Sony Xperia L3 review: Hands-on

Sony Xperia L3
full review

Sony announced a crop of new phones at MWC. Alongside the flagship Xperia 1 and mid-range Xperia 10 and 10 Plus is the Xperia L3, a solid cheaper smartphone option for 2019.

We went hands-on with the Xperia L3 to see if it’s good competition in the budget phone market against the likes of Motorola and Honor.

Sony hasn’t announced pricing for the L3 yet but the L2 started from £149, so we hope the L3 comes in at under £200 to keep the range affordable and competitive – Sony’s phones are becoming more expensive of late.

Solidly safe

Unlike the 21:9 Xperia 1 and 10 the L3 sticks to the tried and tested 18:9 aspect ratio. This means it has bezels at the top and bottom of its 5.7in LCD display.

Available in black, silver or gold, the phone has a surprisingly premium feel to it despite the price. The glossy plastic back is particularly attractive in the silver or gold finishes as it doesn’t show fingerprints like the black does.

Sometimes plastic phones feel obviously cheap, but the material used here gives the impression of a more expensive device. The screen is made from Gorilla Glass 5, a more durable material than you might expect given the L3 is a lower end phone.

Sony has, we think wisely, gone back to putting its fingerprint sensor on the right edge of the L3 after it was on the back of the L1 and L2.

But it’s odd that it’s no longer a physical button, a clever design trick. Now it’s a static sensor with the home button above it and volume rocker below.

Double up

For the first time on an Xperia L series phone you’ll also find dual rear cameras. The extra lens is an increasing trend in budget mobiles and we are all for it. It’s tech trickle-down in full effect.

The 13Mp and 2Mp pairing won’t produce Pulitzer-winning shots but as a point and shoot phone camera it looks acceptable in the short time we spent with it. We’ve always like Sony’s simplistic camera app and it works well on this admittedly simple phone.

That second 2Mp sensor is for bokeh effect shots rather than zooming or wide angle use and looked a little shaky when we tried it, but that is to be expected. That said, bokeh on phones that cost four times as much are often flawed too.

Give and take

It’s good to see NFC, a headphone jack and USB-C charging on the Xperia L3 but we are a tad disappointed it is shipping with Android Oreo 8.0. Sony has always been great at getting the latest Android version on its phones when they launch, but not so here.

Compromises are to be expected on budget phones but given all four Moto G7 phones have launched with excellently stripped back Android 9 Pie software it’s a shame Sony is a whole version behind on the Xperia L3 with no promise of an update.

However, if Sony manages to keep the security updates coming then the only thing you’ll be missing out on are Pie features like picture in picture and adaptive battery monitoring.

Early verdict

It depends what price Sony sells the Xperia L3 for as to whether we’ll recommend it alongside great budget phones like the Moto G7 Power or Honor 10 Lite but the early signs are good.

Sony is making decent phones still even if its handset business is struggling to shift units. 

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