Sony Xperia M review - a decent budget choice?
Android, 4.0in 480x854 display
The Sony Xperia M was released in 2013, bringing distinctive Sony design to a mid-range handset. It's still available today on various contracts for around £10, but considering how far the smartphone sector has moved in the last year, is it still a phone you can live with for a two-year contract?
The Xperia M takes its design cues from Sony’s upper tier Xperia Z devices while attempting to keep costs down to cater for buyers on a budget. The Xperia M is surprisingly well built and disguises its cheapness with a soft, slightly rubberised shell which wraps around the device, giving the illusion of a unibody chassis. The round, silver power button is a distinctive design choice and does rather stick out both visually and physically, and can be an annoyance when idly holding the phone in your right hand - we found we sometimes pressed it accidentally. At 9.3mm thick and weighing 115g, the M will fit comfortably in almost any pocket.
The phone's 4in, 480x854 pixel TFT touch screen is a little disappointing, as it’s not as bright nor has the colour accuracy of other similarly-priced phones; our calibrator measured it as showing 81.1% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is one of the lower scores we’ve seen, even among budget handsets. The screen's resolution is acceptable for most uses, with even small text appearing fairly crisp and legible. Performance in bright daylight is good, with the auto brightness setting managing to respond rapidly to changing lighting conditions.
The Xperia M runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, which is the oldest version of Android we’d recommend you consider. There's no Android KitKat or Lollipop for this older phone, unless you choose to take a risk on an unofficial ROM. The phone uses Sony’s custom Xperia user interface, which has many tweaks that set the device significantly apart from phones running stock Android. The app drawer, for example, can automatically sort apps in order of how often they’re used, and also allows the user to set their own custom order, which is highly useful when you have a great deal of apps installed.
Running games such as Temple Run 2 and Angry Birds Space was a smooth and responsive affair, showing the Xperia M still packs some punch when required. Putting the device through its paces by loading and browsing image-heavy web pages was a challenge, with some jerkiness and lag, and we had to use some fine pinch-to-zoom actions to zoom in on web pages to make them legible.
The Xperia M's battery life is good, with the 1,750mAh unit lasting a good 10 hours 46 minutes in our video playback test. Sony has attempted to aid heavy users with various battery-saving functions. These include Stamina Mode, which turns off mobile data when the screen is off, and Low Battery mode, which lets you set when various battery-intensive features such as Wi-Fi and high screen brightness are disabled.
Typing messages on the Sony Xperia M is a mixed experience. Autocorrect and predictive word recommendations work very well, but the time saved there is instantly lost by the lack of immediate access to any form of punctuation. Finding full stops and commas requires navigation to a second page of characters, but if this annoys you it’s easy to add them back in using the keyboard settings wizard or a custom keyboard app from Google Play. The phone only has a small 4GB of onboard storage for apps, though, so you'll most likely need to plug in a microSD card.