Hands on: Sony Xperia L3 review

A low-end phone that offers a couple of key upgrades

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Early Verdict

A standard budget phone with a semi-decent camera and new, longer screen, the whole allure of this phone depends on price. If it's reasonable, Sony could hoover those that don't want to spend loads on a smartphone.

For

  • Lightweight
  • Headphone jack

Against

  • Only 720p screen
  • Single firing speaker.

There are some devices shown off at MWC that are headline grabbers, doing the big things and pulling in attention. Then there are the lower-range devices, using older technology to hit a lower price point, that many people will probably buy instead. That's where the Sony Xperia L3 fits in.

The predecessor, the Sony Xperia L2, was a pretty underwhelming device, but there are some key changes to the Xperia L3 that might see it avoid being given a similar rough time.

Sony Xperia L3 release date and price

In traditional Sony fashion, we don't have a launch date for this phone, or a price at the moment. However, we'd give an educated guess at April for a release, give or take a month, and it should land for a similar cost to the L2 given the technology inside.

That means we should see the L3 retailing for around £200 / $249 (AU$350) thanks to some specs not being hugely upgraded.

Design and screen

The first thing you'll notice when picking up the Sony Xperia L3 is just how light it is in the hand. At 153g, it's certainly packing a lot fewer innards than the flagship phones on offer at MWC 2019, and the new, rounded edges feel pleasant in the palm.

All the keys are on the right-hand side of the phone, with the volume buttons oddly placed below the indented fingerprint scanner in the middle. This is placed nicely and allows your thumb to fall on it naturally.

Above that is the small power key, and although they're oddly placed, all buttons sit nicely in the right space on the phone.

The Xperia L3 is also landing with a headphone jack and USB-C connector, which will please those looking to listen to tunes with wires (the audio quality from the music player is still pretty decent, if a little tinny on the inbuilt speaker) as well as wanting a faster charging scenario.

Speaking of the speaker, there's only a single firing option at the bottom of the phone, which doesn't sound amazing it's good enough for the tasks you'd want to do on a cheaper phone.

The 5.7-inch screen is only 720p again on the Xperia L3, and that's our biggest gripe with this phone. Not only are you not getting the full suite of pixels you might on other phones, the LCD display is a little dark too.

Watching the pre-loaded Venom trailer on the L3, some of the more monochrome scenes weren't that impressive and lacked strong brightness. Generally the color reproduction wasn't too bad on this phone, but it certainly lacked a little pop... and that could have come with a higher-resolution display.

At least the display is in the larger screen size, where you've got an 18:9 ratio display for viewing more of your #content - it's cool to see this technology, that was brand new only two years ago, making it to more budget phones.

The Sony Xperia L3 will be available in three colors: gold, silver / gray and black. We can confirm that colors were indeed used, in our in-depth testing for you, dear reader - oh, and it will also have a microSD card slot alongside the nanosim so users can expand the memory by up to 512GB.

Camera and battery

The Sony Xperia L3's big claim is on the camera, where a 13MP sensor is combined with a 2MP lens to sense depth. We tried to snap a few objects, but the bokeh quickly got confused.

Trying to grab snaps of people walking by (we're alone and didn't want to ask anyone to pose) didn't elicit any good portrait snaps - and the speed of trying to view them was low. 

It should be said that this L3 is very likely aa pre-production unit, and as such things like a slight wonky bokeh mode and the speed of viewing said photos might well be improved. The MediaTek Helios P22 chipset inside might not be the fastest on the market, but it shouldn't be too much of a slouch.

One of the most telling things about using the Sony Xperia L3, in terms of where it's positioned in the market, is that the selfie camera tells you where to look, making this instantly feel like a cheaper, simpler phone than it really is for those that don't know how to take a selfie.

The battery life is 3,300mAh, which shows you that Sony is trying to stick enough power on this phone to maintain the higher power performance that many might want from the brand without impinging on the deisgn of the phone.

Will there be a fast-charging, or (breathe it) wireless charging on board? Very unlikely as the standard chipset for enabling wireless juicing up of your phone isn't placed inside this handset, so don't start chopping up your USB-C cables just yet.

Early verdict

The Sony Xperia L3 is a phone that, once again, relies on its price tag to sell. There's always a market for a decent budget handset, and if the last few years have been anything to go by, if the Xperia L3 reviews well it could be something of a hit.

That, of course, depends on whether you'd rather have the fanciest new phone around, or one that can just do the job.

Overall, we're pretty impressed with what this budget phone is offering, but the proof will be in the reviewing to see if the battery holds up as well, and if the display is less underwhelming than last year. 

The rounded design always helps, but the Xperia L3 needs to work quickly and responsively to get a decent score from us.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone.   

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What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.