Sony Xperia SL review: The NXT one

GSMArena team, 15 October 2012.
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Xperia on Ice Cream Sandwich

The Sony Xperia SL runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich out of box and it's got the custom Sony launcher on top of it, so the interface doesn't feel too different. It's not exactly identical to what you got with the Xperias that started with Gingerbread and were promoted to ICS, but we still found our way around reasonably quickly.

It's a little disappointing that the Xperia UI found on the Xperia T didn't make its way to the SL. It had a revamped task switcher interface with the active, on-screen widgets, which featured a live overlay over the homescreen (video player, etc.) and the more functional notification area with various toggles.

As usual, we're starting with a short video of the user interface:

The Xperia SL has the usual five-pane homescreen configuration, but there is no option to add or remove panes. Along the bottom, there are five docked shortcuts (the app drawer shortcut and two on each of its sides). These are visible across all five homescreen panes and are user configurable: they can be either single icons or folders with multiple items in them.

Speaking of folders - they show thumbnails of the first four items in them.

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The Sony Xperia SL UI • Choosing theme • Folders

As with older Sony smartphones, you can change the color theme of the launcher according to your preferences.

The homescreen does a neat trick called Overview mode. Pinch to zoom out on any of the 5 homescreen panes and a new screen opens up with a cool transition. All active widgets gather there for easy viewing and selection.

Sony Xperia Sl
The Overview mode helps you find the widget you are looking for

The Xperia SL has some custom-made Sony widgets in addition to the standard set. Those include the Timescape widget (there's a dedicated app too) and a Mediascape-like widget for photos and videos (the actual app isn't there anymore, but the Album gallery is).

When on a homescreen pressing the menu button opens up a context menu under the status bar. It gives you two options - choosing a widget and choosing a wallpaper/theme. It's oddly placed and easy to miss at first because the animation is so underplayed it looks as if nothing has happened.

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Widgets menu • Wallpaper menu

A cool new addition to the lockscreen, missing from the pre-ICS Xperias, is the Walkman widget which lets you control music playback without unlocking the phone. You can also enable Face, Pattern, PIN or Password unlock, in ascending order of security.

Moving and removing widgets hasn't changed and is as simple as on droids of old - hold a finger over a desired widget and move it around. The action has a cool wobble animation to it.

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Moving and deleting widgets

The standard notification area and task switcher are of course present and accounted for, with no custom touches to them. For some reason, the notification area isn't accessible from the lockscreen as it usually is on ICS (and on other ICS-running Xperia phones).

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The lockscreen • Lockscreen options • The standard notification area and task switcher

As a part of the ICS platform you get the Data usage app. Sony provided one on Gingerbread as well, but this one is far more accurate in calculating your used traffic. It also lets you set a limit for mobile data usage for a specific period and o gives you a breakdown of which apps have used how many of your precious bytes.

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Data usage app

Sony has added its own Backup & reset feature for Android ICS. It works for apps you've uninstalled and then reinstalled again, restoring them with the previous saved settings. The reset menu also lies in the same submenu.

Sony Xperia Sl
Backup & reset

Sony have made a lot of improvements to the standard ICS build, but also omitted some that other OEMs are opting for. For example, Samsung has a Remove all feature when you open the task switcher. Also, there are still no connectivity toggles in the notification area and there's no option to change the number homescreen panes.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Sony Xperia SL is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8260 Snapdragon chipset, which packs two 1.7 GHz Scorpion cores, 1 GB of RAM and an Adreno 220 GPU, which has all of 1280 x 720 pixels to push. It's a nice smartphone setup but not class leading anymore.

We begin with the Quadrant benchmark where the Xperia SL clocks in at the last spot, which is normal considering its competition is mostly quad-cores with the occasional dual-core Krait.

Quadrant

Higher is better

  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    5952
  • Sony Xperia TX
    5793
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    5365
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    5170
  • Motorola DROID RAZR M
    5126
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    4814
  • Sony Xperia T
    4774
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    4178
  • Motorola RAZR i
    4125
  • Sony Xperia SL
    3396

AnTuTu

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    13562
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    11820
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    11735
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    11633
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    10767
  • Sony Xperia SL
    7291
  • Motorola RARZ i XT890
    6150

In BenchmarkPi the Sony Xperia SL was able to defeat the single-core Intel Atom processor in the Motorola RAZR i.

BenchmarkPi

Lower is better

  • Motorola DROID RAZR M
    264
  • Sony Xperia T
    269
  • Sony Xperia V
    286
  • Sony Xperia TX
    289
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    294
  • HTC One S
    306
  • HTC One X
    330
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    344
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    402
  • Sony Xperia SL
    464
  • Motorola RAZR i
    534

Linpack tests the calculative performance of the two Scorpion cores inside the Xperia SL - it came second to last, only beating the RAZR MAXXX.

Linpack

Higher is better

  • HTC One S
    210.0
  • Sony Xperia T
    198.9
  • Motorola DROID RAZR M
    188.9
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    186.4
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    177.1
  • HTC One X
    160.9
  • Motorola RAZR i
    108.5
  • Sony Xperia SL
    83.6
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    51.2

Greekbench 2 tests CPU, GPU and memory speed, but sadly, the Xperia SL came quite short of the other devices we have tested.

Geekbench 2

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1845
  • LG Optimus G
    1723
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1661
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    1634
  • Apple iPhone 5
    1601
  • Sony Xperia T
    1625
  • iPhone 5
    1601
  • HTC One S
    1589
  • Sony Xperia SL
    1060

NenaMark 2 tests the GPU performance in a graphical stress test. The Xperia SL managed 38 frames per second, which by far not the greatest result we have seen.

NenaMark 2

Higher is better

  • Motorola DROID RAZR M
    61.1
  • HTC One S
    60.5
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    58.8
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    56.7
  • HTC One X
    47.5
  • Sony Xperia SL
    38.0
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    36.9

SunSpider and BrowserMark test both the JavaScript and the chipset performance. The Xperia SL did decently well in the first one, beating a couple of Krait-powered devices in the process, but did quite poorly in the second.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    972
  • Motorola RAZR i
    1043
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1304
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1446
  • HTC One X
    1468
  • Sony Xperia T
    1608
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    1647
  • Sony Xperia SL
    1697
  • HTC One S
    1708
  • Motorola DROID RAZR M
    1861
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    2136

BrowserMark

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    185034
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    169811
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    147582
  • HTC One X
    140270
  • Motorola RAZR i
    129562
  • Motorola DROID RAZR M
    113620
  • Sony Xperia T
    111265
  • Motorola Atrix HD
    107535
  • HTC One S
    98435
  • Sony Xperia SL
    97128
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    92653

The Xperia SL isn't meant to be a top scorer against more contemporary competition. It did slow down at times but definitely not as much as to be considered a deal-breaker. The two older processor cores have to push the heavy Xperia UI along with the 720p display and do it well enough in most case scenarios.

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