It may be more than a year old, but the Sony Xperia M2 has proven to be an enduringly popular choice for budget smartphone buyers. Despite having been superseded twice, the newest Sony Xperia M phone being the M4 Aqua, the Xperia M2 is still available for as little as £140 SIM-free or £10.50-per-month on contract. However, at this price, the M2 is firmly in 2nd Gen Moto G territory, and the M2 hasn’t aged nearly as well as Motorola’s budget marvel.
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.
This is a shame, as the M2’s 4.8in 960×540 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 and the M4 Aqua.
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, but at least its black level of 0.47cd/m2 isn’t as high as the M4 Aqua, which reached a disappointing high of 0.72cd/m2.
However, the M2’s real downfall is its tiny resolution of just 960×540. 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.
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, and 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.
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 the same chipset after all, and it 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, but then again the Moto G doesn’t fare much better with its result of 494.
Graphics performance was also on par with the Moto G, as it produced an identical 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.