Sony Xperia ZL review: a giant phone in a surprisingly compact frame
The Xperia ZL is an improvement over the Z, but doesn't shine as brightly next to many of its contemporaries.
- Compact for a 5-inch handset
- Capable camera with HDR video
- Mostly helpful Sony UI
- Short battery life
- Performance trails rivals
- Narrow viewing angles
Sony took a rather unusual path with its flagship smartphone for 2013: it designed the hardware twice. The Xperia Z is ostensibly the star of the show with its glass body and waterproofing, but it's launching alongside the Xperia ZL, an equally brawny, yet plainer sibling. On a spec sheet, there's no apparent reason for the ZL to exist when its features almost perfectly match those of the slimmer and more stylish Z.
Still, it's precisely that emphasis on function over form that might just win the day. Sony bills the ZL as the most compact 5-inch smartphone on the market, which could win over folks who see large-screened phones as unwieldy. But is it enough to challenge conventional thinking on big phones, especially in light of fiercer competition? And is there anything special lurking underneath the ZL's reworked hood? Read on and we'll let you know whether the second device in Sony's dual-phone strategy is strong enough to outshine the Z -- and, more importantly, its rivals.