Sony Xperia neo L review: Blast from the past
The usual retail package
The Sony Xperia neo L comes in a compact box accommodating the handset itself and the usual set of accessories. Those include a USB charger, a microUSB-to-USB cable (used for both charging and data connections) and a headset.
Finally, there are a couple of user guides in the box and a 2GB microSD card already in the phone.
Sony Xperia neo L 360-degree spin
The all-plastic Sony Xperia neo L has grown larger compared to the previous two neos to accommodate the bigger screen. The Xperia neo L measures 121 x 61.1 x 12.2 mm and weighs 131.5g.
Design and build quality
The Xperia neo L looks like the first phone Sony made after the split with Ericsson. You know, for old times' sake. And while a certain charm is hard to deny, it's pretty obvious that the good-looking phones are in the NXT line. The Sony Xperia neo L is a cure for nostalgia.
Most of the phone's front is taken by a 4" 16M-color LCD screen of FWVGA resolution (854 x 480 pixels). The neo L uses a similar spec'd display to many of its recent Xperia line siblings, but unlike them lacks the Sony Bravia Mobile Engine.
The LED-backlit LCD has pleasing colors and contrast. The questionable feature is viewing angles: contrast quickly deteriorates and the colors get washed out when viewing the screen at an angle.
The maximum brightness of the screen isn't very high and the sunlight legibility falls somewhat short too.
Our proprietary display test confirmed that the Sony Xperia neo L has good contrast, though it's not very bright. Notably, it's dimmer than the neo V screen. Black levels are great though even when you consider higher end phones.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|HTC Desire C||0.23||186||814||0.5||360||723|
|Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160||0.24||225||921||0.59||500||843|
|LG Optimus Black||0.27||332||1228||0.65||749||1161|
|Sony Xperia U||0.35||287||831||0.55||515||930|
|Sony Xperia neo L||0.18||214||1202||0.29||321||1097|
|Sony Xperia neo V||-||-||-||0.35||548||1578|
Nokia 808 PureView
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
Samsung Omnia W
Samsung Galaxy S
Samsung Galaxy Note
HTC One S
Samsung Galaxy S II
Huawei Ascend P1
Nokia Lumia 900
Apple iPhone 4S
HTC One X
Apple iPhone 4
Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
Sony Xperia U
LG Optimus 4X HD
HTC One V
LG Optimus Vu
Sony Xperia go
LG Optimus 3D
Nokia Asha 302
Nokia Lumia 610
Gigabyte GSmart G1355
HTC Desire C
LG Optimus L7
Samsung Galaxy Pocket
Nokia Asha 305
Sony Xperia neo L
Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos S6802
Samsung Galaxy mini 2
Above the screen we find the usual earpiece, proximity and ambient light sensors and the VGA front-facing camera. The front cam is a lot less prominent than on the previous Sony Ericsson neos.
Below the screen is an old-school set of hardware controls: Back, Home, Menu and Search buttons. The buttons are thin and small, and not all that easy to use. You'll sometimes hit the Menu key when you really wanted the Home key. We have another complaint too - the keys are quite wobbly, giving them a cheap feel.
The left hand side of the Xperia neo L features the microUSB port, which handles charging and PC connections.
On the right are the Power/Lock key and the volume rocker, both of which are placed on the sloping side and have a shallow press, which is quite uncomfortable. The lanyard eyelet on this side too. There used to be a hardware shutter key as well, but Sony has decided to go virtual-only with the neo L.
The top side of the phone features a 3.5mm audio jack that juts out from the curved top side of the handset. A tiny notification/charger light is off to the side.
The mic pinhole is at the bottom of the phone along with a small groove you can use to lift the back cover open.
The back of the Sony Xperia neo L breaks from the tradition of placing the camera near the center. The 5MP shooter and its LED flash companion are positioned closer to the top, near the loudspeaker grill. The creaky back panel (especially the lower end) makes a terrible impression.
Below the glossy plastic back cover is the 1500mAh Li-Po battery. It blocks access to the SIM card and microSD slots, which are stacked one above the other. We can't help but think that rotating the microSD slot 90 degrees so that it isn't blocked by the battery would have enabled hot-swapping and couldn't have been a major redesign issue.
We couldn't run our usual battery test as the video codec support was poor and we couldn't use our usual test videos. We did do a talk time and browsing time tests though, the results from which you can find in telephony and web browser sections of this review.
While it isn't the most compact phone, the Sony Xperia neo L is still pocketable and the curved sides improve the feel in hand.
The exterior of the phone is mostly built from glossy plastic (black or white), which is an instant fingerprint magnet. The metallic silver strip that runs around the circumference of the phone does class up the place a bit and the metal mesh of the loudspeaker on the back looks kind of cool.
Don't get us wrong - it's a nice piece of hardware, but the Xperia neo L feels like a lower-end device compared to the neo V.
That's it for the hardware, it's time to look at the software. We had to triple check, but the Sony Xperia neo L is the first Xperia that's running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich at the time we're reviewing it (as opposed to getting the ICS treatment as an update). About time, Sony.