Xperia ZL review roundup

by XB on 18th June 2013

in Featured Content, Reviews, Videos, Xperia Z and Xperia ZL

Xperia ZL ReviewWe’re a bit late with this review roundup, but thought it was worth posting regardless. The Sony Xperia ZL (C650X) was only launched in certain regions and is a sibling device to the Xperia Z (C660X). It doesn’t have the water resistant qualities of the latter but it is the most compact 5-inch smartphone out there and offers some features the Xperia Z doesn’t have such as the infra-red sensor and dedicated camera button.

Most of the reviews ultimately end up discussing the ZL’s place in Sony’s line-up, knowing that the flagship device is the Z. However, there are some mixed opinions as to which phone people prefer. The likes of Engadget says they prefer the ZL given the better ergonomics, however others say it is average compared to other flagships out there. Anyway, you can glance over the reviews we’ve gathered below.

Xperia ZL review roundup

Android Authority: “When you draw the line, the Sony Xperia ZL is a great Android smartphone that delivers the best performance on the market, the most compact form factor on a smartphone with a 5-inch display, and a decent camera. Moreover, the design and build quality could prove superior to the Xperia Z, even though the ZL doens’t offer protection against water and dust. The display however, while still a decent one, is not the best around, and that may turn off some potential customers.”

Android Central: “Aside from a few minor gripes, Sony has put together a great device with the Xperia ZL. The phone looks great and feels good in the hand even with the large display. If you’re in the U.S. and have the money to spend on an unlocked device (the ZL runs $629 direct from Sony), you’ll be rewarded with a phone that’s top of the line in design, specs and software. Best of all this may be one of the few unlocked phones this year that supports both AT&T and T-Mobile fully on LTE and HSPA+ 42.”

Android Police: “As much potential as I see in the Xperia ZL, it’s difficult to recommend it outright. The screen isn’t very good. The camera is very difficult to use effectively. Battery life is far from great. Even the construction materials make me question this phone a little (that said, the Z would almost definitely not have that concern). And as far as Sony’s come on the software front, it’s still very apparent they’re behind the likes of HTC, Samsung, and even LG in creating a consistently smooth, cohesive experience. The ZL is not a bad phone, but it’s not the phone Sony needs to stand up to the Galaxy S4, or the HTC One. Even LG’s Optimus G Pro seems like a more attractive option at this point. This is unfortunate for Sony, because try as they might, the competition is moving forward so rapidly that they can’t seem to catch up.”

Area Mobile (translated): “The Xperia ZL is slightly thicker, but shorter and narrower. The large display and quad-core processor has it anyway and to top it all, it is better because of the stronger curves and the rubberized back of the hand. It also has, in contrast to the Xperia Z via an infrared transmitter, which can be controlled via the technical equipment. There is not protected against water and dust, and does not have the distinctive design of Z. Which device is better, which will sell better? That would depend primarily on the personal taste – and the fact that Z is to get all network providers to contract and not to ZL. Sony would not easily integrate the IR port in the Z and the device can shrink a few millimeters at the same time?”

Ars Technica: “When you get right down to it, the Xperia ZL isn’t a very remarkable phone. It’s certainly not bad, though the screen’s viewing angles would probably keep me from choosing it for myself; it’s just that, once again, Sony has been beaten to the punch by other vendors. Sony isn’t first to market in the US with many of the features you’ll find on this phone, and nothing the ZL offers is head-and-shoulders above the high-end offerings from the likes of Samsung, HTC, and LG. Even if these shortcomings don’t matter to you, the imminent Xperia Z puts all of the ZL’s virtues—the camera, the software, the high-resolution screen—into a thinner, lighter, and waterproof package. As a preview for that phone, the ZL is encouraging, but by itself it has trouble standing out from the crowd.”

The Cellular Guru: “All-in-all the Sony Xperia ZL is a pretty fantastic Android phone, and I have very few complaints about it. The hardware is great, the screen is gorgeous, and the software is fast and responsive. That’s all well and good, but I still don’t feel particularly excited about the Xperia ZL. There’s nothing over-the-top or innovative about the hardware or the software, and there’s no killer feature that will really make this phone stand out in stores. If you’re eyeing a new Android phone, the key differentiators with the Xperia ZL are the elegant design, stunning BRAVIA display for watching videos, killer battery life, and a large screen in a small package. If those sound like features you’re interested in, than you’ll absolutely love the Sony Xperia ZL.”

Cnet: “The Sony Xperia ZL has a lot going for it, but its unsubsidized price of $759.99 is high. It sports a sleek and elegant style, if you can forgive the plastic backing, and has both a zippy quad-core processor and support for swift 4G LTE. Those features are compelling, but a better deal in my book is the $649.99 HTC One Developer Edition. For less, the One offers more internal storage, a better screen, and a build quality that can’t be matched. Still, I suggest choosing the Xperia ZL over the HTC One if stunning photos and having a local SD card on which to store them are your priorities. A cheaper unlocked Android option is LG’s Nexus 4, which costs $299, though it lacks 4G LTE support.”

Electronista: “Even though it lags behind the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 in pure performance numbers, there is no denying that the Xperia ZL is a solid Android option. Sony has done a great job of packing a giant display and decent hardware into a relatively compact form. Despite the use of cheaper body materials, the ZL still manages to feel great in your hand with the side-mounted power button falling neatly under your thumb.”

Engadget: “To answer the most obvious question: if a mysterious benefactor showed us both the Xperia Z and ZL while letting us keep only one, we’d choose the ZL. The smarter ergonomics are just too valuable to ignore, as they produce a 5-inch phone without the penalties in size or comfort that sometimes come with supersize dimensions. Waterproofing isn’t all that vital, either. While the Z would be our choice if we regularly lounged by the pool, we have a hunch that the plastic-backed ZL is more likely to stay good-looking throughout its lifetime. Glass isn’t very stylish when it’s shattered, after all.”

GSM Arena: “The Sony Xperia ZL is not as good looking as its glass-clad sibling, or most of the direct rivals for that matter. Nor is it the most powerful device on the market. We’re tempted to call the Xperia Z the better part of the pair and forget about it. The most compact FullHD five-incher is the Xperia ZL’s defining feature – and the emphasis is on compact. But … the Xperia ZL is a FullHD five-incher after all, and for Sony having two horses in the flagship race must feel good. Plus, there’s always people who like to cheer for the dark horse.”

Gadget Verdict: “Finally a phone that pairs the advances of Android with top of the line build quality and craftsmanship. While I appreciate Samsung pushing the envelope with features in the S3 and forthcoming S4, I’ve long waited for someone to match the device quality of Apple’s iPhone line. Sony has finally delivered on this, making a phone that’s every bit as nice to look at and hold as it is to use. Their Android skin does an excellent job of enhancing Android while preserving the core user experience. The screen is simply stunning, and the screen to device ratio is unparalleled. After using it on the Nexus 4, I’m disappointed it doesn’t support wireless charging. The camera is bafflingly mediocre. I remain hopeful a software update can help improve that situation, despite not having any specific knowledge that this is in the works. Maybe I’m just holding it wrong. Camera aside, the phone is a joy to look at and use and should be at the very top of anyone’s phone consideration list.”

Gizmodo: “This is a phone we were ready and even wanting to like, and if Sony had released it at CES rather than merely announce it and then wait five months, we’d probably have liked it a lot more, but that’s how quickly technology is evolving in the mobile space. The HTC One and the Galaxy S4 are simply better than this phone in almost every way, and that’s all there is to it. Sony is moving in the right direction, it’s just too slow in getting there.”

IntoMobile: “From the compact and sleek design, to the software experience across the board, the Xperia ZL is one awesome device. There’s a lot of competition out there, and Sony has certainly brought the fight, challenging the HTC One, Galaxy S 4, and just about any flagship device out there. To make things even sweeter for Sony, the latest Xperia devices come in two different flavors, both unique enough to hold their own. At the end of the day, the Sony Xperia ZL has what it takes to run with the big dogs, and pass a few up in the process.”

Laptop Mag: “The Sony Xperia ZL is a powerful handset with a superior camera, a premium design and excellent audio. However, the price for this unlocked Android phone is pretty high when you consider that the HTC Developer Edition costs $649. (The unlocked One without the bootloader unlocked costs $549.) HTC’s device offers much wider viewing angles and a faster processor, along with more sophisticated software for its built-in TV remote. But the ZL’s 13-MP camera has the One’s 4-MP shooter beat by a mile. Our biggest complaint about the ZL is its below-average battery life, though you can squeeze more juice out of this handset in Stamina Mode.”

Mobile Syrup: “Sony’s Xperia ZL is an excellent smartphone. For a 5-inch smartphone, the Xperia ZL is extremely compact and comfortable to use with one hand. Its integration with Sony’s ecosystem will be emphasized in its marketing, but at the end of the day you’ll derive little advantage from the Walkman or PlayStation branding over a competing OEM. Rather, Sony should focus on its strengths: a superb camera experience, a remarkably sharp display and Android experience with substantive advantages over its competitors. Whether these inclusions will be enough to spur sales remains to be seen, but barring an HTC-like re-imagining of its smartphone portfolio, the Xperia ZL appears to be the best Sony can offer.”

Phone Arena: “If the Sony Xperia Z was Batman, then the Sony Xperia ZL would be Robin – a less exciting sidekick, yet a superhero nonetheless. At first we were a bit underwhelmed by the latter’s lack of visual appeal, but the more we used it, the more we got used to its peculiarities, so we eventually grew quite fond of Sony’s new device. Note that the Sony Xperia ZL is not a smartphone for those who value fashion over functionality. Rather, it is a capable multimedia device meant to be used extensively, not admired behind a glass window. It delivers nearly flawless performance with its powerful, quad-core processor, while its 13MP will capture those precious moments in great clarity.”

Pocketnow: “Bottom line, Sony has made a solid hit with the Xperia ZL. It’s a gorgeous phone that doesn’t seem like if it’s going to break with normal use. It provides a solid user experience from day-to-day use, to the most intense tests we gave it. It also provides a very delightful experience when holding it and using it, proving that you don’t need a huge device to get a 5-inch display. Now, in all fairness, if I were to not compare this phone against anything else, I’ll admit I loved my experience testing it. I feel Sony thought it out well, and if all the buzz surrounding competing devices isn’t a problem to you, I can assure you this device is a very good buy.”

Slashgear: “The Sony XPERIA ZL takes what the Sony XPERIA Z was good at – and remains good at – and puts it in a slightly more hand-friendly form factor. If you’d like your handset to have a massive amount of glass, you’ll want the Z. If instead you want a slightly less pretty machine that’s better for an accident here or there, go ZL. Both the Sony XPERIA Z and the Sony XPERIA ZL are available in the United States today, though you’ll not find them attached to any one unique carrier. This unit works with AT&T and T-Mobile microSIM cards: you’ll also not find any Verizon 4G LTE attaching itself to this set. Consider that, but consider this too: here Sony puts forth its greatest effort to date. If you’ve enjoyed Sony smartphones in the past, you’ll certainly have an impressive time here.”

Tech 2: “It’s feature rich and has the performance to back it up. Moreover, it isn’t plagued by the little niggling issues we found with the Xperia Z (earpiece problem, poor loud speaker, overheating, non-ergonomic design). It’s also a lot more comfortable to hold due to its relatively smaller size. We recommend the Xperia ZL over the Z despite the lack of the water and dust-proofing capabilities.” (translated): “The unit is beautifully finished, has a nice big screen, has good hardware on board, gives no hickups in applications, working fast applications, games, benchmarks and the browser, the Sony UI is a beautiful clean skin. GPS has quick fixes that are well maintained. For now this is really becoming a device where you have to tell you, but there are some downsides to as the Xperia ZL. The viewing angles of the screen are very poor and in the year 2013, that is just not at such high-end and expensive devices in my opinion.”

Yugatech: “For what it’s worth, the Sony Xperia ZL is every bit a flagship handset as the Xperia Z. If anything, the only significant difference between the two is the lack of water/dust proof feature, as well as the classy design of the Z. In exchange for that, the ZL boasts a compact frame that enables a comfortable one-hand operation; a feat that’s unusual for 5-inch and up smartphones. As far the other aspects are concerned, it fared no different from the one we got from the Xperia Z. What caught us off guard, however, is how efficient the Xperia ZL is in consuming its limited battery resources. Add all of these characteristics, plus the price difference makes this a handset a very viable option for those who wouldn’t mind forgoing the elegant body of the Xperia Z.”

  • giannikosmo

    I think you already did a roundup for the xperia zl!

  • aligamz

    “We’re a bit late with this review roundup…”
    A bit late, just like Sony with all things Xperia.
    Just trolling, don’t mind me.

  • polpet

    I wanted this phone – but it wasn’t available in my country. Then news about ZR came and I want it even more than ZL – it won’t be available either :/ I really want to buy your phones Sony (not only me) so why don’t you sell them to me?

  • polpet

    “there’s plenty fish in the sea” as they say – I’ll buy phone from someone else :( (at lest I’ll get timely Android updates :))

  • paul_cus

    Sleeper phone of the year, in my opinion.

  • raudo

    I agree with PocketNow…

    Bought mine in Germany due to not being available in Sweden and I’m very satisfied with it. Have had it over a month and my only
    gripe was in regards to battery life but this seem to have improved after the first few battery charging cycles.

  • I got this phone and it died in about 3 weeks :/ STILL waiting for Sony to send me my new one -.-

  • Diego Inacio Pereira

    I got my own about a week ago here in Brazil, the baterry life was terrible, but get better after some days, ireally like the screem,the color reproduction is much more realistic when i copares with an OLED display (RAZR HD), camera seens OK, the power button could be a little bit higher, the hardware itself is great, but that back makes it looks like mid-range LG phones, i didnt like the back, it could be aluminium, but indeed, it provides a very safe grip, feel pretty rubberized

    well now to the software… ( i got a lot of annoyiance here)

    fist of all, the applications are really beautifull nice visual appel, a real multimedia device!
    socialife indeed, sucks as an RSS reader,

    for some reason, u cant have a diferent wallpapper on the lckscreen, quick-launchs, or even sliding lock if you set a password, thats at least weird

    now for the launcher… ffs, thats horrible, seens to lag, it takes a long time to widgets to swap position (making it horrible to redesign the homescreens) the homescreens cannot change their positions, the app drawer and that awful semi-transparent layer make the screen colors looks even more washed

    theres no unification, some applications have a gray (it would be much better if black) background and others have an awful white one, ven the virtual buttons have a awfull gray background, sad…

    anyway, a great device, but nove-launcher is pretty much mandatory(and unfortunaly, not every sony apps widgets are avaliable)

    and the miniapps btw, they are really nice, it could have some more tricks like the divided screen of SGS4, or at least they could be able to place more than just 1 at same time (and minimized on any side of the scrren, not just right edge)

    the recent apps lacks a “remove all” button

    theres some process caled media server that sucks the hell out of my batter, almost same as the screen, and i couldnt find a way to shut it off, even when the media sharing is unchecked

    could be more toggles on the notification too

    well thats all, a excelent hardware with a problematic skin over the traditional android

  • Jhonbert Magana

    Nice review, specially about the unification.

  • xperian

    Android police review strictly a Samsung fan boy . there was simply nothing good about it to them

  • devtry

    Yes the new launcher is really laggy…
    I suggest you to use a launcher from the Play store (for example Apex launcher, it’s free and very smooth)

  • Doubleyoupee

    you CAN set a different wallpaper on the lockscreen….

  • Anzilleo Kristello Mozihim

    I owned the ZL myself and I am pretty satisfied with it and won’t be changing for a couple of years or until it deteriorates/falls apart. It is cheaper than the Z, HTC One and S4. And after that minor firmware update, I love it even more.

  • Rishi Rathod

    Please do post a Review Roundup of Xperia SP and Xperia L too. :)

  • Gilrossi

    Diego, voce tem tido problemas com a recepção do wifi?

  • Brapi

    Jst updated my ZL to 4.2.2, well Sony did deliver an early update, earlier than the flagship Z. I have no regrets buying this phone over HTC or others since I really like the ergonomic design and the UI.

    I think Sony is now learning how to treat their flagship as a flagship

  • Parth Shah

    Same here man….
    I got my phone 3 weeks back in Mumbai, India. And it is dead its been over 13 days and Sony Service Center people are clueless where my phone is. I was suppose to get a new phone sealed in the box in 5 days but now they say i’ll be getting the same phone repaired and yet no one has no clue where my phone is after 13 days.
    Can you guide me through, what measures did you take up to get your phone back and did you get a new phone or the old phone repaired?
    Also are you still facing any issues after you got your phone?
    Please write to me at below email address:

    thanx a lot …hope to hear from you.

  • Vinay Kumar

    I bought Xperia ZL in october 2013. I bought it with Android 4.1.2
    Jellybean. Later , i updated it to 4.2.2 and now 4.3. So far i didn’t
    find any of the issues with this phone. Camera is 13 MP.

    is Awesome an more realistic. To be honest, the front camera is a Con i
    have to say. Clarity is good but it was at the bottom. so if you wanna
    take pics of urself with the front cam, that’s quite embarrassing.

    Yes, mobile gets heated up sometimes, i face this one too. So i’ll give it some time to cool.
    It cools down in a short time.

    gets drained very soon. It is because of the HD screen and resolution
    i think but not sure. What i was doing is i have reduced it’s
    brightness and back light to 30. To prevent the battery from draining
    fast. You need to turn on the stamina mode and low battery mode. With
    those two turned on, charging will last long. I charge my phone for
    every two days. I have seen many people say that it takes several hours
    to charge the phone. But my phone gets charged very fast. I’ve never
    faced the problem.

    Since it got 2GB ram and 1.5 Quad core
    processor. Apps run very smoothly and i’ve been playing highend games in
    my mobile ever since the first day i bought it. Never faced any
    disturrbance in that.

    Now that i found that it ha got upgrade to Android kitkat. Waiting for the update.

    My Overall Experience with MY ZL is Awesome. I’ll Give My Phone 9/10.

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