Buying a high-end smartphone these days is just a as difficult as picking one from the mid or entry level segment. Gone are the days when manufacturers had just a single phone which they called their flagship. Today, companies have multiple offerings in the high-end segment and to make it worse, these handsets have an even shorter shelf life than the ones below them. Our latest Catch-22 situation arises with the Xperia Z and the ZL. These are currently Sony’s flagship offerings – very similar in terms of specifications, yet very different handsets.

On the face of it, it might seem like a no-brainer to go with the Z since the price difference is just Rs 2,000 (based on current market and online prices). However, after spending enough time with both the handsets, we think otherwise. Let’s gloss over some of the key areas that set these two apart. 

Design and dimensions
Both the handsets look very similar upfront and even have the same button placement. But that’s where the similarities end. The Z is definitely more striking and will grab your attention more than the ZL. It has more street presence due to the glass back and is a lot slimmer as well. While this may look very glamorous, the design is far from ergonomic. The sharp edges and flattened chassis makes it tough to grip when swiping through the menus or simply making a call. The glossy sides aren’t much help either. The Z is also quite a large phone, so one handed operations are not always possible.

The Xperia ZL's front camera is placed below the screen

The Xperia ZL's front camera is placed below the screen

The ZL, on the other hand, is a bit chunkier and heavier but has a much nicer grip. The rubberised, textured back sits snugly in your hand and doesn’t slip off that easily. The ZL also has more manageable dimensions while keeping the screen size the same. Sony has shaved down the bezel quite a bit, all around, which makes the phone seem smaller.

Call quality and speaker
The earpiece volume issue on the Xperia Z is the most annoying bit. Due to all that water and dust-proofing efforts, we’ve ended up with a substantially low call volume, which is further weakened by a very narrow opening. Due to this, you have to hold the phone at exactly the right angle to your ear in order to hear clearly, otherwise it just gets muffled. The speaker volume is also pretty low, which makes it tough to hear alerts.

The ZL does not have any of these issues. The earpiece and speaker are amply loud and you can hear calls and alerts easily in noisy areas as well.

IP55/57 certification
This is the biggest differentiating factor between the Z and ZL. The Xperia Z is dust and water resistant, which means you can afford to be careless with it. It can even survive underwater up to 1 metre for 30 minutes, which is very impressive. We don’t see any other flagship bragging about this yet. 

Standing tall

Standing tall

IR port and barometer
Compensating for the lack of IP55/57 certification, the ZL is fitted with an IR port and a barometer. The latter helps your phone sense local changes in atmospheric pressure and can assist your GPS for navigation by calculating the altitude. And since this is a passive sensor, it won’t eat up much of you battery either. The IR port can be used for the most obvious scenario, i.e. controlling your TV. Sony has a built-in app with pre-programmed remote functions for all major TV brands.

The Xperia ZL has a marginally higher capacity battery compared to the Z, so in the end, the battery life is more or less the same. Both phones will last you one entire day, provided you enable STAMINA and power saving modes, which restrict data usage to only the most necessary apps. Thankfully, the ZL does not overheat like the Xperia Z, which makes it more comfortable to live with.

The bottom line
Apart from the above mentioned differences, both the handsets are nearly identical in terms of processing power, camera, display and multimedia capabilities. We can see how the Xperia Z can be a tempting buy for just Rs 2,000 more, but that waterproofing comes at a cost. We recommend you put your money on the Xperia ZL and spend the difference on a 32GB microSD card instead.

Read the full Review:

Sony Xperia Z
Sony Xperia ZL

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