Sony Xperia L Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

The Sony Xperia L is a mid-range device that screams Sony from the first look. And in a world filled with affordable mid-range Android devices design is of paramount importance. In this case, the Xperia L is an elegant phone, featuring a noticeable inward curve and a beautiful diffused LED light strip at the bottom that lights up whenever you have notifications pending.

With a 4.3 inch screen the Xperia L is a compact handset, great for single handed operation. It has no huge ambitions when it comes to performance or camera quality, but for some a smooth overall experience in the interface might be enough. Is there more to the Xperia than it appears on the surface, though? Read on to find out.


Design:

The Xperia L has the very distinct for Sony concave shape we have first seen in the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. It adds an extra flare of elegance but is also practical as it makes it harder for the device to slip out of the hand. Overall the device feels solidly built. In terms of physical dimensions, it has this prolonged hexagon shape that makes it look a bit larger than the typical 4.3-inch smartphone. The soft-touch plastic back makes it pleasant to hold.


Sony Xperia L
Dimensions

5.07 x 2.56 x 0.38 inches

128.7 x 65 x 9.7 mm

Weight

4.83 oz (137 g)

HTC One SV
Dimensions

5.04 x 2.63 x 0.36 inches

128 x 66.9 x 9.2 mm

Weight

4.30 oz (122 g)

Nokia Lumia 720
Dimensions

5.04 x 2.66 x 0.35 inches

127.9 x 67.5 x 9 mm

Weight

4.52 oz (128 g)

LG Optimus L7 II
Dimensions

4.78 x 2.62 x 0.38 inches

121.5 x 66.6 x 9.7 mm

Weight

4.07 oz (116 g)

Sony Xperia L
Dimensions

5.07 x 2.56 x 0.38 inches

128.7 x 65 x 9.7 mm

Weight

4.83 oz (137 g)

HTC One SV
Dimensions

5.04 x 2.63 x 0.36 inches

128 x 66.9 x 9.2 mm

Weight

4.30 oz (122 g)

Nokia Lumia 720
Dimensions

5.04 x 2.66 x 0.35 inches

127.9 x 67.5 x 9 mm

Weight

4.52 oz (128 g)

LG Optimus L7 II
Dimensions

4.78 x 2.62 x 0.38 inches

121.5 x 66.6 x 9.7 mm

Weight

4.07 oz (116 g)

Compare these and other phones using our Size Comparison tool.


All of the physical buttons are located on the right hand side: the new round power button that sticks out a bit, a volume rocker above it and a dedicated camera shutter key on the bottom. On the back there is an 8-megapixel camera with a single LED flash.



Finally, all of that comes in three color versions - a starry black, diamond white and a red one.

Screen:

The 4.3-inch screen is a welcome break from the large 5-inch and bigger screens of today as you can actually operate this device with just one hand. Sony uses the Android on-screen buttons for navigation. That means they do take up a bit of those 4.3 inches, so in reality there is less room for icons and other usable content.

At 4.3 inches diagonal and with a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels the screen is not amongst the sharpest ones out there. Pixel density comes at the mediocre 228ppi.

Viewing angles are fairly average and when you tilt the device you’d notice colors losing their saturation. Even without tilting the device though colors look a bit bleak and that is especially noticeable in the blacks that tend to look greyish rather than pitch black. Brightness is sufficient for outdoor use especially if you manage to get the device at the right angle to avoid reflections.



Interface:

The Xperia L features Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with Sony’s own skin on top. It’s not too heavy and it’s all about good looks.

Starting from the lock screen that unwinds like a shade but also gives quick access to the camera you get some neat visuals throughout. Sony’s UI is rich in wallpapers and colorful themes so you don’t have to go far to start customizing the looks of a handset.

Slide up or down the notification shade and you get five toggles for quick access to settings like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Adding shortcuts and changing wallpapers happens after you long press an empty space on a homepanel. From there you get a convenient card-like live preview of the changes you make to appearance.


The keyboard is also Sony-made with enough space between buttons and at 4.3 inches it is just the right size for single-handed typing without you having to stretch your fingers.



Performance:

The Xperia L is not a device you bring to impress your geek friends - after all it’s only got a dual-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8230 processor with Adreno 305 graphics and 1GB of RAM - but it is nicely optimized to work without any visible lag in menus and around home panels. The MSM8230 is part of the Snapdragon S4 family and is built on the 28nm node. Compared to older chips that makes it more power efficient.

Throw a slightly heavier load at it like games though and you’d notice the slowdown. And if you look at the standard benchmarks, there is nothing to be impressed about the Xperia L. Here is how it did on the most popular ones:


Quadrant StandardAnTuTuGLBenchmark 2.5 (Egypt HD)Vellamo
(HTML5 / Metal)
Sony Xperia L4223922532071804 / 449
HTC One SV4456


LG Optimus L7 II28236674



When it comes to internal storage, there is only a gigabyte of it available to the user. Luckily, you can expand that little allowance via microSD cards of up to 32GB. The microSD card slot is not easily accessible - you have to peel off the back cover to get to it and that was a tough task even for experienced folks like us.

Internet and Connectivity:

With HSPA 3G connectivity and Wi-Fi you have enough options to get on the Internet at fairly fast speeds. This is a mid-ranger so 4G LTE is not supported but once again at that price this is not a surprise.


The Xperia L features the Chrome browser pre-loaded and it is an extremely snappy way to access the web. It’s worth mentioning that Chrome does not support Adobe Flash. Otherwise it’s got a nice, clean user interface and syncs across all of your devices instantly. Your latest Chrome searches are also pulled into Google Now for relevant information on the go. Browsing around the web and zooming around is lag-free, just as you’d expect.

Other connectivity features are the GPS and Bluetooth 4.0. The phone also has NFC connectivity.

Camera:

The Sony Xperia L comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera with Exmor RS sensor for improved low-light performance.

It’s a decent camera but nothing more. Colors on most images are overblown and they skew towards a warmer than normal tonality with a purple undertone all across. Dynamic range is not great. Looking at fine detail you’d often notice images turn out soft and spongy.


The same goes for the video capture - colors are a bit off balance with a tendency to go on the warm side. The basic Snapdragon chip is only capable of recording 720p videos at 30 frames per second.

Sony Xperia L Sample Video:

Video Thumbnail


Sony Xperia L Indoor Sample Video:

Video Thumbnail


The device also features a VGA front camera that would come to use for video conferencing, funny impromptu self-portraits and little else.

We do like the camera controls and interface in general. Having two dedicated buttons - one for image stills and one for video capture - makes it effortless to start shooting the right type of footage quickly. The device comes with some capabilities like HDR shots that were reserved to higher end devices in the past. The usual set of options like exposure, self-timer, ISO settings and so on is also easily accessible. Some settings like burst shot though are not available on this device.


However there are some problems like an occasional failure to launch the camera application from the lockscreen that we have to mention. We’ve seen the issue on other Xperia handsets as well, but blamed it on a minor software bug as it wasn’t that recurrent as it is here.

Multimedia:

Sony has put some effort in resurrecting its Walkman brand into the Xperia lineup with a revamped music and video player applications. Both are very well made and offer a solid amount of options.

The Walkman music player looks great, can be controlled straight from the lockscreen and even has a widget. It will automatically grab album art and lyrics, and comes with fine tuning options like an equalizer and bass booster.


The video player also has great looks in that same Sony aesthetic. It does handle a wide array of formats like DivX at around the native resolution, but it struggles with higher-definition videos. While colors are generally a bit bleak on the 4.3 inch screen, this particular app comes with Bravia 2 engine support that blows them up a bit. Plus, those on-screen buttons disappear while you watch videos freeing all the screen space for your viewing pleasure.

Sound output through the loudspeaker gets very loud. It is definitely annoyingly tinny, with little bass to it and sounds just like an average smartphone speaker just louder.

Call Quality:

The handset does have two microphones, but there is nothing impressive about its sound quality. Our callers heard our voice a bit muffled, as if it came through a tunnel and on our side we had similar distortions in the earpiece. As a plus, we should say we tried using the handset in noisy environments and it filtered out the side noise nicely allowing us to hear each other good.

Battery life:

Battery life on a modern smartphone is pretty much always a full day. If you are lucky. With the Xperia L you get 8 hours and 30 minutes of talk time, and in our experience without abusing the camera, and with just a few Facebook and email checks, the phone does last a full day.

Conclusion:

Sony is offering the Xperia L off-contract in the United States for the affordable price of $350. It is a device that will find its popularity in developing markets though where price is of bigger importance.

The Xperia L is a well-rounded mid-ranger with lag-free performance in menus and nice looks. It does not have a hugely impressive screen nor a particularly great camera, though, and in the fiercely competitive Android market those are big flaws.

The Xperia L is facing direct competition from mass-market devices like the HTC One SV, but also from a myriad of quad-core MediaTek-based phones from China. The latter have a much better performance but lack the design flair.

All in all, this is a device for those willing to compromise. The price segment requires it. It would be a nice choice for the design conscious, but if you value specs and performance most there are more enticing options.

Sony Xperia L Video Review:

Video Thumbnail


Pros

  • Elegant design
  • Sony has done a good job with Walkman and video apps

Cons

  • Slightly bleak screen
  • Processor is not future proof
  • Mediocre camera

PhoneArena Rating:

6.5

User Rating:

8.9
21 Reviews

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