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Sony Xperia M2 review: A good-looking mid-range smartphone

*Premium design
*Decent performance
*Above-average battery life

Sony is focusing on consolidating its mid-range line-up with the launch of the Xperia T2 Ultra and the Xperia M2 Dual. While the former targets consumers who prefer big-screen displays, the Xperia M2 sports a more standard smartphone form factor and embodies the same premium design seen in Sony's high-end smartphones. But is Xperia M2 one of the best mid-range phones? We find out in our review.

Build & Design
Sony Xperia M2 features the same understated OmniBalance design that we've seen in Sony's other Xperia phones, including the Z, Z1, Z1 Compact and Z Ultra. To be honest, we're a bit tired of seeing the same design. Having said that, there's no doubt that the Xperia M2 exudes a premium feel and looks better than most phones in the same price segment. But this phone is not water and dust resistant unlike Sony's premium devices.

Also, unlike Sony's high-end phones that sport an aluminium frame, Xperia M2 features a light-weight plastic frame (to cut costs) and has a glass panel at its back. It looks very similar to Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact. The phone weighs 148gram and has a thickness of 8.6mm.

The front of the phone features a 4.8-inch display, with the front camera lens, sensors and notification LED placed above it along with the Sony branding. There's a thin LED strip below the display that lights up in select situations.

The right edge features a round aluminium power/screen-lock button towards the middle, along with the volume rocker and camera keys, both made of plastic. The location of the power/screen lock key makes it convenient to lock and unlock the phone but the other keys are too thin and flimsy for our liking. These keys offer just average tactile feedback. Above the power button, there's a plastic flap that hides the two micro-sim card slots.

Thankfully, the slots don't feature the flimsy sim-card trays we've seen in a number of Xperia phones, and instead feature a push mechanism.

The left edge features the micro-USB port and a flap that covers the microSD card slot. The phone's speaker grill is located at the bottom edge, while the 3.5mm headset jack sits at the top.

The back sports a shiny glass panel which is susceptible to smudges and scratches. You can perhaps install a scratch guard even at the back if you want to avoid scratches. The back features an 8MP camera lens along with an LED flash, and some minimalist Sony branding.

Overall, the Xperia M2 offers the classy, understated look seen in Sony's high-end phones, in a comparatively compact and light-weight form factor.

Sony Xperia M2 features a 4.8-inch TFT display (540x960p, 229ppi pixel density). We wish Sony would have included a 720p display but the optimum brightness levels and vivid colours offset the poor display resolution to some extent.

The display offers good viewing angles and decent sunlight legibility. Text and graphics look nice, but not as sharp and crisp as they do on 720p displays. The display is also prone to smudges and gets soiled easily.

User Interface
Sony Xperia M2 ships with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, an old version of the operating system. It's not known if the phone will get updated to Android 4.4 KitKat in the near future. Sony has skinned the operating system with its own Xperia UI. The UI skin, which we've seen on other Xperia phones, including Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact, is not heavy and doesn't hog on system resources.

The UI elements, including the notifications tray, app launcher and settings menu have been skinned and look good. The transition effects visible during launching and minimising apps are also pleasant to look at. Xperia M2 features Sony's Xperia keyboard which offers a fast typing experience and even offers a Swype-like mode for entering words by sliding fingers across keys.

Sony has also added its own apps for music, videos and gallery which it calls Walkman, Movies and Album. The Indian edition of the phone also comes with additional content stores, Sony Music and Sony Liv, for downloading music and streaming TV shows.

Sony also includes several other pre-loaded apps including BIGFlix (Indian movie streaming service), Box (cloud storage), File Commander (file manager), McAfee Security, Pixlr Express (a photo editing app), Sketch (sketching app), Wisepilot (navigation app) and X4 Video Player (to play four videos simultaneously). We didn't find all the apps useful and feel Sony should reduce the number of pre-loaded apps.

The app switcher button also gives access to small apps, which can float on top of other running apps. The phone ships with some small apps,including a browser, notes app, timer, calculator and voice recorder. One can download additional small apps from the Play Store, or even turn a widget into a small app. While small apps are useful on large screens, they make the screen look crowded on smaller phones. It's good that Sony still offers an option to users.

We've found Sony's UI skin less intrusive and well-balanced. It's among our favourite Android skins.

Unlike high-end Xperia phones that feature large sensors, Sony Xperia M2 comes with a modest 8MP rear camera which has an 'Exmor RS for mobile' image sensor and a VGA front-facing camera.

The Camera app
The Camera app offers a plethora of settings in addition to Sony's Superior Auto mode that chooses the best settings as per the ambient light and takes photos in 5MP. We recommend the Superior auto mode for taking pictures unless you want to control granular settings. In that case, you can use the Manual mode.

You also get different scene options and the ability to switch the resolution of the pictures. Scene modes also include night mode, anti-motion blur, high sensitivity and backlight correction HDR, among others.

The other modes that the app offers include Timeshift burst, Sweep Panorama, AR Effect, Portrait retouch, Social Live and Picture Effect.

The quality of pictures taken outdoors in adequate light was good with accurate colour reproduction and decent contrast. However, pictures shot indoor in artificial light were grainy and lacked detail. Pictures captured in low-light conditions looked good thanks to the processing that removes noise (along with details).

As with Sony's other phones, we noticed that sometimes the images looked over-processed.

We also noticed that the camera takes a lot of time to process images in the Superior auto mode while capturing images in low light conditions and if you're not patient, you'll get blurred images.

The camera is capable of recording 1080p videos and does a decent job in good ambient light conditions.

The phone's front camera disappoints. In the selfie age, Xperia M2 offers a VGA sensor that takes average quality images.

Overall, the phone's camera is not as good as Sony's other Xperia phones but is better than some of the other phones in the segment.

Sony Xperia M2 is powered by a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 (MSM8226) quad core processor with Adreno 305 graphics processor and 1GB RAM. It's essentially the same hardware that powers Motorola's Moto G.

The phone comes with 8GB internal storage out of which 5GB is available to the user. Storing multimedia content is not an issue since the phone supports microSD cards.

We did not notice any lag whatsoever while navigating through the phone's menu, launching apps and switching between them.

In synthetic benchmarks, the phone lags behind the Moto G by a small margin and the Xolo Q1100 by a considerable one. The phone scored 17,250 in Antutu, 8122 in Quadrant and 59.9 in Nenamark 2 benchmark tests. But we'd not recommend a phone based solely on benchmarks as real world performance is different at times.

In terms of multimedia, the phone comes with FM radio, but doesn't offer recording capability. The phone's built-in speaker offers decent sound output and it offers Clear Phase and xLoud settings for enhanced sound quality and loudness.

The default video player supports a large number of multimedia file formats and full-HD videos.

We did not encounter problems while making calls and any other issues while using two sim cards. We were satisfied with the phone's network reception. Voice clarity and loudness levels were also up to the mark. The phone comes with GPS for navigation and maps and was easily able to lock a signal.

Xperia M2 also comes with NFC connectivity to initiate file transfers to other NFC-enabled phones and receive data from NFC tags. It works as promised.

The phone comes with a 2300mAh battery with a claimed standby time of up to 597 hours and talk time of up to 14 hours and 36 minutes on 3G. With moderate to high usage, including about one to two hours of making calls, playing games, clicking some pictures, listening to music and browsing the web, the Xperia M2 will easily last you a full working day, even if you put the screen brightness at the highest level and keep 3G turned on.

You can boost the battery backup by using Sony's Stamina mode that shuts down battery-draining apps and data transfer when the screen is turned off and starts them again when it is turned on.

We were able to play games like Temple Run 2 and Subway Surfers without any hiccups. Even while playing graphics-intensive games like Riptide GP2 and Asphalt 8 (with Visual Quality set to high and Engine at 100%), we did not encounter any stutter or frame drops. The hone does get heated up a little during extended gaming sessions.

At a price of Rs 21,990, Sony Xperia M2 may be a good option if you're primarily hunting for a phone that looks premium and comes from a well-recognized, global brand. However, if looks are not that important, we'd suggest going for Motorola's Moto G or Xolo's Q1100. Both the phones offer better displays and almost the same (or even slightly better) performance.

If you can spend a little more, do take a look at the Moto X. For users who prefer an even larger screen, the Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 can be another option.

But in itself, and for the Sony loyalists, Xperia M2 is a fairly dependable option.

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