I recently had to send my regular phone in for repair (I got it back today! Quick service, Rogers!), and received a Sony Xperia M4 Aqua as a loaner unit so I could still function in the real world. Here’s a review of the device and my short time with it.
My “daily driver”, as the tech junkie parlance goes, is a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which sports a 5.5″ screen. It’s capable of displaying what Samsung calls WQHD or something. Either way, it’s a really good screen, so this is the first thing I noticed on the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua.
The Xperia’s screen is 5.0″, so not significantly smaller than what I’m used to. The resolution is only 720×1280, a rather large dropdown from Samsung. But everything on the Xperia is bright and generally looks good. This probably sounds strange, but everything looks “flat” but that works for the device build (which I’ll get to).
The adaptive brightness seems to work really well, and really quickly. I was outside BBQing Monday night, in bright sunlight; at first it was hard to read the screen but within seconds the brightness dialed up and I was able to read it no problem. Admittedly it’s probably a tad slower than most high-end devices but it’s good enough for me.
I was happily surprised to see that the device launched with Android 6.0.1. I was expecting to see Android L, as I knew pretty much nothing about the Xperia line. For a 2 year old device, that kind of OS software support is pretty good.
It looks like Sony has kept a mostly stock Android feel to the device, unlike Samsung which layers on its TouchWiz experience that makes their version of Android look very different from stock. The only reason I recognize the stock look of 6.0.1 is because I briefly used Cyanogen on my old Galaxy SIII a couple of years ago, and it looks pretty much like what I see on the Xperia M4 Aqua.
I quickly installed Nova Launcher on top of it though, so my user experience was almost identical to what I’m used to on my S7. I wasn’t really a fan of Sony’s default interface, and they install a lot of bloatware. Luckily I was able to ignore or disable most of it to be able to dive into actually using my device.
I noticed some sluggishness with the phone – but that’s going to happen when the chipset used is significantly inferior to what I’m used to. I don’t understand the full differences but suffice it to say, it is noticeable. However, there were only a handful of times when I felt annoyed by the lag on the device, so overall I’d say it’s acceptable.
Plus, I turned on Developer Options and turned off all of the animations – and that made a huge difference. Cosmetic perhaps, but it worked for me.
It was a bit slow to open the camera on demand, so quick pics are probably not going to happen easily. But I didn’t get many photo ops while testing the device, so a very minor knock against the unit.
Speaking of which…
I own a Sony DSC-H300, so I was looking forward to some “camera synergy” with the Xperia M4 Aqua. I wasn’t able to dig too deep with the settings but most of the familiar camera modes were there, including a pretty robust “Pro” mode, which I was happy was there. I took a few shots – I think the quality is good, but not great. Much better than the other reviews I read of the phone.
They definitely look better on a proper display than how they showed at the time on the device.
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Here’s where I felt the phone suffered. It felt very cheap, like it was just a piece of plastic and not a phone. It’s very light. On the other hand, the device is apparently fully waterproof and features a dedicated camera button so you could take pictures under water if you wanted to! That’s pretty neat.
I count this next app as a hardware “tick” because it requires physical components to work. The Xperia has a built-in FM radio! Yeah, not a big deal when you can stream things all the time…but sometimes I just want good old FM radio. I used to have a Nokia phone that had a built-in FM tuner, and it was great.
You can probably tell from the body of the review that I enjoyed using this phone. I was expecting something lacklustre, but was (marginally) blown away by the quality under the hood, even though it looks and feels like a cheap phone.
I would most definitely recommend this phone for someone who needed a cheap replacement, but it’s definitely not going to compare to a flagship device. I might also consider finding a cheap unlocked version of my own to use as a backup / media device. I was that impressed with it.