Sony Xperia Z vs Sony Xperia ZL: waterproof vs compact flagship battle

by: Mike AndriciJanuary 24, 2013

Sony Xperia Z vs Sony Xperia ZL [aa] (1)

As far as early predictions go, 2013 is shaping up to be a major turning point for Sony’s Android device manufacturing business. After years of fruitless efforts, the Japanese giant needs a breakthrough in 2013. Although Sony’s 2012 flagships featured its traditionally exceptional design language, as well as a few interesting software additions, overall the company has failed to compete against the likes of Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola.

In the Android Universe, January 2013 is, without a doubt, Sony’s month. During a period with relatively few major official announcements, the Japanese manufacturer has announced a trifecta of high-end devices: the Sony Xperia Z, the Sony Xperia ZL, and the Sony Xperia Z tablet.

While the Sony Xperia Z tablet leaves little room for confusion (it is a blazing fast, slim, and waterproof Android tablet), making a distinction between the Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL it’s a bit more difficult.

At first, it seemed that the Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL were aimed at different markets, but it now appears that the twins will become available together in numerous markets.

If you’re torn between the Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL, this post will help you pick the smartphone that best suits your needs. Without further ado, let’s pit the Sony Xperia Z against the Sony Xperia ZL.


Both the Sony Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL feature the same display: a 5-inch panel with 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution. That’s a industry-leading 443ppi density, for those interested in quantifying the crispness of the display.

Although the Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL appear to be using the very same panel used by HTC on the HTC Droid DNA / Butterfly, Sony has added a display calibration software in the mix, as well as its BRAVIA Engine 2 technology, which improves brightness and contrast in images and videos.

Sony Xperia Z vs Sony Xperia ZL [aa] (2)

The Xperia ZL (left) is noticeably smaller than the Xperia Z

Overall, the two smartphones feature what’s probably the best display currently available on any smartphone.

Verdict: Draw – both the Sony Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL feature the exact same display.


If you look at the Sony Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL side by side, the main differences between them become obvious.

While the Sony Xperia Z measures 139 x 71 x 7.9 mm (5.47 x 2.80 x 0.31 in) and weighs 146 grams (5.15 oz), the Sony Xperia ZL features a more compact form factor, but it’s also thicker, measuring 131.6 x 69.3 x 9.8 mm (5.18 x 2.73 x 0.39 in) and weighing 151 grams (5.33 oz).

The main design feature of the Sony Xperia Z is its IP57 certification for dust and water resistance. The Xperia Z can withstand being submerged for up to 30 minutes under one meter of water. Both the front and the back of the device are made out of tempered glass, which gives the Xperia Z a sleek, glossy appearance. In addition, it features a rather prominent camera button

Sony Xperia Z vs Sony Xperia ZL [aa] (3)

The back of the ZL is rubbery, while the Xperia Z is tempered glass.

The display of the much more compact Xperia ZL (which should not be used under the shower) is protected by hard tempered glass. Sony execs specified that this isn’t Gorilla Glass, nor Dragontrail, although the material is supposed to offer the same scratch resistance. The ZL swaps the glass for a rubbery material on the back, which improves grip. Sony representatives like to boast that the Xperia ZL features a 75 percent screen to front ratio, one of the highest on any smartphone.

Verdict: Given that we are talking about 5-inch smartphones, I’m personally inclined to favor the compact smartphone over the water resistant device. Xperia ZL wins this round in my book.

Internal Hardware


The Sony Xperia ZL and the Sony Xperia Z are both powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro system on a chip, featuring a 1.5GHZ quad-core Krait processor paired with an Adreno 320 GPU, alongside 2 GB of RAM.

Performance-wise, there isn’t any difference between the Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL, as they both use one of the best SoCs currently available on the market.

Internal Storage and SD card slots

For some users, 16GB of storage is barely enough, but Sony did compensate by equipping both the Xperia ZL and the Xperia Z with microSD slots. microSD cards of up to 32GB are supported.



Sony’s upcoming flagship phones both feature 13 MP primary cameras, but the main feature here is the Exmor RS sensor, which improves the overall quality of the images, but also enables HDR Video and HDR Photo capabilities.

The Xperia Z features a 2.2 MP front facing camera for video chatting, while the Xperia ZL features a 2MP sensor, mounted on the lower right side. This placement might appear odd, but Sony officials claim it’s backed by a perfectly logical explanation. Watch the video comparison below to learn more.


Oddly enough, despite the fact that the Xperia ZL is notably thicker, it does not feature a more powerful battery. You get a 2330mAh battery on the Xperia Z and a 2370 mAh battery on the Xperia ZL. You should expect similar battery life from these two Sony smartphones.

Verdict As far as hardware is concerned, the Xperia ZL and the Xperia Z are almost the same beast.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z

Android Version

Although Android 4.2 has been available for roughly two months now, Sony has opted to ship the Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL with Android 4.1 out of the box. Some recent rumors claim that Sony will update both its flagships to Android 4.2 shortly after release (in March), but don’t get your hopes up until official confirmation.

Sony has layered its proprietary UI on top of Android 4.1, in an attempt to place its media services front and center. Personally, I’m not a fan of proprietary Android user interfaces. Regardless how you feel about overlays, make sure to give the device a spin to get a feel of Sony’s latest user interface.

Verdict: Draw – same Android version, same proprietary overlay.

sony-xperia-zl [aa]

Sony Xperia ZL

Video comparison


Looking back, it’s funny to see that most of the tech media rushed to announce that the Sony Xperia Z is the flagship Sony smartphone of the first half of 2013.

The Sony Xperia ZL is not only just as powerful as the Sony Xperia Z, but also a much more compact device. Many Android users dislike the ever growing footprints of their smartphones (myself included), so I’m inclined to choose the Xperia ZL over the Xperia Z.

Sure, the Xperia Z will appeal to people who want to play GTA Vice City in their hot tub, but, in my vision, that’s a niche audience. Reasonable Android users will want to get the Sony Xperia ZL and play scuba-diving related jokes on their friends toting the Sony Xperia Z.

What do you guys think? Which is better: the waterproof Sony Xperia Z or the noticeably more compact Sony Xperia ZL? Let us know which way you swing in the comments section below!

  • Phoost

    There are two additional points:
    ZL has a IR-beam, Z not
    ZL has a camera button, Z not.

    • The Z does have a dedicated camera button.

      • Sorry, the Z doesn’t have a camera button, what you see on the right of the device is a power button.
        The author of the article got it wrong, Phoost is right ;)

    • The Xperia Z can withstand being submerged for up to 30 minutes under one meter of water. Both the front and the back of the device are made out of tempered glass, which gives the Xperia Z a sleek, glossy appearance. In addition, it features a rather prominent camera button

      • Mor Deth

        The person who said that is wrong. It’s a power button. Understand yet?

    • Jeetu K

      I read the entire comments and for anyone who did we can now understand why sony decided to go with 2 flagships .. because the vote is split down the middle between ppl who prefer Form ..and those who prefer function! its the ZL for me :)

  • le_lutin

    Gotta say, if I had the choice I’d go for the ZL. Better looking (from the front, anyway), better grip in the hand. And slightly easier to use (don’t have to open a flap every time you want to charge your phone)
    Question is, will any carriers in the UK stock the ZL?

    • Rudders34

      I really hope they do stock the ZL! Massively disappointed if it doesn’t, the Z is nice but it is niche I don’t shower with my phone or have desire to and the tempered glass back looks less comfy than the rubber back of the ZL, plus I’d worry about smashing it! I’m an iphone 5 user and bored of IOS so looking for a switch to Android mainly use the camera so Sony seems like a good choice!

  • z

    of course Xperia Z

  • th3d

    As a Note 2 user i have no problem with size, but i do have a problem with fat phones. Now the ZL is not nearly as fat as the Lumia 920 but it sure is a bit much still. There are hands on videos on youtube of Lumia 920 vs Xperia Z, look it up and you will see that Z is the smaller phone of the two.

    So for me the ZL has no size advantage. Big plus for the ZL is the shutter button, thats very good and that alone is a very good reason to get it over the Z. However water resistance and glass and slimness weights more in my book, i will go for the Z already at this point. But theres still one more thing…

    Now add the final point, which is a big disadvantage for the ZL, and i know its serious because i had a Nokia N9 before. Yes its the front camera, horrible placement unless you want to look for unwanted objects in your nostrils. This is obviously a result of the engineers trying to make it as short as possible, bad solution, they should have made it 1 or 2 mm longer instead so there would have been enough space for a front cam in the top bezel.

    • Dude. U can turn ur phone around. No nostril view..

  • Faizal Mohd

    ZL support 64GB card, Z do not
    ZL have the bigger battery not Z

    • Rudders

      They covered the battery aspect in the article but its not that much bigger!
      Where did you hear that the ZL expands to 64gb because I’ve read up loads of info about it and was under the impression it I’d just 32gb?! Do love the ZL though…

    • gregosor78

      confirmed by a french sony community manager, Z supports 64Gb sdxc card (he tested the Sandisk)

      • Rudders

        So it’s just the Z not the ZL?

        • Shatter Shatter

          Most phones that say support up to 32gb are wrong most will use up to 64 some will even use 128.

      • Sony official page says 32GB, so we’re sticking with that for now.

        • Surender

          Xperia ZL does not support 4GLTE

  • Sony should make one Xperia ZII with the same size of the ZL (or even a little smaller. I would be very happy with a 4.5″- 4,8″ screen, with that thin bezel), water and dust proof, and without the glass in the back.

  • Rudders

    I hope the ZL comes to the UK although Expansy’s have it on preorder but still no price release yet. I currently use the iphone5 and am making the change from IOS to Android- I know that this is not the purest Android experience (Nexus 4) but it looks great and has some amazing features like the camera, shutter button, rubber back and great screen. The reason I am fed up with Apple is it is in my opinion no longer ‘cool’ they charge extortionate amounts for extra memory, everything you do is restricted, I feel they will charge you for every little thing. I want a different experience I used to love the feeling of getting a new phone and learning how to use it but obviously with Apple I no longer have that!
    The ZL looks great and although it has a five inch screen it seems to be fairly compact and fit well in the hand, I love the middle of the back camera positioning and yeah the back cam is a little awkward I don’t use the front camera loads and if I do Skype I may just place the phone in a dock or something. I will miss iMessage though and I do have Apple TV which I use alot but I have an ipad mini I can use with that, I would like to stream wirelessly from the ZL to my TV without having to fork out for a Sony Bravia TV, looks like Sony have UP’d their phone game but although I’m willing to buy the ZL I certainly won’t be investing in their TV’s until I’m sure their product is worth it.

  • ProductFRED


    “Although Android 4.2 has been available for roughly 2 months now, Sony has decided to ship the Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL with Android 4.2 out of the box. Some recent rumors claim that Sony will update both its flagships to Android 4.2 shortly after their release (March), but you shouldn’t get your hopes up.”

    Should be “[…] decided to ship the […] with Android 4.1 out of the box.”

  • I wonder if the two phones will have different prices. If so, that would be another deciding factor in which one I get.

    • Rudders

      I’ve heard that the XL will be around €50 cheaper because its not water/dust proof, but as with everything at this point nothing is confirmed.

      • Yobhtron

        Here in KSA the price of ZL is more expensive than Z. :)

  • -GAK-

    I have been a fan of Sony since they introduced the Cybershot + handphone combination, and loved it ever since for it’s photography capability and user friendly interface. Owned my first Cybershot model which were K750i until I had a fishing trip accident which ends the phone soaking wet in sea together with me. Then bought my 2nd Cybershot model which were K800i and it works fantastic until it started to act weird & goes white screen almost once a week, albeit I reflashed it on my own and try to hang on to the phone for another 6 month til I finally fed up and gave up. Then I bought my third Sony Cybershot phone, the C905 which I really love, took it around the world and catches my memory as my job permits it, and still have that phone as of today. Even though my C905 had seen a better days with a cracked LCD display as a result of well used and a bruised and scratched battered body, it still serve me well for it’s photography capability and the picture that it has taken has always been proudly mistaken for a DSLR camera, experience had given me the ability to manipulate and taken full advantage of the camera capability. Everyone around me is upgrading to a smartphone craze, where I am still stuck to my C905. As for the introduction of Xperia Z, it really excite me as I have been thinking for a while for the next Sony that could suit my needs of lifestyle. Maybe for some, they will joke on playing GTA in a hot tub on the Xperia Z. But for me, it’s the perfect phone that i’ve been looking for to be on my side for the next few years, as my job in offshore oil and gas industry in a hostile enviroment demands a sturdy and tough gadget that I can rely on. I might not be very fortunate to be the lucky few who would be able to grab it first on release off the shelve, as I would be offshore on the time, but I sure would own one on oppurtunity. Hope Sony would create the next phone with Xperia Z durability + cybershot capability phone. I am a simple person with demanding job enviroment, adventurous lifestyle and a passion for photography, maybe one day Sony would create a phone of my dream.. Durability (For tough enviroment) + Android OS (Versatility) + Cybershot (Photography)..

  • Prototype

    Honestly, water resistance will become less and less essential from the factory if Liquipel is able to get their portable machines out into the retail scene the way they want to. The ZL is definitely tops in my book for now.

    • Oliver

      Water resistance is nice BUT the main advantage is you can use it in the rain / light snow without getting “interference” from wet fingers.. just had that problem at work while trying to write a text while in the snow, had to constantly wipe the screen off.. wouldn’t have that problem with an Xperia Z :)

  • Io

    Why waste precious 440 ppi space with the virtual buttons bar?

    • To reduce overall size of the phone, you use that precious space for videos and pictures, buttons getting in the way of other buttons? That’s just a silly thing to complain about.

  • IDK about everyone else, but the waterproof feature makes the Z better than any other phone , I would enjoy watching youtube in the bathtub. And this is a tangible reason that the phone is better than the iPhone haha.

    • Don’t worry, just put the zl into a bag. That’s what I do with my ipad!! hee hee! The bag will not block any sound or does any problem. It becomes fun at this stage: since the zl is water-responsive (means that the z can be submerged into the water without mistaking the water as a finger but you can’t use it underwater) you can try splashing the zl’s bag with the shower, last time, i sent a text to my friend via ipad using that!!

  • thunder

    sony xperia zl…

  • mango

    ZL IS A wiser choice

  • sfa

    isn’t zl has the capacity to be extended its memory up to 64gb

  • cherry

    Xperia Z cant have camera button so to make it water resistant so how can Acro S sport it? (‘_’)???

  • Jillxz

    For me , it’s the Sony Xperia Z

  • kc

    Xperia ZL
    Better notification light
    Shutter Button
    Slim Bezel
    More compact
    Less of a finger print magnet
    Feels more natural in hand due to the curved back

    • Again, the Z has a dedicated shutter button

      • strawberry

        No thaths the power sleep/wake button it has on screen button for camera

    • aw, yeah! Very cool notification light! Located at the side so that you can see it even if it’s covered with something! Z and S III and all those guys have notification lights BESIDE SPEAKER (of ear) and that is BAD. I’ve found myself relying on the lights (placed next to the lock button) to see that someone has sent me something (I always turn my phone around). So the ZL can notify me. Better shooting the light sideways or downwards where it’s dark than into broad daylight!

  • steveire

    Under design section u say the Z has a camera button, I thought it was the ZL?

  • I have one dilemma. Cause I think it would be really really cool to take underwater pictures with the Xperia Z. How do you guys think the quality of those pictures will be? And also.. will there be aaany way to control the TV with the Xperia Z? Cause that’s what makes me scratch my hair in frustration , when it comes to the decision of either Z or ZL.

    In short: Can I control my TV and other Sony stuff with Xperia Z, although it does not have the IR beam? And how will underwater-pictures be with Xperia Z?

    • No TV control in the zl. Z’s waterproof function is useless for me. After all, I don’t bring my phone to the pool as a security reason.

  • Benmartin1974

    Id’ been pondering ordering a Sony Xperia S for a couple of weeks. I read dozens of reviews and this one was very helpful , I received my package last week and am very happy. I Would highly recommend to anyone still unsure#

  • croc

    i’m gonna buy the Z…i think water and dust resistance is the matter of the choice!!!i think that the camera button is not fondamental…as in iphone5!i mean, autofocus is enough. 64 Gb??what the hell do u have to put in your phone??!!battery…i think they will be the same!design: zl is quite smaller,but the rubbery back is just like any other low level phones!do u need IR-beam?!at the moment in italy i can find just the z.
    i find it out with a contract: 18€ month (400min,400sms,1gb internet) for 24 month and i pay the phone cash 399€. it means 831€ for a two yaers contract all inclusive and the phone is mine from the beginning!

  • Ggoloe

    The performance of ZL is actually better than Z since the Z is suffering from overheating and therefore is slightly downclocked.

  • I think that not having a camera button is a quite large problem, especially on large and slim smartphones. While you tap on the camera button to take a photo, it’s likely that you may push the phone forward. Maybe not a lot, which makes the photo blurred, at least a bit (details blurred, like leaves or bricks in the background), so having a camera button is a lot better. Plus, a glass back is not good for dropping. Fingerprints tend to stick on the glass a lot.

  • I would like the Z because its usefull if u use the phone while its raining, or if ure backpack gets wet

  • Bladder777

    i have the Z – and it takes the cake

  • Anant

    In US Xperia Z supports only LTE Band 4 (which is of T-Mobile) but Xperia ZL supports all the bands 1,2,4,5,7 & 17

  • John Smith

    The Xperia zl

  • Naveen

    i used N70 and HTC HD 2 -both gone in 1yr due to screen and display problem. Is screen of xperia ZL hard and good one than samsung s3? PLEASE ADVICE

  • Naveen

    i used NOKIA N70 and HTC HD 2 in yhe past -both gone in 1yr due to screen and display problem. Is screen of xperia ZL hard and good one than samsung s3? PLEASE ADVICE

  • Nikza Ragas

    Zl for the durability
    z and ZL they almost have the same configuration
    Any ways I am not gonna go underwater for 365 days, I think Zl is a better choice