My review for the Xperia ZL

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Hi, Android Army. Lately, I've been seeing a lot of reviews for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One here in the forums. The attention these android smartphones are getting is understandable. So I thought I give some love to Sony and Sony enthusiasts and put out a quick review for a smartphone rarely talked about: The Xperia ZL. I've recently purchased an Xperia ZL and would like to share my experience with this phone to the community. So without further ado, here is my quick review.

Why not the Xperia Z?

If we base it on the marketing push that Sony's been giving to their products, the Xperia Z is the better phone. It is water resistant; it has a slimmer chassis; it is the most elegant of the bunch. So why didn't I get the Z? Well, the answer is simple. The ZL is more compact and the white model is just handsome. The cheaper price tag also works for its favor. And I hate having to open port flaps every time I need to charge and listen to music.

The Bad

Almost everyone who has written off Sony's 2013 smartphone line has scathing words for the viewing angles of the TFT display. In my case, I thought it wouldn't be that bad for me. I thought it is tolerable. Well, it is. But the bad viewing angle just spoils it for me. Sure the colors are spot on at direct angle, but if you're one to read messages on your phone while it's flat on your work desk, you'd feel bad that the colors look wash away from that angle. For someone like me who has been spoilt to good viewing angles by the HTC One X and the OG Galaxy Note, having to experience bad viewing angles spoils the whole premium experience.

The camera isn't particularly attractive at low-light either. I've had troubles focusing at low light, but it doesn't bother me much since I use the camera for casual purposes. At best, it's better than the Nexus 4's camera. At worst, it's as bad as the One X. Noise galore!

Not particularly fond of how protruding the metal frame on the front display. It's just weird for me. I want the face to be as flat as possible and the metal frame kind of protrudes and destroys the flatness of the phone's face.

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The Good

The skin is actually good. For me, Sony offers the most usable OEM skin. It's very close to stock Android. It's not as color-bombed as TouchWiz and not as obstructive as Sense. And the hardware and software complement each other. I couldn't care much for additional functionality of TW or Sense. I've gotten used to stock so much, Sony's skin doesn't stray much from home.

The phone's weight is just perfect. It's not very light to feel cheap. It's not very heavy to hinder portability. And the weight is evenly balanced across the phone.

Phone calls on the ZL are surprisingly crisp and clear. This is perhaps due to the noise-canceling mic. Coming from the poor call experience in my One X where I can barely hear the person I am talking to, the ZL's earpiece is just delightful.

Handling is also easier than the Xperia Z and the curved back makes it feel good on the hand. This phone is narrower than the Galaxy S3 and one-handed operation is easier. It's a hair wider than the Nexus 4, a difference negligible. The matte white back is also beautiful and feels good on the hand.

Normally, we think a thin phone makes for a better phone, but for me, anything that goes lower than 9mm is too thin and is prone to slipping. This phone is 9.8mm thick but it doesn't always feel thick and for me, it's the right size.

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The Beautiful

I buy Sony phones because they have beautiful chassis design. I also love the way a white Sony phone looks. This is the first high-end phone Sony to have a white bezel. The white Xperia Z has a black bezel.

The screen, while having terrible viewing angles, at direct angle is just absorptive. The colors pop out crazy. And once the Bravia Engine kicks in, videos and photos look amazing and eye-watering. Color accuracy is as good as on the One X, in my opinion. It's just that the colors wash away at a tilt.

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Why not the HTC One?

I hate Sense. I am not sold by the 4 Ultrapixels camera (ick). Not sold by the gimmicks of Zoe. And after the One X, I don't think I'd ever want an HTC phone again. Also not particularly in love with the HTC One's looks.

Why not the Galaxy S4

I hate TouchWiz to hell. The S4 looks and feels too tacky for me, too.