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

Wondering about the differences between the Sony Xperia Z and the Sony Xperia ZL? We're here to help!

Published onJanuary 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 HTCon 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!

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