smaller screen and lower resolution placing a lot less strain on the GPU (but then again, the same could be said of the Mini rivals), coupled with Sony's battery-saving techniques. Stamina mode is particularly impressive, as it cuts down the amount of work the phone has to do.

Turning this on gave an estimated boost from 11 hours of use to a whole day which was perfect, giving the Xperia Z1 Compact the extra juice to cope with being away from the charger, and really will stave off battery depletion in general day to day life.

Having the quick toggles in the notification bar also means that switching Wi-Fi on and off, as well as disabling GPS or mobile data (things that can heavily drain the battery) is really easy.

A special shout out should be saved for the Qualcomm 800 chip at the heart of the Z1 Compact too - it's a real power saver and, while it does seem to diminish over time (and has been replaced by the 801 processor seen in the new wave of phones) the general efficiency is something that I've given a big thumbs up to.

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact also comes with all the necessary connectivity options too; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, 4G LTE and GPS are all catered for. This ensures it is able to compete against all the 4G-toting flagships.

The essentials

There are certain features that any modern smartphone should include, and one of those is the ability to make and receive phone calls.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

I found that calls always came through clearly, leaving no times where I was struggling to hear or struggling to be heard. Signal holding was also as impressive, getting and holding signal as well as the HTC One M8.

In-call options were limited to the standard Android options (speaker phone, Bluetooth, keyboard etc) which will suffice for most. However, I would like to see some more innovation here, as companies like Samsung have implemented features like instantly being able to re-dial or message a contact when you hang up.

The contacts app is clean and well designed, the addition of the letters down the right hand side making it supremely easy to navigate quickly.

The messaging options on the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact are also all in order without being spectacular. In order to accomplish this Sony has included a skinned SMS app, as well as the standard email and Gmail apps plus Google Hangouts.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

None of the apps are inspiring, yet are all completely functional. The SMS app look is customised with the phone's theme, meaning you can't set custom backgrounds and font styles. It's a little thing, but something that the Z1 Compact would feel smarter for having.

Missives are handled with the Xperia keyboard, which appears to be modelled on the superb Swiftkey keyboard.

Unfortunately, Sony seems to have taken a near-perfect third-party app and diminished its effectiveness; the space bar is far too short so I kept hitting the full stop button.

Regularly sending messages that read "Hello. How.are.you today?" proves to be more than a little frustrating. This is something that Sony really needs to look at, perhaps go back to the drawing board and change a little less of what makes Swiftkey so popular.

On the plus side you can remove the smiley key, which makes the spacebar slightly wider, but it's still not a particularly brilliant typing experience.

You could just download the original SwiftKey keyboard (or other decent alternatives on the market, although this is my favourite) but that can involve a little bit of cash. If you do buy this phone, I urge you to do so though.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Unlike many OEMs, Sony hasn't included a version of the stock Android browser to sit alongside Google Chrome, thereby removing any confusion over which browser is best to use. Chrome has always been my preference as it syncs with the Chrome desktop browser, as well as any other devices.

Web browsing on the 4.3-inch screen was never going to be as pleasant as on a full five-inch flagship, but viewing sites on the Xperia Z1 Compact was still easy as text was legible and images were bright.

The downside to having no stock browser is that it misses out on Flash support, something that is built into the HTC browser. Text reflow is also missing. With all the extras added to the UI, Sony really could have given a little something extra to the Android browser.

It's also quite hard on the phone's power, as there was sometimes some lag scrolling around the screen when using Chrome. I've seen the same thing on the HTC One, which works fine on its own inbuilt browser, so be warned that you might not have a stellar browsing experience on the Z1 Compact.

Camera

Sony has clearly put a lot of work into the Xperia Z1 Compact's camera, and it shows. Based purely on specifications the 20.7MP sensor dwarfs almost the entire smartphone market, but Sony has also taken a look deeper.

The whole camera app is well designed, and comes with enough features to satisfy both the amateur photographer looking to come up with some creative snaps that they can post to Instagram or Twitter, as well as the more serious photographer looking for something to replace the need to carry a compact.

Standard images in well-lit conditions are second to none, although the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact does appear to suffer in lower light conditions. This is an area that HTC has pretty much nailed with its UltraPixel technology, and is a little disappointing in a camera that promises so much.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The inclusion of a dedicated shutter button does wonders. Not only does it allow for the quick launch of the app and capture of images, it also allows the camera to focus before capture. Being completely waterproof it also lets you capture images underwater, something difficult if you have to hit an on-screen button.

The downside is that this button is very small, quite stiff and doesn't make it clear when you've actually depressed it or not - it's still good to have, but I've used better on phones.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

An Augmented Reality mode allows the capture of images with a layer added over the top, whether it be a 60s disco mode that gives faces funky glasses and big hair, or the butterfly mode that adds a few plants and insects.

This is something that I can see really appealing to those with younger kids, as you can pretend that the Xperia Z1 Compact is magic and can peer into a world that people can't normally see.

Other creative modes include the ability to add effects such as sketch images, brighten colours or create a Kaleidoscope. These are perfect for those who want to create something that can be shared via social media, but add little else.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

One filter that I really enjoyed was the partial colour mode. The Xperia Z1 Compact brings up a black and white image of what you can see, only allowing one specific colour to be added to an otherwise monochromatic image.

While this allows the creation of some pretty spectacular images, the range of colour that is taken can sometimes be really disappointing. It would be better if you could select items rather than specific colours.

The mode most users will use is Superior Auto, as it automatically selects all the best presets based on what is in front of you. Sony has also included the ability to allow you to change certain things though, thereby appeasing the more experienced photographer.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

White balance can be changed, as well as exposure, and different scene modes can also be selected. These change the settings slightly in order to allow a better shot in certain conditions.

Sony has also included three other main modes on the Xperia Z1 Compact's camera, the fourth being a sweep panorama mode that functions in the same way as on every other smartphone.

These three modes are Info-eye, Timeshift Burst and Social live. Info-eye captures a photo and then offers up information about what you have just snapped in the same way as Google Goggles, only its integration into the camera app makes it feel a lot more useful.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The second, Timeshift Burst, is something that users of Sony phones of old will be very used to. A series of images are captured before and after you press the shutter button and presented in a fan allowing you to swipe through images and choose which one is best.

This is a mode that will prove incredibly useful if you take a lot of photos of faces, or of children that just won't sit still.

The final mode worth noting is the Social live feature, which does exactly what you might expect from the name. If you've connected it up to Facebook it broadcasts a live feed to those that follow your news feed, perfect for those that want to hold live web chats.

My overall time with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact's camera was one that left me slightly cold. It's not a bad snapper by any stretch of the imagination, but given it's got so much heritage in the imaging space it's actually confusing how badly the Superior Auto mode can perform indoors.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The likes of the LG G3 are much better at analysing an image and using software to improve things - the Sony option ends up with a really muddy picture with elements distorted at the outlying areas.

Images in good light and strong outlines are excellent though; if you're looking for a really powerful camera the Z1 Compact won't disappoint.

However, if you want something for day to day photography then I suggest you look elsewhere - HTC's option is much clearer and faster, despite not giving you many snaps you'd want to pull out and frame.

Camera samples

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Click here to see full resolution image

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Click here to see full resolution image

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

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Media

Given its background in media Sony should be able to produce a device that is more than capable when it comes to media playback. To that end, I want a great music player, the industry's best media player and the most intuitive way of looking through your photos.

The Xperia Z1 Compact is pretty close in a number of those categories, but I do still have some reservations.

But let's start with the positives: the music player is certainly well-equipped.

Music

Those with large media libraries are catered for with the inclusion of a microSD slot giving it an immediate advantage over the likes of the storage-restricted iPhone 6.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

The Walkman history comes into play with the Xperia Z1 Compact; Sony clearly playing on its heritage to tempt you over to its music playing app. There is more to the Walkman app than just media playing though, instead becoming the hub of all your music, including streaming.

Many will likely have subscriptions to the likes of Spotify or Deezer, but Sony also has its own Music Unlimited service that ships with nearly every Sony device from laptops to smart TVs. This is well integrated into the Walkman app, meaning that you don't feel pressured into signing up, but Sony will be pleased to hear that it can prove tempting.

However, that's the initial stage. And it's pretty fiddly to remove the Music Unlimited stuff that's there from the outset - loads of tiles designed to farm you towards paying money to have a subscription.

And it's a poor service - sure, it works across a number of devices, but signing up is a connection nightmare and the speed of streaming or even loading albums a joke at times. I know it's not the only reason to use the app, but it's so tightly integrated it really irritates.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

In fairness, the number of songs available actually exceeds those to be found on Spotify, but such is the inadequacy of search it feels like there are many missing when there aren't. However, at least you're not bombarded by a million covers of the song you actually want, which is one of many users' biggest bugbears with Spotify.

In terms of pure music playback, the Walkman app is more than sufficient, providing all the necessary controls in a visually pleasing shell. I found the bright colours that changed with each album's artwork to be a nice change from the far duller and less colourful experience on iPhones or Samsungs.

The external speaker is also well placed for music playback. Sitting alongside the bottom end of the phone means that when laying down music isn't muffled. Volume was similarly not an issue.

With the Z1 Compact on a shelf and working on the other side of the room I was still able to hear the music. It is no rival to the BoomSound on the HTC One M8, but more effective than the Galaxy S5 Mini, and comes with xLoud ability that boosts output pleasantly.

Placement of the external speaker could cause problems on the Xperia Z1, as when watching movies it can be a little frustrating to have sound largely reaching only one ear. This isn't a problem I encountered, as I found the majority of movies were watched with headphones on.

Movies

Being only 4.3 inches does mean that the Xperia Z1 Compact lacks a little for those who want to be able to watch a lot of movies on the commute. For them, the larger-screened flagships such as the Galaxy S5 or phablets like the iPhone 6 Plus would be far more appropriate.

The screen has had a lot of attention lavished on it since the Xperia Z1 however, with Sony giving the Z1 Compact the same IPS and TriLuminous technology that are found in the much larger Xperia Z Ultra. This solved problems that were originally found with colour reproduction and viewing angles, it's good to see Sony taking note.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

However I wasn't impressed with the brightness on side-loaded videos, with most erring on the dark side even with brightness turned right up. It's a long way from other devices, but given that this isn't the phone for the movie fan, I can't see it being a huge problem.

Sony's movies app is well designed, being both attractive and highly functional. Load it up, and the last movie you were watching plays silently in the background meaning you're not left looking at a static screen.

It's only a small touch but is something that will delight and makes you feel you're playing with a premium device.

Also included for movies is Sony's Video Unlimited app. I was a little sceptical about the inclusion, but the app is very well stocked with some of the most recent films and doesn't require a monthly subscription. Movies can be downloaded or rented with prices matching those of purchasing or renting a DVD.

All media can be 'thrown' via DLNA, allowing streaming to devices such as Smart TVs. The Xperia Z1 Compact also allows the screen to be mirrored, perfect for watching movies or showing off all your photos on the big screen.

The bad news is I found that this didn't work as well as I'd hoped, with the connection often timing out before the screen was mirrored.

It's the bane of smartphone connections everywhere, and until it's made perfect the general public won't see this as a reason to buy a top-end handset.

Games

Gaming is handled superbly on the Xperia Z1 Compact with the four cores sat behind the screen handling even the more graphically intensive games with ease. Racing in Asphalt 8 was nothing short of a pleasure, with the lower resolution also helping the Adreno 330 GPU to keep things running smoothly.

Sony has also included its PlayStation store to grant access to a wider range of apps and games that cannot be found on the Play store. These games can seem expensive though, and the range on offer was not as wide as that of the Google alternative.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

One of the greatest advantages that the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has for gaming is that it doesn't need a separate Bluetooth controller, as it can connect to the DualShock controller used with the PlayStation 3.

This makes mobile gaming a lot easier, although needing a (separately purchased) USB cable renders it a little pointless.

If Sony thinks of a way to connect the two wirelessly, the Xperia Z1 Compact would make a great portable games console, connecting to TVs via the screen mirroring, but right now it will remain a cool feature that most won't bother with for a while yet unless you take a trip to Amazon and get a cut price option.

Sony has rectified this with the Xperia Z3 Compact, where you can connect a PlayStation 4 DualShock controller via Bluetooth. You can also use the Z3 Compact to stream PlayStation 4 games from the console to the smartphone via the Remote Play app. I'd love to see that feature brought to the Z1 Compact, but sadly it looks unlikely.

The competition

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is a phone that looks Mini but packs a Mighty punch. The key thing to realise here is that it's a phone that isn't a rival to the mid-range market, but a brilliant example of a smartphone for those that don't want a massive screen.

So what of the rivals - how does it compare to the cream of the competition?

The one they all want to be

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Chances are that if you're looking at purchasing the Xperia Z1 Compact, you will have at least thought about buying an iPhone 6. Apple's handsets are well known for their media capabilities, as well as the wide range of apps on Apple's App Store.

There is no doubt that despite the many leaps and bounds that the Android Play Store has made, and the inclusion of the PlayStation store, that the App Store is ahead in terms of app population and app quality.

Apple has also managed to create a really tight ecosystem that syncs together almost perfectly; apps and data sync from iPhones to iPads to iMacs and MacBooks, making them more useful for people who hop between devices.

The iPhone 6 falters when it comes to screen resolution though, with the Xperia Z1 Compact managing to pack a 720p display into a similar size, making it more pleasant for watching movies and playing games. It is also easier to hold with its rounder edges, and is waterproof.

The iPhone 6 packs a resolution of 750 x 1334 into a 4.7-inch display, resulting in a pixel density of 326ppi (pixels per inch). The Xperia Z1 Compact fits a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels into a 4.3-inch display with a higher pixel density of 342ppi. The higher the pixel density, the sharper the image quality.

The big rival

Samsung S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is currently retailing at a very similar price tag to the Xperia Z1 Compact, even though it's more recent than Sony's offering. On the whole it seems that you may be getting more for your money with the Samsung too.

Its larger and higher res screen make it ideal for watching movies and for heavy web browsing, but also put a larger strain on the battery. The Galaxy S5 was a device that was built with media consumption in mind; media creation appears to have been put more on the back foot.

This means that the Xperia Z1 Compact beats the Galaxy S5 hands down when it comes to image capture.

The high-end specs also mean that it comes with slightly more powerful innards, although day to day use is largely fairly similar. Its smaller stature makes the Sony easier to hold, and the glass/metal construction also make it seem more fitting of a more premium price tag.

Sony's miniature marvel also excels in terms of battery life thanks to the Snapdragon 800 chip powering things along.

The Minis

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

With smaller screened and baby flagships proving to be one of the hottest areas of the mobile market, the Xperia Z1 Compact has a true fight on its hands in the form of the superb Samsung Galaxy S5 Miniand the HTC One Mini 2.

On paper the Z1 Compact has the beatings of both handsets; with double the number of cores, a lot more RAM and a better screen, be it quality or resolution. Both the HTC One Mini 2 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini sport 720p screens, but the Xperia Z1's screen is no match for Samsung's Super AMOLED offering.

Camera-wise the Xperia also smashes the S5 Mini and the One Mini 2, dwarfing the 8MP and 13MP found in those respective handsets. The HTC has the beating of the Z1 Compact in low light situations, though, as it captures more light with those larger pixels.

The HTC One Mini 2 does not come waterproofed either, although all these extra features on the Z1 Compact do mean that it comes with a heftier price tag.

Hands on images

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Verdict

Pitched with a smaller screen, it aims to challenge the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and HTC One Mini 2 in the stakes to be king of the baby flagship while being a great option for those who just won't compromise on specs.

It's been upgraded since to the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, but that doesn't mean the lower price and the older tech are hindrances.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

We liked

The biggest draw of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has to be its flagship power. Packing four cores clocked at 2.2GHz and 2GB RAM into a shell that fits snugly around a 4.3-inch screen is something that can't have been done all that easily, yet all that power pays dividends, allowing for high-end gaming and super fast navigation.

l'm impressed by the Snapdragon 800 chip, bringing great power efficiency and strong 4G performance, and it's put to the best use yet in the Z1 Compact.

Design wise, the smaller Z1 also ticks all the right boxes. Sony has crafted a supremely gorgeous device that sits perfectly in one hand and forgoes all the issues that were found with the five-inch Xperia Z1.

On top of looking decent, the Xperia Z1 Compact's design is also highly functional as it is waterproof; perfect for those that have a habit of dropping phones in the bath.

In well lit situations its photos are second to none, and it packs a wide range of features that aren't available on other handsets. If you have kids, the AR mode will prove invaluable and those who need a decent camera with them for work will be well served by the 20.7MP offering.

We disliked

One of my biggest gripes with the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has to be that keyboard. It is far too fiddly, the spacebar in particular isn't long enough and results in every other space being a full stop. For a keyboard based on what is probably the best third-party offering out there it was really disappointing.

The glass construction also proved to be a little frustrating. For those who find having a grubby screen one of the most annoying things in the world, having that problem replicated on the back of the Xperia Z1 Compact will be a massive bugbear.

The rounded edges make things a little chunky-feeling too, but that's largely subjective... the people I showed it to were divided, some thinking that the glass / metal combo was excellent, and some finding it over the top.

Low light photography was also noticeably poor, just as it was on the original Xperia Z1. I'm surprised this hasn't been improved on since the Z1, and would have meant that the Z1 Compact came way out on top of the HTC One M8 and One Mini 2 in terms of indoor and darker photography.

I also really take issue with the Sony subscriptions stuffed on there - Music Unlimited is too poor to warrant being so front and centre, and the Video Unlimited isn't that different from the rest out there, although is a good place to sniff out a movie and excellent if you've got a PlayStation in the living room.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review

Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is the perfect device for those who think that some of the leading smartphones are just too big, but still want the best specs on the market.

Those top-end innards crammed into a smaller device means high-end power isn't missing for those with smaller hands, or if you want something more akin to the iPhone 5S.

Sony has addressed a lot of the problems that were found on the original Xperia Z1, and has created a superb handset in doing so. The screen doesn't suffer from the same poor viewing angles the Z1's did, although it will never be able to live up to the size and resolutions that modern flagships pack in.

A lot of focus will also be on the camera, and rightly so. The Xperia Z1 Compact's camera will often leave you wondering what the point of the traditional compact camera is, unless you plan to take a lot of photos inside or at night. It's a shame that potential of this 20.1MP Bionz / Exmor RS sensor isn't fully exploited - I was actually left rather confused as to why it can result in such noisy and muddy pictures.

Were it not for that (and the overbearing services Sony is pushing, which don't really add a lot) this would be an almost perfect phone, especially for a segment crying out for something like this.

But here's the upshot: the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact was the best phone the Japanese company had ever produced - it's been bettered since then with the Z3 Compact, but the bar this raised still remains mostly intact.

It's attacked a segment of the market that's been underloved very well, and done it at an almost-perfect price point.

The Z1 Compact is a phone with the prowess of all that Sony has to offer but in a package a lot of people will love, and as far as mini smartphones go it is only bettered by its successor, the Xperia Z3 Compact.

First reviewed: January 2014


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