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Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Smartphone Review

Michael Moser, Tanja Hinum (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 07/19/2015

Hot diver. Sony refreshes its waterproof and dust-resistant smartphone series Xperia M Aqua. The Xperia M4 Aqua can convince us in many respects, including the bright 5-inch IPS display with the HD resolution, a fast octa-core SoC from Qualcomm as well as 2 GB RAM. However, there are also some issues.

For the original German review, see here.

The Japanese media giant Sony introduced an alternative to the Sony Xperia M2 last year. The Xperia Aqua M2 was certified according to the standards IP65/68, and the design of the updated midrange smartphone Xperia Aqua M4, which is once again protected against dust and water, is very similar to the Xperia Z3.

The technical specs are very good with Android 5.0 Lollipop, a 5-inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 MSM8939 octa-core SoC with 2 GB RAM as well as 8 GB internal storage (expendable via microSD). The same applies for the camera specs with a 13 MP sensor at the back and a 5 MP wide-angle sensor at the front. LTE Cat. 4 and dual-band Wi-Fi are available as well.

Direct rivals besides other waterproof and dust-resistant smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3 are the ZTE Blade S6 or the ruggedized smartphone Kyocera Torque if you can spend a little bit more money.

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Sony Xperia M4 Aqua (Xperia Series)
Graphics adapter
Memory
2048 MB 
Display
5 inch 16:9, 1280 x 720 pixel, capacitive multi-touchscreen (up to four fingers simultaneously), hand writing recognition, IPS, 295 dpi, glossy: yes
Storage
8 GB eMMC Flash, 8 GB 
, 3.02 GB free
Connections
1 USB 2.0, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm stereo jack, Card Reader: microSD (up to 128 GB), Sensors: A-GPS, Glonass; Accelerometer, Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Compass, NFC, DLNA, Miracast, ANT+
Networking
802.11a/b/g/n (a/b/g/n = Wi-Fi 4), Bluetooth 4.1, GSM-Quadband (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), UMTS-Quadband (850/900/1.900/2.100 MHz), LTE-Heptaband (800/850/900/1800/1900/2100/2600 MHz); GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+; Bandwidth (Download/Upload): 150Mbps/50Mbps (LTE Cat.4), 42Mbps/5.76Mbps (UMTS)
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 7.3 x 145.5 x 72.59 ( = 0.29 x 5.73 x 2.86 in)
Battery
Lithium-Polymer, 2400 mAh, integrated, Talk time 2G (according to manufacturer): 12.4 h, Talk time 3G (according to manufacturer): 13.2 h, Standby 2G (according to manufacturer): 681 h, Standby 3G (according to manufacturer): 685 h
Operating System
Android 5.0 Lollipop
Camera
Webcam: 5.0 MP, videos @720p; main camera: 13.0 MP, AF, LED-flash, videos @1080/30fps
Additional features
Speakers: Mono speaker, Keyboard: virtual QWERTY-keyboard, Keyboard Light: yes, 24 Months Warranty, SAR-value: 0.61W/kg, Nano-SIM, FM radio, IP65/IP68 certified (waterproof & dust-resistant)
Weight
136 g ( = 4.8 oz / 0.3 pounds), Power Supply: 72 g ( = 2.54 oz / 0.16 pounds)
Price
279 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case

The chassis of the Xperia M4 Aqua follows Sony‘s typical OmniBalance design and is completely made of plastic. Besides our white review unit, it is also available in silver and coral (red). At 136 grams (~4.8 oz), it is even lighter than the predecessor Xperia M2 Aqua. Only the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and the ZTE Blade S6 are slightly lighter. The Xperia M4 Aqua is just 7.3 mm (~0.3 in) thin and therefore thinner than the competition, even though they have dimensions that are more compact.

It is not possible to remove the rear cover of the Xperia M4 Aqua, and the battery is integrated as well. Still, the smartphone is not as sturdy as expected and there is loud creaking when we try to twist it. While this should not be a huge deal in practice, another issue might be because of the high-gloss back, the smartphone is susceptible to scratches and dirt – not really the best solution for a “ruggedized smartphone”.

The circled power button and the volume rocker as well as a dedicated camera trigger are located at the right side of the case. The pressure points are okay and are only slightly spongy. The encapsulated Micro-USB 2.0 port and the microSD port are at the left side, the latter port is behind a protective cover. The slot for the Nano-SIM is at the right side and also has a special cover. The encapsulated 3.5 mm stereo jack is at the top of the Xperia M4 Aqua and therefore easy to reach when you have the smartphone in your pocket. The mono speaker is once again at the bottom of the case.

If you already planned a diving trip to the Caribbean, be warned: The smartphone can only be submerged in fresh water with a depth of up to 1.5 meters (~5 feet) for up to 30 minutes, and you should immediately clean the smartphone after you use it in a chlorinated pool.

145.5 mm / 5.73 inch 72.59 mm / 2.86 inch 7.3 mm / 0.2874 inch 136 g0.2998 lbs144 mm / 5.67 inch 70.7 mm / 2.78 inch 7.7 mm / 0.3031 inch 134 g0.2954 lbs140 mm / 5.51 inch 72 mm / 2.83 inch 8.6 mm / 0.3386 inch 147 g0.3241 lbs132.9 mm / 5.23 inch 70.1 mm / 2.76 inch 9.95 mm / 0.3917 inch 154 g0.3395 lbs131.1 mm / 5.16 inch 64.8 mm / 2.55 inch 9.1 mm / 0.3583 inch 120 g0.2646 lbs

Connectivity

While the design of the review unit does not really differ from the Sony Xperia Z3, there are some special features. The Xperia M4 Aqua is equipped with a 64-bit capable octa-core SoC from Qualcomm, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 MSM8939 with 2 GB RAM. This ensures the current Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system operates smoothly without stutters. The internal storage is very small at just 8 GB (net just 3.02 GB), but can be expanded via microSD by up to 128 GB, and it is possible to transfer apps to the SD card via App2SD. Miracast and DLNA are supported as well, but MHL and USB OTG are not.

Left: Micro USB, microSD slot
Left: Micro USB, microSD slot
Waterproof under a cover: microSD slot
Waterproof under a cover: microSD slot
Top: 3.5 mm combo jack, microphone
Top: 3.5 mm combo jack, microphone
Right: Trigger, volume rocker, power button, SIM slot
Right: Trigger, volume rocker, power button, SIM slot
Waterproof under a cover: Nano SIM slot
Waterproof under a cover: Nano SIM slot
Bottom: Microphone, speaker
Bottom: Microphone, speaker

Software

The operating system of the M4 Aqua is Google Android 5.0 Lollipop. The design is, similar to the Xperia M2 Aqua, defined by the Xperia UI, which offers an intuitive system. It is unfortunate that the manufacturer not only preloads its own apps, but also a lot of bloatware from third-party companies. This includes useful things like the usual Google package, Facebook, Twitter, OfficeSuite or the ingenious PlayStation app just like unnecessary stuff. Not all the apps can be deleted or transferred to the SD card; examples would be the Google apps or Sony’s own apps.

Android 5.0 Lollipop
Android 5.0 Lollipop
Sony installs...
Sony installs...
...several apps,...
...several apps,...
...including...
...including...
...the usual Google package.
...the usual Google package.
It is unfortunate that not all of the apps can be deleted.
It is unfortunate that not all of the apps can be deleted.
GPS Test indoors
GPS Test indoors
GPS Test outdoors
GPS Test outdoors

Communication & GPS 

The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua uses a dual-band Wi-Fi module with support for the standards 802.11 a/b/g/n, which works in 2.4 as well as 5 GHz networks. The range is good and we still had a stable connection with a fast web experience at a distance of around 10 meters (~33 feet) to the router and with several walls in-between. 

Mobile Internet connections can be established via HSPA+ (up to 42 Mbps) or LTE Cat. 4 (up to 150 Mbps). GSM and UMTS quad-band as well as LTE hepta-band also ensure a working connection almost everywhere in the world. Local connections are possible via Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC. It is also possible to use fitness gadgets like heart rate or blood pressure monitors or other fitness/health gadgets with the ANT+ protocol.

Determining location with the app GPS Test is pretty quick indoors as well as outdoors via GPS and GLONASS satellites, but the accuracy is not very convincing. 

A direct comparison to the outdoor navigation device Garmin GPSMAP64s shows a deviation of around 180 meters (~197 yards) for the review unit. Difficult passages like a bridge or the curvy track in particular show that the Xperia M4 Aqua tends to use shortcuts. All in all, still a decent result.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
GPSMAP64s
GPSMAP64s
GPSMAP64s
GPSMAP64s
GPSMAP64s
GPSMAP64s
The phone app...
The phone app...
...has all the important...
...has all the important...
...functions.
...functions.

Telephone & Voice Quality

The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua offers good voice quality, which is also confirmed by a test call. The caller noticed a somewhat tinny sound, but our voice was still easy to understand. The provided headset sounds a bit dull, but works well overall. The phone app was not changed compared to the predecessor Xperia M2 Aqua and offers all the important functions like mailbox, favorites, and groups. The speaker does not manage the highest volume for noisy environments and sounds rather scratchy.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua front camera
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua front camera

Cameras & Multimedia

Sony updated the front camera and equips the Xperia M4 Aqua with a 5 MP sensor with a 22 mm wide-angle lens and 88 degrees viewing angle, which is perfect for selfies and groupies. Motion recognition software is integrated as well. Videos can be recorded in 720p. The settings for the front camera are slightly hidden in the settings. The pictures are pretty decent in general, but the sensor has problems with bad lighting conditions and there is also a clearly visible purple hue.

The main camera at the back has a high resolution of 13 MP and comes with autofocus, LED flash and supports video recordings in 1080p at 30 fps. The “Exmor RS for mobile” picture sensor and HDR are also supposed to ensure the best results for pictures and videos under all lighting condition, according to Sony. The quality of the pictures is actually pretty good and they are sharp under good lighting conditions, only the colors could be a bit more accurate, for nature shots in particular. The low-light performance is very good for a sensor in this price range, even though dark areas are a bit blurry and the details lack sharpness. You will also notice significant picture noise when you zoom in. The main sensor also shows a distinct purple hue.

We really like the dedicated trigger, which means you can quickly activate the camera even when the Xperia M4 Aqua is in standby. The volume rocker operates the digital zoom, but you should avoid it due to the strong picture noise and the bad interpolation of the device. The most important features are easily accessible via screen.

Sure, the Xperia M4 Aqua cannot compete with high-end smartphones, but we still think that the performance is fine.

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

Accessories

Sony ships the smartphone with a data cable, a modular USB power adaptor as well as a stereo headset. There are also several generic accessories in the web store, but there are no dedicated accessories for the review unit yet.

Warranty

Sony grants a 24-month warranty for the Xperia M4 Aqua, but the battery and the accessories are only covered for 6 months.

Input Devices & Handling

The capacitive multi-touchscreen of the Sony Xperia M4 recognizes up to 10 fingers simultaneously and executes inputs with precision. The gliding capabilities of the surface are good.

The keyboard layout was not changed compared to the Sony Xperia M2 Aqua and is very simple. It is also possible to configure the keyboard in multiple ways and you get word predictions, optional auto corrects and a swype function. The Android system buttons are unfortunately integrated into the display and therefore occupy a part of the screen, but many apps fade them out automatically.

Keyboard portrait mode
Keyboard portrait mode
Keyboard landscape mode
Keyboard landscape mode

Display

Sony once again uses an IPS panel for the Xperia M4 Aqua, but the size and the resolution were increased to 5 inches as well as 1280 x 720 pixels, which means the HD display manages a pixel density of 295 PPI. The luminance was clearly improved as well and we can measure an average value of 535.3 cd/m² with a maximum luminance of 555 cd/m². The brightness distribution is very even at 92 percent and easily surpasses all the rivals in this comparison.

540
cd/m²
539
cd/m²
508
cd/m²
549
cd/m²
547
cd/m²
516
cd/m²
555
cd/m²
547
cd/m²
517
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 555 cd/m² Average: 535.3 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 92 %
Center on Battery: 547 cd/m²
Contrast: 675:1 (Black: 0.81 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 5.77 | 0.6-29.43 Ø6
ΔE Greyscale 5.87 | 0.64-98 Ø6.2
96.5753% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 72.0875% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.14
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Adreno 405, 615 MSM8939, 8 GB eMMC Flash
ZTE Blade S6
Adreno 405, 615 MSM8939, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
GC7000UL, Armada PXA1908, 8 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
Mali-400 MP4, 3470 Quad, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
Adreno 305, 400 MSM8926, 8 GB eMMC Flash
Screen
-3%
6%
-20%
-0%
Brightness middle
547
386
-29%
452
-17%
288
-47%
458
-16%
Brightness
535
377
-30%
436
-19%
289
-46%
474
-11%
Brightness Distribution
92
90
-2%
91
-1%
88
-4%
92
0%
Black Level *
0.81
0.44
46%
0.53
35%
0.53
35%
Contrast
675
877
30%
853
26%
864
28%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
5.77
7.12
-23%
5.71
1%
6.18
-7%
7.63
-32%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
5.87
6.7
-14%
5.02
14%
5.52
6%
6.22
-6%
Gamma
2.14 103%
1.98 111%
2.15 102%
2.23 99%
2.38 92%
CCT
7784 84%
7784 84%
7441 87%
7256 90%
10939 59%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
72.0875
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
96.5753

* ... smaller is better

A black value of 0.81 cd/m² is too high, but the average contrast of 675:1 too low. All the rivals easily beat the Xperia M4 Aqua in this respect and manage much better results, even the predecessor Xperia M2 Aqua was better.

The analysis with the software CalMAN shows a clear deviation towards green-blue in the ColorChecker. You can also notice a color cast in the grayscale from the middle area up. This is also supported by the slightly increased color temperature. The gamma on the other hand is close to the ideal value. An sRGB color space coverage of 97 percent is very good. Subjectively, the deviations will only be visible for the trained eye, and the colors of the Xperia M4 Aqua will be vivid in practice.

ColorChecker sRGB
ColorChecker sRGB
Colorspace sRGB
Colorspace sRGB
Grayscale sRGB
Grayscale sRGB
Saturation Sweeps sRGB
Saturation Sweeps sRGB

The smartphone benefits from the high luminance outdoors. Still, you get the usual glossy display surface, which means you cannot see anything from the display content under direct sunlight.

Thanks to the IPS technology, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua provides a very good viewing angle stability. You can only notice some slight brightness reductions from extreme angles, but color distortions are no problem.

Outdoor use in the shade
Outdoor use in the shade
Outdoor use under the sun
Outdoor use under the sun
Viewing angles
Viewing angles

Performance

The Xperia M4 Aqua is powered by a 64-bit capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 MSM8939 octa-core SoC with 2 GB RAM, which ensures good system performance.

The synthetic benchmarks determine a high performance for the smartphone. Our review unit is ahead of the rivals in many benchmarks and is usually only beaten by the ZTE Blade S6, which is also powered by the Qualcomm SoC. It only falls behind in Smartbench 2012, which shows that the heat cannot be dissipated sufficiently.

Geekbench 3
32 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
2103 Points ∼3%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
1717 Points ∼2% -18%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
1113 Points ∼1% -47%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
1121 Points ∼1% -47%
32 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
539 Points ∼11%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
575 Points ∼12% +7%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
369 Points ∼8% -32%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
343 Points ∼7% -36%
3DMark
1920x1080 Ice Storm Extreme Physics (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
5660 Points ∼7%
ZTE Blade S6
7346 Points ∼9% +30%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
8885 Points ∼11% +57%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
7542 Points ∼9% +33%
1920x1080 Ice Storm Extreme Graphics (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
4028 Points ∼1%
ZTE Blade S6
5272 Points ∼1% +31%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
1412 Points ∼0% -65%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
2472 Points ∼0% -39%
1920x1080 Ice Storm Extreme Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
4304 Points ∼2%
ZTE Blade S6
5625 Points ∼3% +31%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
1737 Points ∼1% -60%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
2906 Points ∼1% -32%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Physics (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
5569 Points ∼4%
ZTE Blade S6
7143 Points ∼5% +28%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
8944 Points ∼6% +61%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
7880 Points ∼5% +41%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
7650 Points ∼5% +37%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Graphics (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
8421 Points ∼1%
ZTE Blade S6
10819 Points ∼1% +28%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
3274 Points ∼0% -61%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
3341 Points ∼0% -60%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
5455 Points ∼1% -35%
1280x720 Ice Storm Standard Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
7561 Points ∼1%
ZTE Blade S6
9709 Points ∼1% +28%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
3811 Points ∼0% -50%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
3831 Points ∼0% -49%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
5827 Points ∼1% -23%
AnTuTu v5 - Total Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
29770 Points ∼30%
ZTE Blade S6
30329 Points ∼31% +2%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
22432 Points ∼23% -25%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
19251 Points ∼19% -35%
GFXBench (DX / GLBenchmark) 2.7
1920x1080 T-Rex HD Offscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
12.7 fps ∼0%
ZTE Blade S6
15 fps ∼0% +18%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
5.4 fps ∼0% -57%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
6.6 fps ∼0% -48%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
5.9 fps ∼0% -54%
T-Rex HD Onscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
21.5 fps ∼1%
ZTE Blade S6
25 fps ∼1% +16%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
15.1 fps ∼0% -30%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
9.4 fps ∼0% -56%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
15.4 fps ∼0% -28%
GFXBench 3.0
off screen Manhattan Offscreen OGL (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
5.4 fps ∼1%
ZTE Blade S6
5.9 fps ∼1% +9%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
0.8 fps ∼0% -85%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
1.8 fps ∼0% -67%
on screen Manhattan Onscreen OGL (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
10.4 fps ∼3%
ZTE Blade S6
11 fps ∼3% +6%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
2.3 fps ∼1% -78%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
6.8 fps ∼2% -35%
Linpack Android / IOS
Multi Thread (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
334.656 MFLOPS ∼11%
ZTE Blade S6
0 MFLOPS ∼0% -100%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
226 MFLOPS ∼8% -32%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
195 MFLOPS ∼7% -42%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
260.69 MFLOPS ∼9% -22%
Single Thread (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
238.841 MFLOPS ∼23%
ZTE Blade S6
0 MFLOPS ∼0% -100%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
122 MFLOPS ∼12% -49%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
87 MFLOPS ∼9% -64%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
85.11 MFLOPS ∼8% -64%
Smartbench 2012 - Productivity Index (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
3782 points ∼20%
ZTE Blade S6
404 points ∼2% -89%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
6497 points ∼35% +72%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
4264 points ∼23% +13%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
5106 points ∼27% +35%
BaseMark OS II - Overall (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
764 Points ∼9%
ZTE Blade S6
782 Points ∼9% +2%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
443 Points ∼5% -42%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
489 Points ∼6% -36%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
478 Points ∼6% -37%
PCMark for Android - Work performance score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
3236 Points ∼17%
ZTE Blade S6
3045 Points ∼16% -6%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
2620 Points ∼13% -19%

Legend

 
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 MSM8939, Qualcomm Adreno 405, 8 GB eMMC Flash
 
ZTE Blade S6 Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 MSM8939, Qualcomm Adreno 405, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3 Marvell Armada PXA1908, Vivante GC7000UL, 8 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini Samsung Exynos 3470 Quad, ARM Mali-400 MP4, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 MSM8926, Qualcomm Adreno 305, 8 GB eMMC Flash

Our review unit also manages good results in the browser tests and beats the rivals in almost every benchmark. It is only surpassed by the ZTE Blade S6 in Google Octane V2. Subjectively, websites are loaded very quickly.

Google V8 Ver. 7 - Google V8 Ver. 7 Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
3565 Points ∼18%
ZTE Blade S6
3635 Points ∼19% +2%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
1993 Points ∼10% -44%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
2163 Points ∼11% -39%
Sunspider - 1.0 Total Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
1676.1 ms * ∼18%
ZTE Blade S6
1213 ms * ∼13% +28%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
1119 ms * ∼12% +33%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
1710.2 ms * ∼19% -2%
Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
3215 Points ∼6%
ZTE Blade S6
3655 Points ∼7% +14%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
2059 Points ∼4% -36%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
2019 Points ∼4% -37%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
2183 Points ∼4% -32%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
18847.3 ms * ∼32%
ZTE Blade S6
11668 ms * ∼20% +38%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
15201 ms * ∼26% +19%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
16154.6 ms * ∼27% +14%

* ... smaller is better

The internal flash storage has a capacity of 8 GB, but only 3 GB can be used for your own files, which will not be sufficient for a long time, not even for less demanding users. It is, however, possible to expand the storage by up to 128 GB via microSD card and the majority of apps can be transferred to the card.

A direct comparison shows that the storage is pretty fast in comparison with the rivals. We never had problems with significant waiting times during our review period.

AndroBench 3-5
Random Write 4KB (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
3.91 MB/s ∼2%
ZTE Blade S6
2.85 MB/s ∼1% -27%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
4 MB/s ∼2% +2%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
1.28 MB/s ∼1% -67%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
1.11 MB/s ∼0% -72%
Random Read 4KB (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
9.76 MB/s ∼5%
ZTE Blade S6
7.85 MB/s ∼4% -20%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
15.8 MB/s ∼8% +62%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
9.99 MB/s ∼5% +2%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
12.76 MB/s ∼7% +31%
Sequential Write 256KB (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
28.81 MB/s ∼5%
ZTE Blade S6
51 MB/s ∼9% +77%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
25.6 MB/s ∼4% -11%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
15.2 MB/s ∼3% -47%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
15.35 MB/s ∼3% -47%
Sequential Read 256KB (sort by value)
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
130.02 MB/s ∼9%
ZTE Blade S6
128 MB/s ∼9% -2%
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
113.5 MB/s ∼8% -13%
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
79.6 MB/s ∼5% -39%
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
121.33 MB/s ∼8% -7%

Games

The integrated graphics chip Qualcomm Adreno 405 runs at up to 550 MHz (Boost) and is powerful enough for the majority of current games from the Play Store in HD. Even more complex titles like Call of Duty: Heroes and Modern Combat 5 ran smoothly in our test. It is sometimes necessary to reduce the quality settings, but in return, you can enjoy smooth gameplay. Both the touchscreen and the position sensor worked well and precisely.

Call of Duty: Heroes
Call of Duty: Heroes
Modern Combat 5
Modern Combat 5

Emissions

Temperature

This section probably reveals the biggest issue of the Xperia M4 Aqua, because it is a real hothead. While the temperatures at the bottom are still okay at 32.6 °C (~91 °F) while idling, the smartphone warms up to 44.8 °C (~112 °F on average) under maximum load, and the area around the SoC even reaches 51.7 °C (~125 °F). These temperatures are much higher compared to the rivals, only the ZTE Blade S6 reaches similar values.

This high temperature development is also the reason for the throttling of the performance over time. We check that with the GFXBench battery test, which runs the T-Rex benchmark thirty times in a row and logs the performance. The result: The performance is clearly reduced in the last quarter of the test. In practice however, the throttling was only noticeable after long periods of maximum load.

GFXBench battery test performance
GFXBench battery test performance
GFXBench battery test temperature
GFXBench battery test temperature
Max. Load
 47.6 °C
118 F
42 °C
108 F
41.9 °C
107 F
 
 47.1 °C
117 F
43.4 °C
110 F
41.6 °C
107 F
 
 44.7 °C
112 F
38 °C
100 F
38.7 °C
102 F
 
Maximum: 47.6 °C = 118 F
Average: 42.8 °C = 109 F
36.9 °C
98 F
50.4 °C
123 F
51.7 °C
125 F
37.4 °C
99 F
48.5 °C
119 F
50.1 °C
122 F
36.5 °C
98 F
46.2 °C
115 F
45.9 °C
115 F
Maximum: 51.7 °C = 125 F
Average: 44.8 °C = 113 F
Power Supply (max.)  35.9 °C = 97 F | Room Temperature 24.3 °C = 76 F | Voltcraft IR-260
(-) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 42.8 °C / 109 F, compared to the average of 33.1 °C / 92 F for the devices in the class Smartphone.
(-) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 47.6 °C / 118 F, compared to the average of 35.5 °C / 96 F, ranging from 22.4 to 51.7 °C for the class Smartphone.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 51.7 °C / 125 F, compared to the average of 34.1 °C / 93 F
(±) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 34.4 °C / 94 F, compared to the device average of 33.1 °C / 92 F.

Speakers

The mono speaker at the bottom of the smartphone creates a sound that puts emphasis on the high tones, but lacks bass and medium tones. This is still okay for the price range, and the sound only tends to distort at high volumes. The provided stereo headset sounds decent and can compensate the deficits of the internal speaker.

Battery Runtime

The battery of the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua has a capacity of 2,400 mAh and is integrated into the chassis because of the waterproof design. The runtimes are decent. We simulate the minimum runtime under maximum load with the app Stability Test, which determined 3:41 hours – the review unit is only beaten by the predecessor Sony Xperia M2 Aqua. However, while it has a similar battery capacity (2,330 mAh), it uses a weaker SoC and a smaller as well as darker display.

Our tests with an adjusted brightness at 150 cd/m² (60%) are more practical and determine decent results for the Xperia M4 Aqua – even though most of the rivals have more stamina. Our Wi-Fi test runs for 7 hours, which is on par with the ZTE Blade S6 (2,400 mAh). The Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3 (2,200 mAh) on the other hand runs about 30 percent longer. Full HD video playback is possible for more than 8:38 hours, but most of the rivals once again last longer, and the highlight is the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini (2,100 mAh) with an advantage of 45 percent. All in all, the runtimes of the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua are good. The only real drawback is the provided power adaptor needs more than 3.5 hours to charge the battery when the device is turned on, and it will take about twice as long when you prefer to charge the smartphone at a USB port.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
13h 11min
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3 (Android 5.0.0, Google Chrome 43.0.2357.93)
7h 00min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
8h 38min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 41min
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Adreno 405, 615 MSM8939, 8 GB eMMC Flash
ZTE Blade S6
Adreno 405, 615 MSM8939, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
GC7000UL, Armada PXA1908, 8 GB eMMC Flash
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
Mali-400 MP4, 3470 Quad, 16 GB eMMC Flash
Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
Adreno 305, 400 MSM8926, 8 GB eMMC Flash
Battery Runtime
-11%
9%
16%
18%
H.264
518
497
-4%
678
31%
753
45%
607
17%
WiFi v1.3
420
432
3%
503
20%
Load
221
149
-33%
166
-25%
193
-13%
264
19%
WiFi
849
582

Pros

+ good, bright IPS HD display
+ case IP68 certified (waterproof and dust-resistant)
+ clean build quality
+ wide angle front camera
+ LTE Cat. 4, Bluetooth 4.1
+ Android 5.0 Lollipop
+ fast SoC and a lot of RAM
+ storage expansion up to 128 GB
+ decent battery runtimes
+ good voice quality

Cons

- tiny internal storage
- high temperature development
- low contrast & black value too high
- a lot of bloat ware
- integrated battery
- long charging time
- plastic susceptible to scratches
- camera performance in low-light situations

Verdict

In Review: Sony Xperia M4 Aqua. Review unit courtesy of Sony Germany.
In Review: Sony Xperia M4 Aqua. Review unit courtesy of Sony Germany.

The Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is a compact mainstream smartphone with many good features. We liked the bright IPS display with the HD resolution as well as the color presentation and the good system performance. Other positive aspects are the voice quality and the decent camera modules, at least under good lighting conditions. The well-built chassis has a nice design, but is susceptible to scratches and dirt on the plastic back, but it is at least easy to remove dirt thanks to the IP65/68 certification (waterproof and dust-resistant). The features with LTE Cat. 4, dual-band Wi-Fi with a good range and Android Lollipop 5.0 are good. The internal storage is too small at just 3 GB, but can be expanded up to 128 GB via microSD card and the majority of apps can be transferred to it. Thanks to the decent battery runtimes, the device easily manages a whole day without a socket, but the charging time of the integrated battery is unfortunately painfully long. You might accept that Sony installs quiet a lot of bloatware and that the display could be better in respect of the contrast and black value, but the temperature development under maximum load can be pretty uncomfortable.  

So if you are looking for an inexpensive mainstream smartphone with IP certification and can live with the mentioned issues, then you should consider the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua.

If you cannot live with the problems, you should have a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, which is available for less than 300 Euros (~$325).

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua - 07/16/2015 v4(old)
Michael Moser

Chassis
70%
Keyboard
65 / 75 → 87%
Pointing Device
88%
Connectivity
46 / 60 → 77%
Weight
93%
Battery
91%
Display
83%
Games Performance
56 / 63 → 89%
Application Performance
31 / 70 → 44%
Temperature
65%
Noise
100%
Audio
56 / 91 → 62%
Camera
67%
Average
70%
80%
Smartphone - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Smartphone Review
Michael Moser, 2015-07-19 (Update: 2018-05-15)
Andreas Osthoff
Andreas Osthoff - Senior Editor Business
I grew up with computers and modern consumer electronics. I am interested in the technology since I had my first computer, a Commodore C64, and started building my own PCs after that. My focus here at Notebookcheck is the business segment including mobile workstations, but I also like to test new mobile devices. It is always a great experience to review and compare new products. My free time is filled with a lot of sports, in the summer mainly on my bike.