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BW Businessworld

Small, But Packed!

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It's a given: if you want a powerful full-featured smartphone, you’ll have to figure out how to get comfortable with something upward of 5 inches. To want a phone with the best specs means buying a super-sized device — at least, that’s been the trend for the past year or so.

But not everyone is willing, and able, to carry a large phone, neither are they happy to compromise on specs. Their one choice has been the iPhone that stubbornly hangs on to 4 inches. But now, Sony offers another option — the Xperia Z1 Compact, which is pretty much the Z1 squeezed into a smaller body. Unlike the ‘Minis’ from other brands, the Z1 Compact has it all, without scaling down the specs. 

To look at, the Compact is similar to the recent Xperia smartphones — straight lines and symmetry or ‘Omnibalance’, as Sony calls it. I like that there’s a little weight to it instead of the device being fly-away light. It has a glassy unibody, and all the slots — SIM tray, SD card slot, micro USB — are on the left, on a lighter-coloured strip — protected by rubbery flaps that retain the phone’s water resistance when securely shut. The phone can stay submerged for 30 minutes.

The SIM tray should have been easier to handle, though. In fact, I can’t think why inserting SIMs isn’t easier on all phones! The Compact comes with the now-signature round button on the right edge that powers the device on. There’s also a smaller hit-and-miss camera button.

Colours sit well on the Z1 Compact and it’s available in black, white, pink and lemon yellow. Overall, the phone looks nice, and it’s a pity one may have to cover it to keep out the scratches and fingerprints that the Compact is prone to. The screen isn’t of the highest resolution but because it’s smaller, it looks good. Thankfully, Sony has improved the display from different angles, which was quite irksome in earlier models. Even now, the screen is far from perfect and not the greatest option for some of the apps that are really meant for larger Android screens, but the colours are good, and low on battery consumption.

The phone’s 20.7 MP camera is rather special. It has Sony’s high-quality G Lens, and the sensor works with the F2.0 G lens. The camera app is simple, but featured-packed. It lacks optical image stabilisation,  which is a pity. The camera takes great shots in daylight, but is a bit temperamental in low light and over-processed images. But it all depends on your settings, so it’s a matter of getting to know it works in different conditions. Video recording is good but nothing special.

Overall, given the processor it has, the Compact is fast enough. Be aware, though, that gaming, videos, etc., don’t turn out to be the same experience as on larger, expansive screens so it depends on what is important to you.
HTC Desire 310
HTC recently launched a new version of its One and reviewers are calling it the best Android phone the world has ever seen. But most people won't be able to afford it. So, in response to popular demand, the troubled phone-maker has rejuvenated its line for those who want smartphones at affordable prices. The Desire 310 fits the bill. It is unassuming and almost dated in its looks — but it is a solid phone that may be even a smidge heavy for its size. Curved edges make the 4.5-inch handset comfortable to hold. The removable back is plastic and the front is regular except for a big speaker grill on the top. The screen is not particularly high-res at 480 x 854, but rather make-do. It isn't crisp and doesn’t have much finesse, but luckily doesn't wash out from different angles and is responsive enough and, in fact, fast with browsing. HTC’s home-screen customisation, the magazine-style Blink Feed, works quite well.

The Desire 310 runs on a 1.3GHz Cortex A-7 Mediatek chipset with Android 4.2 (not the latest 4.4). There’s 512 MB of RAM. Benchmarks put it at anywhere close to the Galaxy S3.  It has much of what Indians want — an FM radio, dual SIM and a 2,000 mAh battery, which works well-enough for the phone. Also a micro SD card slot for external storage that supports up to 32 GB. The 5 MP camera is basic and very grainy and very noisy indoors, so it can — at best — be considered for quick, casual photos. Oh, and videos too!

The Desire 310 is a fast performer, though the one place I experienced lag was with the camera. For Rs 11,700, it’s a sensible sort of a phone — not charismatic or distinctive, but usable.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 19-05-2014)

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