With its 4.3-inch monitor, the Sony Xperia L is the new midrange brother of the Xperia Z and Z1. Compared to its predecessor, the battery, monitor and number of megapixels of the camera have been increased.
When a phone is positioned in the mid-range segment it has to make some sacrifices in specifications and regularly the design suffers as well. Now Sony is a brand that tries to distinguish itself with the looks of their phones and at first sight it succeeded quite well with the Xperia L.
What's with the device?
The box the Sony Xperia L comes in is quite basic. In a separate compartment you will find the device itself and in a larger compartment you will find the accessories and the necessary paperwork. Accessories include a microUSB cable and an adapter for the socket. We had to do without a headset. It is not entirely clear if this is the way it should be, but to be honest, we can't imagine it with a Sony device. The fortunately included battery has a capacity of 1700 mAh.
With our white one, the first thing you notice on the front is that the device is quite large for the size of the screen it contains. Especially above and below the screen, the device has a lot of 'body' left. Underneath the screen we don't see any buttons because the device uses software buttons.
Around the unit, the front and back are separated by a chrome edge. In this chrome-coloured rim there is a pretty bright notification light at the bottom of the unit. This also functions as a kind of ambilight when viewing photos and listening to music.
On the left side of the unit is the microUSB connector and on the top center is the audiojack connector. All buttons are on the right side of the unit. From top to bottom these are the volume buttons, on/off and the camera button. The placement of the power button is very pleasant to use. For the volume buttons it is a bit more nuanced. While listening to music, it is easier to control them, but while calling, it is very difficult to adjust the call volume. All in all, it would have been more pleasant if they were on the other side of the device.
Both the top and bottom of the unit are tapered. Slightly sharper at the bottom than at the top. We would have preferred this the other way around because it is quite a sharp edge to rest on your little finger when holding the phone.
The back of the unit is not flat but has a curve towards the inside. This gives the Xperia L a slimmer appearance and also makes it more manageable. The camera on the back is protected by a chrome colored edge and lies quite deep inside the camera. This allows a lot of dust to accumulate in front of the lens.
With child's ease, Xperia L will last 1.5 days on a single battery charge. Having to charge your phone halfway through day 2 may not be ideal, but it does mean you don't have to worry if your phone will remain available from morning to night on day 1. Moreover, two days on one battery charge is of course also quite feasible. We achieved this endurance with the 'low battery' and the 'WiFi on location' mode enabled.
We haven't used the STAMINA mode much, but it should of course provide even longer standby time. This switches off mobile data as soon as the device goes into standby mode. This means that emails, WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages and Twitter mentions will no longer be automatically received by the device when the screen is turned off. However, you can add apps, such as WhatsApp, to the exception list to keep them active. By the way, the estimated standby time that the device itself reports in the settings is more of a charm than that you can really rely on.
The Xperia L is, just like previous Sony devices, equipped with the necessary options to optimize the sound quality. Noise reduction and xLOUD are switched on by default. Clear Phase must be turned on by the user. In spite of this, the call quality is not staggeringly good. Both the internal and external speaker can be quite loud, but the sound is not always clear and sometimes gets a bit shrill.
By the way, the vibration function of the Xperia L is on the subdued side. Convenient when the device is on the table but difficult when cycling.
Xperia L's 4.3-inch display has a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels and 228 pixels per inch. Unfortunately, you have to do without the Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 to raise the image quality just that little bit higher. What remains are the default settings for the image that differ little from other phones. Color, contrast and brightness are well taken care of and although nothing really stands out, the image quality overall is more than sufficient.
Just as they try to create a unit in the appearance of their phones, Sony does the same with the interface. The shell that lies over Android is exactly the same on all devices. Unfortunately, it hasn't been changed dramatically for a while now, but it functions properly.
First we see the locking screen that unlocks via a slat animation. Although it has very limited functionality on Xperia Z. Next to a clock, there are two shortcuts to the music player and the camera respectively. These shortcuts cannot be changed by the user. The menu is as we know it from Android in grid form and can be sorted in different ways. The selection menu is permanently visible in the main menu.
By default, the user has five start screens available and two more can be added. The home screens can be filled with widgets, app icons and shortcuts. At the top of the screen we find the status bar with switches for sound, Bluetooth, WiFi and mobile data. There is also a shortcut to the settings menu. Messages and other notifications that arrive on the device are displayed here.
Of course you operate the device via the touchscreen. Generally speaking, we don't have much to say about this, but we did notice a few things about the Xperia L. In a negative sense we did. The surface of the screen seems rather rough compared to other phones. Moreover, the touchscreen seems a bit slower and less sensitive than we are used to with smartphones.
We don't always find it an undivided success when manufacturers start messing around with Android's standard applications or interface. Fortunately, the opposite is true for the phone book on Xperia L and Sony devices in general.
Basically the contact list is just an alphabetical collection of your contacts but the nice thing is that you can synchronize multiple accounts with your phonebook and also change the way you view it. Through the options you can easily select from which accounts contacts should be displayed, like Facebook. And syncing with Facebook is not possible with standard Android due to a difference of opinion between Google and Facebook.
In addition, there is the possibility to search for pairing candidates. So that you can link a phone number with an email address and contacts are not duplicated in the list. By default, these contacts are not bundled so you will have to manually link a lot with multiple accounts.
Sony's own mail application resembles the Gmail app in many ways and is nicely organized. Adding multiple accounts is just a matter of seconds after which the mail is synchronized in intervals. Unfortunately there is no push notification. For this you need an Exchange account.
When using Sony's standard keyboard, we still recommend running the small settings wizard first in order to get the most commonly used functionalities available more quickly. The standard keyboard is rather bare. A comma key and a dot key can be added on either side of the space bar. In addition, so-called symbol shortcuts can be displayed on the keys. It is also convenient to automatically enter spaces.
When all this has been adjusted then typing on the Xperia L is reasonable to do. The keys seem to be on the tight side but in general it goes well. Unfortunately the spell check and the automatic dictionary are very changeable. It sometimes chooses very unusual words and corrections and automatic spaces are not always applied correctly.
In addition to entering text by simply typing, words can also be formed by dragging a finger across the keyboard. However, because the touch screen leaves something to be desired, this is not very pleasant.
Xperia Z has many options and applications to exchange data or establish connections. These include NFC for wireless data exchange with another device, Mirror Link to control your Xperia Z from another device via USB, Screen reproduction to display the Xperia Z's screen on a television, Xperia Link to connect to the internet from a tablet or PC via your phone's network connection and finally Throw to play Xperia Z's content wirelessly on other devices. For all these techniques, however, you are dependent on other devices that also need to support it.
For internet access, Xperia L has Google Chrome. The minimalist design of the interface is stable, clear and has plenty of functionality in house. For example, you can switch tabs by dragging horizontally across the image. Moreover, Google is still working hard on further improvement and expansion. Support for Adobe Flash is no longer possible.
Despite the fact that the Xperia L is a midrange phone, it is equipped with an 8.0 megpixel camera and equipped with the necessary functionality that Sony believes should ensure good performance. For example, the Xperia L's camera with the 'Exmor RS for mobile' sensor and HDR function should still be able to shoot good photos and videos at night as well as in backlight.
As standard, the camera shoots photos with a resolution of five megapixels and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Eight megapixel photos are shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio. In that case, a large black area appears in the image. When HDR mode is then turned on, the resolution automatically changes to seven megapixels.
Setting options available include resolution, flash, self-timer, laughing shutter, quick start, focus mode, light value, white balance, ISO, light metering, image stabilization, geotagging, touch capture, shutter sound and data storage.
On Xperia L there is no special automatic photo mode or burst mode as on Xperia Z. Only photo effect, swipe panorama and scene selection are the additional options. In HDR mode, the process takes so long that it is impossible to capture moving subjects and you actually have to stabilise the camera on a solid surface in order to take a sharp picture at all.
The physical shutter button gives so much resistance when you press it that almost all the pictures you shoot are moved that way. While image stabilization is turned off as standard, turning it on hardly leads to any significant improvement. When you finally manage to take a sharp picture outside, it turns out that color and details are well taken care of by the sensor. Pictures taken indoors suffer from a somewhat yellow haze and there is quite a lot of noise in the image. All in all, Sony's promise does not come true. It seems as if the hardware of the Xperia L is not up to the task of controlling all the additional image techniques that Sony has incorporated in the camera.
The standard apps installed on Xperia L include calendar, alarm and clock, backup and recovery, downloads, Facebook, movies, FM radio, voice search, Google, Google+, Hangouts, Maps, movie studio, NeoReader, news and weather, notes, OfficeSuite, Play Music, PlayNow, Reader by Sony, Calculator, Smart Connect, Sony Select, TrackID, Update Center, Voice Dialer, Walkman, Xperia Link and YouTube.
The Walkman, album and film applications from Sony are nicely executed and pleasant to use. Unfortunately, this does not apply to all Sony applications. Sony Select is slow and outdated and Reader by Sony only works in the US or Canada.
The attentive reader will have noticed that we have had to report a number of times that a certain function or technique was missing on the Xperia L. That's part of a mid-range phone and doesn't necessarily have to be a big disappointment in daily use. What's more, it keeps the price down.
With the Xperia L, Sony tries to make the brand's strengths available to more people for a friendlier price tag. In order to serve Samsung and HTC with an appropriate response. All things considered, the Xperia L is a phone that stands out in its segment because of its looks and stamina, but is seriously lacking in touchscreen and camera software.