Over the last couple of year smartphone have come on leaps and bounds with faster processors, screen resolutions to match your TV and cameras to take the place of your compact.

You may have noticed that they've also got bigger as time has gone on so it's probably frustrating if you want a medium-sized handset without getting downgraded specifications. Well Sony has bucked the trend with its Xperia Z1 Compact.

As the name suggests, the device is a smaller version of the flagship Xperia Z1 but unlike mini versions which have become all the rage, it keeps that top-end hardware.

17 best smartphones: The best phone you can buy in 2014

The Z1 Compact has the same stylish aluminium and glass design which is also dust- and waterproof. The key design element is that the screen is usable with one hand and the device fits in your pocket easily.

As usual, it comes in black and white but more adventurous users can opt for lime or pink models.

The display is a middling 4.3in compared to 5in and although the resolution is lower than the original Z1, it's relative so things are still nice and crisp. Viewing angles are great and you don't need to two hands to use it.

Performance is outstanding, both from a user perspective and our benchmark results, with an impressive collection of components inside a smaller shell. With great power management software, battery life is also excellent with the Z1 Compact lasting us two days and sometimes more.

The Z1 Compact retains the whopping 20.1Mp camera with Sony's Exmor RS sensor and although it's not quite as good as the Nokia Lumia 1020's snapper, it's one of the best you'll find on an Android smartphone.

Software is good but a little unexciting. Despite launching in 2014, the device only has Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, not 4.4 KitKat. It's solid and we like the stylish look of Sony's user interface but there's a distinct lack of new features.

We love what Sony has done with the Xperia Z1 Compact. Finally a smartphone offers the choice to buy a high-end smartphone without being forced to use a large screen. The fact it's cheaper than most flagship devices makes it one of the best smartphones around. We award four and half stars and our recommended award.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.