Not everyone is looking for a 4G connected handset just yet and as such, Sony is still more than happy to instil its premium smartphone experience into a more conventional piece of hardware. Meet the Sony Xperia L.

Sony Xperia L review: Design

Drawing from Sony’s Arc design language, the L features an elegant, curved removable soft-touch back that makes the phone look and feel thinner than it actually is.

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To bring it up to date, the capacitive keys of its lookalike, the Xperia J have been replaced by on-screen controls, whilst the power/lock key and camera surround utilise metal accents that improve the premium feel of the phone.

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We’re also glad to have the option of expandable memory and the addition of a hardware shutter key and a multi coloured LED notifications light.

Sony Xperia L review: Screen

The 4.3-inch LCD offers up a more unusual 480 x 854 WVGA resolution, which in practice actually looks to punch above its weight. Colours are natural, there’s a good level of contrast and detail across both images and text is decent.

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Viewing angles are also impressive, although the backlight’s efficiency wavers unless viewed head on and overall brightness isn’t as strong as on the Xperia L’s more powerful siblings.

Sony Xperia L review: Operating System and performance

Sony is trying to build a consistent user experience across all of its 2013 handsets and the same Jelly Bean-based UI that debuted on the Sony Xperia Z at the start of the year has made its way to the more conservative Xperia L too.

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The company has clearly been careful to trim any fat that might result in slow performance on the Xperia L’s dual-core-based hardware, with no sign of the company’s signature small apps appearing in the app switching window being one example.

Having said that there’s still a wealth of Sony DNA in the form of customisable themes, a number of Sony-made apps like their Music and Video Unlimited services as well as PlayStation certification.

Sony Xperia L review: Camera

The company’s latest Exmor RS sensor technology is plumed into the Xperia L’s 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and for the most part it does its job well.

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Image across the board look pleasing when viewed on the Xperia L’s 4.3-inch LCD panel, but taking a glance on a bigger display reveals some of the camera’s shortcomings.

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Since the launch of the Xperia Z at the start of the year, shots on Sony’s phones have had a tendency to suffer from overtly pro-active post processing, resulting in over-sharpening and unbalanced colours. Such as issue is still apparent on the Xperia L but it doesn’t ruin the overall experience.

Whilst a little slow on the uptake when pressing that dedicated hardware shutter button, we are impressed by the phone’s HDR imaging chops (click an image to see an HDR comparison) and users also have access to 720p HD video recording.

Sony Xperia L review: Multimedia and memory

As we’ve mentioned already, the phone’s WVGA display punches above its weight and it’s a quality that transfers over to multimedia experience. Full HD videos looks clear and clean and plays smoothly alongside a deep music experience on offer from the Sony Walkman app. 

With the dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, gaming is also an enjoyable experience. Don’t expect high quality 3D games such as N.O.V.A. 3 to run at their absolute best, but don’t discount the phone’s capabilities eithers.

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Out the box this handset comes with a respectable 8GB of inbuilt storage, fine for general Android usage even if half of that is taken up with preinstalled apps, files and Sony’s Android experience.

Should, however, you want to push the multimedia experiences on offer from this phone, we suggest popping the back off a plugging in a microSD card of any size up to 32GB.

Sony Xperia L review: Connections and battery

The Xperia L may not be a flagship, but it’s got a wealth of connectivity nonetheless. As we’ve already mentioned 4G isn’t part of the package, but there’s still WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, hotspot functionality and NFC as well as Sony’s own Xperia Link feature which lets you activate the L’s WiFi hotspot remotely from your Sony tablet.

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With so much packed into this slim-waisted handset you’d expect the battery to suffer, but with the company’s STAMINA technology built in, Xperia L can comfortably last a day and some. Turn that mode off however and you’ll likely need to trip to the charger before the day’s out, which is a shame.

Sony Xperia L review: Conclusion

The Sony Xperia L is an inoffensive, capable Android smartphone. The latest Android experience Sony offers users is the most refined and flexible iteration yet and the company seem to have struck a nice balance between, performance, design and price across all their devices.

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At the Xperia L’s current price tag of around £220, we’d rather opt for the 4G-toting Sony Xperia SP, but chances are it will rapidly drop down, making this a powerful, affordable mid-ranger with a hint of flagship user experience on top suitable for a wide range of users.