Sony announced two Android smartphones at CES, the Sony Xperia Z and the near-identical Sony Xperia ZL. After giving the Xperia Z a soaking just minutes before, there was an audible gasp from Sony staff when we tried to do the same to the Xperia ZL because this 5-inch smartphone is not waterproof. The inclusion of infra-red makes that impossible, though otherwise the Xperia ZL shouldn’t be considered much of a step-down from its flagship sister.
It is a few millimeters thicker, but what’s immediately noticeable about the Xperia ZL is the sheer size of the screen’s real estate. As well as going almost from edge to edge, it’s shorter than the Xperia Z despite having exactly the same screen size, though it does have a mottled plastic panel on the rear that makes it look a touch less classy than the Xperia Z.
Back there is a centrally located 13-megapixel camera that can indulge in HDR for both photos and video; it appeared to produce well exposed and nicely contrasty results in our demo despite some bright spotlights in the vicinity.
Sony claims that the ZL is the most compact 5-inch smartphone around, but that’s virtually the only thing that justifies its existence. Elsewhere it’s identical to the Xperia Z, carrying a Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor that itself makes a big difference to the speed of navigation and adds hugely to the phone’s appeal. For now it’s an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean experience that’s only subtly modified, with Sony app regulars like PlayStation Mobile, Walkman and Shazam rival Track ID.
As well as NFC, like the Xperia Z the ZL has a 1920×1080 pixel screen, which boasts luscious colours though perhaps not the widest viewing angle compared to current range-toppers. In contrast to the Xperia Z, the Xperia ZL has a red version, though we were only able to see the black and white models in action.
Unfortunately there’s been no confirmation whether this will be coming to the UK, but we will of course keep you up to date with any further news.