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Monday, May 6, 2013

Sony Xperia ZL review

These are certainly the best specs Sony has ever put in a phone, but does that translate into a device you actually want to buy?

When we first laid eyes on the Xperia ZL at CES 2013, it may not have gotten the attention that it deserved. As the svelte, glass-backed and waterproof Xperia Z was stealing all of the camera time at the Sony booth, tables full of Xperia ZL devices sat unused. While the plastic exterior may not be as striking as the Z at first glance, the ZL is nearly identical in every other way -- a far cry from the "mid-range device" some purported it to be. Sure you don't get waterproofing or a glass back panel, but you do get the same specs, camera and a much easier to hold curved plastic shell in it's place. It's hardly a compromised device.
In a way, the Xperia ZL (and Z) are the first examples of a refocused and reinvigorated Sony, one that wants to release devices with a modern OS, this year's specs, and compete with other manufacturers on the highest level. On paper, there isn't a whole lot to complain about here. But in a time where we're seeing some seriously high-end devices just make their way onto the market, can Sony's effort from January of this year still stand up against the rest? Let's find out in our full Xperia ZL review.
The Good
Even with a 5-inch display, the Xperia ZL is no harder to use in one hand than smaller devices thanks to very small bezels and on-screen navigation buttons. The camera produces very high quality photos, does great with automatic settings, and a dual detent hardware shutter key is a nice treat. The software will feel very familiar to anyone who has used stock Jelly Bean, and is likely the least offensive of the OEM customizations out there today. The ZL also has enough supported radio frequencies to give you HSPA+ and LTE on just about any carrier in the world.
The Bad
While the display looks great when using the device, it has very poor viewing angles even slightly off-axis. Even though it isn't a carrier device, Sony loads up the ZL with almost two dozen pre-installed apps, most of which aren't very useful. The camera takes great photos, but the camera software isn't always the most intuitive to use.
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.


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