Sony Mobile’s first budget smartphone of 2018 is the Xperia L2, a £199 handset which marks an evolution in design. However, this already price range is dominated by the likes of Honor and Motorola. So can the Sony Xperia L2 do enough to conquer rivals and win a spot in your pants or handbag?
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Sony Xperia L2 review: Design
Sony has refreshed its smartphone design language for 2018, as already evidenced by its first three launch handsets.
Like the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra before it, the Xperia L2 is a blend of old and new. You still get that full-on rectangular finish, complete with perfectly flat top and bottom edges. However, Sony’s iconic edge-mounted fingerprint sensor is no more. The Xperia L2 sports a scanner housed centrally on the rear plate instead.
We liked the old edge sensor, yet this repositioning makes functional sense. It’s now more accurate for left-handed users, who previously had to unlock their handset with a sliver of their index finger. No matter which hand you use, your finger will naturally rest on the scanner. I had no problems with accuracy, although it’s not the fastest unlocking action around.
This 5.5-inch smartphone is rather chunky, mostly thanks to the thick bezels surrounding the display. As a result, one-handed use can be a little tricky. Thankfully Sony has helped out by adding its own usability features, which shrink your desktops and virtual keyboards. This makes them easier to use when you don’t have two hands to spare.
All the same, I did find myself missing the slender, easy-to-handle frames of some rival devices. The Honor 7X and Huawei P Smart are just two examples, boasting 18:9 displays and tiny bezels for a really comfy grip.
As this is a budget blower, the Xperia L2 sports a simple plastic chassis. This understandably lacks the premium touches which made the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra look so elegant. Instead you get a no-frills construction, complete with seams and joins. So far the plastic frame seems quite resistant to scratches and scuffs. However, we’ll see if it holds up to punishment over time.
Sony Xperia L2 review: Screen and media
That 5.5-inch display isn’t quite as crisp as some rivals such as the Moto G5 and G5 Plus. For while Motorola’s budget blowers boast Full HD panels, the Xperia L2 makes do with a 720p HD screen. That said, you have to squint pretty hard to see any individual pixels. Kick back with a high-def movie and you’ll enjoy reasonably sharp visuals, along with respectable contrast levels.
Sadly there’s no Super Vivid Mode on the Xperia L2. This feature really boosts colours for a vibrant punch, on more premium Xperia handsets. Here, you’ll have to make do with more subdued hues. Colour temperature veers towards the colder end of the scale, with a blue tint to lighter images.
As for audio, you have a single speaker housed on the base of the handset. This is both tiny and tinny, so we’d recommend hooking up some ‘phones whenever possible. Thankfully you have a 3.5mm jack, as well as Bluetooth 4.2 support for wireless headphones.
Sony has included its standard ClearAudio+ feature to boost your downloaded music. This helps especially with flat-sounding, compressed tracks, breathing a fresh bit of life into them. Alternatively, you can mess around with a built-in equaliser to suit your musical tastes and preferences.
As for storage, you get 32GB of space for your media and other bits. However, almost 10GB of that room is already used by the Xperia L2’s OS and pre-installed apps. So it’s a good thing that the phone supports microSD memory cards of up to 256GB in size, for easy expandability.
Sony Xperia L2 review: Features
While Sony’s other new handsets arrived with Android Oreo stuffed inside, this budget model sports the older Nougat version of Google’s OS. There’s not much difference at face value, although you do miss out on some behind-the-scenes efficiency tweaking and a handful of new features. Here’s hoping the Xperia L2 gets an Oreo upgrade soon.
As usual, Sony has added some Xperia style to this device. Everything from the wallpapers to the fonts have been touched up, although as usual this is completely customisable. You can change the overall theme or individual elements very easily.
For a close look at the phone’s software and features, hit up our complete Xperia L2 tips and tricks guide.
Sony Xperia L2 review: Performance and battery life
The Xperia L2 sports a basic Mediatek chipset which provides typically budget performance, although the 3GB of RAM helps to limit the stutters and stumbles.
Sometimes the entire phone will freeze up for a couple of seconds as it plays catchup. However, on the whole it’s not a bad performer given the low asking price. Everyday running is relatively smooth. You can even play some of the latest games with a decent framerate, including fast-paced action titles.
The Xperia L2 does get a little toasty around the back after just ten minutes of gaming, although not to a troublesome degree.
Battery life is thankfully a massive win. That efficient Mediatek chipset means little power is drained when the Xperia L2 isn’t in use. And even with plenty of web browsing, camera use and the rest, you’ll still comfortably enjoy over a day of play between charges.
With more restrained use I even made it through two full days before the handset finally died. And if you do find yourself in dire straits, Sony has packed in a Stamina Mode and Ultra Stamina Mode to help out.
We’re also pleased to see the usual Qnovo tech in use here, despite the budget cost. This helps to prevent long-term damage from overcharging, so you shouldn’t see any battery life degradation over time. It works a treat on older Xperias, so should do the job here too.
Sony Xperia L2 review: Cameras
Some of Sony’s more premium smartphones pack in fantastic camera tech, capable of capturing fantastic photos in any conditions. Of course, the Xperia L2 has to make some compromises thanks to its budget asking price.
As a result, some of the finer features such as Sony’s Superior Auto mode and the new slow motion feature have been culled. Video is also capped at Full HD resolution, with limited image stabilisation.
All the same, you can expect a respectable budget performance from the Xperia L2’s 13-megapixel camera. Check out our full L2 camera review for all you need to know, including test samples.
Sony Xperia L2 review: Verdict
The Xperia L2 faces some seriously stiff competition around the £200 price point, from the likes of Honor and Motorola. Thankfully Sony’s mobile is a solid all-round experience, boasting particularly strong battery life and some neat bonus features. However, the competition matches or betters this device in many areas also, especially when it comes to design.