Sony released a refresh of the Xperia S back in August and the reason you might not have heard about it is because Sony just quietly slipped it in. There’s a good reason for this since the Xperia SL is exactly the same as the Xperia S, except for two things – a slightly faster CPU and Android 4.0. Apart from this, the new phone appears to be a near carbon copy of the old one and as expected, is priced at the same price point as the old one.

A handsome looking phone

A handsome looking phone

Design and Build
The Xperia SL carries forth the same solid build of the Xperia S and despite it being plastic, manages to feel sturdy and very well made. It does appear a bit blocky due to the lack of rounded edges and a slim profile. At 10.6mm, I wouldn’t exactly call it fat, and it’s pretty light as well with the battery at 144g. On the connectivity front, you will find a plastic flap-covered microUSB port and HDMI port on either side, while the 3.5mm headphone jack is placed on the top. Buttons on the phone include the volume rocker, camera shutter and a power/sleep button. We had a major issue with the capacitive buttons on the first model, which didn’t seem very responsive. Unfortunately, the SL isn’t any better and the same problem persists. The 4.3-inch HD screen sails past the iPhone’s Retina Display with a pixel count of 342ppi. Coupled with the Sony Mobile BRAVIA Engine, this makes anything and everything on the screen appear super sharp and crisp. Colour reproduction is very good and so is the sunlight legibility. The display also supports 10 finger multi-touch gestures. The rear of the phone remains unchanged as well with the camera, LED flash and speaker grill all vertically lined up. 

The capacitive buttons still don't work right

The capacitive buttons still don't work right

Features
Interface and Media
The interface is a lot snappier from our first encounter with its close cousin and that’s mostly due to the fact that it’s ICS this time around. Not the latest in the Android world, but we’ll take what we get. The phone should be getting a Jelly Bean update as well somewhere down the line, at least we hope so. Sony has stuck with the same features and functions in Timescape from its previous phones and just tweaked some of the apps; after all, why fix something that’s not broken? The interface is incredibly smooth and fluid, and the lingering lag that was present in the old phone seems to have been ironed out.

Very good audio performance

Very good audio performance

The phone is powered by the same dual-core Qualcomm MSM8260 processor, but now it runs at 1.7GHz instead of 1.5GHz. The slight bump in speed helps get rid of some of the lag in the UI as well as gives a little boost to demanding apps like 3D games and photo/video editing. This also helps when browsing, as image heavy sites tend to render a little quicker. Audio quality is very good as well and the music player is simple and easy to use. There are plenty of equaliser settings along with special audio enhancements. We found the ‘Studio’ preset to be the most effective for most genres of music.

Connectivity
The Xperia S is a quad-band GSM and quad-band 3G phone with support for advanced speeds like 14.4Mbps HSDPA and 5.8Mbps HSUPA. We also have the usual assortment of Wi-Fi ‘n’, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, NFC and Bluetooth v3.0 (Xperia S had Bluetooth v2.1). For the entire list of the extra apps that come pre-bundled, do have a look at our Xperia S review.

Packs in a powerful battery

Packs in a powerful battery

Camera
The 12MP shooter excels at macro shots but only if the lighting condition is ideal. Outdoor shots come out really well with really good amount of detail in the pictures. When we tried to capture the same subject indoors, despite the decent lighting condition, there was lot of noise in the image. We had this issue with the Xperia S as well and as it turns out, it seems to be a limitation of the sensor more than the image processing algorithms. You also get plenty of depth of field effect in close-up shots. There’s no touch-to-focus since you have a dedicated camera shutter button.

Really good outdoor macro shots

Really good outdoor macro shots

Battery Life
As far as battery life is concerned, the 1750mAh battery should deliver very similar performance as the Xperia S, despite the slight bump in clock speed. We’ll update this with the exact numbers from our video drain tests and loop tests, but so far under regular usage, the SL should easily be able to last you an entire day even with heavy usage.

All lit up!

All lit up!

Verdict and Price in India
The Xperia SL retails in the market for Rs. 30,999, which is an absurd price considering the older Xperia S can be found for as low as Rs. 24,000. Nothing has really changed at all apart from the software update. The speed bump is good, but once the Xperia S gets ICS, you’ll never notice the difference. Instead of this, the LG Optimus 4X HD makes an excellent buy at around Rs. 28,000 as it packs in a more powerful quad-core SoC and larger screen.

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