Sony Xperia ZL Review

Interface and functionality:

Android 4.1.2 comes running out of the box on the Sony Xperia ZL. This may not be the most up-to-date version of the operating system, but it's fairly recent so we'll take the handset as it is. Eventually, the ZL will get updated to Android version 4.2, but a specific date has yet to be announced.

As the case is with Sony's other Android handsets, the platform's UI has been heavily modified both in terms of appearance and functionality. And to tell you the truth, we're happy with what Sony has done to it. Unlike most Android devices from other makers, the Xperia ZL comes with several themes pre-loaded, differing by accent color and set of wallpapers used for the lock and home screens. Speaking of wallpapers, it is nice to see that there's over a dozen of them thrown in to match your mood and taste.

Overall, the user interface is very pretty, but it's also quite practical. For example, the selection of so-called “small apps” is a handy addition – think of them as simple applications that run in a small window of their own, hovering above the UI. These include a timer, calculator, notes, voice recorder, and an app that lets you use the phone's built-in infrared blaster – not a whole lot, but more of them can be downloaded for free from the Play Store. 

When it comes to widgets, you get the usual set included with Android 4.1, but a few handy tools by Sony have also been thrown in. Among them is a widget for easy access to contacts you've recently called, a couple of social networking widgets, toggle buttons for a number of the phone's functions, and a notes widget.

The only thing we can't get over is the glitchy lock screen. If your swipe is too slow, then the screen won't even bother to unlock itself, which can be very frustrating.

We have no complaints whatsoever about the on-screen keyboard. In fact, we have to give Sony a thumbs up for adding a keyboard that is so smart and customizable. The user is free to tweak its layout and skin, while the list of additional languages for typing is very long indeed. And yes, with its large, easy to press buttons and built-in word prediction that “speaks” multiple languages, typing on the virtual keyboard is an effortless task.


Socialife is an app present on the Xperia ZL, provided courtesy of Sony. Think of it as a hub that aggregates your social networking feeds under one roof. Of course, Facebook and Twitter are supported, but you can also add YouTube and Google Reader subscriptions to the list. The app may come in handy for heavy social networking users, but its visual presentation leaves room for improvement.

With the Remote Control application you can use the built-in IR blaster to control a TV, set-top box, or home theater system. As you might expect, we gave it a try and we were pleased by how easy the app is to set up and use.

Sony Car is the app you'll need if you ever intend to use the Xperia ZL while driving (even though you probably shouldn't). Basically, it serves as an interface with large, easy-to-press buttons, providing shortcuts to apps you might need, such as the GPS navigation or the music player.

Performance and memory:

With a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC running at 1.5GHz, the Sony Xperia ZL sure has the raw processing power to be a flawlessly performing smartphone. And to no surprise, the benchmark scores we got with it were nothing short of impressive. 3D games – even the most demanding available on Android, run smoothly despite the screen's high resolution. Apps launch instantly and switching between them happens in the blink of an eye thanks to the 2GB of RAM that are on board. Choppiness is a very rare event on the Sony Xperia ZL, occurring only if there's something going on in the background or if there are a gazillion widgets loaded on all its home screens, so if perfomance is what you value the most, chances are that you won't be disappointed.

Quadrant Standard AnTuTu GLBenchmark 2.5 (Egypt HD) Vellamo
(HTML5 / Metal)
Sony Xperia ZL 7242 20671 3608 2174 / 635
Samsung Galaxy S 4 12078 24701 4437 1702 / 704
Sony Xperia Z 8221 20835 3382 2198 / 626
HTC One 12481 23308 3551 2395 / 781

There are 11.73GB available to the user out of the phone's 16GB of storage, which is not bad, but nothing out of the ordinary. If you intend to carry a lot of media on your Sony Xperia ZL – photos, videos, music and such, then sooner or later you'll have to expand the phone's storage capacity using a microSD card.

Internet browser and connectivity:

Surfing the web using the Sony Xperia ZL is a pleasure not only because the Chrome browser has no troubles rendering even the heaviest of web sites, but also because there's a large screen to view entire web pages on, and its high resolution means you'll be able to read even the smallest of fonts. Since this is Chrome we're working with, our desktop bookmarks and opened pages are accessible on the phone, and vice versa.

As far as connectivity goes, there seems to be nothing missing. Both LTE and HSPA+ networks are supported, in addition to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and NFC. There's even an FM Radio included – a feature sometimes overlooked on high-end smartphones nowadays.



1. lee480 unregistered

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

6. Jason2k13

Posts: 1462; 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: 1462; 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: 184; 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: 1365; 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: 2968; 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 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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