Sony Xperia ZL Review
Introduction:

Making a radical impact on today's smartphone market is no easy task, but Sony is hoping to succeed by taking a slightly different approach than its rivals. While most manufacturers have their time and resources focused on a single high-end device, the Japanese tech giant is delivering its one-two punch in the form of the slim and shiny Sony Xperia Z and its less fabulous and non-water-resistant, but (presumably) less expensive Sony Xperia ZL.

On paper, the Sony Xperia ZL is very similar to its fashionable cousin. It is equipped with a 5-inch, 1080p screen, powerful quad-core processor, 13MP camera, and LTE connectivity – factors that land it right into the high-end category. The Sony Xperia ZL, however, is being advertised as more compact than its competitors while its battery has a slightly bigger capacity than the one inside the Xperia Z.

But the competition on the smartphone battlefield is nothing short of fierce. It usually takes far more than just specs to turn a flagship into a bestseller – outstanding features, well-executed software, and attractive design are pretty much mandatory traits. Does the Sony Xperia ZL have any of that? Well, it is time to take it for a spin and find out!

In the box:
  • Wall charger
  • microUSB cable
  • MH-EX300AP wired headset with extra ear gels
  • User guide and other papers

Sony Xperia ZL Unboxing:



Design:

If we had to describe the Sony Xperia ZL using one single word, that would be “boring”. Sure, the smartphone has adopted some visual cues from its sleeker cousin – the Xperia Z, but it is thicker and far less appealing with all that matte plastic used in its construction. As a result, the Xperia ZL simply lacks that “wow” factor we've come to expect from top-of-the-line smartphones nowadays.

Something that the Sony Xperia ZL is supposed to stand out with is its small footprint. Looking at numbers alone, it should be one of the most compact 5-inch smartphones in existence, with over three quarters of its front side occupied by its large screen – an impressive technical achievement that must be noted. But in reality, the difference between holding the ZL and one of its 5-inch rivals is not as striking as Sony wants you to think. Actually, using the Sony Xperia ZL would have been much more enjoyable if its corners weren't so pointy. And yes, it is still uncomfortable to operate using one hand only, but that's a common trait for all phones of that size.


Sony Xperia ZL

Sony Xperia ZL

Dimensions

5.18 x 2.75 x 0.39 inches

131.6 x 69.8 x 9.8 mm

Weight

5.33 oz (151 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Dimensions

5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

LG Optimus G

LG Optimus G

Dimensions

5.19 x 2.71 x 0.33 inches

131.9 x 68.9 x 8.45 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z

Dimensions

5.47 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches

139 x 71 x 7.9 mm

Weight

5.15 oz (146 g)

Sony Xperia ZL

Sony Xperia ZL

Dimensions

5.18 x 2.75 x 0.39 inches

131.6 x 69.8 x 9.8 mm

Weight

5.33 oz (151 g)

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4

Dimensions

5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches

136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm

Weight

4.59 oz (130 g)

LG Optimus G

LG Optimus G

Dimensions

5.19 x 2.71 x 0.33 inches

131.9 x 68.9 x 8.45 mm

Weight

5.11 oz (145 g)

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z

Dimensions

5.47 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches

139 x 71 x 7.9 mm

Weight

5.15 oz (146 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



On the bright side of things, we're extremely pleased with how much grip the textured, soft touch back plate provides. What's more is that absolutely no fingerprints stick to the back so it looks clean and pristine pretty much all of the time. The physical buttons are another detail executed flawlessly – they are all exposed well and easy to access, while the camera shutter key isn't prone to accidental presses.


Display:

Just like many other high-end Androids, the Sony Xperia ZL comes with a 5-inch display offering an outstanding resolution of 1080 by 1920 pixels. The high pixel count is undoubtedly the most awesome thing about the smartphone's screen as the level of detail it provides is superb – even the finest lines of text are always sharp, while graphics are extremely smooth and pleasant to look at.

Using the Sony Xperia ZL on a bright, sunny day isn't much of a problem once the screen sets its brightness up to the maximum. The device's outdoor visibility is comparable to that of other high-end handsets available today.

Sadly, the display's viewing angles are far from impressive. Tilting the phone to the side results in a drastic color degradation and loss of contrast. Speaking of contrast, that's another thing that the screen could have had more of. Well, actually the Mobile BRAVIA 2 engine improves image quality a bit, but the feature is active only when viewing photos and videos in the gallery or the video player.

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45 Comments

1. lee480 unregistered

So S4's horrible design got praised? Wow! Not surprising at all. It's PA! :)

6. Jason2k13

Posts: 1469; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

They never praised the S4 design, they just mentioned that the S4 was very comfortable to hold and the fact that it has no sharp edges like what XZ and XZL has. The ZL design is not mind blowing either, unless a black rectangle design is unique to you?

9. istitch

Posts: 181; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

by simply using the word boring in design, you are actually being so subjective, i mean, you see every samsung's handset(except for s2) is rounded and share the same design, can we not say the design is boring too? I have personally tried holding the ZL, it's comfortable enough, and the smaller footprint is noticeable, making it easier to manage.

10. Jason2k13

Posts: 1469; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

Most flagship such as the lumia, galaxy, xperia etc. All share the same design concept not just samsung phones, and when one says "boring" that's their own opinion and personal choice. It's got nothing to do with being subjective. I quite like the ZL to, but I agree with the slightly sharp edges.

14. istitch

Posts: 181; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

opinion itself is subjective, i beg to differ. What i've seen up there, i can only sense downsides of the ZL in terms of design, and it's slightly thicker, somehow it's not entirely bad, some people like that for being more sturdy and comfortable to hold

41. skyguy7567

Posts: 148; Member since: Nov 17, 2012

I'm using the Xperia Z to comment this RIGHT NOW but I don't think the edges are uncomfortable. I think that the SIII/IV'S rounded design doesn't feel that you are holding a phone but a disk.

11. SleepingOz unregistered

Horrible aesthetic is debatable but horrible design, not so much. Design, first of all, is about ergonomy and anthropometry. The GSIV excels in both! You can't bash Samsung for their recurring design while praising Sony for doing the same. Sony has been using this rectangular design since XS, it was good-looking last year but it's becoming boring now. Also no matter how beautiful a phone may be, if the specs, features and performance disappoint, it's an uber fail.

42. skyguy7567

Posts: 148; Member since: Nov 17, 2012

Samsung has been using rounded designs since the Galaxy S. Then why isn't that boring? I am bored by that.

2. tiara6918

Posts: 2263; Member since: Apr 26, 2012

With the phones tag price(slightly cheaper than the xperia z), I think this phone is meant to compete with the one x+/butterfly,optimus g and maybe even the note2(the price already depreciated). As for the screen,it might be a bit washed out at an angle but the screen is still viewable, I had already seen people holding the xperia z/zl and the screen isn't that bad

3. istitch

Posts: 181; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

8... what the *doooot*

5. istitch

Posts: 181; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

Not sure if biased, or just too dumb to judge

8. Scarambay unregistered

Boring Design? Ever seen Samsung phones, Nick?

28. Nick_T

Posts: 186; Member since: May 27, 2011

Yes, I have, but I wouldn't call them boring even though they are all alike. The thing with Samsung is that people like the design of its smartphones, judging by how much they sell each quarter. Why would Samsung change a working formula? Why does a Porsche 911 sold today looks so similar to the way it did in 1963?

30. Scarambay unregistered

Oh boy! You mean to say sales is directly proportional to design? Samsung Galaxy phones get sold because of three main reasons: (1) The flagship S series' hardware i.e, brutal processing power and the software features that come along. (2) The entry-level and mid-range phones of Samsung are pretty cheap compared to other OEMs' phones making most of the people to opt for them. (3) The smartphone market is flooded with zillion number of variants of Samsung phones. So an average user, who has no technical knowledge, has higher chances of getting a Samsung phone compared to other OEMs. As a matter of fact, the design of Galaxy phones including the flagship S series has always been under scrutiny.

35. rgxVOiD

Posts: 440; Member since: Aug 30, 2012

Because Porsche can't design a new 911

36. istitch

Posts: 181; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

FIRST THING FIRST, people buy the smartphone doesnt mean it's not boring, the fact that samsung devices sell so well is because of marketing, they flood all the advertising board, the newspaper, everything you see out there. just because they succeed in sale, and now you say their design is better than the others

38. Xenaz

Posts: 144; Member since: Apr 28, 2013

So this is how you judge a phone's design? Seriously? So you mean Toyota sell more than the Lamborghini, and Lamborghini's desgin is boring?!! What a joke!! I think PA shouldn't let ppl with this kind of mindset to review any phone in the future, this is ridiculous......

12. siluro

Posts: 46; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Lots of people seem hurt a $760 phone from Sony doesn't quite live up to everything it was made out to be... If you complain about the S4, remember that even the S4 is over $100 cheaper, and the HTC over $150 cheaper. Sony gives you, a compact yet cheap package such as a plastic textured back, mediocre camera (compared to other high end), poor viewing angles on its display, no microsd, lesser CPU and the list goes on. I will look elsewhere for a phone thanks.

15. Scarambay unregistered

Both Xperia Z and ZL have got MicroSD slot, Smartypants. The hype you mentioned was always about Xperia Z and yes, it does manage to live up to the expectations with its sleek and glassy design, water and dust resistant ability barring the not-so-good camera and poor contrast.

18. GTR722

Posts: 270; Member since: Oct 20, 2012

ZL is $579 at amazon my friend, GS4 is over 700$

21. Feanor

Posts: 1389; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

You mention the pricing policy of Sony in the USA but elsewhere in the world the Xperia Z has a similar price to the GS4 and the HTC One and the ZL is quite a bit cheaper.

22. buccob

Posts: 2975; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

And, if you want to see a well balance and professional review... go to GSMArena.. they reviewed the ZL recently and it shows that excels Xperia Z in display, and some performance... Sony is good for optimizing the chips they put in their phones... even if they are older ones... Also there are many "hidden" benefits for getting a xperia... they do have some software and hardware innovation that until recently wasn't matched... But I also notice that Samsung puts great effort on software innovation and thats where the market is heading

23. XperiaUser unregistered

absolutely correct. but i think samsung have some vary little advantage over sony in hardware .but in software aside, all goodies provided by samsung is totally waste bloatware, its only good on paper and only for showing your friend while sony have some serious goodies which is really useful . they optimize there hardware perfectly ,and they have really awesome polished UI. but SONY really needs to improve there camera software :(

33. SaElestra

Posts: 5; Member since: Mar 14, 2013

ignorant is ignorant.. samsheep

13. Rexperia

Posts: 136; Member since: Sep 28, 2012

PA never been satisfied with Sony's smartphone, no matter what it is, i keep wondering why...???

17. emadshiny

Posts: 1144; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

No surprise to see PA came to this conclusion that there are other alternatives and of course the best is a Sammy branded phone. don't you think you have missed something? i mean IP5?! LOL

20. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

I own the Xperia ZL the phone is just great all around. The design of the phone to me seems to be more attarctive than the Z, but this is my perspective. And this is one of the most compact 5 inch screen smartphone, along with the S4 and the Pantech Vega. Iron. I do use a back jelly case so the sharp edges is minor but I do notice that. Although the ZL is thicker but it has the curve back which makes it very comfortable in the hand. I do agree on the position of the front facing camera, I am a right hand user and it does blocks the camera when I'm using it it potrait. However, using in landsacpe is just fine. And yes, I don't care about the viewing angles, at least it has white balance settings. The screen is just tad better than the Z. Again, the Xperia ZL fits "my" requirements, a compact 5 inch screen with good specs and usability. The keyword here is "me" as in myself. And the price is just way cheaper (RM1899) here in Asia (East Malaysia specifically) than the Z (RM2199) and Galaxy S3 (at Samsung Stores RM1999). Cheers!

25. pyradark

Posts: 895; Member since: Jun 10, 2012

What to expect from PA. Even the mid range nokia got 9.0 with nothin to offer!! Still review on this site will not damage millions of people who want to buy a sony product. CNet score it very good

26. bgdkid unregistered

people like yoou "nick" deserve low quality junk... you have no idea what you are talking about just like all the phonearena reviewers.. all these so called experts has no idea about how to do journalism, never even taken a lesson for it. people like you guys will never get a professional job in established media. will always be a fan boy website crap. people like you guys are destroying journalism....

29. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

Ya fink you cunh do bettah?? You need not come here if you have to criticize someone that bad...you can go somewhere else. You chose to register yourself on this site, you chose to read this article...PA or Nick didn't choose you.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Xperia ZL
  • Display 5.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 13 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, Quad-core, 1500 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2370 mAh(13h 3G talk time)

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