Sony Xperia L review
A great budget smartphone with decent performance, a top-quality display and a surprisingly competent camera
The Sony Xperia L originally launched as a mid-range handset, but heavy discounts since mean it's now more of a rival for the popular Motorola Moto G.
And it may suprise you to discover that the Xperia L runs the Moto G surprisingly close. The build quality is similar, with a solidity and sense of style that belies its low price. The design is more attractive, with a concave, rubbery rear that sits comfortably in the hand, and the power, volume and camera buttons all feel solid and positive in use.
The L is reasonably well specified, too, comparing well with other phones at this price. You get a large 4.3in display that looks crisp and clean and lacks the grainy quality of some cheap phones.
It runs Android 4.2 beneath Sony's customary skin, and it has 8GB of storage and a microSD slot for expanding it. There's also a user-replaceable 1,700mAh battery and an 8-megapixel camera capable of capturing 720p video.
There's a reasonable amount of power under the hood, too. The Xperia L has a 1GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus SoC, accompanied by 1GB of RAM and an Adreno 305 GPU. The latter matches up with the fastest handsets in this price bracket, including the Motorola Moto G, delivering a decent 15fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD test.
It has a slower clock speed and half the number of cores of the Moto G, so its score in the single-core Geekbench and SunSpider tests were lower; this doesn't seem to affect general responsiveness, though. Zooming and panning around complex web pages feels smooth and judder-free.
Indeed, performance in all departments measures up well. Its camera is excellent, and impressive in low-light conditions. It delivered the cleanest photos and video we've seen from a sub-£200 phone in the dingy conditions of our podcast recording studio. In daylight, as long as you select the correct scene mode, it's capable of capturing balanced images full of detail, too.
The display is the Xperia L's weakest point, with a comparably low maximum brightness of 315cd/m[sup]2[/sup]. The contrast ratio of 768:1 ensures images have plenty of punch and solidity, however. There are far worse displays around on other handsets at this price.
Battery life isn't bad: it drains at a rate of 22% per hour when playing demanding games, 23% per hour when playing back 720p video, and 7% per hour when streaming 128Kbits/sec audio over 3G, for an overall average across the three tests of 17% per hour in use. This isn't as good a result as higher-end phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, but it's close to the Moto G's results.
In all, we rather like the Xperia L. It's a solid performer, the price is reasonable, and it doesn't have any major weaknesses. If you value camera quality and memory expansion over display quality, performance and build, you'll find much to like. The Sony's biggest problem, however, is that the Motorola Moto G offers a higher-quality display and better all-round performance at a lower price.
|Price ex VAT||£117|
|Price inc VAT||£140|
|Contract monthly charge||£17.00|
|Contract period||24 months|
|Features & Design||4|
|Value for Money||5|
|Dimensions||65 x 12.2 x 128mm (WDH)|
|Camera megapixel rating||8.0mp|
|Resolution||480 x 854|
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