The Xperia ZL is the non-amphibious cousin of the Xperia Z and is currently sitting comfortably without much worry from the competition. We say that because the only other phones close to it are the Lumia 920 and the Galaxy Note II. The Lumia 920 is not much of a competition, unless all you’re looking for is a good low-light capable camera, and the Note II’s size isn’t for everyone. This leaves the ZL sitting pretty at around Rs 36,000. One may argue that it’s best to put a little more and get the Z, which is more feature rich and comes with the tempting IP55/57 certification. But is it really worth it? How much has Sony really compromised with the ZL in order to make it more affordable? Let’s find out.
Design and build
Upfront, the ZL looks quite a bit like the Z, except for the wider ear piece grille and a front camera that finds a new home at the bottom of the handset – a first we’ve come across. The handset also features the same scratch-resistant and shatterproof glass along with the screen guard that comes pre-installed. The phone is heavier than the Z, at 151 g, and that’s because it’s a bit thicker as well, with a depth of 9.8 mm as compared to 7.9 mm of the Z.
Looks good and is built well too
The sides have mirror-finish plastic strips along with a similar button placement. The overall size of the ZL is much smaller than the Z, but Sony has kept the screen size the same. This gives the illusion of a larger screen since the bezel is shaved down quite a bit from all sides. The ZL also enjoys the addition of a cool-looking notification light at the bottom, which pulsates in different colours based on the type of notification.
The rubberised texture at the back offers very good grip
The rear panel has a very nice, grippy finish, which feels and looks a lot better than the Z. The textured back leaves your phone free from scratches and requires less upkeep. The camera, LED flash and speaker grille are placed in a similar fashion as the Z. The microSIM and microSD card slots are now placed at the bottom of the phone under a flap. Overall, we were impressed with the design and finish of the ZL and feel it’s a lot better than the Xperia Z in terms of ease of use and ergonomics.
The display is exactly the same as the one on the Xperia Z, only a little brighter and with more vivid colours. The viewing angles are still pretty average and sunlight legibility is not the best. Sony still gives you the full HD resolution on the 5-inch panel, bringing the overall pixel count to 441 ppi.
The same slick user interface as before
The handset also uses the same Qualcomm APQ8064 quad-core SoC along with a generous 2GB of RAM. The chipset consists of four Krait CPUs running at 1.5GHz each along with Adreno 320 for graphics. Sony gives you 16GB of onboard storage, out of which 11.7GB is usable. You also have the option to expand it via the hot-swap card slot. As far as sensors go, the Xperia ZL packs in a gyroscope, compass and barometer along with the other usual suspects.
Extremely powerful hardware under the hood
The interface is slick and fluid just like the Z. Along with the usual selection of Xperia apps, you even get Sony Music, which lets you stream or download thousands of songs across genres, both international and national. The biggest problem with this app is the lack of search function; you have to manually sort through albums or artistes, which is a real pain. The other app is Sony LIV, which streams local TV serials. The ZL also features an IR port that lets you use it as a remote through the bundled app.
Audio quality is good thanks to the MH-EX300AP stock in-ear headphones. The headphones have a snug fit and produce deep bass while providing good noise isolation. Sound enhancements are present in the form of ClearAudio+, which automatically amplifies the sound, or you could fine tune the settings through a 5-band graphic equaliser along with features such as Clear Stereo, Clear phase, xLOUD and Dynamic normaliser – all of which are designed to boost frequencies and make your audio experience more pleasurable.
Media playback is good
The video player won’t read WMV, FLV and some AVI files, but everything else, including MKV files, work just fine. Video playback does not cause the phone to heat up as much as the Z did; it gets a little warm, but that’s about it. The speaker is quite a bit louder, although we noticed a bit of tearing even for alerts at high volumes.