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Sony Xperia M2 review - still hanging in there

Katharine Byrne
6 May 2016
Sony Xperia M2 header
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
155
inc VAT SIM-free (as of 6th May)

Great battery life and good build quality, but the Xperia M2's aged specifications have now been surpassed by the competition

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, Screen Size: 4.8in, Screen resolution: 960x540, Rear camera: 8 megapixels, Storage (free): 8GB (5GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 140x71x8.6mm, Weight: 148g, Operating system: Android 4.3

The Sony Xperia M2 is more than two years old now, and it's almost gone end of life. Only a handful of retailers still have it stock, but with prices starting at around £155 for a new phone (or £70 used from Amazon), this is an awful lot to spend on something so old. After all, even Motorola's excellent 3rd Gen Moto G is now only £110 on PAYG or £130 SIM-free from Carphone Warehouse, and this has a newer (and better) version of Android, as well as a considerably faster processor and a much better camera.

Admittedly, the 3rd Gen Moto G is also getting on a bit, as this was first released last summer. As a result, it's likely that Motorola will soon be releasing its 4th Gen Moto G very soon, which will probably replace the 3rd Gen Moto G as our top budget smartphone. However, until that happens, the 3rd Gen Moto G is still our top budget smartphone to buy, as it's definitely aged a lot better than Sony's Xperia M2. 

For instance, while the M2's slim 8.6mm unibody makes it feel extremely solid, its angular design doesn't feel half as appealing in the hand as the smooth rounded corners of the Moto G. Likewise, the M2's bulky chassis is almost the same size as the Moto G despite having a smaller 4.8in display, making it feel oversized for the amount of screen space available. Likewise, both the front and rear of the phone are extremely prone to picking up fingerprints, making it perpetually dirty despite our best efforts to keep it clean.

Display

This is a shame, as the M2's 4.8in 960x540 display actually looks relatively decent despite its somewhat mediocre 87.7% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut. While it doesn't have any of Sony's X-Reality display options, colours still looked incredibly rich and vibrant and we actually preferred its warmer colour cast to the cooler hues present on both the Moto G.

Sony Xperia M2 front

That said, despite a contrast level of 874:1, there was actually less detail present in our test images on the M2 than its rivals. Areas of shadow were particularly gloomy, but you can always remedy by increasing the brightness up to its maximum level of 410.75cd/m2. This will make blacks look quite grey in return, resulting in a rather lacklustre black level reading of 0.47cd/m2.

However, the M2's real downfall is its tiny resolution of just 960x540. With a pixel density of 229ppi, the sharpness of the M2's display pales in comparison to the Moto G, which has a much higher pixel density of 294ppi. Text and icons are just about crisp enough on the M2, but look closely and you'll soon see the rough jagged edges on curved letters and images. Text also has a tendency to look slightly fuzzy when reading articles on the web, but this is less of a problem on sites specifically designed for mobiles.

Performance

The M2's Android 4.3 operating system also feels rather antiquated when you first take it out of the box, but a couple of system updates will soon see you running Android 4.4.4. Sony's even confirmed it's bringing Android 5.1 to the M2 via an OTA update once it's been rolled out for the Xperia Z series. It's not yet known how long this will take, but it's great to see Sony isn't leaving its lower-end devices behind when it comes to Android Lollipop updates.

Sony Xperia M2 side

When Android 5.1 does eventually arrive, the M2's quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor should be more than capable of running the OS smoothly. The Moto G has a newer version of this chipset - the Snapdragon 410 - but it still runs Android 5.0.2 perfectly fine. Admittedly, the M2 didn't score quite as highly in our Geekbench 3 tests, as its scores of 309 in the single-core test and 1,024 in the multicore test are a fraction behind the Moto G's scores of 341 and 1,156, but we saw very few signs of stuttering when swiping through its Android 4.4.4 app tray and browsing through its various menu settings.

Web browsing performance was a little more uneven, as the M2 often stumbled when scrolling down web pages with multiple images. Text-based articles posed fewer problems, but we often had to wait a while before news sites such as the Guardian became usable without any kind of lag or delay. This was reflected in our Peacekeeper browser test score of 461, which is one of the slowest scores we've seen.

Sony Xperia M2 rear

Graphics performance, however, was more or less on par with the Moto G, as it produced 110 frames in the offscreen Manhattan test in GFX Bench GL 3.0. However, when we fired up Blizzard's Hearthstone to see how it coped with real-world games, we were promptly told the M2 didn't fit its recommended hardware specification. While the game was just about playable, animations were very jerky and the hard, brittle texture of the touchscreen wasn't particularly pleasant for moving our cards round the screen and executing attacks. As a result, you'll probably want to stick with simpler 2D games on the M2.

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