Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review

by: Bailey SteinJune 18, 2015
1.2K

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Good display
  • Capable camera
  • Good software experience
  • Resistance to dust and water
CONS
  • Inconsistent design
  • Overheating issues
  • Average battery life
  • Overpriced
6.8
While being resistant to dust and water is a very useful feature, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua does fall short in other key areas when compared to the, in some cases cheaper, competition.

When it comes to the highly-competitive mid-range smartphone world, it is quite difficult to distinguish between one device and another in the sea of smartphones that make up this segment. OEMs are now depending on using a key selling point to help their device stand out from the rest, be it pricing, battery life, camera, design and build quality, and more. In the case of the latest mid-range offering from Sony, that key selling point comes in the form of a signature Sony flagship feature, water resistance. Does choosing to focus on a single element result in corners being cut in other areas? We find out, in this Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review!

Design

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The Xperia M4 Aqua retains a lot of the design language of previous Sony smartphones, which isn’t particularly surprising at this point, given that Sony’s design strategy has been largely of the incremental nature, across their entire portfolio of devices. The use of the two glass panels, as seen with the high-end Sony devices, is certainly a nice touch and looks great, even if they are prone to fingerprints. It is in the presence of a plastic frame though that the mid-range nature of this device comes through, and unfortunately feels quite out of place. The mix of the premium-feeling glass and the cheaper plastic is quite unsettling, and makes the phone feel awkward in the hand.

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The signature Sony power button returns at its usual location on the right side, ideally placed to be within easy reach. The volume rocker right below it and the dedicated camera shutter button at the bottom of the right side don’t leave a lot of room to comfortably rest your thumb on this side of the device though. The SIM card slot is above the power button, and the microSD card slot falls on the opposite side, both covered by flaps that are necessary to maintain its waterproof nature.  Just above the microSD card slot is the microUSB port, which is a very different placement from what most of us would be used to. Finally, the headphone jack and single speaker unit are found at the top and bottom respectively.

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With the bulk of the buttons and ports placed on the sides of the device, it does look like quite a lot is going on, and takes away from the minimalistic design we’ve come to expect from Sony. Up front, above the display, is a notification LED on the left of the Sony branding, with a 5 MP front-facing camera on the other side. The Xperia M4 Aqua is still quite thin and light though, with a thickness of just 7.3 mm, and weighing 136 grams. The Xperia M4 Aqua is still quite thin and light though, with a thickness of just 7.3 mm, and weighing 136 grams, and its relatively compact size allows for a comfortable handling experience.

Display

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The Xperia M4 Aqua comes with a 5-inch IPS LCD display, with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi. As is expected from IPS technology, the viewing angles this display offers are fantastic, but the colors aren’t particularly vivid though, as they are with some other devices that fall in this price range. The display is just decent overall, and not very impressive.

Performance and Hardware

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Under the hood, the Xperia M4 Aqua packs an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. This processing package is found with quite a few mid-range smartphones and has proven to be very capable, which is also the case here. Day to day performance is smooth and stutter-free, and multi-tasking is a breeze. The device also handles gaming very well, with no issues save for the most processor-intensive of games. While obviously not as fast as the flagships of the world, Xperia M4 Aqua is certainly very reliable in terms of performance.

One area of concern though is the heat output of the device. The Xperia M4 Aqua does tend to get uncomfortably warm to the touch not just while gaming, but even when performing simple tasks like using the camera or downloading apps. There is significant throttling to prevent overheating, but that is definitely not the ideal solution to this performance issue that is becoming more prevalent with the latest Qualcomm processors.

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The Xperia M4 Aqua comes with 8 GB or 16 GB of on-board storage, expandable via microSD card by up to 128 GB. The 8 GB version does come with only 1.5 GB available to the user though, so it’ll be a better idea to opt for the 16 GB iteration if you do decide to pick up this device. The usual suite of sensors and connectivity options are available, including support for 4G LTE, but carrier compatibility does vary with each model, so make sure that you check the frequency bands of the model you are getting before picking up the device. For example, this particular review unit is restricted to HSPA+ on the AT&T network.

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The single speaker unit at the bottom of the device isn’t great, with the sound distorted and tinny, along with the volume being on the quieter side. As is the case with any device with a bottom-mounted speaker, it is also fairly easy to cover up the speaker and muffle the sound when holding the device in the landscape orientation.

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Coming to what is the key selling point of this device, the Xperia M4 Aqua is well protected from the elements, courtesy of its IP68 rating for resistance to dust and water. What this means is that the device can be submerged in up to 1.5 metres of water for as long as 30 minutes, with no negative impact on usability and performance.

The device comes with a 2,400 mAh that is not replaceable, and offers a battery life that is just about average. In my daily use, the device lasted for around 16 hours with 2.5 hours of screen-on time, with usage that involved watching videos on Youtube and scrolling through social media, apart from other general tasks. While not bad, the battery doesn’t stand up to Sony’s claim of the device lasting comfortably for two days. There are a few power saving modes available in the Settings menu, that you might have to take advantage of to get that little bit of extra juice out of this battery.

maxresdefault m4 aquaSee also: Best Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Cases

Camera

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The Xperia M4 Aqua comes with a 13 MP rear camera and a 5 MP front-facing shooter. The rear camera proves to be very capable, with the shots rich in detail and very sharp, even if the colors did lack some punch. The minimalistic camera has only a few modes available, including a manual mode that lets you select between multiple scene types and adjust the white balance. Additional camera modes are available though, which can be downloaded separately.

Software

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On the software front, the Xperia M4 Aqua comes with a slightly skinned version of Android 5.0 Lollipop, which also takes on a more colorful motif than the Xperia UI of old. There are some very useful options available, such as the ability to customize the Quick Settings menu with the toggles you most use, screen recording, and also the staple Small Apps menu, which is a tad unpolished in its appearance, but still very useful.

There is some bloatware to be found though, with a slew of apps, including AA Stocks, AVG Protection, and News from Sociallife coming pre-installed, but most of them can be easily removed though. Another negative is the placement of the hamburger menu in the app drawer, that gets in the way when attempting to swipe right, and can be quite frustrating.

Specifications

Display5-inch IPS LCD
720p, 294 ppi
Processor1.5 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615
Adreno 405 GPU
RAM2 GB
Storage8/16 GB
expandable via microSD upto 128 GB
Camera13 MP rear camera with LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
Battery2,400 mAh unit
SoftwareAndroid 5.0 Lollipop
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot.
Bluetooth 4.1
NFC
GPS + GLONASS
Networks3G / 4G LTE
Dimensions145.5 x 72.6 x 7.3 mm
136 grams
ColorsBlack, White, Pink

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua isn’t officially available in the US yet, but can be found for $349 on Amazon for the 8 GB version, with color options including black, white, and pink.

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So there you have it for this closer look at the Xperia M4 Aqua! While being dustproof and waterproof are very useful features, the rest of the package doesn’t particularly justify its price point. The inconsistent design, overheating issues of the processor, and just about average battery life overshadows the positives that include the solid display and capable camera. The competition in the mid-range space is intense, and there are some great options being made available to the public, at sometimes cheaper price points as well, and the Xperia M4 Aqua is a difficult device to recommend.

Buy Now on Amazon.com
  • viniazzolin

    I know I know, they are just names, but the color is “Coral” and not “pink”.

  • Leif Shantz

    seems like the perfect first Android phone for my mom who has a aging iPhone 4S which the battery is crapping out, she uses her phone for texting, calling, picture taking, and browse the web a little.

  • Jesus

    Isn’t this the phone that leaves like 1.5GB usable space, in the 8GB model??

    • 404

      hah yeah probably
      .

  • CrossAion

    I planned to purchase this phone but after reading this review I might give it a second thought. Seriously overheating is a HUGE issue, since I gaming with 3G on a lot. Anyone knows better phones at the same price? I don’t like Samsung, the color is too bright for me, and beside I don’t like their design either. My friend recommended me a Wiko but I don’t know much about this brand.

    • Ordododo

      I played with the phone for about an hour in my carrier store. Heats up as much as any other phone on the market. This review is BS . Alcatel idol3 and the M4 aqua are the best mid rangers out there.

      • CrossAion

        Relieved to hear that, I actually quite like this model. I’ll try it out myself at store. Thank you so much.

        • Ordododo

          you gotta read between the lines when sites like these review Sony products :) As Sony doesnt invest in marketing lately, the reviewers are pissed for not getting their lunch money. Notice how the reviewer cleverly put and i quote ” above average battery life” to cons (?!). Inconsistent design?! And actually its better if the phone radiates heat to the ouside. Less chance for the internals to get damaged.
          The 349$ price mark is indeed high, that´s the only thing I agree on, but it´s only on the US market. Here, where im from its 289-309 for the 16GB variant. As I said, only the alcatel idol3 can beat that.

  • h.tazzi

    Correction: The M4 Aqua’s back isn’t made of glass like its Z brothers. It’s made of plastic but mimics glass

    • Corie Miller

      Sony Xperia M4 Aqua also launched with Dual SIM. Check here>>http://www.knowyourhandheld.com/products/sony-xperia-m4-aqua-dual

    • RoboBonobo

      A couple things I want to note about the review: (consider this my counter review)

      I thought the back was some kind of Gorilla Glass or something until I just slightly scratched it with scizzors right now. I didn’t scratch it deeply but it’s visible when the light hits it just right. It sounds like plastic when you tap on it. The specs list scratch-resistant glass for the screen. The device does slightly flex a little when you apply less than a significant force, so the screen must be a Gorilla Glass-like type of semi-flexible material and not a more shatter-prone tempered glass.

      My unit gets 6 hours screen on time spread out across 48 hours battery life using Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat. I have it in Stamina Mode which slows the processor slightly, to conserve power. I also have auto brightness turned on and the screen was always clear and perfectly visible even in direct sunlight. These changes seem to make a significant difference compared to the 2.5 hours Screen Time and 16 hours battery life that another reviewer managed to eke out of it.

      I noticed it getting slightly warm on the back during normal use, just like any other phone I’ve used. I think it’s normal. I never noticed throttling, lagging, slowing down, or skipping frames. Everything continued to work normally. I haven’t tried gaming on it, as I’m not a gamer.

      As for the other perceived negatives:
      I don’t know what ‘inconsistent design’ is supposed to mean, as the reviewer didn’t elaborate on that point.
      The power button and volume keys don’t get in the way of my resting my thumb there.
      The hamburger menu in the app tray never gets in my way, as it only activates when you swipe from the edge.
      It’s priced at $350 unlocked for the 16GB version, in Canadian currency, which I think it’s worth every penny, as the 2nd generation Moto G costs $250 Canadian, has half as much RAM, half as much built in storage for apps, and inferior cameras.
      I got the M4 Aqua for $0 up front, and I pay it off $10 per month added to my monthly bill; this means I’m paying $240 for this phone over a 2 year term when the phone will be paid off.
      The speaker quality is about what I would expect for the asking price; you’re not going to get HTC BoomSound quality speakers on a device in this price range. It’s slightly tinny and it could be louder, but it’s about par with my iPhone, which cost considerably more than this, when it was brand new (I could have bought 4 of this phone for the price of one brand new iPhone, no contract prices).

      All told, I think this is a very competitive phone in the low-end/mid-range tier for smartphones.

    • d.goetz2
  • Igy Tech

    well i thought that will be nice upgrade but too many problems…

  • _X_

    The Samsung Galaxy J7 offers better value than this phone! And it is cheaper!

    • Shoolawa

      4/8 GB internal storage, less RAM is better value ? I ain’t saying the M4 aqua is perfect , but Samsung J7 is utter crap. As all of Samsung’s mid/low range.

      • _X_

        Galaxy J7 sport a 5MP camera at the front along with a 13MP shooter at the back with a f/1.9 lens. The mid-range device come with 1.5GB RAM, 16GB internal memory, microSD card slot, LTE connectivity and dual-SIM functionality. On the software front, the handsets run Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box.

        Galaxy J7 comes with a 5.5-inch HD display, 64-bit octa-core Snapdragon 615 CPU and a 3,000mAh battery.

        Bigger Screen, Bigger (removable) battery and Better 13MP camera and the cheaper price than the Sony! Yes, the Galaxy J7 is utter crap value…

        • Shoolawa

          Camera is the same, SoC the same , it has less RAM , less internal storage , same resolution on a bigger screen =lower quality reproduction .Cheaper build , and not waterproof .
          BTW are you one of the Samsung bots ? The way you phrased your comment , it’s like a commercial :)

        • Svnjay

          Samsung doesn’t even attempt to make their plastic look decent. It’s as ugly as it gets.

  • Tommy Hamill

    just by the m2 aqua for 180

  • orangpelupa

    did you write this in a haste?

  • Svnjay

    The reviewer hasn’t done his homework. There is no glass in the M4 Aqua. It’s all plastic. Also, why is the M4 Aqua all scratched up and dirty?

    Also, i’m pretty sure that the Zenphone 2 has a cheap design, bad battery life and a disappointing camera.

  • ryq24

    This reviewer just describe what’s wrong with Sony phones and why it is struggling! Overpriced!

  • MatthewRThompson

    ….Some time hit the androidauthority Find Here

  • Matt

    Where did you find the wallpaper?

  • erik prado

    here in mexico you can buy the 16gb for the same price, without a carrier

  • KappaMaster Boy

    Dude I don’t think the Battery life is bad… From my usage (Browsing the web, 9gag, Music, YouTube, playing games, etc)… I get like almost 5h of on-screen-time consistently.

    • mark hilairon

      any heating issues as said earlier in the review? is it annoying at some point?

      • KappaMaster Boy

        Sony pushed an update which lowered the performance, but the phone doesn’t get as warm as before.

        • mark hilairon

          i just found an alternative phone for m4aq . . . moto x 2014 lol . . its price has drop so think I it will be a great alternative offer to this phone :)

          • KappaMaster Boy

            Actually the battery life is horrible on the moto x and the processor on the moto x isn’t 64bit

          • mark hilairon

            Woah!! Nearly missed that critical info . .tnx! . . Please enlighten me to buy this phone!! :D Hearing those rumors and reviews about heating issue really preventing me to buy this phone :( Hoping sony will fix the heating issue once i buy this phone . . .

  • anthony desoza

    Sony Xperia M4 AQUA DUAL 16GB Black is the very popular smart phone and it has 13 MP primary camera, 5 MP front facing camera, 2 GB RAM and 16 GB ROM (internal memory). For more information see this link http://tinyurl.com/pnc9wcw

  • Ninne

    Dude, I bought it for like 280$

  • elchuby

    I just bought the 16GB version of this phone for $199 on Amazon. I think it’s a great deal over other phones in the same price range (Moto G, Zenfone2).