Sony Xperia M2 Review
Building upon its existing M line, Sony is adding the still minty-fresh Xperia M2 to its mid-range roster of devices. The M2 is very similar to its predecessor in a bunch of ways, but also quite different in one particular aspect: screen real estate has made a humongous jump from 4 to 4.8 inches.
Outfitted with a quad-core Snapdragon 400 chip from Qualcomm and 1GB of RAM, along with an 8-megapixel Exmor RS sensor, the M2 will strike you as a very decent, middle-of-the-road handset. And that's precisely where Sony is aiming the M2 at. Let's see if it delivers on that promise.
Sony's attractive OmniBalance design is tested and true.
On the outside, nothing really distinguishes the Xperia M2 from the current Sony crop of smartphones, and it's probably safe to say that this is a deliberate effort. Indeed, Sony's OmniBalance design language has been well received by critics and consumers alike, but it would be wrong to say that the M2 didn't go through certain design changes when compared to its predecessor.
At the front, we're looking at some noticeable bezel slim-sizing, allowing for a relatively smaller footprint, despite the larger screen. At the top, you'll find the earpiece and front-facing camera, of course, but also a small, circular notification light. On the right side of the device, we have a two-step shutter key, a volume rocker, and a power button, with only the latter one providing satisfying tactile feedback and travel time. Turning the M2 around, we see that the convex-shaped rear shell of its predecessor is gone, and a perfectly flat, plastic back has taken up its place. Lastly, the loudspeaker can now be found at the bottom side of the M2.
Overly-cold display with a reflective glass on top that hampers outdoors viewing.
The Sony Xperia M2 made a considerable jump in screen size over its predecessor, and its LCD TFT display now measures in at 4.8 inches. Unfortunately, the 540x960 (qHD) pixel resolution of the panel actually results in a slightly inferior pixel density of about 229 ppi.
Turning away from specs-rehashing, let's talk quality. Color temperature, at over 11000 K (6500 K is the reference value), is overly cold, so whites and different shades of gray have a blue tinge to them. Overall color reproduction is decent, even though colors like red tend to be over-saturated a bit. The rest of the color spectrum is mostly rendered well, with acceptable deviations from the reference states. Gamma, at 2, is also alright, though it does result in a less-contrasty image with somewhat overly-bright highlights.
Lastly, maximum brightness is quite acceptable for this class at 461 nits, though the reflective glass on top does limit how much of the display we can make out under direct sunlight. That is to say that it is readable, but you'll be squinting every now and then.
Interface and functionality
Sony's signature Android skin is still among our favorites.
In typical Sony fashion, the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean (pending KitKat) operating system driving the Xperia M2 has been thoroughly skinned. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you consider Sony's design approach – the overlays are simple, uniform and easy on the eyes. If the default theme is not to your liking, you have some choice in terms of personalization – whether it's different themes, a different wallpaper for your lockscreen, or adding additional quick toggles in the pull-down notification panel.
The Xperia M2 also comes pre-loaded with a few apps, most of which courtesy of different Sony services. For example, Sony Select is a small, curated apps and themes market, and Socialife News is a news reader with an ultra-simplified (but laggy) design. Apps like Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited, and even PlayStation Mobile can also be found on board, and there's even a custom Navigation app courtesy of Garmin present with a free, 60-days trial available.
Processor and memory
Speedy processor ensures frills-free operation.
The now trendy quad-core, 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 chip by Qualcomm found itself a new home with the Xperia M2, and along with its trusty Adreno 305 GPU makes operating the handset very pleasant. Of course, that 1GB RAM stick sure also helps with that.
In our time with the M2, we stumbled upon no situations where lags or just general sluggishness reared their ugly heads. Navigating the interface is speedy and no signs of hiccups were noticed, and load times for apps are acceptable. In fact, even sophisticated, graphics-intensive games (think Asphalt 8) ran solidly, with no noticeable drop in frame rate.
As for internal storage, there are 8GB to be found on board, and only 5GB of that is available for use. Thankfully, up to 32GB more can be added through a microSD card.
Internet and connectivity
Chock-full with connectivity options.
An extension of the relatively potent hardware configuration, the browsing experience with the built-in Chrome browser on the Xperia M2 is a smooth affair. Even heavier, image-based websites load up quick, and navigating them puts no noticeable strain on the processor.
Connectivity options are plentiful, too. There's LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz Wi-Fi, NFC, DLNA, A-GPS (with Glonass support), and even MHL compatibility for streaming the M2's screen onto a bigger monitor.
Poor, even in this class.
The Xperia M2 sports an 8-megapixel rear shooter with a Sony Exmor RS sensor, f/2.4 aperture lens, and an LED flash. Unfortunately, we were disappointed with its performance across the board.
For starters, keep in mind that in the default Superior Auto shooting mode, the M2 churns out 5.5-megapixel snaps instead of 8-megapixel ones. This is analogous to how the Xperia Z1/Z2 operate under the automatic mode – all 8 megapixels are being used, but the end result is scaled down in order to arrive at a higher quality snap and also allow for some lossless zooming. Speaking of snaps, those were consistently exposed properly in our experience, but the overall look of the images was just poor. They're constrasty, with messed-up colors, and a rather persistent green (and sometimes purple) fringing to them. What's more, every now and then they come out unpleasantly over-sharpened (easily noticeable when shooting grass and trees), while the rest of the time the software delivers rather soft and quite noisy pictures. Worse yet, select shots exhibited some quite serious visual artifacts.
Stills taken in poorly-lit environments and indoors are no better. We again have proper exposition, but colors are still incorrect, and noise and softness are an inescapable reality. The LED flash is also fairly impotent, failing to properly illuminate darker scenes.
As for video capture – the situation is pretty dire. Despite shooting in 1080p resolution, the resulting clips are poor, as they have a very limited amount of detail, deliver unattractively contrasty colors, and offer horrible sound reproduction.
The Xperia M2 is a capable multimedia device.
The usual crop of Sony-themed multimedia apps is what you'll find pre-loaded on the Xperia M2. As per usual, their design is pleasing and uniform, and they often offer some extra functionality you won't find on stock Android. For example, the Gallery is interconnected with Sony's PlayMemories Online service, which allows you to automatically upload photos to its servers and have them sync throughout all your connected devices. The Walkman music player, for its part, has extras such as ClearAudio+, which automatically enhances sound clarity, not to mention that it's also hooked with Sony's Music Unlimited service (eligible for a free trial) – a robust rival to incumbents like Spotify.
Speaking of music, the M2's loudspeaker is medium loud, even with xLOUD on (boosts the volume), and maxes out at 75 dB, allowing you to fill a small room with music.Unfortunately, its placement on the bottom side of the phone is a bit unfortunate, as we often found ourselves muffling its opening when playing games in landscape mode. Oh well.
The situation here is downright critical!
Starting with the earpiece, the situation is just critical, even with Sony's ClearPhase (enhances the quality of the in-ear speaker). The people on the other side sound as if they have a very serious case of the stuffy nose – tonal information was just lost on us. Worse still, volume output is mediocre, and that made it all the harder to make out the other side. We honestly often had trouble even understanding what's being said. Sadly, the microphone is only slightly better. Your voice again loses a whole bunch of its tonal information on its way to the other side, and clarity is just poor. That's an F minus for the M2.
Record-setting battery life!
Simply put, the Sony Xperia M2 is one hell of an endurance monster, and managed to squeeze the whopping 9 hours an 19 minutes in our custom battery test. This makes the M2 the most enduring phone in our rank list in this class. If that isn't enough, whenever you're low on charge you can activate Sony's STAMINA mode, which essentially disables data/Wi-Fi when the screen is off, further helping you conserve battery.
As for official rankings, the numbers for 3G talk time and standby time clock in at 13.6 hours and 26.4 days, respectively, or above average.
In conclusion, the Xperia M2 is one truly inconsistent, bipolar device. On one hand, you have an attractive design, adequate processing power, and record-setting battery life. On the other, the display is mediocre, the camera: poor, and call quality isdownright unacceptable. What's worse, the Xperia M2 is just too expensive. At the time of this writing, the M2 can be had for about $300 in the States, but, in Europe and India, the price ranges from $330 to the whopping $400. This exposes this new Sony mid-ranger to quite some competition.
For one, both the Motorola Moto X and Google Nexus 5 can be had for the equivalent of about $50 more. This isn't a negligible sum, sure, but the gains are just massive. You're getting a better display with both devices, more processing might, vastly superior imaging, and quick updates to the latest version of Android. Even the slightly bigger Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 will strike you a better deal, at least if you're looking for a larger-screened mid-ranger.
In the end, the Sony Xperia M2, at this price, is just poor value for money.