The Sony Xperia ZL is the more affordable and slightly smaller sibling to the Xperia Z flagship Android smartphone we recently reviewed. In fact, Sony claims it's the smallest 5" smartphone on the market, and we believe they're right. For a phone with a very large display it's slightly shorter than the 4.7" HTC One and both narrower and shorter than Sony's own Xperia Z. In terms of internals and display, the ZL is identical to the Z, but it costs a bit less because it has a plastic back and isn't waterproof like the Z. I love great looks as much as the next person, and admit I rarely come in serious contact with lots of water (at least while using my phone), so I find the Xperia ZL a more tempting proposition-- more so because Sony now offers a variant with US LTE, which the Xperia Z lacks.
Our review unit was provided by www.tekshop.us (www.tekshop.ca for you Canadians), and they sell the Xperia ZL C6502 for a relatively reasonable $566US as of this writing. Sony sells the Xperia ZL direct from their website, but it will set you back $759. Sony's US website model has an LTE advantage; tekshop's model is HSPA+ only, though we expect they'll get the US LTE model in eventually. This is an unlocked GSM quad band phone with HSPA+ 3G that works on both AT&T and T-Mobile in the US. The phone uses a micro SIM card and there's no contract requirement. It is not compatible with Sprint and Verizon.
Like the Xperia Z, the Xperia ZL runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean with light Sony UI customizations on a 1.5GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU with 2 gigs of RAM. It's not quite as quick as the Snapdragon 600 in the HTC One and US version of the Samsung Galaxy S4, but it's still one of the faster Android phones on the market. It has 16 gigs of internal storage and a microSD card slot that works with SDXC cards. As you might expect, it benchmarks nearly identically with the Sony Xperia Z.
Quadrant: 7466 AnTuTu: 20,473 Sunspider: 1284
The Sony Xperia ZL has dual band WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and a GPS with GLONASS. It has a front camera that's oddly placed at the lower right corner and a very good 13 megapixel rear camera with f/2.4 lens, HDR and an Exmor RS sensor just like the Xperia Z. It produces very good photos and 1080p video with natural colors and decent sharpness. There's lots of detail in the Xperia ZL's photos, and for those who like serious sharpness, some post-processing can do the trick to sharpen up Sony's fairly soft algorithm.
As with the Xperia Z, call quality is excellent and reception is very good. HSPA+ data speeds make for a very good web browsing experience and apps download quickly, but those who use the mobile hotspot feature regularly will likely prefer the LTE model.
Other goodies include USB OTG host and HDMI out via optional MHL adapter. The Xperia ZL has a dedicated camera button that we absolutely love on this camera-centric smartphone. The smartphone has a consumer IR and a Remote app to control your home theatre gear, much like the app on Xperia Android tablets.
Here's our Sony Xperia ZL video review. Our full written review will follow.