TECH – Although this release won’t sate those of us clamouring for a top of the range Sony handset with killer specifications, if you like the look of Sony’s Xperia Z range but don’t want to drop kind of cash its asking price requires, then the Xperia M4 Aqua is one for you.
Although it’s a resolutely mid-range phone with a price tag and specifications to match, the Xperia M4 Aqua shares a lot of design language (and waterproof smarts) with the flagship Xperia Z range, giving a premium look and feel to an affordable handset.
Can this phone prove you can be midrange without being mediocre?
The “OmniBalance” design – as it’s called by Sony – is designed to allow the Xperia M4 Aqua to look and feel good no matter how you hold it, and it’s just as successful as with the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact. From a distance you’d be hard pushed to identify the M4 from its more expensive brethren, though on closer inspection you’ll notice that the M4‘s body is made from polycarbonate material, rather than the metal of the Z3.
That doesn’t mean the M4 Aqua looks or feels cheap – far from it, as the premium design makes this one of the best looking mid-range phones. Only the Samsung Galaxy A5 (which pulls a similar trick of utilising the metal design of the more expensive Samsung Galaxy Alpha) gives the M4 Aqua a run for its money in the looks department – at this price range, at least.
Actually you can easily fool anyone by saying that it is a Z3 and since there’s no way to spot the difference just by looking at it, they won’t be able to tell the difference. But when you take it in hand or look at it from up close you’ll realize that it’s nothing like Sony Xperia Z3. The difference being the materials used to make it. It also comes with a dedicated camera button. Something phones don’t usually come with these days. It also has a notification LED which glows in multiple colors.
The Xperia M4 Aqua‘s 5-inch screen is another big selling point, and as with other Xperia devices, Sony has put in some tricks and hardware that it picked up creating displays for its Bravia range of high definition TVs. The IPS panel also provides excellent viewing angles, so you don’t have to stare at the screen dead on to see what’s being displayed.
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua comes with 5 inch display of HD resolution. Sony has not disclosed whether it’s an IPS display or not. But looking at its viewing angles I can safely say that it is an IPS LCD display. And not just viewing angles, its colour reproduction is very good too. It’s quite bright and have very good sunlight readability.
Although the screen’s 720p resolution doesn’t reach the heights that more expensive flagship phones usually ship with, Sony has done an excellent job of ensuring that it still looks bright and vibrant, and unless you compare it side by side with a handset that packs more pixels per inch, you’d really be hard pushed to complain about the screen.
Just like most smartphone cameras Sony Xperia M4 Aqua’s 13MP camera works exceptionally well in good lighting condition especially in bright daylight. But in low light its image quality dips a lot and images very grainy and full of noise. It comes with LED flash to try and make up for that natural light and it does a pretty good job in that. As you can see in the photo below.
It shoots videos up-to 1080p (full HD) and you can also take photos and videos simultaneously. Which you can see in the review video below. Its front is of 5MP and it takes decent photos as long you are just stick to just taking a selfie. It also comes with it own ‘face beauty’ mode called ‘portrait retouch’ for selfies.
Sony has renamed its ‘Walkman’ music app to just ‘Music’ now. It’s just the name that is changed everything else is still the same. Even the quality of the music playback. It still comes with all the sound settings like ‘clear audio+’, equalizer, ‘Surround Sound’ and more.
Speaker is not that loud but is of very good quality and doesn’t distort and it also has a little bass or in other words ‘packs a punch’, just by a little though. Its music quality in headphones is also very good which is no surprise, since Sony phones are usually very good in this department. Sony Xperia M4 Aqua cannot play a 4K resolution video which comes as no surprise as Snapdragon 615 itself does not support it. It can play 1080p videos just fine though.
Xperia UI is still the same, what’s changed is the underlying OS in the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua. The Android OS has now been updated to Android version 5.0 Lollipop. Which comes with its own new UI animations and a new notification area. Which looks good but it also relies on the GPU for smooth transitions. If the GPU is very weak then the UI might stutter sometimes.
Same goes for RAM, if the phone doesn’t have sufficient RAM then Lollipop’s UI could stutter a little. Fortunately Xperia M4 Aqua comes with powerful enough GPU and 2GB of RAM so the UI operations remains smooth and phone don’t stutter/freeze/lag during normal use.
Xperia M4 Aqua comes with 16GB of internal storage out of which you’ll get around 10GB free for use. It’s expandable up-to 128GB via micro SD card. The default write disk option is gone now and you have to choose to save to memory card individually in the app itself. Move to SD feature is still there but it doesn’t help much. And this phone does not support USB OTG.
First things first. Price to performance ratio of Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is not good. Reason being Snapdragon 615. When you buy a phone for more than 20,000 Rupees you expect it to play games at high or maximum settings but this chip-set is just not powerful enough for that.
The problem is not on the CPU side as it comes with octa-core processor comprising of four Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.5GHz and four power saving cores clocked at 1.0 GHz. The problem is on the GPU side. Adreno 405 the GPU of this chip-set is just not powerful enough to handle that load. And as a result games like GTA San Andreas run a abysmal frame rates at maximum or high settings.
Not only it’s weak, it also heated up a lot. Now, I don’t understand when it’s not even that powerful why does it heat up so much? My guess would it’s just not optimized properly. Like i said in the beginning this is the only problem i have with this phone.
Sony Xperia M4 comes with jam packed connectivity features. Like dual SIM(Nano SIM) slots, 4G, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1, dual band WiFi with b/g/n, WiFi direct, aGPS, Glonass, DLNA and various other ‘Xperia connectivity’ options. Like i said Jam Packed. WiFi of this phone is very fast and has a very good range.
Call quality is good. But there’s this one thing i noticed. This phone comes dual noise cancellation mic for better noise suppression during calls. It works but while suppressing the background noise it also suppresses the voice of the speaker and the listener. Hence making the volume of so low that it sometimes becomes hard to listen for both the parties and it also uses a little extra battery than you normal call. Thankfully it can be turned off in the ‘Call settings’.
Sony promises 2 day battery life with this phone. Not on continuous use of course. I don’t think currently any phone in this world could last full 48 hours with screen all the time. What Sony means by that is moderate to normal use. Like doing stuff on your phone in small interval of times. For example, play games for an hour or two, check mail/messages, browse web and then put it down. Then maybe it could last you around 2 days.
Sony is also promising up-to 12 hours of continuous talk time on 2G and 3G on this phone. Actually it’s very hard to measure the battery life of any phone. As there are too many variables like screen brightness, some uses their phones on 2G and some uses theirs on 3G or 4G continuously and many more. As for this phone with brightness set to half as in slider set to in between the bar it lost around 5-6% of batter life in around 20 minutes of gaming.
Now, assuming that you can continuously play games on it for 10 hours would be wrong, more realistic assumption will be 6-8 hours i am talking about continuous gaming here. If we talk occasionally then it might actually could last you around 10 hours.
Basically, whether it last for 2 days or not depends solely on how you use it. A battery of 2400 mAh battery is big enough to last you at least 1 day on moderate use, though. So, all in all it’s battery life is good and if you want to make certain that you’ll get 2 days of battery life out of this phone then you can always use this phone in ‘Stamina mode’. Keep in mind that constantly running the phone in Stamina mode affects its performance.
When you buy anything from a well-known brand you also buy its ‘brand value’ with it. And Sony sells by its name alone. At least in India it does. Xiaomi launched a similar phone the Mi4i for almost half the price. But consumers whom still like to purchase phones from actual physical stores always give preference to old companies like Sony, Samsung, HTC and maybe a few more. And that’s where brand value come in to play. And big known brand means high resale value.
There are not many phones available for this price that are water and dust proof. Just that feature and its price alone is good enough reason for Indian consumers and maybe even for the international consumers too, to buy it. When you buy this phone you’ll get Sony’s reliability and also way to cool down the ‘hot as ever’ Snapdragon 615. Watch the video to know what i am talking about. You’d be surprised how quickly and efficiently ‘the method’ works.
All in all this phone is a good choice, if you are on a low budget.