Sony Xperia TL - Much Improved But Still Imperfect (Part 2)

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At this point, you’d think that la late fall launch for an Android phone would guarantee it ships with Jelly Bean out of the box but you’d be wrong. However, we won’t criticize Sony too hard for unleashing Xperia TL with the 4.0.4 version of Ice Cream Sandwich. The company has served loyal customers very well by being as transparent as possible about the Xperia software upgrades and then actually delivering them (for the most part). Thus we have no doubt that the TL will see Android 4.2 one day – we’re just not sure when. Unfortunately, the company’s playing coy and won’t commit to a hard release date.

Xperia TL’s interface

Xperia TL’s interface

We have mentioned before, but to repeat: Xperia TL is the device that Ion should have been when it was released 6 months ago. It has a modern dual-core S4 processor and runs on Ice Cream Sandwich (which is not the latest version of Android). But we cannot shake off the feeling of boring, this is another phone behind the time. Clearly, other high-end smartphones which is equipped with the same CPU setup still exist, but they distinguish by providing more RAM, greater battery life, unparalleled optics, higher resolution, near-stock Android or even Jelly Bean. Here, all we get is the addition of James Bond “Skyfall” – related multimedia content (pre-set as the default wallpaper, ringtone and notification sound) and one SmartTag included in the box. Is that enough to make the TL stand apart? If you’re shaking your head, you’ve already known the answer.

The phone’s applications

The phone’s applications

Apart from that, the ICS capture of Sony is very interesting, there is nothing to belittle and provide a consistent experience with only a few changes. First of all, the company enhanced the way that users can customize the phone. Typically, a long click on any of the home screens would launch a dialog box in the middle of the screen, but on the TL, a transparent pane appears up top with 2 circular icons on either side: one for wallpapers and themes and the other for widgets. Sony’s also baked quick setting access into the drop-down notification tray, letting users easily with data, notification sound, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Building upon a tradition that the company started with the Xperia Tablet S, this Sony-made smartphone also has 3 of the company’s core media apps: Album, Movie and Walkman. These apps works just like there name implies, with Album offering several of options including a large range of colors, FX, crop and filter options, in addition to map view for geo-tagged shots. Meanwhile, Walkman offers the intuitive MP3 playing experience with a visualizer option, SensMe for categorizing tracks according to theme and an equalizer for sound adjustment. Of the 3 apps, Movies is the most fundamental, containing nothing more than 4 pre-installed Bond clips. Moreover, you get an Xperia link baked into settings, allowing you to connect the TL’s network connection to other Xperia tablets or VAIO PCs and small “floating” apps for calculator, notes, voice memos and timer, accessible via the task manager, which hover above open apps.

The phone’s calculator and calendar

The phone’s calculator and calendar

It’s not a Nexus (though we hope to see it the day), so you know there will be many floating software. Except for common apps such as Calendar, Clock, Messaging and Calculator, you will find 26 third-party apps – 10 of which belong to AT&T- cannot be uninstalled, only disabled. That means unless you root your device, these apps will live on behind the scenes, hogging up your allotted 16GB of internal storage. At the very least, you have the ability to clear them out of your app drawer.

Performance and Battery life

Comparision chart of performance

Comparison chart of performance

The TL is quick, smooth and, best of all, reliable. In our time with the device, we never once encountered a force close, frozen app or evidence of lag. The dual-core S4 inside is very quickly, handling a multiple of tasks with ease. As you expected, navigation through 5 home screens and access to the app drawer are affected without a hitch. Apps load quickly, while games like Need for Speed Shift run smoothly with no loss of frame rate.

In fact, the TL appears to be on par with those phones have similar specs, but how does it fair in synthetic tests? We pitted it again 2 other devices with S4 chips: AT&T’s Galaxy S III and One X variants. And as you can see below, all 3 phones equipped with the MSM8960 processor bring nearly similar results, with TL win clearly in AnTuTu CF-Bench. Although we mentioned to 1 GB of RAM as a con earlier, you can see here that there is no necessary in doubling the RAM for giving GS III a competitive advantage. In practice, the extra helping of RAM barely gives the GS III an edge in Quadrant testing.

Sony Xperia TL

·         Quadrant: 4,892

·         Vellamo: 1,767

·         AnTuTu: 7,091

·         SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms): 1,850

·         GLBenchmark Egypt Offscreen (fps): N/A

·         CF-Bench: 9,580

·         Battery life: 5:50

Galaxy S III (AT&T)

·         Quadrant: 5,084

·         Vellamo: 2,153

·         AnTuTu: 6,713

·         SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms): 1,926

·         GLBenchmark Egypt Offscreen (fps): 54

·         CF-Bench: 9,439

·         Battery life: 9:10

HTC One X (AT&T)

·         Quadrant: 4,784

·         Vellamo: 2,259

·         AnTuTu: 6,956

·         SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms): 1,453

·         GLBenchmark Egypt Offscreen (fps): 56

·         CF-Bench: 9,479

·         Battery life: 8:55

The Xperia TL’s short battery life is its biggest disadvantage by far. With moderate use, we were able to eke out nearly a full working day of use from the non-removable 1.850mAh battery. Under the pressure of the official battery test – Twitter is set to synchronize every 15 minutes, one push email account active, brightness set to 50% and radios for Wi-Fi and GPS enabled – the device notched just under 6 hours, which is similar to what we found with the TL’s European counterpart, the T.

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