Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sony Xperia SL Review

When we reviewed the Xperia S earlier this year, we felt that it was a new start for Sony. Continuing its tradition of good design, packing an excellent display we quite liked the Xperia S. However the pace of the mobile industry is such that it has been far out-specced since its launch. Following the lead of HTC with its One X refresh, Sony too has launched a new updated version of the Xperia S dubbed the Xperia SL.

Not much has changed in the Xperia SL externally as it retains its beautiful hardware. The screen is still quite nice while the processor has been bumped up to a Dual Core Snapdragon S3 processor clocked at 1.7Ghz compared to the 1.5Ghz processor on the Xperia S.  Keep reading for our full impressions.

The contents of the retail packaging are nothing special and include a micro USB cable, Charger , IEMs and a user manual. Check out the unboxing video below.
The Xperia SL is a gorgeous phone, there’s no two thoughts about it. The handset which measures 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm has sharp lines all around making it extremely eye catching. The svelte handset weighs in at just about 144grams.

The front is dominated by a gorgeous 4.3″ display with a resolution of 1280×720. Above the display you can find a front facing camera while three capacitive dots lie below the screen. Its a shame that Sony did not integrate the buttons within the illuminated bar below it and this can be a bit confusing to first time users.

The capacitive dots are not very sensitive and you’ll often have to press them more than once to activate them. The illuminated strip below them looks really nice and is functional too as the cellular antenna is placed there to improve reception.

The right side of the handset has a micro HDMI port hidden under a flap. Below that lies the volume rocker and a camera key. The tactile feedback on the camera key was almost perfect and definitely comes in handy while taking photos or to quick launch the camera.

The left side houses the microUSB port hidden away under a flap. Nothing much to see at the bottom except for the microphone opening.

Over at the top you can find a 3.5mm audio jack surrounded by a brushed aluminum ring. We weren’t fans of the power key which being located towards the left was a bit hard to reach.

Coming to the gently curved back of the handset, we have a 8MP camera with an LED flash located below it. A speaker slit can also be found below the LED flash. Overall the handset is very comfortable to hold. Thanks to the relatively small 4.3″ screen, it is extremely easy to extend the thumb to any corner of the screen facilitating one handed usage.
The screen on the Xperia SL is a thing of beauty. With a resolution of 1280×720 pixels  and a ppi of 342, you won’t be seeing any pixels here.

The display is very bright and thanks to the densely packed display, text appears sufficiently crisp. Viewing angles unfortunately aren’t as good as you’d expect. Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA engine makes its presence shown here as well and further boosts the already vivid display when viewing videos.
Hardware & Performance
The Xperia SL is powered by a 1.7Ghz dual core Snapdragon processor. The graphics duties are handled by the Adreno 220 GPU and you’ll find 1GB of RAM in here.  There’s also 32GB of storage in there and as expected no memory card slot to further increase that storage.  About 26GB of storage is available to the end user alongside 2GB app storage.

The Xperia SL will not set any benchmarks with its performance. The Quadrant benchmark report shows that the performance here is strictly mid-range. Despite average benchmark scores, we never felt that the device felt sluggish to you.

The Antutu Benchmark confirms that the Xperia SL delivers decent performance and can keep up with its contemporaries. Overall operations tend to be smooth and the Sony skin on top is visually appealing, well optimized.
In terms of software, you get Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on the phone with a planned update to Jellybean in 2013. This is a shame as Jellybean brings a lot of useful enhancements like Google Now, improved notifications and most importantly project butter which brings several performance improvements.
Sony’s Timescape UI is running on top of Android and includes a lot of widgets some of which are actually quite useful. The Timescape app aggregates your social networks into a single view and comes in quite handy.
Sony has also worked on other aspects of the experience including Facebook integration with the contacts list. Unlike the Xperia J which we reviewed recently, the Xperia SL has a very decent keyboard with good text prediction. There is Swype like functionality built in so you can just slide around your finger on the screen to input text.

The web browsing experience on the Xperia SL is pretty good and smooth for the most part. There’s a bit of checkerboxing when viewing particularly complex websites. The music player and gallery app both employ a minimalist design and are gorgeous to look at.
There’s a 12MP camera over at the back of the Xperia SL and is coupled with a single LED flash. Sony’s camera interface includes a variety of settings including a range of scene modes and a panorama mode which works great.
Picture quality on the Xperia Sl is good and the camera manages to take in a great amount of detail though the colors might be slightly over saturated for  some people. Low light images have a fair amount of noise and indoor images aren’t all that great. The LED light is sufficiently bright for close ups.
We were particularly impressed by the macro mode. The phone focusses very quickly and manages to get shots we couldn’t with competing phones like the One X+.
Battery Life
The Xperia SL is rated at about 8 hours of talk time and 33 hours of music playback. The 1750 mAh battery is just about sufficient for a day of average usage. Extensive usage will of course drain out the phone. All said and done, you will have to charge up the device every night.
We really liked the industrial design of the Xperia SL and found that it had quite a few welcome improvements including a faster processor and an updated Android build. With a good camera, a beautiful screen there’s a lot to like about the phone but we think it is just a bit over priced.

Widely available at about Rs. 27,990 , you might want to check out the HTC One S or Xperia P  as well before making a decision.
  1. Gorgeous display
  2. Good design
  3. Good camera
  1. No Jellybean till 2013
  2. Pricey

1 comment:

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