Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review

The mid-range waterproof marvel

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review

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Samsung Galaxy A5

Samsung Galaxy A5

Samsung's approach to the Galaxy A5 is very similar to Sony's with the Xperia M4 Aqua. Like the M4 Aqua, the Galaxy A5 is a smartphone that eschews the more expensive bells and whistles of high-end handsets in favour of concentrating on being a solid mid-range device.

The specifications of both handsets are decent, though unspectacular, with the M4 Aqua having the edge mainly thanks to it being a more recent handset.

This results in a beefed up Snapdragon 615 SoC, compared to the A5's Snapdragon 410, so games and more intensive apps run smoother on Sony's device.

However if you like storing plenty of photos, apps, movies and more, then the A5 has the edge as it comes with 16GB of inbuilt storage, compared to the M4's 8GB.

Both devices have microSD card slots to boost storage, though the Galaxy A5 supports capacities up to 64GB, compared to 128GB for the M4 Aqua.

Despite the Galaxy A5 being mid-range, Samsung has decked it out in an all-metal unibody that takes its design cues from the more expensive Galaxy Alpha – again very similar to what Sony has done with the M4 Aqua.

Both handsets look fantastic, so it really boils down to personal taste. For me, I'd say I prefer the look of the M4 Aqua, however the Galaxy A5's all-metal unibody means it feels more like a quality device compared to the M4 Aqua.

The two smartphones offer 5.0-inch screens at 720p, and both use their own technology to improve image quality. As lovely as the Xperia M4 Aqua's IPS screen is, the AMOLED tech behind the Galaxy A5 gives Samsung's handset the edge there. The body to screen ratio is more in favour of the screen with the A5 as well, so you'll get the same size screen but with a smaller body if you go with Samsung.

One thing that the M4 Aqua does offer over the Galaxy A5 is a water and dust proof body – so you'll be getting a more robust handset with Sony's offering.

LG Magna

LG Magna

The LG Magna doesn't borrow as much design language from its more expensive sibling as the Xperia M4 Aqua and the Galaxy A5 do, though it features a curved display similar to the one found on the LG G Flex 2.

This leaves us with another midrange phone that stands out from the crowd, though the Xperia M4 Aqua still beats the LG Magna in the looks department.

Apart from the curve the screens are very similar, measuring 5.0-inches with a 720p resolution and pixel densities of 294ppi. LG's use of in-cell technology is designed to make the LG Magna's screen more vibrant and responsive, but the M4 Aqua's display pips it in the looks department – unless you're really after a curved screen.

Though the Xperia M4 Aqua's 2400 mAh battery did well at holding on to its charge, the LG Magna comes with a slightly larger 2540mAh battery – so with careful use you might see the LG Magna lasting longer between charges.

The two handsets come with Android 5.0 Lollipop, each with custom overlays, and both suffer from just 8GB of internal memory. The LG Magna is certainly an interesting midrange smartphone, but overall the M4 Aqua proves to be a more desirable handset.

  • Read our hands-on thoughts on the LG Magna

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

At first glance it might seem a little unfair to pit the Zperia M4 Aqua against its more expensive and powerful older sibling, but with a design that so closely apes the appearance of the Z3, it is inviting comparisons somewhat.

On more than a few occasions when I was using the M4 Aqua it was mistaken by people for the Z3, which means if you want a midrange phone but care about appearances, you'll be very pleased with the M4 Aqua.

When compared directly, the Z3 has an edge with the metal surrounds and overall build quality, but unless you're standing next to an overbearing Z3 owner, you're probably not going to notice.

What I did like about the M4 Aqua is that the USB charging port is no longer covered by a flap, which makes it easier to use in the dark. Both handsets are still waterproof, again proving that you don't necessarily have to pay top dollar to get some of the Z3's best features.

However the Z3 is a clear winner when it comes to power and features, though these come with a bigger price tag. The 5.2-inch screen is not only slightly larger, but also full 1080p resolution, which leads to a stunning screen that handily beats the M4 Aqua.

The Xperia Z3 is certainly the better phone, however the M4 Aqua more than holds its ground in some aspects, and considering the price difference between the two it can make the M4 Aqua the more shrewd purchase for some people.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Xperia Z3 Compact

We love the Xperia Z3 Compact as it crams pretty much everything that's good about the Xperia Z3 into a smaller and cheaper handset.

This means that the choice between the Z3 Compact and the M4 Aqua isn't quite as simple, as the price difference isn't quite as large - though it is still there.

What you get with the Z3 Compact is a more powerful and smaller handset that's again water and dust-proof, though a bit more expensive.

If your budget can stretch to the Xperia Z3 Compact, then I would heartily suggest going for that handset over the M4 Aqua, though if it's still too expensive, then you'll be happy enough the with M4 Aqua.

Matt Hanson
Managing Editor, Core Tech

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Core Tech, looking after computing and mobile technology. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made.