Given the tapered design at the bottom of the Sony Xperia L, I can understand why my colleagues instinctively pushed the phone's display upwards, hoping to find a physical keypad below. But this is not a slider phone.
You use the virtual keyboard on its 4.3-inch touchscreen. Typos are minimal, but there is friction aplenty when I slide my thumb across the screen.
Sony's attention to design is evident from the minimal curves and attractive silver borders running along the sides of the phone. Plus, the phone is light - just 137g.
Underneath the matte rear cover are slots for a SIM card and a micro-SD card to supplement the 8GB internal storage. It accepts cards up to 32GB capacity.
As in earlier Xperia smartphones, the power button is lodged on the right side, with the volume buttons above it.
This placement takes some getting used to, but it is not that much of a chore and the power button protrudes enough that it is easy to find. Below the display, an LED light changes colour to tell you if an incoming notification is a call, an e-mail message or a text message.
A modest screen resolution of 480 x 854 pixels will not deliver the quality of the full high-definition display of the more powerful XperiaZ. Yet, pictures and videos are clear, aided by Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine 2 display enhancement feature.
Overall performance is smooth, shown by the quick transitions between apps and the flow of its user interface across the screen.
Apps load relatively quickly, between three and five seconds. On the Quadrant and Geekbench 2 benchmarks, it returns decent scores of 4,142 and 1,071, which are average for hardware that includes a dual-core processor and 1GB RAM.
Its 1,750mAh battery can handle up to a day's worth of usage and it held up for five hours in Digital Life's intensive battery test.
Download speeds are limited to HSPA speeds, but imagine the extra cost tagged to this budget smartphone if it supported 4G speeds.
This affordable Android smartphone is a definite shoo-in for buyers on a shoestring budget.
Operating system: Google Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
Processor: Qualcomm MSM8230 dual-core 1GHz
Display: 4.3-inch TFT LCD, 480 x 854 pixels
Cameras: 8 megapixels with LED flash (rear), 0.3 megapixel (front)
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