2013 has been the year of incredibly over-powered superphones. The highlight of the year was obviously the Galaxy S4 with its ridiculous octa-core processor. With such amount of effort being put on high end smartphones, we’d started to wonder if there really was a budget market that the top-tier manufacturers have been so happy to ignore. Thankfully, Sony has come out with their version of what a budget Android smartphone should be. It’s called the Xperia M, and it’s a spiritual successor to the very successful and capable, Xperia U. Have Sony’s experts hit a home run again in the Xperia M? Let’s find out in our Sony Xperia M review.
Design and Build
The Sony Xperia M looks familiar to the Xperia line of smartphones, featuring the same design elements and the Omni-Balance design language. It can only look so dramatic with those small proportions, but it does have a charming budget handset feel about it. It’s not too flashy but has an understated design that’s going to do well with the masses. It knows its a budget smartphone and it makes no excuses about it. Plus, the lack of expensive materials means that should the owner manage to damage the smartphone, parts shouldn’t be too expensive to replace.
The Sony Xperia M features a 4 inch display with an 854×480 resolution. That gives it a nearly respectable 245 pixels per inch. That’s not enough to hide jagged lines when it displays text, but you won’t be staring that closly at this small display either. Sadly, the Xperia M carries on the bad display genes Sony is so famous for as well. Contrast is poor and the screen has a distinct bluish tint. Viewing angles are of course, terrible. But the Xperia M gets a pass for that as the former flagship, the Xperia Z, also had problems with the viewing angles.
This is where the Xperia M really redeems itself. Most Android smartphones in this price range feature bottom-end Cortex-A7/A9 chipsets made by high-volume Chinese manufacturers. But the Xperia M packs a more modern Snapdragon S4 Plus chipset. That means it has a 1GHz dual-core processor and Adreno 305 graphics. That’s not a bad combination at all. Especially when you notice the 1 gigabyte of RAM this thing packs. This powerful hardware(for a budget phone) gives the Xperia M a nice edge as ‘budget’ Android smartphones like the Samsung Ace 3 pack a much inferior chipset(and cost more). Sadly, the Xperia M only has 4 gigabytes of internal memory, so you’ll be wise to buy a microSD card as soon you buy the smartphone.
The Sony Xperia M packs a 5 megapixel camera that can shoot 720p video as well. Again, 720p video is unheard of in this price category, so the Xperia M gets a nod from us in this department. As far as quality is concerned, the 5 megapixel shooter isn’t spectacular, to say the least. If you just want to post your pictures on social networking sites, the Xperia M will do fine. But if you’re serious about photography, you’d better have your digital camera ready with you. The video quality is similar as well. It’s just adequate, without being special.
For such a small smartphone, the Xperia M packs an impressive 1800mAh battery. On the single-SIM version atleast, total call time was recorded at almost 13 hours. While web browsing gave an average 7 hours of battery life. Those aren’t particularly impressive numbers, but factor-in the Xperia M’s budget price tag and you’ll begin to appreciate them.
The Sony Xperia M hits the sweet spot for a modern budget Android smartphone. It has just the amount of hardware that keeps it form being classified as obsolete. It’ll happily chug along doing routine tasks without breaking a sweat. And it’ll do that for a very low price of around $220. And that price is expected to go down very soon as well. The only phone that comes close to matching the Xperia M’s bang-for-buck is the WP8 Nokia Lumia 520. That’s an impressive smartphone in its own right, but the appeal of Windows Phone is still quite limited, and the 520 only has 512 megabytes of RAM. So the Sony Xperia M really does seem to be without peer. For now.