The Xperia L is billed as a low-end device, but features some fairly impressive mid-tier specs. But you’ll pay for the improvement, with the phone costing £249 (SIM-free)
The Xperia L is not going to win any design awards. Unlike its big brother the ‘Z’ it doesn’t look like a black monolith. This handset has wedge ends which slope away to a noticeably arced back cove. It looks odd and is quite chunky at 9.7mm thick, made more so by the odd sandwich look where the plastic bezel changes to a metal bezel and back to a matte plastic cover.
The power button sticks out like a small metal pimple. The camera lens is also a giant crater on the back and I was rather nervous it would be damaged by stuffing into my bag.
The phone is 128.7 by 65mm and weighs 137g and so is comfortable to hold, although the corners will poke into your palm.
In fact the Xperia L looks like a PlayStation phone. The angled ends seem to lend themselves to holding the phone horizontally and playing games like a PlayStation Portable.
However, there are issues with the supply of PlayStation games available — see our box out.
The 4.3-inch touchscreen has a resolution of 480 by 854 pixels with a pixel density of 228 ppi. This may seem to be a bit miserly but I didn’t have an issue with the Xperia L’s screen. In fact, for a £250 phone the screen resolution is good, with crisp detail and bright colours, although the detail is not as dazzling as on the Xperia Z. But of course the L is half the price of the flagship Z.
Movies in particular look good on the Xperia L, with crisp detail and smooth transitions.
The scratch-resistant glass did its job; a week of rolling around in various bags resulted in not a scratch, dent or scuff.
A Snapdragon dual core 1GHz processor with 1GB RAM isn’t a huge amount of lift but is respectable for a £250 device. As a comparison the Nokia Lumia 620 runs with a Snapdragon Krait 1GHz chip with 512MB RAM. These are different chipsets, but the L is not embarrassed by its engine.
It mostly ran without lag. Flicking between apps, browsing the Internet and downloading apps and updates didn’t result in any freezing or noticeable pauses.
There was occasionally some lag in response to screen touches. This was annoying when trying to get on with a task such as searching current locations on Google Maps. The phone also froze between load screens when running graphic-intensive games such as Temple Run 2, although I didn’t have any other issues with playing games which usually eat up power.
The Xperia L runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean).this isn’t the latest version of Android, but it’ll get what you need done.
Sony’s user interface is overlaid. This has Sony apps such as a music player (Walkman), with links to the PlayNow service for music purchases, a photo viewer (Album) and a video player (Movies). There’s also Music Unlimited, a music library and streaming service which offers free subscription for 30 days ( £4.99 per 30 days after this) and offline playlist listening.
By running Android, the Xperia L has access to Google’s Play Store. Sony has its own version of various Google apps and sometimes both are offered (Google Music and Movies), so some onboard Sony apps are not necessary.
The Xperia L did well in battery tests, with our light to medium usage including streaming movies, playing games, browsing the Internet, searching on maps, texting, calling and checking email. The phone lasted more than 12 hours, although not much longer; after the 13-hour mark it needed to be plugged in for re-charging.
The L lost about half its battery power in about eight hours, with gaming dropping the battery by five per cent after just 10 minutes.
Sony reckons it will last nine hours of 3G talk time, so it outlived this, and for a smartphone 12 hours of use is pretty good.
The Xperia L comes with 8GB internal storage and microSD expansion options up to 32GB, which is pretty standard for low to mid-tier devices.
The Xperia L has the same 8MP camera as its mid-tier brother, the SP and comes with autofocus and LED flash. For the price the camera quality is good
Sony reckons the L can wake from sleep and take a picture in seconds. In fact I found it took considerably longer.
The lag means the shutter needs to be pressed a split-second before the picture you wanted, because otherwise it was likely you’d miss it.
The camera does okay in low light but not wonderfully, with photos appearing grainy and colours washed out. On an overcast day, the Xperia L also showed a tendency to have hazy light and clearly discernible blocks of blurry sunshine. Generally the Xperia L takes crisp, clear photos with good detail and colours.
The Xperia L costs more than other budget phones such as the Nokia Lumia 620, which outperforms it for £19 less. However, as a Windows phone, the Lumia lacks access to the range of apps on the Play Store and Android’s openess, if that’s your thing.
The benchmark at this price level is the Google Nexus 4, which is superfast but has limited storage or personality. All things considered the Xperia L is a decent smartphone. Should you get it or the Lumia? It really comes down to what you want out of your handset — access to lots of apps and more storage versus a great camera, map features and a superfast processor.