Sony Xperia SL review: The NXT one

GSMArena team, 15 October 2012.

Full-fledged connectivity

The Sony Xperia SL has quad-band 2G and 3G. Mobile data speeds are boosted by 14.4 Mbps HSDPA and 5.76Mbps HSUPA.

Local connectivity is covered by Wi-Fi b/g/n with DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct, so you can easily share content from your phone on a DLNA TV or music player. There's also Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP.

MicroUSB handles the charging and connecting to your PC and there's also USB On-the-go support so you can attach external flash drives to the SL.

Media Remote isn't preinstalled on the Xperia SL but you can get it through the Google Play Store. It will serve as a remote control for DLNA-capable BRAVIA TVs and Sony DVD/Blu-ray players too. There are a few versions of the interface ranging from simply changing the channels to mouse input and viewing disc history.

The Media Remote app is also available for free so that other Android smartphones can use it too.

The Xperia SL also comes with Sony's Smart Connect app, which replaces the former LiveWare manager, although the functionality remains basically the same. With Smart connect, you can automate a lot of tasks and settings on your device, like launching an app when you connect an accessory, or turning features on or off depending the phone's on charger and what-not.

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LiveWare manager can, for example, launch the music player as soon as you connect a headset

Web browsing is nice on ICS

The Sony Xperia SL enjoys the well known Android ICS web browser. This browser has a streamlined interface, incognito browsing and other cool features.

The browser is quite minimalistic; all you get is the URL bar with a tabs shortcut. Hitting the Menu key you get more options - Refresh, Forward, Save to bookmarks, Share page, Find on page, full settings and a couple of more - Request desktop site (no more hunting for that "Desktop" option buried at the bottom of the site) and Save for offline reading.

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The web browser was redesigned

The full settings menu includes some really interesting options. For example, you can set your search engine to Yahoo or Bing, you can adjust text size and the level of which double tap will zoom in.

The browser borrows several features from its desktop counterpart: when searching for something, if the browser is confident you'll click on a certain search result, it will start preloading that page right away so that it opens faster if you do click it. You can set this feature to work over Wi-Fi only to preserve data.

The other trick is the ability to open Incognito tabs.

Speaking of tabs, the tab switching interface looks exactly like the Recent apps list. You can even close tabs by swiping them off the screen.

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Switching tabs works the same way as switching apps does

Quick controls (available as a Google Labs extra) reveal five controls (New tab, Tabs, URL, Bookmarks, More) when you slide your finger in from the side. These really go a long way in improving the browser experience. Another cool feature from Labs is Full screen, which squeezes in a little more screen real estate by hiding the status bar.

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The Quick controls

The Adobe Flash Player app has been omitted from the Google Play store so if you don't side-load it from somewhere the SL will only be able to handle HTML 5 videos out of the box.

You can also opt for the much-improved Google Chrome web browser. It's very smooth and doesn't crash nearly as much as when it was in beta mode. The interface is pretty simple - you get a combined URL and search bar on the top. To the right of it there's a tab switcher button with the number of open tabs on it. Hitting the menu button reveals options like new tab, bookmarks, look at closed tabs on other devices, request desktop site, etc.

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Google Chrome

Switching between tabs is very intuitive. You just swipe to the left or right to move between various open pages. In the tab interface you can also swipe away tabs you don't want anymore.

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Switching tabs in Chrome

Chrome offers full synchronization with your Google account. Just type it in and it will immediately connect to all of your devices with Chrome installed. The only thing that doesn't get synced are your passwords.

Great organizing skills

The Sony Xperia SL doesn't come with many organizational apps preinstalled. There's no office document viewer, for instance, although you can get one from the Google Play store.

There's a Notes app that comes with the Xperia SL. It's pretty simple to use - you can select the color of the note and just start typing. There's a handwriting recognition option too allowing you to draw with your hands on the Xperia SL or just use a stylus of some kind.

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The Notes app

The Power Saver app helps you extend your battery life by toggling things like Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth screen brightness, auto sync and background data on and off automatically when the battery charge falls below a certain user-defined threshold.

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The Power saver app

The calendar has three different types of view - daily, weekly and monthly. The lower section of the screen is reserved for a list of upcoming events. Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.

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The organizer centerpiece - the calendar

The Calendar also pulls info on upcoming events from your Facebook account. Facebook events appear just like regular calendar entries, but you can't edit them on the phone as they are read-only.

There is a nicely touch-optimized calculator aboard. The buttons are really big and easy to hit, and you can expand it to include advanced functions (trigonometry, logarithms).

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Regular Calculator • Scientific Calculator

The alarm clock app supports multiple alarms, each with its own start and repeat time. The Alarms app can also work as a desk clock - you have a big toggle for the brightness, as well as weather info and shortcuts to a gallery slideshow and the music player.

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The Clock • Creating alarm

The stopwatch, world clock and timer are available within the clock app.

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World Clock • Stopwatch • Timer

The Google Play store is full of free apps that will cater to all your organizing needs.