I recently had the chance to check out a prototype model of Sony’s new Xperia ZL Android smartphone.
It was an overview of their soon to be released smartphone and I’ll have a review unit soon to put it through it’s paces. But what I did see, was pretty impressive.
The ZL marks Sony’s return to basics and focus on what made them such a popular electronics powerhouse. The ZL has a very small bezel giving it a huge, 5″ display. The back of the device is a really comfortable and grippy rubber material with a door to access the SIM and MicroSD card slots.
The screen of the ZL is stunning. I compared it with my iPhone 5 and my Nexus 4 and there was no competition. From viewing angle, to pixel resolution, the Sony was the clear winner. I’m told that the same technology that goes into their Bravia line of televisions is in the ZL’s display.
I was obviously interested in the onboard 13 megapixel camera as well. I’ve always been disappointed with cameras in Android phones compared to the iPhone…there is just something in the processing of the image that always (to me) seemed better in the Apple device, despite having the same ‘specs’ as the Android camera. Sony has taken what they learned with their Cybershot line of cameras and integrated them in the ZL.
A dedicated camera button on the ZL makes it easy to quickly get the shot. The addition of a number of different intelligent photo modes that can detect if your subject is moving or still adds to the ease of use in getting that shot quickly.
A number of realtime effects can also be added in camera rounding out the native camera application. I’m looking forward to exploring this aspect of the ZL further.
They have also added an animated globe to show you where your geo-tagged photos were taken.
A lot of work has been done on the battery features of the ZL. Adding a Stamina mode that can turn off unneeded apps and functions of the device can extend the battery life dramatically. I’m always skeptical about these kinds of features because they tend to turn off features I want to be running in the background so I’ll wait until my demo unit arrives before passing judgement.
One of the unexpected advances in the ZL is the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) instead of Bluetooth for pairing the device. They had a number of different gadgets on hand that we could pair the ZL with including headsets, headphones, portable speakers and even a TV remote. Unlike Bluetooth pairing which usually requires a passcode and some settings to be enabled, the NFC devices simply needed to be touched to the back of the ZL to pair. Even pairing with the TV remote would enable you to stream any content on your ZL to the paired TV with no fuss.
The Xperia ZL is expected to be formally launched in early April and I’ll have a deeper rundown of it’s features very soon.The ZL is now available.
UPDATE: Sony loaned me a ZL to try out for a week and everything lived up to the preview hype…it’s a fantastic phone with an even better camera. Here’s some sample shots I took with the loaner:
The camera settings are extensive…it really does feel like you’ve got a proper camera, albeit a point and shoot inside your smartphone.
The only beef I had with my loaner ZL was that it seemed to be a dust magnet…I’m used to new phones, fresh out of the box having some residual dust sticking to the screen which usually had some kind of protective wrapper or sticker on it. The ZL, no matter how much I cleaned it, always seemed to have a bunch of particles on it’s screen. In contrast, I recently got a replacement iPhone 5 (busted power button) that had the same screen protecting sticker and it was dustfree from the beginning. I’m sure it would have eventually stopped but I only had it for a week so it was a minor issue.