Something that we don’t see all that often from Sony, or other smartphone makers, are handsets that are a little lower down on the specifications ladder. Stuff often has its hands on the best of the best but rarely gets to play with the rest. Which is a terrible shame, because there are some lovely phones out there that don’t require the sale of a major internal organ in order to take home. The Sony Xperia L2, which is classed as a budget device with its R3,500 RRP, is one such device — nice to look at, lovely to hold, and won’t require a home loan to replace if you happen to drop it on the ground.
Design – Back to the future
The looks and feel of the Xperia L2 hark back to the original Xperia handsets, back when it was known as the Xperia Z series and was a lot more premium, internally, than the L2 is. Which is to say that the Xperia L2 is a mostly black rectangle that, from the front, is classic Xperia.
From the rear, the panel has a plastic matte finish and a slight curve designed to fit your hand a little better than an angled box would. The ergonomic choice is appreciated, since the phone is a little wide to be truly comfortable in a single hand — that curve helps. The plastic… not so much.
The headphone port sits up top, the phone speaker and USB-C port are along the bottom, and the volume rocker and power button are where you’d expect them on the right-hand side. The SIM card and microSD slot are on the upper left side but the design for it is… unusual. What looks like a flap proves to be a cover with an integrated SIM card holder. Prepare to drop your SIM card every time you extract it, which — granted — shouldn’t be that often.
Specs – Right in the lower mid-range
The Xperia L2 lives on the upper side of the budget device range, or on the lower side of the mid-range lineup. We’re inclined to go with the former, since the L2 ships with a quad-core MediaTek MT6737T rather than the low-cost octa-core processors populating the mid-range these days.
There are nods to the asking price, though. There’s 32GB of storage at the outset (23GB available) and 3GB of RAM, lifting this one out of the extreme budget battles. Unsurprising, really. The 5.5in display is typically Sony — if there’s one thing they do well it’s screens, and the L2’s 720p panel is a good example of its type. Just because it’s not HD doesn’t mean it can’t look good. Even so, it could be better.
There is also a 13MP rear camera and an 8MP 120° selfie-cam, which we’ll get to in a minute. The L2 has Android 7.0 installed from the get-go, with Sony’s typically alterations in place, and there’s a 3,300mAh battery running the show.
Performance – By the numbers
We put the Xperia L2 through Stuff‘s usual battery of tests: Geekbench 4 and Antutu. Happily, Antutu saw enough hardware to actually be able to execute its suite of 3D rendering tests. Less happily, they’re basically-but-not-quite a slideshow. So expect some gaming chops but not many. It’s the mobile version of a low-end Celeron and an integrated GPU, is what we’re saying.
Antutu spat out a final score of 43756, creeping up on the Hisense Infinite F24 (available at about the same price). Geekbench 4 showed a similar result, giving us 682 for single-core performance and 1925 for multi-core. Incidentally, this also gave the Xperia L2 an edge over its Hisense competitor.
In real-world application, expect apps to launch quickly enough but you’ll also note a few hitches and starts if you’re looking out for them. Opening larger images will take a second or so to render onscreen as well. When combined with the L2’s not-spectacular 13MP cam, you’re going to be doing a lot of waiting.
Camera – For the socially active
Sony’s cameras should be their best bit. The company makes some of the best camera hardware on the planet and we’d expect all of that to carry over here but some handsets can’t justify the mobile 23MP Exmor RS sensors. The rear camera here is a lowly 13MP, which is fine for the lower-mids and for keeping the cost of the device down.
Just don’t go into the phone expecting Sony flagship performance. Images quickly succumb to grain if the lighting is off, and detail gets quite poor in low-light conditions. Pop outside under some decent lighting, though, and you’ll be very pleased with the L2’s rear cam performance.
But that’s not why you’re here. Sony’s gone for a 120° front-facing camera, an 8MP selfie-shooter that can switch between a standard view and a wider one, capable of fitting more of your equally-social friends or that amazing backdrop you’ve discovered on your walking tour of Tuscany into the shot. This is really the main reason why you’ll be looking at picking up this phone, as it’s got one of the better selfie cams you’ll set, especially at this price point.
The target market for this device are the younger social media users, who want the option of excellent selfie images paired with an admittedly impressive set of speakers found in this device. If you’re looking to walk about as the life of the party, as well as its historian, then the Xperia L2 will equip you to do just that.
Sony Xperia L2 Verdict
The Xperia L2 isn’t much of an all-rounder, which is what we look for in phones in general and especially in devices that live further down the product line. It’s unfortunately the case that cheaper devices have priorities and have to make compromises and that’s just what has happened here.
The L2 prefers to go for the socially-conscious, the folks who have to been seen on Insta regularly, or risk their online cred going down the toilet — you know the type. The 8MP wide-angle front camera takes good enough images to increase your follower count at least a little, though you’re going to have to put your own effort in as well. The loud speakers and software audio features also suit the younger set, letting you carry a party in your pocket — and still be able to chronicle it.
But you’re looking at slower performance and a less-than-Sony build for the device in exchange. For some users, this is a no-brainer and the L2 is already in the shopping cart with its budget-friendly R3,500 price tag. Others may want to look elsewhere for something that spreads its talents a little more evenly.