Sony Xperia TL Review

Introduction and Design

The name’s TL, Xperia TL. Just as the secret agent made famous in the big screen, this “James Bond phone” from Sony surely comes off as being nonchalant with its attitude, since it’s deceitfully packing some killer hardware under its façade. No doubt, it’ll be making an appearance in the latest movie installment of the James Bond franchise, Skyfall, but more importantly, is this something that would actually impress even the famed secret agent?

The package contains:

  • microUSB cable
  • Rapid charging wall charger
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Sony Xperia SmartTag


If you’re scratching your head and wondering why this smartphone looks familiar, it’s because the Xperia TL is none other than a rebranded Sony Xperia T for the US market – AT&T’s lineup to be specific. Employing the Xperia Arc’s best element, the Xperia TL follows in form, as it’s able to stand out from other things for its arched back casing. Obviously, the overall design is undoubtedly Xperia-like, but it’s still a looker for its clean appearance, aluminum rear casing, solid construction, and modest size. More impressive is the fact that it’s actually smaller in footprint to the Sony Xperia ion from not too long ago, with the two sharing the same sized displays.

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

There are no capacitive buttons beneath its display, mainly because Sony opts to incorporate its Android buttons with the interface, which is something that Ice Cream Sandwich is known for. Above the display, we find its earpiece, tiny LED notification light, and 1-megapixel front-facing camera – the latter of which can shoot videos in 720p.

Checking out the stuff littered around the handset’s trim, it features all the usual suspect of characters we’d expect to find – like a standard microphone, noise-cancelling mic, 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB port for charging/data/video-out connectivity, power button, shutter key, volume control, and a small plastic flap that hides away its microSIM and microSD slots.

Protruding out from the surrounding area, the Sony Xperia TL also stands out for its above average 13-megapixel auto-focus camera, which features an F2.4 lens, Exmor R image sensor, LED flash, and 1080p video recording. Right below the camera, there’s a circle etched into the metallic rear casing for its NFC chip. Lastly, on the opposite end, there’s a notch for its internal speaker. With its closed design, there’s no access to its internal battery


Being the James Bond phone and all, it’s naturally going to need one sharp looking display to keep even 007 interested. Luckily, its 4.55” HD 720 x 1280 display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine will turn heads thanks to its exceptional detail (323 ppi pixel density), warm color tones, and its deep black color. However, its usability is compromised in direct sunlight due to its high reflectiveness and weak viewing angles.

Interface and Functionality:

Alas, the interface of the Sony Xperia TL should also be familiar, since it’s the same exact one found with the Xperia T and Xperia ion. It still somehow catches our attention with its cool 3D effects and transitions – all of which are running on top of Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. Naturally, we can complain about its lack of not offering Jelly Bean from the onset, but nonetheless, it has enough quality elements to make it an appeasing experience. Although it’s more than effective in giving us that base experience, it’s nowhere close to the groundbreaking tally found with other devices – namely the Samsung Galaxy Note II or LG Optimus G.

One new feature worth mentioning, which hasn’t been seen on other US bound Sony devices, is the multi-tasking element found with its Small Apps. Accessed by pressing the on-screen recent apps button, it provides us with mini versions of the Calculator, Voice Recorder, Note, And time, which are layered on top of whatever we’re doing. Indeed, it’s a nice item to find, but we don't find ourselves using them all that much – primarily because of the paltry selection. Thankfully, Sony intends to come out with additional ones that can be downloaded in the near future.

As usual, the handset’s core organizer apps prove useful in keeping us productive on the go, but it doesn’t greatly go out of the box from what we see on other smartphones. Furthermore, its wealthy screen size enables us to casually type away using its two available keyboard options, the stock ICS and Xperia ones, with little issues along the way.

For the most part, there isn’t an army of bloatware on the Xperia TL out of the box, but as expected, it’s packing AT&T’s arsenal of apps – these include AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Locker, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Ready2Go, AT&T Smart Wi-Fi, AT&T Messages, and myAT&T. As for the rest, they consist of B&N Nook, ASTRO File Manager, OfficeSuite, and YPmobile.

Processor and Memory:

Judging by how smooth it handles all of the nifty Timescape UX effects in the homescreen and various related apps, we’re already finding its overall performance to be favorable. Still, we do notice some instances of slowdown and lag creeping up with more processor intensive tasks, but nevertheless, its 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with 1GB of RAM proves its effectiveness. And of course, its benchmark scores show it’s respectable enough to tangle with some high-end devices.

Quadrant StandardAnTuTuNenaMark 2
Sony Xperia TL4792706659,1
Motorola DROID RAZR M4864671561,3
LG Escape5268683059,8
HTC One S4867701260,7

Taking into account its pricing, we can’t complain too much about the 10.88GB of internal storage it’s sporting out of the box – with another 1.97GB reserved for apps. Better yet, it packs a microSD card slot to supplement its capacity.

Internet and Connectivity:

James Bond will have no issue trying to search for something on the internet with the Xperia TL, mainly because it’s presenting us with all the quality elements to make the experience gratifying. Delivering smooth navigational controls, sharp fine details, and proper page rendering using either Google’s Chrome browser or the stock one complemented with AT&T’s Browser Bar, it has all the ingredients to satisfy us – not to mention offering 4G LTE connectivity as well!

Being a GSM device and all, James Bond won’t have to worry about network compatibility when he’s traveling from one country to another – albeit, LTE is on accessed domestically via AT&T’s network. Showing its worth even further, the Sony Xperia TL also packs along connectivity feature such as aGPS, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.1, mobile hotspot functionality, and NFC. With the latter, it works in conjunction with Sony’s SmartTag app to read and program Sony’s specific NFC tags.


Impressively enough for a mid-ranger, we can’t complain about seeing a 13-megapixel camera with an Exmor R image sensor in the Sony Xperia TL, but as we’ve come across on many occasions, it’s not particularly the size that counts. In general, it snaps photos outdoors that have enough lovable elements to them, like average details and slightly oversaturated colors, to keep its quality in good light. Conversely, the underwhelming results in low lighting situations doesn’t make it any better than some of the greats out there because of the amount of noise and weak details evident in its shots.

Likewise, the 1080p video recording quality of the handset is tolerable enough to accept, as it features average looking details, balanced exposure, smooth recording, and crisp audio quality. However, the one gripe we have is the camera’s molasses slow focus adjustment – it really loves taking its time!

Sony Xperia TL Sample Video:


Compared to other things out there, the Walkman branded music player of the Sony Xperia TL is attractive and encompassing with its spectacular visuals. Donning a tiny notch for its internal speaker, it’s fashionably clean and potent with its quality – with no noticeable distortion.

Spiffying the video watching experience with its Mobile BRAVIA engine, the display comes to life as the enhancements to brightness, contrast, and color levels are managed by the handset. Additionally, it supports a wide array of video codecs out of the box to appease all video fanatics out there.

Calling Quality and Battery:

Sadly, the same nagging issues that were found with the Sony Xperia T’s call quality are still persistent with this one. Specifically, its earpiece is rather weak, which doesn’t help out when voices are flat and dull sounding. On the other end of the line, our callers mention some hiss to our voice, but at least the speakerphone delivers results that are more audible.

Maintaining a solid connection to the network during our testing in the greater Philadelphia region, the handset didn’t drop a single call.

Stuffed with an 1,850 mAh battery inside of its body, its capacity is hardly a head turner in this day and age. As a result, it delivers nothing more than an average battery life – giving us a single day of normal usage or roughly 15 hours with heavier use. Naturally, the results are going to be considerably less if you happen to use it strictly with LTE.


Part of being a world famous secret agent, James Bond will surely appreciate that he’s finally given a smartphone for his missions – as opposed to the dummy phones of yesterday, though, the Ericsson concept phone in Tomorrow Never Dies was an interesting one. Also, when you take into account the modern hardware and attractive price point of $99.99 that’s attached with the Sony Xperia TL, it has the appeal to make even Bond call it his daily driver. Frankly, it might not be the shiniest thing from Sony’s stable, but regardless of that, it’s still compelling enough to give it a license to kill.

Software version of the reviewed unit:
Android Version: 4.0.4
Kernel Version: 3.0.8+1.0.21100-02491-g1c5d6fe
Build Number: 7.0.B.1.152

Sony Xperia TL Video Review:


  • Great balance of price & hardware
  • Sturdy construction
  • Snaps photos quickly


  • Very reflective display and poor viewing angles
  • Muted call quality
  • Physical buttons are too crowded

PhoneArena Rating:


User Rating:

4 Reviews

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