Hands on with the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 might have overlooked it, but Sony certainly hasn’t. I’m talking about waterproofing, the headline feature of the Japanese company’s latest mid-market offering, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua.
The M4 Aqua brings IP68-certified submersible survival skills to a sub-£250 device with a modest array of specs. A 64-bit processor and 13-megapixel camera are included, meaning the M4 Aqua, like the Moto G, exceeds wallet-friendly smartphone expectations. Has its resistance to liquid come at a cost, though?
Watch our Xperia M4 Aqua hands-on video
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua – Design
On first impressions I’m largely impressed with the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua’s design. Styled similarly to the flagship Xperia Z3, it’s certainly one of the better looking mid-range handsets on the market. Although quite plasticky, aesthetically it’s floating at similar levels to the HTC Desire Eye or the Huawei Ascend P7, not scraping the depths with the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3.
It’s not the thinnest handset on the market, but at just 7.3mm neither is it particularly beefy, especially within its price bracket. What’s more, the phone carries its 135g weight well. It felt well balanced when held and comfortable thanks to its flat back and curved, metal-effect plastic edges.
For the price – the M4 Aqua will set you back €299 (£217) at launch – the device is surprisingly well built. There was no undue bend or flex in the body and construction felt strong, if a little creaky. Despite adding IP65 and IP68 dust and water resistance, this doesn’t seem to have caused the handset to bulk up.
Key to the M4 Aqua’s design improvements is its lack of port caps. While waterproofing used to mean fiddly rubber stoppers covered any charging point or connection orifice, this has changed. The M4 Aqua’s design is now pleasingly bereft of unwanted access stoppers.
There are going to be four Xperia M4 Aqua colours available at launch, with silver and coral (pink) handsets joining the traditional black and white options.
Also Consider: iPhone 6 review
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua – Screen
While design is on point, the handset has come up short elsewhere. As with far too many mid-range smartphones, the Xperia M4 Aqua’s display is its main stumbling block. Despite 1080p Full HD panels now being a prerequisite for handsets landing north of the £250 marker, Sony has bestowed the M4 Aqua with a 720p HD screen.
With this now dated resolution having been stretched over a 5-inch display, the results are less than desirable. Text lacks defined edges and images omit the detail expected on such an otherwise strong device.
The IPS panel isn’t without its positives, however. The phone features impressive brightness levels and strong colour management. The display’s touchscreen performance also seems decent, handling all the multi-finger gestures I could throw at it.
Also Consider: Galaxy Note 5 rumours
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua – Features and Camera
The M4 Aqua might not be at the lofty heights of the smartphone spectrum, but it’s making waves in its market. Screen aside, the phone’s wallet-friendly price tag isn’t obvious from its specs sheet. From 4G connectivity options to impressive camera optics, the waterproof M4 ticks all the right boxes.
Qualcomm’s new 64-bit, octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor offers more than enough grunt for most users and powers the Android 5.0 Lollipop OS along nicely. Throw in the 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage – expandable via microSD – and specs-chasers won’t be left wanting for anything. I found the handset skipped through early tests without breaking a sweat.
Echoing the Desire Eye with front-facing stereo speakers, the Aqua is backed up by a sizeable 2400mAh battery. While this should be more than capable of seeing you through a full day’s moderate usage, Sony’s reworked STAMINA Mode 5.0 battery-saving software is capable of further eking out the power supply in dire situations.
Although Sony has promised strong battery life times, given my limited time with the device, I’ve as yet been unable to back up these claims. Our full M4 Aqua review, coming soon, will address the handset’s battery life in far more detail.
Imaging is another area where Sony’s latest offering has exceeded on-paper expectations. With a 13-megapixel, flash-enhanced camera on the back, the M4 Aqua features a second, super wide-angle 5-megapixel snapper up front. This wide-angle lens has been added to aid the industry’s latest big trend – group selfies.
Early camera tests – admittedly in poor lighting – produced mixed results, however. While colours were sharp and detailed, objects lacked defined edges and, in low light especially, focus times were surprisingly laggy. Given the tested handset’s pre-release nature, further testing is required before any discernable decision can be made on the phone’s photographic capabilities.
Also Consider: LG G3 Review
Having got its flagship phone act together in recent years, it now appears that Sony is bringing its mid-range offerings up to scratch. The M4 Aqua is a strong device at a wallet-friendly price – only the screen mars an otherwise impressive offering. On early use, I’m hugely impressed.