Sony XPERIA ZL hands-on: would a Nexus experience help?

June 6, 2013
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Today we're taking a look at the latest smartphone from the folks at Sony. That being their impressive XPERIA ZL flagship device. It has been available to buy unlocked in the U.S. for a little while already, but we wanted to take a closer look at the hardware and software in a quick unboxing, while also pondering the idea of an XPERIA Nexus edition. Take a peek below at the video and plenty of hands-on pictures.

Sony's XPERIA ZL is a very close sibling to their main device for the year, the XPERIA Z, only they've dropped the waterproof features and all glass design, trimmed the overall design and bezels, and made it a bit more industrial looking with a textured back. We have the same quality internals, which are slightly behind the current top-tier curve, and a skinned version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

With a 5-inch 1080p HD display and Sony's Bravia 2 engine the screen is gorgeous. A Qualcomm S4 Pro 1.5 GHz quad-core chip keeps Android speedy, and that 13 megapixel camera is pretty impressive from our previous hands-on with the device. However, Sony's user experience shouldn't be new to anyone that's used their devices as of late. They don't do much to change Android in general, but just tweak the overall look and feel. And that's part of our focus today.

As you can see above the hardware is quite excellent. Sony has a different approach to their design guidelines than the rest of the mobile world lately, and it's pretty good. While we're not a fan of the reflective plastics on the sides, or the squishy and cheap feeling power button, the rest of the phone is durable and feels well made. the squared off design isn't too comfortable to hold, but isn't as bad as some we've used in the past. The video below we lightly compare it to another 5-inch smartphone, the GALAXY S 4, just for good measure.

Lately we've been hearing a few rumors that could end up being good for Sony. Those being that the Xperia Z and possible the ZL and more are coming to the US. Starting with T-Mobile first, and others will soon follow, like AT&T with 4G LTE. Then we've also heard a small rumor that Sony is working with Google on an XPERIA Z Nexus Edition, or Google edition as Samsung calls it. Yes they have their AOSP project where they allow stock Android for some of their devices, but why not just release all completely stock?

With Sony struggling to break into the U.S. market this could finally be the summer and year they do. If they could drop a quality device like the Xperia Z or ZL with stock Android and undercut Samsung and HTC's pricing, they could do well. Sadly their unlocked models currently on Sony.com are well over $600, and might not win many hearts over for that price.

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With "Google Edition" handsets being the next big thing (it seems) Sony should take a close look at doing the same thing. With TouchWiz we have clear benefits and tweaks to Android for the user. Airview, Air gesture, dual-shot camera, Smart scroll eye-tracking and more. HTC has Sense UI with an enhanced camera, Blinkfeed, Beats audio integration and more. Sony tweaks the camera UI and options a bit, but for the most part just delivers a boring and skinned version of stock Android.

We're wondering if a completely stock Nexus experience from Sony could help them moving forward. Their devices are well built, perform great, but the software just doesn't seem to be anything special. For now enjoy plenty more pictures of the XPERIA ZL below and stay tuned for our review coming soon.


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  • Esbejay

    I would buy the ZL or Z if it became available thru the Google store at a lower price than $600, and it supported 1700mhz and 2100mhz bands for 4G on SimpleMobile, just like the Xperia ZL C6506.

  • SPtheALIEN

    I’m wondering how different the Google Edition would differ if the ZL, as it stands, is a barely skinned version of the stock flavor anyway.
    At any rate, I really like my ZL. I have it running Nova Launcher, so it feels even less “Sony-fied.”

  • [A]dri[A]n

    I personally think that Sony’s UI is the perfect balance between stock android and a manufacturers skin. It’s an elegant spin on stock android with just enough features to keep it from being too bland :)

  • Michael Perez

    It gives me an option this summer between the Sony and Moto X if it comes out with stock Android.