By Ben Bowers
on 11.10.12
Photo by GP

Sony has struggled to create a successful smartphone in a U.S. Android handset market stuffed tighter than Oddjob in a dinner jacket. Its latest Xperia TL flagship, however, is the first compelling device we’ve seen from the lauded Japanese electronic giant, thanks to a spec list that can finally stand toe to toe with other top-tiered devices from the likes of HTC and Samsung. In fact, it features the same 1.5Ghz dual-core S4 processor found in American GSM versions of the Samsung SIII and HTC One X, in addition to a 720p display, 4G LTE connectivity, NFC, 16GB of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD) and a whopping 13MP camera.

Physically, the Sony Xperia TL is also a definite departure from the run-of-the-mill slabs seen everywhere else. Its black plastic bezel and anodized aluminum concave back create a solid feel in the hand that feel premium to some (or simply heavy to others). Strangely, all of the external buttons are grouped closely together on the lower right side of the screen. We assume this placement was chosen to make accessing the volume rocker, power toggle and dedicated camera shutter easy with one hand, but accidental presses are also just as likely when holding it in typical portrait fashion.

Sony ships Android 4.0 (a.k.a. Ice Cream Sandwich) with the phone, which many will note is slightly behind the Android Jelly Bean curve. Still, most Android phones on the market are stuck in a similar holding pattern until individual manufacturers sort out an upgrade path, so this isn’t a game changer. The Xperia TL hums through menus and apps with ease, for a snappy, responsive feel that will please most power users, Bond included.

Collectively, the Xperia TL is definitely a step in the right direction for Sony and a relative value given it sells for $99 at AT&T with a 2-year contract, even if it (sky)falls short of today’s current Android champions.

Buy Now: $99