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Sony Xperia M4 Aqua

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua triple colours
Our Rating :
£104.99 from
Price when reviewed : £225
inc VAT SIM-free

The camera could be better, but the Xperia M4 Aqua has both the build quality and speed to put its rivals to shame


Processor: Octa-core 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,280×720, Rear camera: 13-megapixels, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 145x73x7.3mm, Weight: 136g, Operating system: Android 5.0

Mid-range smartphones had something of a reinvention last year, as more and more of them started using gorgeous metal designs instead of sticking with overpriced lumps of plastic. From Samsung’s 2015 Galaxy A3 to the EE Harrier, it showed you didn’t have to pay over the odds to get a great-looking smartphone, and the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua was no different.

Just like the Xperia M2, the Xperia M4 Aqua borrows several of the same design cues as its more upmarket Xperia Z cousins – in this case, the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact. In fact, it riffs on both smartphones almost note for note, as it’s rated IP67/68 water and dust-resistant and uses a near identical unibody metal frame and glossy glass rear.

Of course, now that the Xperia M4 Aqua is a year old, it’s since been succeeded by the Xperia M5. However, despite the M5 having a huge 21.5-megapixel rear camera, not to mention a large 13-megapixel front-facing camera for selfie enthusiasts, the M4 Aqua remains, in my eyes, the definitive M series handset, as it’s not only faster and more attractive, but it’s also significantly cheaper, as the M5 was almost twice the price of the M4 Aqua when it launched back in February. You can still pick up an Xperia M4 Aqua, too, making it a much better buy than its newer sibling.


Even now, the M4 Aqua is a seriously stylish-looking handset, and the red coral variation is particularly gorgeous. Measuring just 7.3mm thick and weighing 136g, the Xperia M4 Aqua is just as thin as the Xperia Z3 but almost 20g lighter, making it that bit more comfortable to hold. We were big fans of the Xperia Z3’s design when it launched at the end of last year, so we’re pleased to see its curved metal frame and nylon-protected corners making a comeback here. It gives the phone fantastic build quality, and we much prefer it to the flat, angular lines of Samsung’s Galaxy A3 and Galaxy A5.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua waterproofing first look

Since it’s waterproof, you’ll be able to immerse the phone in up to a metre of water for 30 minutes without damaging the phone’s internals. This has long been a staple of Sony’s flagship devices, so it’s great to see this feature being introduced further down the line. However, unlike the Z3 and Z3 Compact, you won’t have to worry about making sure the USB port is sealed off each time you want to check Twitter in the bath, as the Xperia M4 Aqua has the same capless USB port as the Xperia Z3+. Just make sure you dry the touchscreen, as it’s difficult to use accurately when wet.


With a 5in 1,280×720 screen, the M4 Aqua has a much bigger screen than the similarly-priced Galaxy A3, but its colour accuracy was disappointingly low. According to our colour calibrator, the M4 Aqua’s IPS display was showing just 86.2% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is roughly the same as the £140 Xperia M2. The screen’s red coverage was by far its weakest point, and it showed in our test images, as colours looked noticeably cool compared to M2.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua front first look

However, while colours don’t necessarily have a lot of punch, whites are much cleaner and its high peak brightness of 534.28cd/m2 makes it very versatile regardless of whether you’re indoors or out in the sunshine. The downside is that blacks aren’t particularly deep, as we measured a black level of 0.72cd/m2, which is the highest score we’ve ever recorded.

Even the Xperia Z3, which had a higher max brightness of 592.19cd/m2, managed to keep blacks down to 0.52cd/m2, so to see the M4 go even higher is disappointing. This means that text may have a tendency to look quite grey when set to its highest brightness settings on the M4 Aqua, but at least the screen’s contrast ratio of 735:1 means you’ll still find plenty of detail present.


Swiping through Android 5.0.2’s home screens we were impressed by the M4’s sheer speed. Its octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor and 2GB of RAM felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the slower quad-core Snapdragon 410 processors found in the Samsung Galaxy A3 and Galaxy A5. This chipset is much more befitting for a £225 handset, and the difference was plain to see in both our benchmark scores and day-to-day use.

For instance, the M4 Aqua’s Geekbench 3 scores of 638 in the single core test and 2,427 in the multicore test weren’t that far off the LG G4, which scored 692 and 2,547 respectively. Admittedly, the G4’s Snapdragon 808 is noticeably slower than the Snapdragon 810 inside the HTC One M9 and Samsung’s Exynos chip in the Galaxy S6, but the fact the M4 Aqua is even in the same ball park is pretty impressive for a £225 smartphone.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua side first look

Equally outstanding was its Peacekeeper browsing test score of 839, which actually beats the LG G4 and comes in just behind the Huawei P8, which scored 849. It’s also faster than other phones we’ve seen with the Snapdragon 615 chipset, as the EE Harrier scored just 737 while the HTC Desire 820 scored 799. In practice, web pages loaded quickly and scrolling down image-heavy web pages felt extremely fast and smooth.

Graphics performance was good, too, as it produced 752 frames in the demanding onscreen Manhattan test in GFX Bench GL 3.0 (which equates to roughly 12fps) and 362 frames (or 5.8fps) in the offscreen test. While this might not sound very impressive on paper, it’s much better than the measly 395 and 111 frames produced by the Galaxy A3. Likewise, we had no trouble at all running games like Blizzard’s Hearthstone, as battle animations were smooth and we were able to move our cards round the screen without any signs of stutter or jerky movements.

Battery Life

Admittedly, the M4 Aqua can’t match the Galaxy A3 when it comes to battery life, but its 10h 16m in our continuous video playback test with the screen set to 170cd/m2 is still pretty decent for the price. Sony’s also said that its 2,400mAh battery should last for up to two days when you leave the phone in Stamina mode, which will be useful when you’re in a pinch, but it also restricts the phone’s hardware performance, so you’ll only want to use this mode when you really have to.


On the back of the phone is the M4 Aqua’s 13-megapixel camera. Outdoors, we were quite pleased with how it coped with the bright summer sunshine, as images were well exposed with only a few areas of blinding white clouds. However, every shot we took on Superior Auto mode produced very cool-looking colours, almost like there was a blue sheen covering the entire image.

In our eyes, this spoils the photo somewhat, as colours lack in vibrancy even in blazing sunshine. The situation didn’t improve when we switched to Manual mode and switched on HDR either. Exposure levels were once again very impressive, but the pale colour cast was arguably more noticeable than before.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua camera test ^ Outdoors, the Xperia M4 Aqua produced reasonable-looking images, but colours were decidedly lacking in warmth

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua camera test HDR mode^ Switching on HDR mode helped even out the exposure of the sky, but images still looked very cool overall

Bizarrely, this wasn’t a problem at all when we tried out the camera indoors. Colours looked much more natural and accurate in our still life than they did outside and there was plenty of detail present, even with our external lamp turned off. We could still see some compression and noise around the stems on our flowers, but textures were crisp and the text in our poster was clear and legible.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua camera test indoors^ Indoors, colours looked much more realistic and there was plenty of detail present even when our external lamp was switched off


Our only other major grievance with the M4 Aqua is its pitiful amount of onboard storage as only 4GB is actually available to the user out its claimed 8GB. This seems a little stingy for a £225 phone, especially when the 16GB Galaxy A3 comes with around 10GB of usable space, but at least you can always add a microSD card to expand that up to 128GB if you run out of room.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua back first look


The camera may be slightly flawed, but there’s still plenty to like about the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua. Its fast processing performance easily outstrips the Samsung Galaxy A3 and Galaxy A5, and the coral variation has a much more appealing design than either Samsung handset or indeed the EE Harrier.

Samsung wins out on screen quality, but the M4 Aqua has the edge when it comes to price, as it costs the same as the smaller 4.5in Galaxy A3 SIM-free but is cheaper on contract, with prices starting at £15-per-month as opposed to the Galaxy A3’s £17-per-month contract with an upfront cost of £30. The Galaxy A3 is still a good choice if you want a more compact handset, but if you’re looking for something a little bigger, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is the next best alternative. It wins a Recommended award.

ProcessorOcta-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615
Screen size5in
Screen resolution1,280×720
Screen typeIPS
Front camera5 megapixels
Rear camera13 megapixels
Storage (free)8GB (4GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1
Wireless data3G, 4G
Operating systemAndroid 5.0.2
Battery size2,400mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£225
Price on contract (inc VAT)Free on £17.50-per-month contract
Prepay price (inc VAT)N/A
Part codeE2303

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Sony Xperia M4 Aqua triple colours
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review
Mobile phones

The camera could be better, but the Xperia M4 Aqua has both the build quality and speed to put its rivals to shame

£225 inc VAT SIM-free