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Sony Xperia ZL is about as exciting as getting socks for Christmas

Nate Ralph | May 9, 2013
The Sony Xperia ZL ($759, unlocked) is your average high-end smartphone. It ticks all of the appropriate boxes: large, full-HD display, a camera that's chock full of megapixels, speedy LTE-connectivity (I tested it on AT&T's network), and a beefy quad-core Snapdragon processor. But in a world of iPhones, HTC Ones, and Samsung Galaxy S4s, ticking off all the boxes is far from enough.

The Xperia ZL is running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) with a few understated embellishments. It's not "pure" Android in the traditional sense but I rather like it. Simple animations breathe a bit of life into mundane actions like dragging icons about, the multitasking overview adds a few application shortcuts, and the option to quickly uninstall apps with iOS-style "Xs" is an excellent addition. Arguably the best part about Sony's skinning-efforts is that they stay out of the way: icons are different, but it doesn't go much further than that.

Sony has also been kind enough to ease up on the bloatware. You're stuck with Sony's Walkman media player app, gallery and video playback apps, and the Sony Select app store which pitches app recommendations. Also saddled onto the device is Socialife, a sort of RSS reader and News feed that displays content from social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook, Google Reader, and select categories you can sign up for. I didn't find it very useful, but your mileage may vary.

You can easily uninstall the rest of the bundled apps, which include a trial for McAfee's mobile security, Wisepilot's GPS navigation app, and OfficeSuite 6, which is, well, an office suite. It supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files, but there are better alternatives available on the Play Store.

Stiff competition

Should you run out and buy an Xperia ZL? In a word, no. There's nothing expressly wrong with it: I rather like the design, which feels modern, if a bit run-of-the-mill. It performs well, serves up plenty of battery life for average use cases, and even has a nice camera once you get used to its limitations (or aren't especially picky). But there are just too many great options out there, and while the Xperia ZL won't disappoint, your money will be better spent elsewhere.


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