Sony Xperia Z1 Compact vs Sony Xperia Z1 vs Sony Xperia Z Ultra
23rd Feb 2014 | 22:00
Which Xperia deserves your love and attention?
Design and screen
When out browsing for a new mobile device chances are you've stumbled across Sony's Xperia range; you can't fail to miss the Xperia Z Ultra stretching across 6.44 inches of phone shop wall.
In a Samsung like bid to take on the market in all its shapes and sizes, Sony has created an Xperia line up featuring the leviathan Z Ultra, the more moderately sized flagship Xperia Z1 and the baby of the bunch, the Xperia Z1 Compact.
If you're struggling to decide which of these well designed handsets is best for you, you've come to the right place as we take a look at how they all compare.
When looking at the three handsets it is clear that the biggest difference in design is the sheer size of the varying screens.
The biggest of the three is the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, measuring in at a whopping 179.4 x 92.2mm yet manages to measure only 6.5 mm deep.
This makes it a lot larger than the Xperia Z1 with its 144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5mm frame and the much smaller 127 x 64.9 x 9.5mm Xperia Z1 Compact.
Elsewhere the Sony hansets all follow the same design DNA with a large black glass front surrounded by a coloured metal band and matching coloured all glass back.
All of the Xperia phones here come in black and white, with the larger Xperia Z Ultra and Z1 also coming in a fetching purple hue.
Owners of the Xperia Z1 Compact are treated to a slightly wider range with purple being omitted for a choice between lime green or pink. If choosing a phone based on colour is vitally important, you might be a little limited.
Sony has managed to pull off a very industrial theme throughout its range; big black glass rectangles with sharp edges contrasting well with the metal chassis.
This sleek design is particularly impressive on the Z Ultra as it comes in exceptionally thin making it deceptively easy to hold, in two hands that is.
That extra size on the Xperia Z Ultra does come at a cost though with it sitting awkwardly in one hand, though we'd recommend the use of a Bluetooth headset.
Not only does it make calling easier, it also means you won't look ridiculous when making that all important phone call.
The smaller sizing of the Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact lend themselves to easier one handed use, but even the Xperia Z1 sits a little uncomfortably in a single hand.
This does mean you can use the Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact more inconspicuously, with fewer eyes drawn to their smaller stature.
Those with smaller hands (or smaller pockets) may find themselves best suited to the more diminutive Xperia Z1 Compact.
One of Sony's biggest design successes is the way that it has covered the microSD and SIM trays, whilst at the same time waterproofing the external speakers and headphone port; all three devices have IP58 dust and waterproof certification.
If anyone is in doubt as to what the Xperia Z Ultra is for, the positioning of the headphone jack should be enough to highlight that it's best used in landscape mode for watching movies.
The top mounted jack on the Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact lends itself more to music whilst your phone is sat in your pocket.
All that talk of headphone placement might make you think the Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z1 Compact are unsuitable for watching movies, but that's far from the case.
With its 6.44-inch screen, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra manages to tower over nigh on every handset on the market let alone the 5-inch Xperia Z1 and the 4.3-inch Xperia Z1 Compact making it far more comfortable for watching movies on.
It even comes in as a full HD 1080 x 1920 pixel display meaning a iPhone beating pixel density of 344ppi making watching movies a dream, although lacking the razor sharp picture quality that a full HD 5-inch screen packs.
The Xperia Z1 comes with the same 1080 x 1920 resolution, but it's packed in much tighter giving an impressive 441ppi. This adds the benefit of making images seem much clearer and text far crisper.
A little disappointingly, Sony hasn't kept the full HD screen on the Xperia Z1 Compact, but then again that would have been wishful thinking.
Instead Sony has fitted a HD 720p (720 x 1280) screen giving a ppi of 342. That's almost identical to the Xperia Z Ultra.
One area that the Xperia Z1 Compact excels in the screen department is the ability to use the screen while wearing gloves. Although this presents a rather annoying circle on screen, this is a feature that we can see being really important for those that live in less sunnier climes.
The more diminutive stature also means that typing on the Xperia Z1 Compact's screen is a lot easier one or two handed; certainly more than wide enough to cope with the larger digits.
For those looking to play mobile games downloaded off the Play Store or from PlayStation Mobile, all three handsets will connect (via a separately purchased) USB cable to a DualShock 3 controller that is found with the Sony PlayStation 3.
This means that you won't have to fork out for a separate Bluetooth controller, although is a little harder to use given that there is no dock to sit your phone in.
Streaming via screen mirroring to a smart enabled TV or monitor makes the whole premise seem a little less ridiculous, and the full HD displays of the Z Ultra and Z1 come in really handy here.
Camera and performance
Perhaps one of the biggest selling points of the Xperia range is the massive 20.7MP sensor that Sony has fitted to its devices. Wait a second the Sony Xperia Z Ultra is only fitted with an 8MP sensor? And where's the flash?
If you're in the market for a device that can double up as a compact camera replacement, the Xperia Z Ultra is not the device for you.
Even with an 8MP sensor we're left wondering why Sony bothered to put a camera on the back of the Z Ultra if it can't take decent photos in anything less than perfect light.
Then again with its massive screen and lack of dedicated shutter button we'd strongly advise that hanging around and trying to snap pictures on a Z Ultra will make you look a tad ridiculous.
Sony has not only blessed the Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z1 Compact with a massive 20.7MP Exmor sensor, it has also taken a look at the camera app in order to make it more intuitive and lavish on even more features such as the ability to broadcast live on Social Media and take augmented reality photographs.
All this attention does mean that the Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z1 Compact are more appropriate for those that need an impressive camera for work or play.
Both the Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact come with a superior auto mode in order to try and take a lot of the stress out of creating perfect images, but professional snappers can toggle settings in a manual mode; a variety of scenes, white balances and exposures can all be set.
Image effects can also be laid over the top allowing for the creation of some really creative looking photos without the need for an Instagram account or photography degree.
In all there is little about the camera on the Xperia Z Ultra that will make you want to leave your camera at home and little that will make you want to use it at all. If camera images are important then the abilities of the Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z1 Compact are far, far better.
Colour reproduction is a lot better on both the Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact, with the Z Ultra giving the image a slightly blue hue. The missing 12MP also means that the edges of the beans don't seem as crisp.
Again, colour reproduction is better and more natural on the Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact. A lot more detail has been captured in the background and on the water in the Z1 variants.
Images on the Z1 and Z1 Compact show detail in the brick work, as well as on the metal bridge. Colours are again reproduced more naturally.
The blue hue makes another appearance on the Z Ultra's camera. Colours on the Xperia Z1 Compact come out even more vivid than on the Z1 too.
Performance and Storage
One area that all three Xperia devices sit evenly is the with Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. A quad-core CPU clocked at 2.2GHz graces each handset with 2GB RAM and an Adreno 330 GPU also present underneath the hood of Sony's flagship trio.
This means that all three handsets move between home screens at an identically quick speed, leaving no hint of slow down.
In benchmark testing though, the smaller screen resolution of the Xperia Z1 Compact scored higher with the GPU being put under less strain.
Interestingly though the Xperia Z Ultra loaded our test game, Sonic Dash, in the quickest time with the Xperia Z1 Compact taking the longest.
Another area where the Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact all work out equally is internal storage, each device ships with 16GB of internal storage with the ability to further that with an extra 64GB of storage thanks to the inclusion of a microSD port.
Pricing and verdict
Unsurprisingly it is the biggest of the three handsets that commands the biggest price - with size predicting cost of device.
The Xperia Z Ultra will set you back a considerable amount SIM free, somewhere between £400 and £500 depending on where you look. Sony's Xperia Z1 will set you back between £400 and £540 with the Z1 Compact coming in at about £400.
It would be all too easy to sum up the differences between the Sony Xperia Z Ultra, Z1 and Z1 Compact in the screen size yet Sony has left little for these superb devices to be judged upon. A lot of the judgement in which device is right for you will stem from what screen size suits you.
As with every phablet, the Sony Xperia Z Ultra fits perfectly in the gap for those that want something that they can watch movies or play games on during the morning commute whilst also being able to make phone calls and browse the web.
The superb screen makes it ideal for watching movies from a variety of angles and is bright enough and clear enough that you won't be left wishing you'd opted for a tablet. That said there will still be a few funny looks if you try to hold the Z Ultra to your ear to make a call.
Sony's Xperia Z1 is far more suitable for those that are looking for a well designed and well built flagship handset with a massive camera. The 20.7MP sensor that graces the Xperia Z1 produces some of the best photos that we have seen from a smartphone.
The 5-inch screen is more than adequate for watching movies and the pin sharp screen makes reading text a lot more friendly on the eyes. As an all rounder there are few better than the Xperia Z1.
For those looking for a smaller handset but without the compromise of smaller powered insides the Xperia Z1 Compact is the more logical choice.
It takes the best of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and Xperia Z1 and crams it into a much smaller, and more pocket friendly, frame.
It is also the most inconspicuous of all three handsets, unless of course you grab the lime green or pink version. Being more pocket-able also means that it makes an easier replacement for the traditional compact camera.