The Sony Xperia L is an attractive mid-range handset that copes easily with most everyday tasks. Some of the top features have been omitted to keep the price tag down, but overall it packs in plenty for the money.
Attractive design; Feature-packed mid-range snapper.
Limited onboard storage; Battery life is average.
Anyone who hankers after the Sony flagship handset, the Xperia Z, with its 5in screen, but just doesn’t have the wallet to cope with its price tag, has been taken care of with the release of a pair of more budget-friendly phones. There’s the 4.5in Xperia SP, and the phone we review here – the 4.3in Xperia L.
The Xperia L still manages to boast a dual-core chip and feature-packed snapper, yet costs around half as much as its big brother – which is nice.
One of our favourite points about the Xperia SP was the light that glowed beneath the display, letting the user know if they had any notifications waiting. It appears on the Xperia L, too, and it is bright enough to make sure you notice it – in fact at night we ended up hiding the handset because the light was almost bright enough to illuminate the room.
The Xperia L’s chassis is good looking, slightly chunky but with a little bit of curve. You’ll also notice the now iconic aluminium power key that juts out from the right side of the handset. The front is made entirely of glass, separated from the back panel by a slim silver band. It looks good and feels good to hold in one hand – the back panel has a rubber finish that means it’s easy to grip. It’s just a shame the glass panel is such a smudge-magnet.
The Xperia L is the lightest of its stablemates, weighing only 137g. The back panel is easy to prise off, once you know how, and hides the Micro SD memory card and SIM card slots. The battery is also replaceable.
Sony has cut back on the processor to keep the price lower. Although a dual-core chip still sits under the hood, it’s now only a 1GHz model – the SP sported a 1.7Ghz version. However, it still handles the latest apps and games well, and surfing the net proved a smooth experience when we browsed using Google Chrome. Pages loaded and scrolled speedily and there was no evidence of stuttering, even on the busiest of websites.
Playing the latest Android games showed the chip was capable of intensive tasks – even the speediest of action games proved no problem for it. Frame rates were high and there were no glitches at all, which should keep gamers happy. Note though that other dual-core handsets can be found for far less – take the Huawei Ascend G510 for instance.
Cut the pixels
The display is another area where costs have been cut. The screen measures 4.3 inches and has a 480 x 854 resolution, (that’s a pixel density of only 228 pixels-per-inch, compared with 319 on the Xperia SP and the Xperia Z’s 441).
Nevertheless, the visuals still look clean and crisp and the screen was fine for watching full-length films and viewing photos. You’ll see richer, vibrant colours on the likes of the Nokia Lumia 720 and Motorola Razr. Turned on to full brightness, the display proved bright enough to counter sun glare.
So how’s battery life? Well, it’s what you’d expect from a mid-ranger. The Xperia SP was able to hold on for 24 hours, and the Xperia L does the same. Games and video will cut your time of course, and if you’re streaming video continuously expect the battery to run out of juice in four and a half hours. If you want a phone that manages for more than a day before needing to be charged, consider the Huawei Ascend G510.
The OS of choice is Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which has been given some Sony tweaks, features Xperia wallpaper and has some Sony services and apps pre-loaded. There’s Sony Select, for example, which recommends apps it thinks you may like; Diagnostics checks for any problems with your handset, and you can access Sony’s mobile games using Playstation Mobile.
The Walkman apps is great fun – it’s easy to use to organise and play your music. With only 4GB of storage onboard, remember you’re likely to want to splash out on a memory card to hold your music collection.
You can also connect quickly to other Sony NFC devices using Smart Connect, which allows you to stream music to speakers or use your phone as a remote for your TV. It does mean you’re tied into using Sony-only devices, but if you’ve always dreamed of a fully-connected home, this is the way to do it.
The 8MP snapper takes a few seconds to fire up, but we’re hoping that this was a review model issue that will be sorted out in final retail models. Once it was up and running, it worked well, especially for a mid-range snapper. It does lack the excellent Superior Auto mode that featured on the cameras on the Xperia Z and SP, but still has plenty to offer.
A gentle push on the shutter button sees the lens focus on the subject, and a full push takes the snap. This resulted in particularly impressive macro (close-up) shots. The snaps all looked as good on our PC monitor as they did on the phone’s display. Detail is impressive, especially in HDR mode – and colours realistic.
There are all sorts of features included, such as smile shutter, self time, quick launch tool (which means the camera fires up when the shutter button is pressed while the handset is in hibernation mode), and image stabiliser. Fun lenses include Fisheye and Sketch, which turns snaps into cartoon, plus there’s panorama mode and the ability to grab HD video. A front-facing snapper is on offer for Skype chats and self-portraits.
The Xperia L is the most affordable of the new generation of Xperia phones, and while it may be missing a few of the excellent features in the more pricey models, it still offers plenty for a mid-range handset. The CPU can cope with the latest games and apps, as well as everyday tasks such as surfing the net, and the eight-megapixel snapper is feature packed and very capable. Just bear in mind that there are handsets such as the Huawei Ascend G510 that have superior battery life for a lower price tag.
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