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Compact smartphone shootout: Sony Xperia Z1 Compact vs HTC One Mini vs Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

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Our test candidates: Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, Sony Xperia Z1 Compact and HT One Mini

At a press conference in 2010 Steve Jobs said that a 3.5-inch screen was a perfect size for consumers and no one was going to buy a big phone, referring to, at the time, new models from Samsung and Motorola that featured larger screens. While Apple has stuck with the mantra of its co-founder and limited the screen size of its latest flagship device, the iPhone 5s, to a very moderate 4 inches, outside the iOS universe smartphone displays have grown larger and larger.

Virtually all current Android flagship smartphones come with at least 5-inch screen diameters, the LG G2 and the brand new Sony Xperia Z2 even feature 5.2-inch variants. Those who want it even bigger can choose from a variety of phablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note III, HTC One Max or the Windows Phone powered Nokia Lumia 1520, which offer displays that range from 5.5 to 6 inches in size.

Thanks to advanced display technologies and ever thinner bezels the overall dimensions of the devices have proportionally grown less than the screens but nevertheless large pockets are required for carrying the latest generation of Android and Windows Phone flagship devices. That said, despite the trend toward almost tablet-sized smartphones there is still a large demand for smaller smartphones from users who are contemplating a switch from iOS and its smaller phones to another mobile OS. 

Size comparison: our test devices next to the 5.2-inch LG G2

Most manufacturers have realized that, too, and have designed smaller versions of their flagship smartphones to cater to those user who prefer more pocketable devices. In this shootout we pit three of those models against each other: the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, HTC One Mini and Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. LG also just announced the G2 Mini but the device is not available yet at this point. We will have a closer look at it once we get our hands on a sample unit.

The manufacturers of the three devices in this shootout have approached the compact smartphone topic in different ways. While Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact is pretty much an Xperia Z1 in a smaller body, including the 20.7MP camera module, HTC and Samsung have not only shrunk the dimensions of the One Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini but also downgraded some of the components. 

Both come with slower CPUs than their bigger counterparts and the camera modules are less advanced as well. The Galaxy S4 Mini has swapped the 13MP sensor of its larger sibling for an 8MP chip and the HTC One Mini loses the One's optical image stabilization system. The table below provides a more detailed overview of the specifications of our test models: 

  Sony Xperia Z1 CompactHTC One Mini Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini 
 Image Sensor 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 20.7MP 1/3-inch CMOS, 4MP 1/3-inch CMOS, 8MP
 Aperture F2.0 F2.0 F2.6
 OIS No No No
Camera Aspect Ratio 4:3 (16:9 in 8MP mode) 16:9 4:3
 Focal Length*  31mm 28mm  31mm
Video  1080p, 30fps 1080p, 30fps 1080p, 30fps
Screen  4.3-inch, 720p 4.3-inch, 720p 4.3-inch, 960x540
CPU  Snapdragon 800 Snapdragon 400 Snapdragon 400
 Dimensions 127 x 64.9 x 9.5 mm 
5.0 x 2.56 x 0.37 in
132 x 63.2 x 9.3 mm
5.20 x 2.49 x 0.37 in
124.6 x 61.3 x 8.9 mm
4.91 x 2.41 x 0.35 in
 Weight 137 g / 4.83 oz 122 g / 4.30 oz 107 g / 3.77 oz
Current Sim Free Street Price  USD 525
GBP 385
EUR 465
USD 410
GBP 220
EUR 340
USD 320
GBP 220
EUR 235

*35mm format equivalent

For the purpose of this shootout we have taken sample images in a variety of light situations and compared the results. All shots were taken handheld from the same position. We took between five and 10 pictures of each scene with each device and picked the best one for the comparison.

In its default Auto mode the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact captures downsampled 8MP images but you can access the full 20.7MP files by switching into the camera's Manual mode. We have included both image versions in our shootout to show you what the Sony's camera is capable of in both modes. Click through to the next page to see how the candidates performed in our test scenarios.

Comments

Total comments: 45
Lentzi
By Lentzi (1 day ago)

Different cpu, ram, sensor size, megapixels,... What comparison is that?

0 upvotes
cogthrob
By cogthrob (2 months ago)

Now that the HTC mini 2 is out compacts could be revisited:

http://www.knowyourmobile.com/htc/htc-one-mini-2/22244/htc-one-mini-2-vs-sony-xperia-z1-compact-who-gets-small-form-factor-right
For me SONY is still tops but I'd love to see 4.4 upgraded studio shots from its two resolution modes in the interactive comparison tool.... Please and thanks!

0 upvotes
tompabes2
By tompabes2 (3 months ago)

Hi guys, with the Sonys in manual mode you have to set the "Image Stabilizer" option to ON to go above ISO 400.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
bigley Ling
By bigley Ling (3 months ago)

interesting, considering the whole idea of choosing a higher ISO is to increase the shutter speed, and hence negate the requirement for an image stabilizer.

0 upvotes
Dgeer
By Dgeer (4 months ago)

My Sony is a nice smart phone and takes great pictures but the sensor has a dirt issue. Sonys only suggestion was to send it to a service centre ...since it isn't in a city centre and no interim was offered I remain unimpressed ~ especially so for a company that makes and wants us to buy non phone cameras!

My 3G HTC was almost as good and no dirt on the sensor. I only changed to a new phone for 4g and the camera....why have a water resistant phone when the sensor is not internal dirt resistant Sony?

Appalling after sales service attitude...would make me consider an IPhone...or other....it's a pity Panasonic don't do phones I love their Lumix cameras and lenses....

0 upvotes
mrdancer
By mrdancer (4 months ago)

I think LG should call their new phone the G Mini Cricket...

1 upvote
SammyToronto
By SammyToronto (4 months ago)

Thanks for a most informative review Lars. It confirmed my decision that the Samsung S4 Mini is the best phone for my needs, producing sharp, contrasty images, indoors (with flash) and out, that are perfect for sharing with friends on social media and for displaying on computer screens. The Sony's camera may be superior in rendering high ISO fine details (for a cellphone, that is), but its superiority mainly shows when printing large prints, which is something I never do with cellphone pics. In fact, I find the one area that the Samsung won, i.e. flash pics, more useful since it impacts the picture quality regardless of size or usage. This is especially important since most of cellphone pics (in my case anyway) are taken indoors.

It would've been great if you included a quick video quality comparison since most cellphone users probably take as many videos as pics, but thanks all the same!

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
LANDSHOTS
By LANDSHOTS (4 months ago)

but what about the sony s5 ? the s5 has 16 mp.

Comment edited 48 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

I assume you mean the Samsung Galaxy S5? This is a test of "compact sized" smartphones that are smaller than your typical flagship smartphone, for example the Galaxy S5. But do not fret, we will review the S5, too, as soon as we get a review model.

0 upvotes
bigley Ling
By bigley Ling (3 months ago)

Hey Lars, I know the 808 is not a modern smart phone anymore, but it still is a smart phone and does fit the criteria of being "compact sized".

I am pretty certain the 808 would do well against these compact smart phones. :)

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (3 months ago)

I am sure it would, in terms of image quality. But it's just such a terrible phone these days that you'd have to carry another phone anyway, which kind of defeats the purpose of a camera phone :)

0 upvotes
guinness2
By guinness2 (4 months ago)

Well done, Lars. Thanks

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

Thank you :)

0 upvotes
Faisal Armand
By Faisal Armand (4 months ago)

Hey lars, what firmware the xperia z1 compact was in? Because the latest kitkat firmware has improved the image quality, its camera algorithms are much closer to xperia z2's

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

Our sample was and still is running Android 4.3, no updates available at this point.

0 upvotes
RichRMA
By RichRMA (4 months ago)

Jobs. "640k is enough memory for anyone." "No one is going to buy a big smartphone." Sure he was such a god visionary he's purported to have been?

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

Wasn't that Bill Gates who made the 640K statement?

0 upvotes
vv50
By vv50 (4 months ago)

not him either. a lot of famous people quotes are mis-attributed or completely fabricated.

0 upvotes
Daxs
By Daxs (4 months ago)

Quick question!
How many people printing full size pictures from phones?

It's ok, no panic!

2 upvotes
Mister J
By Mister J (4 months ago)

Sell prints on A3+ image size typically c240mm x 330mm. Mounting gives plenty of punch.

Been tweaked for it of course, but results look excellent in gallery spaces.

Mostly iPhone 4s, now 5s.

0 upvotes
xt1isdabomb
By xt1isdabomb (4 months ago)

What's "full size" mean?

I print phone images at several different sizes....24" long panos, cropped 6x9s, full bleed 8.5x11", collages on various sizes, etc.

0 upvotes
KonstantinosK
By KonstantinosK (4 months ago)

Hmmm, now that's tempting... I didn't know there was a compact version of any flagship phone. I handled a friend's Z1 and found it ridiculously big for my taste. Now I may upgrade from my Xperia Acro S to a water resistant Z1 without sacrificing the size of the Acro S (which I find borderline acceptable size wise).

0 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (4 months ago)

Interesting, Lars. Thank you. I have a nice Samsung phone - very happy with it, all uses considered. But the phone cam is no comparison to my Samsung NX300 camera which is a pleasure to use, produces great IQ and exposure latitude, communicates/transfers files seamlessly with phone. A great combo. but I can envision certain conceptual projects actualized quite competently with the phone cam alone - IQ seems reasonably close enough to its competitors.

0 upvotes
Markol
By Markol (4 months ago)

So what you are saying is that the NX300 makes better photos and handles better than a phone?
Great comment!

1 upvote
b craw
By b craw (4 months ago)

Not exactly the entirety of what I was intendind to express. As a professor, I have been engaged with many students wanting to do very conceptual projects which phone cams might be best for. But I think the IQ limitations have been very obvious until relatively recently.

Pardon me for wasting your time with such an obvious comment.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

Yes, the image camera to phone transfer technology has improved a lot. I have a Sony RX100II and it works great on that model but I have used the Samsung system, too and found it very good. But still, I've only got my phone in the pocket but not the RX100, even though it's a small camera ;)

0 upvotes
Ben O Connor
By Ben O Connor (4 months ago)

The winner is;

Nokia Lumia 1520 & 930.

ps: I recommend to use a XZ-1, when the sun dissapear.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

well, no, the 1520 is most definitely not a winner if you want a small phone.

1 upvote
Ben O Connor
By Ben O Connor (4 months ago)

Sorry, have not noticed the "mini" part. My bad...

0 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (4 months ago)

I am pretty sure there are more Android users interested in smaller phones than just "users who are contemplating a switch from iOS and its smaller phones to another mobile OS". Reads like a Samsung's The-Next-Big-Thing ad.

Z1 Compact is the only compact phone a la iPhone 5. The other two are midrange phones.

1 upvote
borden17
By borden17 (4 months ago)

those look cool but ill stick with my antiquated Canon 7D DSLR and my Fuji XM-1 cameras

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

very old-school, I like it! :)

1 upvote
borden17
By borden17 (2 months ago)

:) also i shoot with a Leica M2

0 upvotes
Fahd
By Fahd (4 months ago)

Not a fair comparison. Wait for S5 mini.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

Not fair? Because I have not waited for a phone that has not been announced or released yet? If I'd always wait for somebody's next model I'd never get a shootout done :)

Comment edited 36 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
muzzy66
By muzzy66 (3 months ago)

But then you'd have to wait for the M8-mini, and the Z2 mini...and by the time that one was completed it wouldn't be fair because the S6 would be on the way,

0 upvotes
tompabes2
By tompabes2 (4 months ago)

Well, some important things that the comparison table does not report are the amount of RAM (2GB for the Z1 vs. 1,5GB for the s4 mini and 1GB for the one mini) and the fact that the chipset, besides being a Snapdragon 800 vs 400 (that is, a chipset designed for a flagship vs. a chipset designed for entry-level phones), also has a higher clock speed. What's more, even the GPU is better on the Z1c.
The Z1c is really in a different league... it's the only one that is a true flagship in a compact body. The other two are just overpriced mid-range phones.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

"The manufacturers of the three devices in this shootout have approached the compact smartphone topic in different ways. While Sony's Xperia Z1 Compact is pretty much an Xperia Z1 in a smaller body, including the 20.7MP camera module, HTC and Samsung have not only shrunk the dimensions of the One Mini and Galaxy S4 Mini but also downgraded some of the components. "

2 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (4 months ago)

Which one shoots raw? Oh, wait...

At least there's hope with Android 4.4 and Nokia/MS.

0 upvotes
naththo
By naththo (4 months ago)

Sony colours have issue problem most of it across. It seems a little too pink for my liking. Except only one Sony indoor pic is the winner. Most of winner points to Samsung for me but in low light Samsung wasn't so good due to white light was blown out.

0 upvotes
muzzy66
By muzzy66 (3 months ago)

The Samsung has unrealistic colours

0 upvotes
venancio
By venancio (4 months ago)

Looking forward to another round, but this time with Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 instead of the older models...

1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

Definitely planning a shootout with the latest round of high-end phones when I've got all of them here.

1 upvote
Carnivore99
By Carnivore99 (4 months ago)

In the meantime have you got an individual test of the Galaxy S5 coming soon? It would be great to put that up against the DxOMark Sony Xperia Z2 report from last week so we can at least draw our own conclusions between those two for now.

0 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (4 months ago)

all the newly released models are in the pipeline but test samples need to be received and reviews need to be written ;) We are hoping to produce an S5 DxO report in the next few weeks, the full review will be soon after then.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 45
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