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Sony Xperia SL

 

The Xperia SL is considered to be one of Sony’s high-end smartphone as it features a 4.3-inch display with a resolution of 1280 X 720 pixels.

The device runs on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich OS (upgradable to Jelly Bean) and is powered by a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor. It has 1GB of RAM. Other features include 32GB built-in storage, no microSD card slot, a 12MP camera with an LED flash with the ability to shoot video in 1080p whereas the front has a 1.3MP video calling camera @720p. It also supports NFC and Bluetooth.

The Xperia SL supports HDMI-out, DLNA, 3D and motion gaming, 3D surround sound, TV launcher and the Walkman application. Read more about the Xperia SL.

The Xperia SL is priced at Rs. 32,549 (MRP)

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Specifications:

General 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
SIM Micro-SIM
Announced 2012, August
Status Available. Released 2012, September
Body Dimensions 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm (5.04 x 2.52 x 0.42 in)
Weight 144 g (5.08 oz)
– Touch-sensitive controls
Display Type LED-backlit LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 720 x 1280 pixels, 4.3 inches (~342 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch Yes, up to 10 fingers
Protection Scratch-resistant glass
– Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine
– Timescape UI
Sound Alert types Vibration; MP3 ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
Memory Card slot No
Internal 32 GB storage, 1 GB RAM
Data GPRS Up to 86 kbps
EDGE Up to 237 kbps
Speed HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, v3.0 with A2DP, EDR
NFC Yes
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0, USB On-the-go support
Camera Primary 12 MP, 4000×3000 pixels, autofocus, LED flash.
Features Geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, 3D sweep panorama, image stabilization
Video Yes, 1080p@30fps, continuous autofocus, video light, video stabilizer.
Secondary Yes, 1.3 MP, 720p@30fps
Features OS Android OS, v4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon
CPU Dual-core 1.7 GHz
GPU Adreno 220
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, IM, Push Email
Browser HTML5, Adobe Flash
Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors Black, White, Silver, Pink
– 50 GB of Cloud storage (time limited offer)
– TV launcher
– SNS integration
– HDMI port
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
– MP4/H.263/H.264/WMV player
– MP3/eAAC+/WMA/WAV player
– TrackID music recognition
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk
– Document viewer
– Voice memo/dial/commands
– Predictive text input
Battery Standard battery, Li-Ion 1750 mAh
Stand-by Up to 420 h
Talk time Up to 8 h 30 min
Music play Up to 25 h
Misc Price group Rs. 32,549/-

 

A refresh, instead of a proper upgrade. A replacement model rather than a successor. Is the Sony Xperia SL aiming too low? Many will probably say so, but you can’t blame Sony for trying to extend the life of a pretty solid smartphone and one of its best-received handsets.

The Sony Xperia SL might not tempt anyone already owning the Xperia S to upgrade, but then again that’s where the Xperia T steps in. The new Sony smartphone takes the path of the Arc S and tries to give a once successful flagship better chances to survive in the mid-range.


Sony Xperia SL official photos

The Xperia SL finds itself in the middle of an extremely fierce battle. It’s squeezed between the affordable dual-core NovaThor-powered droids and the flagships from the beginning of the year, which have undergone several price-cuts and are ready to conquer new territories.

The question is whether the Sony Xperia SL has what it takes to survive in these conditions. A look at its main strengths and weaknesses should help us with the answer.

Key features

  • Quad-band GSM /GPRS/EDGE support
  • 3G with 14.4 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76 Mbps HSUPA
  • 4.3″ 16M-color capacitive LED-backlit LCD touchscreen of 720p resolution (720 x 1280 pixels) with Sony Mobile BRAVIA engine; Scratch-resistant glass
  • Android OS v4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Dual-core 1.7 GHz Scorpion CPU, 1 GB RAM, Adreno 220 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8260 chipset
  • 12 MP autofocus camera with LED flash and geo-tagging, Multi Angle shot
  • 1080p video recording @ 30fps with continuous autofocus and stereo sound
  • 1.3 MP front-facing camera, 720p video recording
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n and DLNA
  • GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
  • 32GB built-in storage
  • microHDMI port, dedicated TV launcher
  • microUSB port (charging) and stereo Bluetooth v2.1
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Stereo FM radio with RDS
  • Voice dialing
  • Deep Facebook integration
  • PlayStation Certified, access to the PS Store
  • Accelerometer and proximity sensor

Main disadvantages

  • More powerful chipsets can be had for the same price
  • Display has sub-par viewing angles
  • No microSD card slot

It’s quite obvious, that even after the speed bump, the Sony Xperia SL isn’t the most powerful droid around. There are several offerings within its own price-range to offer Krait cores and newer generation graphics processors, which might or might not matter too much, depending on wether the Sony smartphone can offer a smooth ride through the UI.

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The Sony Xperia SL studio shots

Plus, there’s the 720p BRAVIA-powered screen of Retina-beating pixel density and the very capable 12 megapixel camera, which give the Xperia SL a couple of potent weapons of its own. The design has not changed one bit, but few will deny that the Xperia S was already one of the sleekest looking smartphones around.

It appears that the Xperia SL won’t allow our jury to make an easy call, so let’s kick off this review in the hope that by the time we are finished, the picture would be more clear.

A standard retail box

The retail box of the Sony Xperia SL features the familiar GreenHeart charger, which pairs with the microUSB cable to charge the phone. An in-ear headset is also available, which rounds up all the essentials, as the Xperia SL has no card slot.

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The Xperia SL box and its contents

The only difference over the Xperia S box is the lack of Smart Tags. The Sony Xperia SL still features NFC connectivity, and you can always download the SmartTag app off the Google Play store, but if you are after the Smart Tags functionality, you’ll have to purchase them separately.

The Sony Mobile official store offers a bundle of four tags in different colors for $20, in case you were wondering. You may even be able to get cheaper offers on Ebay, the tags are universal and don’t have to be branded by Sony to work with the Xperia SL.

Sony Xperia SL dimensions

The Sony Xperia SL has the exact same measures as the Sony Xperia S – 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm. Considering that the Motorola RAZR M stands at the impressive 122.5 x 60.9 x 8.3, while touting an identically sized screen and a larger, 2000 mAh battery, the Xperia SL may certainly be considered a bulky smartphone.

The Xperia SL is also quite heavy, tipping the scales at 144g. It’s no Nokia Lumia 920, but it certainly won’t let you forget that it’s in your pocket. On the other hand, the relatively heavy weight contributes to a very solid feel, when you hold the Xperia SL in your hand.

Design and build quality

The Sony Xperia SL design is perfectly identical to that of the Sony Xperia S.It’s not a new design, but we still like the combination of square angles and curves.

The design has carried over the unique accent too, in the illuminated transparent strip. In this day it’s not that easy to find a smartphone which has as much character as the Xperia SL. It might have led to an increase in the overall volume, but it’s probably worth it. After all, the Sony smartphone doesn’t have a screen nearing 5″ in size to worry about so it can afford to spare a few millimeters for a good cause like that.

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The Sony Xperia SL next to the Sony Xperia miro

Above the screen sits the earpiece, alongside the 1.3MP front-facing camera, which can record 720p video. The proximity and ambient light sensors are here too, and there’s a charge/event indicator, which glows in red or green depending on the charge status and blinks whenever there’s something that requires your attention.

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There’s a front-facing camera and a bunch of sensors next to the earpiece

Below the screen, there are three tiny dots marking the three capacitive keys (Back, Home and Menu). The actual icons are within the transparent strip, so you might be fooled to try and push those instead (like we did) and it takes a while to get used to the correct position of the keys. What’s more, they’ve been tweaked to require a proper press rather than a light touch so it feels awkward in the beginning.

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The three keys below the screen

The transparent strip has a cool white backlight, which makes it an attractive design accent in the dark. A fusion of form and function, this strip also holds the antenna. A closer look will show you the almost invisible grid inlayed in the transparent plastic that transfers the signal.

The two wired ports – microUSB and microHDMI – are on the sides of the phone. Both are hidden under plastic flaps to keep dust away.

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The microUSB port is on the left

The right side of the Sony Xperia SL holds a couple of other controls too – a volume rocker and a shutter key. We were hoping that the Xperia SL will address our complaints about the camera key, but we are in no luck. The thing is the button is thin and has a low profile, and while it’s easy to press, the stop between half-press and full-press can be hard to feel sometimes.

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The volume rocker and the camera key are next to the microHDMI port on the right

On the other hand, an imperfect camera key is still better than no camera key at all, so we’d like to give Sony a pat on the back for including it. Not only does it allow you to launch the camera instantly, but it also greatly improves usability, despite the flaws in this implementation.

The Power/Lock key and the 3.5mm audio jack are on the top. The audio jack is left uncovered, but that’s usually the case with these and it makes sense since it will probably see plenty of use.

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The power button and the 3.5mm audio jack

There’s nothing of interest at the bottom besides the lanyard eyelet and the microphone pinhole.

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The lanyard eyelet and the microphone pinhole

The back cover of the Xperia SL is made of soft matte plastic, which feels good and hides fingerprints well. Here we find the 12MP camera lens, located very near the top edge. This means you’ll have to be extra careful not to put a finger over it when taking a photo.

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The 12 megapixel camera lens has the LED flash and the loudspeaker grille on its side

The camera is accompanied by a single-LED flash and the secondary microphone used when shooting video. The loudspeaker grille is also here.

Removing the back cover doesn’t reveal much – you’ll find the microSIM card here, but you don’t get to see the battery. What you would find is an aluminum frame painted black.

The battery is a 1750 mAh unit, which is said to provide about 420 hours of 3G stand-by 8 hours and 30 minutes of 3G talk time. The Endurance rating of the Xperia SL is 32 hours, meaning you can talk for an hour, browse the web another hour and play and hour of video a day and you’d have to charge the Xperia SL once every 32 hours.

Display

The screen on the Sony Xperia SL is certainly one of the smartphone’s highlights. It’s mesmerizingly sharp, with punchy colors and very good contrast, backed by the mobile BRAVIA engine. The fact that the Xperia SL display is one of the most pixel-dense on the market at 342ppi also helps a great deal.

Its only downside (and it’s not a minor one) is the poor viewing angles.

Anyway, the Xperia SL screen has decent blacks and even though its brightness isn’t impressive, it still managed to get a good score in our test.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Sony Xperia SL 0.51 535 1049
Sony Xperia S -> 0.48 495 1038
Sony Xperia acro S 0.61 625 1022
LG Optimus 4X HD 0.34 369 1077 0.68 750 1102
HTC One S 0 177 ∞ 0 386 ∞

 

Sunlight legibility of the screen also turned out pretty good.

Handling

We liked the clean design of the Sony Xperia SL. The transparent strip is a unique accent and subtle enough (the Xperia pureness must be glad a small part of it lives on).

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Handling the Sony Xperia SL

The curved back fits nicely in the hand, and despite the fact it adds some extra thickness, the Xperia SL is still fairly compact and pocketable. One-handed operation is almost always possible, too.

Xperia on Ice Cream Sandwich

The Sony Xperia SL runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich out of box and it’s got the custom Sony launcher on top of it, so the interface doesn’t feel too different. It’s not exactly identical to what you got with the Xperias that started with Gingerbread and were promoted to ICS, but we still found our way around reasonably quickly.

It’s a little disappointing that the Xperia UI found on the Xperia T didn’t make its way to the SL. It had a revamped task switcher interface with the active, on-screen widgets, which featured a live overlay over the homescreen (video player, etc.) and the more functional notification area with various toggles.

As usual, we’re starting with a short video of the user interface:

The Xperia SL has the usual five-pane homescreen configuration, but there is no option to add or remove panes. Along the bottom, there are five docked shortcuts (the app drawer shortcut and two on each of its sides). These are visible across all five homescreen panes and are user configurable: they can be either single icons or folders with multiple items in them.

Speaking of folders – they show thumbnails of the first four items in them.

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The Sony Xperia SL UI • Choosing theme • Folders

As with older Sony smartphones, you can change the color theme of the launcher according to your preferences.

The homescreen does a neat trick called Overview mode. Pinch to zoom out on any of the 5 homescreen panes and a new screen opens up with a cool transition. All active widgets gather there for easy viewing and selection.

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The Overview mode helps you find the widget you are looking for

The Xperia SL has some custom-made Sony widgets in addition to the standard set. Those include the Timescape widget (there’s a dedicated app too) and a Mediascape-like widget for photos and videos (the actual app isn’t there anymore, but the Album gallery is).

When on a homescreen pressing the menu button opens up a context menu under the status bar. It gives you two options – choosing a widget and choosing a wallpaper/theme. It’s oddly placed and easy to miss at first because the animation is so underplayed it looks as if nothing has happened.

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Widgets menu • Wallpaper menu

A cool new addition to the lockscreen, missing from the pre-ICS Xperias, is the Walkman widget which lets you control music playback without unlocking the phone. You can also enable Face, Pattern, PIN or Password unlock, in ascending order of security.

Moving and removing widgets hasn’t changed and is as simple as on droids of old – hold a finger over a desired widget and move it around. The action has a cool wobble animation to it.

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Moving and deleting widgets

The standard notification area and task switcher are of course present and accounted for, with no custom touches to them. For some reason, the notification area isn’t accessible from the lockscreen as it usually is on ICS (and on other ICS-running Xperia phones).

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The lockscreen • Lockscreen options • The standard notification area and task switcher

As a part of the ICS platform you get the Data usage app. Sony provided one on Gingerbread as well, but this one is far more accurate in calculating your used traffic. It also lets you set a limit for mobile data usage for a specific period and o gives you a breakdown of which apps have used how many of your precious bytes.

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Data usage app

Sony has added its own Backup & reset feature for Android ICS. It works for apps you’ve uninstalled and then reinstalled again, restoring them with the previous saved settings. The reset menu also lies in the same submenu.

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Backup & reset

Sony have made a lot of improvements to the standard ICS build, but also omitted some that other OEMs are opting for. For example, Samsung has a Remove all feature when you open the task switcher. Also, there are still no connectivity toggles in the notification area and there’s no option to change the number homescreen panes.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Sony Xperia SL is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon chipset, which packs two 1.7 GHz Scorpion cores, 1 GB of RAM and an Adreno 220 GPU, which has all of 1280 x 720 pixels to push. It’s a nice smartphone setup but not class leading anymore.

We begin with the Quadrant benchmark where the Xperia SL clocks in at the last spot, which is normal considering its competition is mostly quad-cores with the occasional dual-core Krait.

Phonebook

The Xperia SL phonebook is the same as the one on the Xperia T. It has slight visual changes: the bottom bar no longer shows you shortcuts to phone, favorites, contacts, and is now a search and add number field. The contacts, phone, favorites and groups tabs have been moved to the top and can be alternated by side-swipes.

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The phonebook • The quick contacts can save you a click or two • the available options

The contact list can be sorted by either first or last name. There are two contact search options – a dedicated search field on the bottom of the contact list, and an alphabetical scroll bar to jump to names starting with a specific letter on the right.

You can sync with multiple accounts, including Exchange and Facebook, and you can selectively show or hide contacts from some accounts (as well as filter specific groups in an account), or set the phonebook to display only contacts with phone numbers or only contacts that are online.

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Filtering contacts in the phonebook

If a contact has accounts in multiple services, you can “link” their details to keep everything in one place. Their Facebook photos and interests (part of the Facebook integration) will show as extra tabs.

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Viewing and editing a contact

Quick contacts are enabled – a tap on the contact’s photo brings up shortcuts for calling, texting or emailing the contact.

Each contact can have a variety of fields (and repeat fields of the same type). There’s an Add field button and the X button lets you remove fields as needed. The fields cover anything from names (including a field to write the name down phonetically) to addresses, nicknames and notes.

There is an option to redirect calls directly to voicemail. Custom ringtones are enabled too.

Smart telephony

Receiving and making calls on the Xperia SL was great. The built-in secondary microphone is used for active noise-cancellation so calls are loud and clear even in noisy environments.

The Xperia SL phone app features smart dialing. It searches for matches in both the contacts’ phones and names. There’s voice dialing too (the quickest way to activate it is to press and hold the hardware Search key).

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Smart dialing is available • Dialer

Thanks to the proximity and accelerometer sensors, the Sony Xperia SL automatically disables the touchscreen when you lift it up during a call.

The call log is integrated in the dialer – it shows a list of recently dialed, received and missed calls in the top half of the screen and the keypad on the bottom half. Once you start typing, the call log is replaced by the smart dial list. You can hide the keypad to make more room for the call log.

We also ran our traditional loudspeaker test on the Sony Xperia SL. It managed a Good mark and will be heard loud and clear in most case scenarios. More info on our loudspeaker test can be found here.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overal score
Sony Xperia T 63.7 58.9 62.1 Below Average
Apple iPhone 5 66.8 66.1 67.7 Below Average
HTC Desire C 64.6 64.7 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy mini 2 S6500 69.7 66.6 71.5 Average
Sony Xperia SL (no xLOUD) 75.2 65.8 74.8 Good
Sony Xperia SL (xLOUD) 75.5 65.9 76.9 Good
Sony Xperia Go 68.7 65.8 76.2 Good
LG Optimus 4X HD 68.7 66.6 79.3 Good
Motorola RAZR XT910 74.7 66.6 82.1 Very Good
HTC Desire 76.6 75.7 84.6 Excellent

Messaging is business as usual

Text messages and MMS use standard threaded layouts. Each thread is displayed as an IM chat session, with the most recent message at the bottom. You can manage individual messages (forward, copy, delete) and even lock them against deletion.

Search is enabled to locate a specific message in all conversations and you can also activate delivery reports.

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The messaging app

Adding multimedia (photos, videos, sounds, etc.) will convert the message to an MMS.

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Creating a multimedia message

Moving on to email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allows multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there’s no unified inbox for other email services.

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Gmail app supports batch operations and multiple (Gmail) accounts

However, the generic email app can do that as well. It can handle multiple POP or IMAP accounts and you have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online.

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The generic Email client has a combined inbox option

Google Talk handles Instant Messaging. The GTalk network is compatible with a variety of popular clients like Pidgin, Kopete, iChat, etc.

As for text input, the Xperia SL offers a customized on-screen full QWERTY keyboard. Typing on the portrait keyboard is fairly comfortable – the screen is big enough to house decently-sized keys that are easy to hit.

Flipping the phone to landscape gives you even bigger, easier to press buttons.

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Xperia SL keyboard is comfortable in either layout

You can also try the so-called Gesture input if hitting those keys individually doesn’t give you the desired typing speed. It works the same as Swype. Even if you’ve never used a Swype-like input before, you’ll quickly get used to it.

The brand new gallery

The Xperia SL comes with the new Sony Ice Cream Sandwich gallery, called Album.

It has a whole new interface where images are arranged into stacks of thumbnails and sorted by date. You can also opt to show all of your albums in one place. There are three tabs above the stacks – Pictures, Map and Online.

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The Album gallery

Pictures is the main tab – you can use pinch gestures to make the thumbnails bigger or smaller. Map reminds us of the iOS gallery, where all pictures with a Geo-tag are shown on a map of the world.

The Online tab uses pictures from the connected online services – Google Picasa, Facebook, etc. You have options to tag, like and comment on Facebook photos much like you did with the previous Xperia Gallery.

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The Geo-tagging à la iOS

Images in both galleries can be cropped or rotated directly in the gallery. Quick sharing via Picasa, Email apps, Facebook, Bluetooth or MMS is also enabled.

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Viewing an image

The BRAVIA engine enhances contrast and colors by sharpening the image and reducing noise. These steps normally lead to visual artifacts, but you’ll have to look at them very close up to notice. You can switch BRAVIA off, but we recommend keeping it on – it really improves the viewing experience.

Video player is new too

In keeping with the new music player and gallery, Sony has added a new video player as well. It’s dubbed Movies and it too has a new interface. It’s connected to Gracenote, which helps you find additional information about the movies you have preloaded.

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Watching a video on the Xperia SL

DivX and XviD videos support is iffy to say the least. Most of the videos we tried didn’t play on the Xperia SL and it did have issues even with mp4 files. We found that there’s an issue with audio playback as mp4 files with AAC sound weren’t a problem. 720p videos were handled with ease, 1080p videos were also watchable but not all of them. Overall, we suggest converting all your movies into the appropriate format or just downloading a video player off the Google Play Store with support for more video codecs.

Walkman music player on board

To complete the trio of redesigned Sony apps is the new Walkman music player. It retains all the functionality of the older music players but adds a little bit extra here and there.

It is divided into Playing and My music panels.

In the My music section, you can update your album art and music information like album, year, and more. SensMe is included, meaning you can filter your songs by type – upbeat, energetic, mellow, dance, etc. Creating playlists is enabled and you can also view your Facebook buddies’ activity if they too use the Walkman player.

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The music player is decent looking and snappy

The Now Playing screen offers the standard music controls, shortcuts to the library, “Infinity” key and the song cover art. The Infinity key lets you quickly look up a song on YouTube or browse for the lyrics, among others.

Currently, the only available visualization is the album art.

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The Now Playing interface • The equalizer

Finally, the Walkman player offers support for customizable equalizer settings, giving die-hard audiophiles the chance to fiddle around with the individual EQ bands.

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Sound enhancements and EQ

While the rest of the music player is the same as what we saw on the neo V, this one adds music controls to the lockscreen. Swiping them either side brings back the clock. The notification area also offers the now playing screen with music controls and the option to jump into the Walkman player.

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Music player controls on the lockscreen and notification area

The Sony Xperia SL also features an FM Radio aboard complete with RDS support – an improvement over the Neo L, which had no FM Radio at all.

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The FM Radio

Good audio quality

The Sony Xperia SL did excellently in the first part of our traditional audio quality test. The smartphone got very good scores all over and if it wasn’t for the only average volume levels it would have been perfect.

There’s some degradation when you plug in a pair of headphones, but things certainly aren’t too bad. The stereo crosstalk rises and some distortion creeps in. Volume levels remain about the same, though, which is not a common sight among smartphones. A solid overall performance, which should please anyone but the most demanding audiophiles.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Sony Xperia SL +0.10, -0.10 -87.2 87.4 0.011 0.019 -87.9
Sony Xperia SL (headphones attached) +0.52, -0.11 -87.3 87.1 0.051 0.323 -49.0
Sony Xperia T +0.11, -0.10 -86.1 87.8 0.023 0.023 -84.1
Sony Xperia T (headphones attached) +0.43, -0.11 -86.1 87.5 0.140 0.260 -62.7
Sony Xperia S +0.10, -0.09 -86.6 86.8 0.011 0.018 -86.9
Sony Xperia S (headphones attached) +0.44, -0.13 -88.4 88.6 0.264 0.338 -47.3
LG Optimus 4X HD +0.02, -0.52 -74.8 74.8 0.345 0.318 -81.6
LG Optimus 4X HD (headphones attached) +0.03, -0.51 -70.1 69.9 0.815 0.811 -64.5
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III +0.03, -0.05 -90.3 90.3 0.012 0.018 -92.6
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III (headphones attached) +0.11, -0.04 -90.2 90.2 0.0092 0.090 -53.1
HTC One X +0.02, -0.08 -82.1 82.1 0.137 0.393 -80.7
HTC One X (headphones attached) +0.10, -0.10 -80.6 80.6 0.174 0.459 -60.8

Sony Xperia SL frequency response
Sony Xperia SL frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

12 MP Camera comes with its own interface

The Xperia SL boasts a 12 megapixel camera with a back-illuminated Exmor R sensor and a single LED flash. It’s capable of producing stills of 4000 x 3000 resolution. We have every reason to believe that the Xperia SL features the same image sensor and module as the Xperia S and possibly the acro S.

The camera controls on the Xperia SL are identical to those of the Xperia S – they are available on two taskbars on either side of the viewfinder. On the left you get four shortcuts to various settings, while the still camera/camcorder toggle, the virtual shutter and a thumbnail of the last photo taken are on the right.

The menu key brings up two pages of extra settings – scenes, resolution, smile detection, geotagging, image stabilization and focus mode among others. You can customize three of the shortcuts on the left (the shooting mode shortcut is fixed).

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The new camera interface

There are five capture modes to choose from: Normal, Scene recognition, Sweep Panorama, Sweep Multi Angle and 3D Sweep Panorama. In Normal, you pick the Scene settings manually or you can enable Scene recognition and let the Xperia S take a guess (it’s fairly good at it).

The 3D Sweep Panorama is business as usual – you press the shutter key and pan the phone across the scene. The resulting panoramic photo can be viewed in both 2D and 3D (on a compatible TV).

The Sweep Multi Angle is much more impressive – you take a photo in the exact same way, but the result is very different. It produces something like a lenticular card, providing a different perspective when viewed at an angle.

Tilting the phone lets you look at the object from different sides. A shot of a moving object looks like an animated GIF or creates interesting and sometimes comical distortions.Photos taken in Sweep Multi Angle mode are handled by a separate app called 3D album, and not listed in the regular gallery. And just to make it clear again – the Xperia SL doesn’t have a 3D screen, but rather cleverly relies on its sensors to detect the handset movement and it changes the on-screen image accordingly.

The Xperia SL features a Quick launch option, which lets you customize the phone’s behavior upon a press of the camera key when the phone is locked. The default option is Launch and capture – it unlocks the phone, starts the camera and instantly snaps a photo.

It’s hard to frame the first shot right from this mode, but you can quickly take another photo as the camera reloads quite fast. The other option is to just unlock the phone and start the camera, or you can disable the feature altogether.

The Sony Xperia SL proved to be a very capable shooter. It produces images with loads of detail and great colors, especially at base ISO when there’s plenty of light. The camera was also very fast to start up and locks in on targets very quickly, rarely missing to focus or focusing on the wrong thing.

Noise is kept well under wraps – it’s only visible in areas with solid color like the sky, windows, etc.



Sony Xperia SL camera samples

Detail is very impressive even from very up close and having the physical shutter key really adds to the ease of use when shooting with the Xperia SL.

Overall, the camera on the Xperia SL shows a tendency towards regaining the past legacy of Sony Ericsson as a good cameraphone maker. What we like about it is that even with the right hardware on board Sony have tweaked the software just right so that it produces good results in every condition.

Image quality comparison

The Sony Xperia SL enters our photo quality comparison tool butting heads with its siblings, the Xperia S and the Xperia acro S. Feel free to choose any other adversaries you wish – the tool’s page will give you all the information on how to do that and what to watch out for.

Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Sony Xperia SL in our Photo Compare Tool

Okay video recording

The Sony Xperia SL captures 1080p and 720p videos at 30 fps, currently the upper limit of what you can expect from a smartphone.

The camcorder has similar settings to the still camera, including focus mode, metering, exposure value, image stabilization and so on. The layout of the shortcuts can be customized here, too.

The Xperia SL camcorder features continuous autofocus. It may take a few seconds to refocus after you re-frame but that’s better than repeatedly attempting to lock focus and ruining your video.

Sony Xperia Sl Sony Xperia Sl
Switching to camcorder modeFullHD videos are stored in MP4 format (19Mbps bitrate) and the frame rate nails the 29fps mark. The Xperia SL videos come with stereo sound recorded at 131Kbps bitrate and 48kHz sampling – all pointing to slightly superior video recording compared to the Xperia S.

While numbers show a potential for high quality the actual end result isn’t as good. The Xperia SL produces smooth videos with okay colors but the level of detail isn’t inspiring and the videos look blurry and lack the proper sharpness you get with devices like the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III.

Here is a 1080p video sample captured with the Xperia SL.

720p videos are a slightly different story. While audio bitrate and sample rate remain the same, the video bitrate measures around 12Mbps.

If you want to look closer at the video quality, you can download 1080p and 720p samples taken straight off the device.

Video quality comparison

We’ve added the Xperia SL to our video comparison tool. See how it fares against the likes of the Xperia acro S and the Xperia S.

Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
Sony Xperia SL in our Video Compare Tool

Full-fledged connectivity

The Sony Xperia SL has quad-band 2G and 3G. Mobile data speeds are boosted by 14.4 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76Mbps HSUPA.

Local connectivity is covered by Wi-Fi b/g/n with DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct, so you can easily share content from your phone on a DLNA TV or music player. There’s also Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP.

MicroUSB handles the charging and connecting to your PC and there’s also USB On-the-go support so you can attach external flash drives to the SL.

Media Remote isn’t preinstalled on the Xperia SL but you can get it through the Google Play Store. It will serve as a remote control for DLNA-capable BRAVIA TVs and Sony DVD/Blu-ray players too. There are a few versions of the interface ranging from simply changing the channels to mouse input and viewing disc history.

The Media Remote app is also available for free so that other Android smartphones can use it too.

The Xperia SL also comes with Sony’s Smart Connect app, which replaces the former LiveWare manager, although the functionality remains basically the same. With Smart connect, you can automate a lot of tasks and settings on your device, like launching an app when you connect an accessory, or turning features on or off depending the phone’s on charger and what-not.

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LiveWare manager can, for example, launch the music player as soon as you connect a headset

Web browsing is nice on ICS

The Sony Xperia SL enjoys the well known Android ICS web browser. This browser has a streamlined interface, incognito browsing and other cool features.

The browser is quite minimalistic; all you get is the URL bar with a tabs shortcut. Hitting the Menu key you get more options – Refresh, Forward, Save to bookmarks, Share page, Find on page, full settings and a couple of more – Request desktop site (no more hunting for that “Desktop” option buried at the bottom of the site) and Save for offline reading.

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The web browser was redesigned

The full settings menu includes some really interesting options. For example, you can set your search engine to Yahoo or Bing, you can adjust text size and the level of which double tap will zoom in.

The browser borrows several features from its desktop counterpart: when searching for something, if the browser is confident you’ll click on a certain search result, it will start preloading that page right away so that it opens faster if you do click it. You can set this feature to work over Wi-Fi only to preserve data.

The other trick is the ability to open Incognito tabs.

Speaking of tabs, the tab switching interface looks exactly like the Recent apps list. You can even close tabs by swiping them off the screen.

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Switching tabs works the same way as switching apps does

Quick controls (available as a Google Labs extra) reveal five controls (New tab, Tabs, URL, Bookmarks, More) when you slide your finger in from the side. These really go a long way in improving the browser experience. Another cool feature from Labs is Full screen, which squeezes in a little more screen real estate by hiding the status bar.

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The Quick controls

The Adobe Flash Player app has been omitted from the Google Play store so if you don’t side-load it from somewhere the SL will only be able to handle HTML 5 videos out of the box.

You can also opt for the much-improved Google Chrome web browser. It’s very smooth and doesn’t crash nearly as much as when it was in beta mode. The interface is pretty simple – you get a combined URL and search bar on the top. To the right of it there’s a tab switcher button with the number of open tabs on it. Hitting the menu button reveals options like new tab, bookmarks, look at closed tabs on other devices, request desktop site, etc.

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Google Chrome

Switching between tabs is very intuitive. You just swipe to the left or right to move between various open pages. In the tab interface you can also swipe away tabs you don’t want anymore.

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Switching tabs in Chrome

Chrome offers full synchronization with your Google account. Just type it in and it will immediately connect to all of your devices with Chrome installed. The only thing that doesn’t get synced are your passwords.

Great organizing skills

The Sony Xperia SL doesn’t come with many organizational apps preinstalled. There’s no office document viewer, for instance, although you can get one from the Google Play store.

There’s a Notes app that comes with the Xperia SL. It’s pretty simple to use – you can select the color of the note and just start typing. There’s a handwriting recognition option too allowing you to draw with your hands on the Xperia SL or just use a stylus of some kind.

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The Notes app

The Power Saver app helps you extend your battery life by toggling things like Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth screen brightness, auto sync and background data on and off automatically when the battery charge falls below a certain user-defined threshold.

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The Power saver app

The calendar has three different types of view – daily, weekly and monthly. The lower section of the screen is reserved for a list of upcoming events. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.

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The organizer centerpiece – the calendar

The Calendar also pulls info on upcoming events from your Facebook account. Facebook events appear just like regular calendar entries, but you can’t edit them on the phone as they are read-only.

There is a nicely touch-optimized calculator aboard. The buttons are really big and easy to hit, and you can expand it to include advanced functions (trigonometry, logarithms).

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Regular Calculator • Scientific Calculator

The alarm clock app supports multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. The Alarms app can also work as a desk clock – you have a big toggle for the brightness, as well as weather info and shortcuts to a gallery slideshow and the music player.

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The Clock • Creating alarm

The stopwatch, world clock and timer are available within the clock app.

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World Clock • Stopwatch • Timer

The Google Play store is full of free apps that will cater to all your organizing needs.

Offline Google Maps and Wisepilot navigation

The Sony Xperia SL comes with a GPS receiver, which took about a minute to get satellite lock upon a cold start. You can use the A-GPS functionality to get near instantaneous locks. Alternatively, network positioning will do if you only need a rough idea of your location.

Google Maps is a standard part of the Android package and we’ve covered it many times before. It offers voice-guided navigation in certain countries and falls back to a list of instructions elsewhere.

3D buildings are shown for some of the bigger cities and you can use two-finger camera tilt and rotate to get a better view of the area.

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Google Maps

Google Maps uses vector maps, which are very data efficient. The latest version has an easy to use interface for caching maps – you just choose “Make available offline” from the menu and pan/zoom around until the desired area is in view (there’s an indicator showing how much storage caching that area will take). You can later view cached areas and delete ones you no longer need.

Note that there’s a limit to the size of the area you can cache – you can’t just make all of Europe available offline, not even a whole country. We managed to cache a big city and some surrounding regions before Maps told us the area is too big. Also, there’s no address search in the cached maps and you can only cache map data in supported regions of the world.

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Making an area of the map available for offline usage is very easy

You can plan routes, search for nearby POI and go into the always cool Street View. The app will reroute you if you get off course, even without a data connection.

Wisepilot is also part of the Sony Xperia SL package, with a 30 days trial of the full navigation license and downloadable maps for offline navigation.

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WisePilot navigation

Play Store has everything

Running on Android ICS, the Xperia SL has access to the latest apps and the ample built-in memory will guarantee you won’t have trouble with space.

The Store is organized in a few scrollable tabs – categories, featured, top paid, top free, top grossing, top new paid, top new free and trending. The in-app section is untouched though and it’s very informative – a description, latest changes, number of downloads and comments with rating. There is usually a demo video and several screenshots for most apps too.

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The Google Play Store

There are all kinds of apps in the Google Play Store and the most important ones are covered (file managers, navigation apps, document readers etc.).

Final Words

Sony has finally caught up with the competition in the Android mobile space. Once plagued by update issues and lack of powerful processing skills, the Xperia smartphones played an underhanded role and failed to make a serious impact, giving way to bold Galaxies and Desires to grab a strong hold.

With offerings that are now sporting dual-core Krait-clad processors and more megapixels than the fingers on both your hands, it seems Sony’s Xperia is gathering friction again. So where does that leave the Xperia SL? An almost exact match to the Xperia S, but arriving an extra year later, the Xperia SL can’t help but be demoted to midrange ranks.

Sony has the high-end well covered. With the Xperia T roaring into markets all around the world it’s the midrange and low-end that need attention. Sony already has plenty of battle-ready smartphones waiting to tackle the opposition but a seasoned expert like the Xperia SL couldn’t hurt. The Xperia J, Xperia V, tipo, miro, go and acro S, etc. could all use an experienced veteran such as the Xperia SL to keep carrying the Xperia flag.

But should you go for it and churn out the considerable amount of cash Sony is asking? Let’s have a look at the competition, shall we?

The Xperia S, naturally, is first to spring to mind. It costs a serious chunk less than the Xperia SL and is basically the same phone. It finally got the Android ICS treatment and it has the same processor which can be overclocked if those 200 MHz are all-important to your geeky self-pride.

Then, there’s the Xperia acro S. It’s pretty much the same package but adds expandable storage and a pinch of underwater and dust resistance. It also matches the Xperia SL on price.

Sony Xperia S Sony Xperia acro S
Sony Xperia S • Sony Xperia acro S

A glance in HTC’s direction reveals a couple of good-looking droids with Beats Audio on board. The One X has a bigger, gorgeous screen, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor that’s more than adequate and a stunning polycarbonate finish with eccentric smooth accents. It will set you back a bit more than an Xperia SL but is more likely to receive Android Jelly Bean than the Sony smartphone. The One S overtakes the Xperia SL on processing, having a potent Qualcomm S4 CPU ticking inside its mechanical chest. It’s also cheaper and, one would argue, prettier than an Xperia SL. But it loses on display resolution bringing forth only a qHD screen, albeit of the gorgeous Super AMOLED variety.

HTC One X HTC One S
HTC One X • HTC One S

If you’re not too hung up on the latest processor or expandable storage you could opt for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Android purists will also prefer it because of the timely software updates and the lack of custom launchers on top. It also costs considerably less than an Xperia SL whilst bringing an HD Super AMOLED screen on board with a comparable dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus I9250
Samsung Galaxy Nexus I9250

And finally, we give you the LG Optimus 4X – a quad-core Tegra 3 device with a 4.7″ True-HD IPS display of 720p resolution, which has LG’s affordable mindset behind it. It will set you back slightly less, while giving you more in terms of hardware. It also adds a microSD card slot to the equation making the choice a practical no-brainer.

LG Optimus 4X HD P880
LG Optimus 4X HD P880

We think the Xperia SL has reasons to compete but coupled with an overly ambitious price tag which could prove harmful. And if you’re an owner of an Xperia S you really won’t be able to find solid grounds on which to upgrade to an Xperia SL, other than the name that is. So why go for it at all? Well, it’s a solid smartphone, has ICS right out of the box, a beautiful HD display and a potent snapper on the back.

It all comes down to the capabilities you put the most stock in. If those are timely software updates or the latest processor tech, then you’d be better off with another smartphone. But if a high-res screen and camera are all-important to you, there’s little chance you’ll regret an Xperia SL purchase.

 

 

 

Source: GSM Arena

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