Sony Xperia SL Review

Introduction and Design

Sony did with the Xperia SL what it did with the Xperia arc and arc S last year – a new version with more colors, newer Android version, and souped-up processor speed. The only notable difference between the specs of the Xperia S and the SL, is that the dual-core Snapdragon S3 processor went up from 1.5GHz to 1.7GHz.

Other than that, ICS and the few fun new colors, like the pink SL unit we have here, it carries the same 12MP camera with Exmor R sensor, and is shipping with the same generous 32GB of internal memory, as the Xperia S. Is there anything new in the performance aspect? Read on to find out...

In the box:

  • Wall charger
  • microUSB cable
  • Warranty and information leaflets
  • Sony in-ear headset


The phone looks like a boxy slab, and weighs more than usual for a 4.3-incher, yet when picked provides a firm grip precisely because of the sharp edges. It still offers the slightly curved back of the former Xperias for added grip comfort, but its matte plastic is a bit slippery, so the phone not being overly thin as some other anorexic handsets helps to grip it tight. The boxy phone has this rugged good looks, which the girly pink version we got tries to balance out.

You can compare the Sony Xperia SL with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Sony has gone with the narrower but more elongated design that first appeared in the Xperia arc, and which we very much appreciate, as it allows your thumb to reach more places on the screen. Even if your hands are not as large, you’ll still be able to navigate fairly comfortably the interface with one hand, compared to other big-screen phones that come wider.

Speaking of one-handed operation, the Xperia S offers good weight distribution, not most of it concentrated in the upper part around the camera module, as is so often the case. Thus we weren’t worried that it might tip over when we push it up a bit to press the three capacitive Android buttons under the display.

We had a ho-hum experience with these buttons - the transparent strip that is a trademark of Xperia's NXT design line lights up with the Android navigation symbols like a back arrow or home, but the keys are three teeny-tiny dots above the respective icon lit up in the strip, and are very easy to miss. You have to tap precisely on the miniature dot, and they are not very responsive to boot, making us tap two or three times to register an action very often.

There is no arguing that the transparent illuminated strip is a thing of beauty, though, and the contrast with the edgy black slab when it lights up leaves a very futuristic impression, which Sony has been aiming for with the “Iconic Identity” design. The firm says that this strip, which also houses the antenna parts for improved reception, is meant to emphasize the screen part above it.

Looking around the sides we barely notice any buttons and ports, we notice the microUSB and microHDMI ports covered with protective flaps in the chassis paint too. The flaps are a bit hard to pry open, especially if you are the nail-biting type, and even harder to push back in, but they should break in with time.

The volume rocker and the two-stage camera key on the right, as well as the lock/power button at the top are painted silver, distinct to find and tactile. The rocker in the middle of the right side, however, sits too low, and tends to get operated with the thumb joint instead of the tip.


We have a 4.3” HD display with 720x1280 pixels of resolution on the Xperia SL, the same one we have on the S; we have 342 ppi pixel density, one of the highest of all HD mobile screens, since most others are bigger. We get crisp small text, no icon jaggies, and readability even for zoomed-out websites.

The LCD screen is bright, with popping colors, but the horizontal viewing angles degrade the image more than they should on a high-end screen. Sony has included its Mobile BRAVIA engine that boosts colors and contrast while watching media, which can be turned off. Brightness and screen reflectance are decent, so outside visibility will only be an issue if the sun shines directly onto it. The touch layer is very responsive and registers even the slightest finger tap.

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