Sony Xperia M2 review

Given the critical acclaim that the newly launched Sony Xperia Z2 has received, it is vital that Sony follows up with equally impressive mid range handsets if it is to compete with Apple and Samsung. Enter the Sony Xperia M2.
Not too long ago it seemed that Sony might have been out of the mobile running. Shoot forward to 2014 and Sony has established itself at the top, although the Japanese firm has yet to firmly prove itself with a truly decent midrange handset. Could things be about to change with the Xperia M2?

 At first glance the Xperia M2 seems like a respectable proposition; a quad-core processor, 8MP camera and 4G LTE support, wrapped in a chassis that looks oddly familiar all for £230 (about $385, AU$415) or free on two year contracts starting at around £13 per month.
This means that the Sony handset has a tough fight on its hands, facing off against the newly relaunched 4G Moto G, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Ace 3, EE Kestrel and the OnePlus One, all of which come in with a similarly low price tag.
The competition is fierce then, but with the same Sony Omnibalance design aesthetics that has graced its recent flagships the Xperia M2 certainly stands out. This could really help the M2 succeed where the Xperia SP failed.
Sony could be criticised for its almost minimalist approach, but I have grown fond of the more industrial design nature that accompanies Sony handsets.
Sony Xperia M2 review
The large 4.8-inch screen dominates proceedings, packed with 540 x 960 pixels. This seems a little disappointing as the 229ppi pixel desnity is by no means razor sharp, although I never found the lack of pixels to be too much of a sticking point.
It should be noted though that the 4.5-inch Moto G comes in with a HD 720 x 1280 screen, so would be a better choice for those intent on watching a lot of movies or for heavy mobile gamers.
Back to the design I feel that the language of the Xperia M2 is far more reminiscent of the original Xperia Z flagship, albeit one fashioned out of plastic rather than glass and metal.
Sony Xperia M2 review
The plastic construction helps to keep the weight of the 139.7 x 71.1 x 8.6mm frame down to only 148g, although the M2 still has a reassuring heft behind it.
Over the course of my time with the Sony Xperia M2 though, I found that the shiny plastic back was extremely prone to fingerprints and it wasn't long before minor scratches became noticeable.
Along the base of the M2 you'll find the external speaker in the same place as on the Xperia Z. Those with a good memory will remember that this was a bit of a problem for the Z, especially when watching movies.
Sony Xperia M2 review
Although Sony has taken note of this and corrected it on the Xperia Z2, the problem persists here. Being seated at the bottom means that holding the M2 in landscape for movie watching causes the sound to feel distorted coming in just one ear.
While in portrait for gaming I found that my thumb was covering the speaker giving a heavily muffled sound.
Elsewhere the Sony design is evident with the large power/lock key sat in the middle of the right side of the Xperia M2, with the microSIM and microSD slots hidden at the top end behind a small plastic cover. The volume rocker and dedicated camera button sit towards the bottom.
Sony Xperia M2 review
Hiding the SIM and SD slot might appear to be a hint that the Xperia M2 has taken notes from its bigger brother in terms of water and dust resistance, although this isn't the case. I found this very disappointing, as it would certainly have given the M2 an edge over its nearest rivals.
On the other side of the handset is an uncovered microUSB port leaving the headphone port to sit along the top.
Interestingly there is a notification light that shows up just to the left of the speaker. This illuminates while the M2 is on charge, as well as when you have a text message. However I found that it only lit up once rather than repetitively and is so small it's almost unnoticeable.
Sony Xperia M2 review
At the base of the screen is another light, very discretely hidden. This light seems even more pointless as the only time I saw it light up was when a call was coming in, and given that the M2 spent most of its time in my pocket it wasn't seen.
Packed behind the screen is a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor backed up with 1GB RAM and 8GB of internal storage.
Despite the microSD support I was disappointed to find that only 5GB of the internal space was accessible. A 2300mAh battery is also included to power the M2.
Sony Xperia M2 review
An 8MP camera has been fitted to the back, carrying the same app features that can be found on the Xperia Z range. Round the front is a far more modest VGA camera for those desperate to take a self-portrait.
On paper the Sony Xperia M2 paints an interesting picture for itself, but the specs can only ever paint half the picture. Can the M2 live up to these high expectations?

Unsurprisingly Sony is marketing the Xperia M2 as a cut-down version of its Xperia Z2 flagship, retaining all the key features but at a much more acceptable price tag.
This includes the camera, although heavily cut down from the 20.7MP offering that graced the Xperia Z1, Z1 Compact and Xperia Z2. Instead Sony has put in an 8MP sensor, backed up with an LED flash.
The big talking point I have found with Sony Xperia cameras is the app itself. Sony has clearly given the camera a lot of attention, making it a much nicer and more complete app than that offered by its Samsung rivals.
Sony Xperia M2 review
This is about where the compliments stop though, as I found that the images captured by the 8MP sensor weren't anywhere near as crisp as I expected.
On the surface they look clear and crisp, but any amount of zooming in highlights some pixilation and noise that I wouldn't expect from such a sensor.
Sony is also keen to talk about the 4.8-inch qHD screen, highlighting not only the inclusion of Sony's TV expertise but also the size. It seems odd that Sony would call 4.8 inches the perfect size for entertainment given that the more expensive flagship is actually 5.2 inches.
Sony Xperia M2 review
I agree with Sony on the size though. For those that are finding the rise of phablets to be a little daunting the 4.8-inch screen is perfectly sized. You are able to hit the entire screen one handed with relative ease while also making the M2 the right size to sit in your pocket.
As for the resolution, I am a little more sceptical. Given that Motorola has been able to pack in a HD screen for the same price tag I was a little disheartened. The lack of pixels became a little more apparent while texting, as the text felt a little fuzzy throughout, with movie watching also slightly hampered.
That said viewing angles are certainly impressive.
Sony Xperia M2 review
Finally Sony is also keen to point out the inclusion of Qualcommm's Snapdragon 400 SoC, with its quad-core CPU clocked at 1.2GHz.
I found this meant that the Sony Xperia M2 ran very smoothly throughout. When swiping between home screens or gaming I never felt the Xperia M2 was struggling.
Given that this is the same CPU that sits behind the EE Kestrel, a handset that I found to be a little sluggish at times, I was impressed by the work that Sony has put into ensuring the M2 was smooth throughout.

Sony Xperia M2 review
When it comes to choosing an Android phone, the interface can prove to be as important as the specs. First and foremost is the version of Android, currently Android 4.3 Jelly Bean on the Sony Xperia M2, although an update to KitKat is thankfully on the cards.

Sony's UI doesn't come with any particular name, where Samsung has TouchWiz, HTC has Sense and Huawei has Emotion UI, it's something that Sony might want to look at.
It's hardly important, but makes it easier to talk about to friends. I'm voting for Sony Superawesome UI.
That's because the Sony UI is a highly polished interface, one that doesn't feel overbearing at any point, being far subtle in its implementation than Sense and TouchWiz. This allows the Android OS to shine through.
Sony Xperia M2 review
Moving around the Sony Xperia M2 was easy, unsurprisingly not as fast as the higher end flagships but at no point did I feel that I was left waiting.
The GeekBench 3 scores averaged at around 1060. This means that it comes in slightly slower than the Moto G, and oddly lower than the EE Kestrel that ships with the same internal power.
From the notifications bar, with its minimalist approach to the quick power toggles, to the app drawer and its menu located to the far left, it's clear that Sony has given the UI a lot of thought.

Themes can be applied to give the Xperia M2 a new feel, changing the background as well as the accent colours throughout the device.
Should you feel that none of the ones on the M2 are to your liking, you can always download more. I found the Spider-man one particularly tempting.
The lock screen has an interesting shutter effect as you swipe up and down, and also houses the ability to turn widgets on/off. This is something that is becoming popular among manufacturers, and while I can see the appeal it isn't something that I found myself using an awful lot.
Side swiping the top of the lock screen accesses these widgets, with a swipe right bringing up widgets and a swipe left loading up the camera.
I found this particularly confusing as the Sony Xperia M2 comes with a dedicated camera button that instantly loads the camera. This space on the lock screen could definitely have been used more efficiently.
One area that I think Samsung has gotten it right with TouchWiz is the ability to launch into a multi window view, allowing the easy copying of text between, for example, an internet browser and the SMS app. Sony has implemented a similar idea, but it feels a little less useful.
By pressing the multi-tasking Android key you're greeted at the bottom with the ability to load up floating windows. These include a browser, screen shot key and a calculator. More apps are available to download from the Google Play Store should you desire them.