The Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact is a fine smartphone beating beneath a somewhat humdrum exterior.
Excellent innards, fast and responsive, with a lovely screen and a great camera. At a time when smartphones are getting ever-bigger, it’s also nice to have such a good device in a smaller form factor.
Beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder, but the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact is let down, aesthetically, by ugly lines, its chunkiness, and it feels heavier than a device of its size should be. Don't, whatever you do, be tempted into buying it in ‘Twilight Pink’.
It's always a mildly exciting moment when the Incisive Media post room hands over a boxy package: it means something shiny and electronic will be found within, which means we get to play with something new.
In this case, the package contained a new Sony smartphone, the Xperia XZ1 Compact. Something new from Sony might not rank up there with the Apple iPhone X on the excitement scale, or even the accident-prone Google Pixel 2, but it's certainly not to be sniffed at.
Until we opened the box: "It looks a bit rubbish," we thought, a first impression that wasn't improved with a bit of fingering and fondling of the new device.
It's small, angular, chunky, with a sharp outline around the screen and at the top and bottom where aluminium meets glass. It looks and feels about £200, or as if it has been squeezed through a wormhole in time from 2012. Unfortunately, it's list price is actually closer to £500 - and it's the latest model.
So, we got out our 'everyday' smartphone for a comparison - a BlackBerry DTEK 60 unashamedly filched from the reviews cupboard.
In comparison, the Sony XZ1 felt chunkier, fatter, and certainly looked ugly. Even my Doro-toting father thought it ‘heavy', and it was hard to find anyone with a positive word to say about the styling.
That may be down to the wishy-washy green colour of our review model (I believe Sony calls it "Horizon Blue"). Aesthetically, though, the device is bedevilled with ugly lines that show how it's been bolted and glued together - lines that, over time, will inevitably collect with gunge.
Likewise, should you drop it, it looks like it's not just a cracked screen that you'll have to deal with, but different parts to scoop-up off the floor.
But are such malign first impressions right? Maybe we're being a bit unfair?
Well, yes, maybe.
The Xperia XZ1 Compact is the smaller brother of the Xperia XZ1 and successor to the Xperia XZs, and nothing to do with the Xperia Z1 or Xperia Z1 Compact. Are you following this? Sony's naming conventions have always been somewhat confusing.
Internally, it's well kitted out, with a 10nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 64-bit octa-core CPU, and Adreno 540 GPU, 4GB of memory and 32GB of storage out of the box.
For its size, it also boasts a reasonably large 2,700mAh unswappable battery (the same as its bigger brother), which probably also accounts for its 155 grams in weight and relatively ‘fat' 9.3mm depth for its size - making it fatter than its bigger brother.
Its sharp, bright and responsive screen offers 720p HD viewing, compared to its bigger brother's 1080p display. It also comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, which is nice if only from a security perspective - recent iterations of Android really haven't offered a whole lot to get excited about beyond a few bits ‘n' bobs.
The device is wrapped in aluminium - Corning Gorilla Glass 5 covering the screen - with IP68 certification suggesting that it should survive a drop down the bog, although whether you'll want to still use it after such an accident is another matter.
Unlike most manufacturers, Sony tends to eschew rear placement of the fingerprint sensor, instead niftily building it into the on-off button. This is a sensible and sound design decision. It's fast and effective, and works really well.
NEXT: Display, performance and battery