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Sony recently floored us with the supremely awesome Xperia Z1 smartphone, which you can read more about here. This week we got the Xperia M Dual for review, a smaller and less powerful cousin of the Z1. But while it may seem a little less impressive at first, the Xperia M is a decent entry-level Android phone that tries to bring most of Sony’s expertise into an affordable smartphone.

Build quality & design

The Xperia M I received was the white version, but there are other colors available in the series as well. In keep with previous Xperia designs, Sony only includes a headphone jack at the top, microUSB charging port on the right, and a small aluminum power button, volume rocker, and dedicated camera button on the right. The Xperia M also has a discreet curve at the back, so that it’s better to hold in your hand. The plastic body certainly attracts less fingerprints, but still feels a little bit fragile in certain areas. You can pop off the back cover to expose the removable battery, as well as slots for the microSD card and dual-SIMs.

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Specifications

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Performance

The specs on the Xperia M are more than enough to run most basic Android apps. You won’t be running any breakneck racing games, but everything from Instagram to Subway Surfer will run just fine. However I did not that browsing was a bit sluggish at times, especially on websites with a lot of animation or mixed content on it. And despite loading most of the home screens with widgets and shortcuts, the Xperia M didn’t slow down when swiping between each one.

UI and Apps

Sony fitted the Xperia M with Android 4.2.2, and for the most part hasn’t changed much about the interface. There are however a bundle of Sony apps on the phone, including music, video, Walkman, Reader, TrackID, as well as software for streaming content to other compatible Sony devices and tablets. The one problem I did have with the Xperia M was with the on-screen keyboard. Since the Xperia M is already a small device, the keyboard seemed quite cramped in portrait mode, and despite Sony including a “swipe to type” function, it was still a bit of a hassle to enter text correctly, a problem that pretty much disappeared in landscape mode.

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This model was the dual-SIM version, which supports dual-standby. This means that when one SIM is in use or in a call, the other SIM will appear to be unavailable or switched off if users try to call it.

Screen and Camera

One are that Sony has unfortunately had to dial down is on the screen. The 4inch FTF screen sports a resolution of 854 x 480, and lacks Sony’s Bravia engine seen on other Xperia phones. It’s difficult to see in bright light, and viewing angles are also disappointing. Watching videos on the Xperia M was acceptable, though high-definition video failed to carry through much detail.

The camera on most Xperia phones is often quite good, but surprisingly the Xperia M doesn’t seem to hold true. Images appear a little toned down at times, and while the shutter responds quickly to capturing images, at times you’ll have to grab a photo again to properly focus the shot. Low-light photography is only something to dream about, as the Xperia M struggles to focus or capture details if the LED flash is turned off.

Sound & Call Quality

At the back of the Xperia M you’ll find a single loudspeaker grille, which is surprisingly loud. However if you lay the phone on a flat surface the speaker is instantly muffled, so it’s important to keep the phone propped up if you’re watching any multimedia. Call quality was acceptable, with no dropouts, but there were some occasions where callers couldn’t hear me properly if there was above-average background noise.

Battery life on the Xperia M can last you pretty much the entire day, thanks to the phone’s low-end specs and entry-level screen. Only if you’re watching a lot of videos or listening to music will you drain the battery quickly.

Conclusion

The Xperia M is a fuss-free Android phone, and while it lacks much of the glamor of Sony’s other phones, it’s still a svelte little number that’s got a recognizable look and feel. Unfortunately it’s let down a bit by the poor screen quality and average camera, but there have to be tradeoffs somewhere when talking about budget Android smartphones.

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