Our Verdict

It is not the most interesting choice at the price, but the Sony Xperia L3 is a decent all-round Android phone for those on a budget.

For

  • A decent price
  • Notch-free widescreen movie viewing
  • Dual-lens camera

Against

  • Weak camera software
  • Plain all-plastic shell
  • Screen could be brighter

The Sony Xperia L3 is a no-nonsense affordable phone. You might be interested in it because you want to drastically cut down how much you pay a month. Or because you’d rather buy your phone outright and get a low-cost SIM-only deal separately.

It costs £169 (around $225/AU$315, but with no availability in those regions currently). Other phones you might consider around the price include the Moto G7 Power, Moto G7 Play and Honor 10 Lite.

Our pick of this bunch, for most people, is the G7 Power. It offers two full days and change of solid use between charges. The Sony Xperia L3 doesn’t, but does not make any egregious mistakes either.

Just make sure you are ready for its series of minor shortcomings, which include slow charging, outdated software and entry-level build, all of which we'll cover in this review, along with what it does right.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Key features

  • A dual-lens camera
  • A 5.7-inch screen and a basic chipset

The Sony Xperia L3 is practical rather than ambitious. It has a notch-free 5.7-inch 720 x 1440 screen, an all-plastic build and a capable enough but entry-level MediaTek Helio P22 chipset.

This is not a phone out to offer the best of anything. It just needs to perform well enough to keep most budget buyers happy.

Those who currently use a cheap phone that is getting on a bit may not have tried all its extras first-hand, though. The Sony Xperia L3 has a fingerprint scanner on its side and dual cameras on its back.

There’s no zoom or wide-angle view here, just a lower-quality depth sensor that lets you take photos with 'bokeh' background blur. The Sony Xperia L3 also has 32GB of storage, double that of some older cheap phones.

It doesn’t earn any glory for this, though. Unless you’re on an even tighter budget, there’s no reason to buy an Android phone with less than 32GB of storage anymore.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

Design

  • 154 x 72 x 8.9mm, 156g
  • Plastic back and sides

Constant, rapid progression: it’s seen as the natural state for phones. However, as phone prices increase and the market threatens to contract for the first time, real tech heads will notice elements that seem to stagnate or even regress at a certain price.

For those upgrading from a phone two years old or more, you’ll notice instantly the Sony Xperia L3 has a taller screen than your current phone. This is an 18:9 screen, a shape we got used to so quickly, that 16:9 phones now look archaic.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

However, compare it to the Moto G5, which cost around the same price at launch two years ago, and the Sony Xperia L3 can seem a step back. First, this is an all-plastic phone. Its back looks like glass but isn’t. The sides look like anodized aluminum, but are not.

This does not look or feel like an expensive phone. The 2.5D front glass is the one touch of class, and it is an effective one, gathering reflections into a thin band around its border. Few affordable phones look cheap and nasty these days, and the Sony Xperia L3 is not one of them. From the front, at least.

The side fingerprint scanner is also similar to that of some of Sony’s older, more expensive Xperias. It’s an oblong, and when set up it can be used instead of a power button. As it’s just a pad rather than a button, there’s a separate power button just above it.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

This is a little awkward. As the fingerprint scanner can be used with the screen off, you’ll only use the actual power button when you want to turn the Sony Xperia L3 off completely. However, not everyone wants to use a fingerprint scanner.

This dual button/pad arrangement shifts the volume rocker unusually low, which may be a pain if you want to use the Sony Xperia L3 in a car dashboard mount. It’s an odd layout, but you’ll find the same layout on the pricier Sony Xperia 10 too.

Like other fingerprint scanners in entry-level models, there’s a fractional delay before it unlocks the phone and the pad does not like moist fingers. But it’s actually no slower than the in-screen scanner of the Samsung Galaxy S10.

Screen

  • Extra-tall 5.7-inch 720 x 1440 LCD screen
  • Poor display customization
  • Only acceptable max brightness

Screen resolution is the other area where the Sony Xperia L3 can seem behind some budget phones several years old. It has a 720p screen, 1440 x 720 pixels total.

If your current phone has a Full HD screen, the Sony Xperia L3 will look significantly less sharp. Small icon fonts appear less clean. Pixelation is visible. However, as with other recent 720p phones like the Moto G7 Power, we’re surprised by how easy this lower sharpness is to bed into.

Consider an upgrade to something like the Huawei P Smart (2019) or Honor 10 Lite if you want a genuinely sharp display.

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar

The Sony Xperia L3 does not have the brightest display in its class either. You’ll notice this most if, say, you try to watch a video on the train while sunlight streams through the window, or go outside to take pictures on a sunny day. Motorola’s Moto G7 Power handles high ambient light levels better.

Its display controls are fairly poor too. Many other recent Xperia phones have several color modes you can choose from. The Sony Xperia L3 has RGB color temperature sliders that are about as intuitive as the tracking controls on a VCR.

To those under 35 who have no idea what those are, be thankful such unintuitive things have, mostly, been booted out of existence.

The Sony Xperia L3’s screen is fine, but not remarkable in any respect bar its sheer length. This is an 18:9 display, one as tall as that of phones with notches, but without a notch.