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Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review

 Review: June 2015  
 

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The Sony M4 Aqua is a cut-price version of the company's flagship Z3 smartphone. Sharing a very similar ultraslim and waterproof design, the M4 Aqua has a large HD display, an 8-core processor and runs Android Lollipop. It could have been a great phone, but the limited onboard memory and poor battery life spoil the otherwise excellent experience.

Best buy: Sony Xperia M4 Aqua 8GB from PrePayMania (£179.60)



 

Design & looks

At first glance, it's hard to tell the M4 Aqua apart from Sony's flagship Z3 phone. And for a phone that costs about half as much, that's a very exciting observation. It shares the same all-glass front and back panels, although the edges are plastic rather than aluminium, and appears to be almost identical in design. On the right hand edge you'll find a circular power button, a volume rocker, and - most welcome - a camera button.

It's exactly the same size as the Z3 - down to the millimetre, and that makes it superslim, measuring just under 7.5mm, which is less than a wafer thicker than the iPhone 6. The M4's screen is fractionally smaller than the Z3, but still very large at 5 inches, and that means that the bezel surrounding the screen is slightly wider, although you'd have to be obsessively into rulers to notice this fact.

It weighs noticeably less than the Z3 too. At just 136g, the phone feels really light to hold. It's available in Black, White, Coral or Silver.

We should mention that the M4 Aqua - as its name suggests - is waterproof and dust proof. The phone meets the IP65/68 standards, which makes it waterproof to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes in fresh water. Don't take it in the sea though, and be careful in the swimming pool! We're pleased to note that Sony has achieved the waterproof status without covering up the headphone jack or the USB port, making it as convenient to use as a conventional phone.

The 5 inch IPS screen is HD, with a 1280 x 720 resolution. That's not up to the Full HD resolution of the Z3, but it's in line with other phones available at a similar price. The pixel density is a moderate 294 ppi, and the screen is reasonably bright and clear, although it lacks the punch of high-end screens. It's a necessary compromise when you consider the price of the device.

Overall, the design of the phone is superb.

Camera performance

The M4 Aqua's camera uses the same Sony Exmor RS sensor as the Z3, but it's been scaled down to 13 megapixels. Although the camera includes HDR mode for enhancing low-light shots, we don't think that it matches the heights of Sony's best camera phones.

Video performance is also reduced, with HD 1080p capability, instead of 4K.

The front camera is excellent for selfies, with a wide-angle lens and 5 megapixel resolution. It can also shoot 1080p HD video.

As always with Sony products, there are plenty of advanced camera options and toys to play with too.

Android Lollipop & memory

The good news is that the M4 Aqua runs the latest Android Lollipop 5.0. The bad news is that the onboard storage is just 8GB. That makes the available memory tight, and Sony has compounded the situation by pre-installing additional software (aka bloatware) that consumes yet more of the precious storage space, leaving less than 3GB available to the user. This could become a real problem, as some apps will be too large to install, and very quickly the system will run out of memory, with all kinds of performance issues and problems.

There's a microSD card slot - which you'll almost certainly need to use - but the lack of flash memory is a serious issue for this phone.

8 core processor

The M4 runs a Snapdragon 615 8-core 64-bit processor, but it runs a lot slower than the Z3's quadcore processor. With 4 processors running at 1.5GHz and another 4 at 1GHz, the Qualcomm MSM8939 gives acceptable everyday performance, but it's not a flagship processor, despite the 8-core promise. Most users should find it adequate however, and it's equipped with a healthy 2GB of RAM.

Connectivity

The phone includes support for 4G, 3G and 2G networks, plus the usual array of connectivity options that you'd expect - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, a 3.5mm headphone jack, NFC, DLNA plus ANT+.

Battery life

The battery has a modest 2,400mAh capacity, and that's less than we'd like. In continuous usage this delivers less than 7 hours between charges, and that's not a lot to play with. The phone's Stamina mode can eke out more life if needed, but only by switching certain functions off. We wouldn't recommend this phone for heavy users.

Conclusion - not the phone it should have been

Darn. Things started out so well between us and the M4 Aqua. It just looks so nice. We were really rooting for it. We knew that for the price there would have to be compromises. Most of these are expected and are acceptable - a lower resolution screen than the flagship Z3, a downgraded camera, a mid-range processor. All of these features are in line with what we'd expect from a mid-range phone, and if these had been the only compromises, we'd have given the M4 Aqua a 5-star rating. After all, it's a great-looking smartphone with the latest Lollipop flavour of Android, good connectivity, and a lightweight, ultraslim design.

But there are two reasons why we can't give the M4 Aqua five stars. First, the onboard memory is too small and is hampered further by the amount of bloatware that Sony installed. That's a mistake and it will cause headaches for users. Second, the battery life just isn't enough. Heavy users might not even make it through a single day of intensive use. That's not acceptable.

So, we're sad, because the M4 Aqua could have been a great phone, but poor design decisions made it so much less than it could have been.


Sony Xperia M4 Aqua features include:

Best buys
£179.60
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua 8GB
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£211.60
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua 8GB
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£179.6
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Sim Free ...
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£8.99
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Dual SIM ...
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£333
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua White Si ...
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£0
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua SIM-Free ...
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User questions

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Does it have a walkman music player?

Asked by James from Uk on 12th Mar 2016
I currently have a Sony experia sp and I'm thinking of changing to a Sony experia m4.
The sp has a good sony walk man built in but I can't see anything about it being on the m4.



Sony Xperia M4 Aqua user reviews

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Reviewed by Gus from UK on 8th Aug 2015
Got the M4 a few weeks ago from EE on a 24 month contract for 27 a month. The phone has met most of my exectatiions, fast download speeds on 4G, handles apps, email and games without any lag. The camera takes decent pictures and HD videos. The built quality, although plastic, is excellent, in particular I like the water and dust proofing. Unfortunately there is one downside to the otherwise very good phone, internal storage. The phone comes with only 8 GB of internal storage and 6.5 GB are taken over by the operating system and Sony's own apps. Although you can expand the memory with a SD card, most of the apps can't be deleted or moved over to the memory card. The memory issue is quite limiting, I don't understand why Sony would put out a phone with such a limitation. Memory issues aside, this is a very capable phone that will meet most people's communication needs.
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