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The Sony Xperia M is a bulky but stylish budget Android phone. Can this cheap smartphone compete with the best at the bottom of the market? Read our Sony Xperia M review to find out.
xperia m Can Sony Xperia M  this cheap smartphone compete with the best at the bottom of Android market?

Sony Xperia M review: What it is – just another budget Android?

The Sony Xperia M is a decent but inexpensive Android smartphone. Shop around and you can pick up an Xperia M for as little as £100, although more typically it retails for around £130, new and SIM free.

It fits into an ever increasing market: that of the the budget smartphone for first-time buyers. At the top of the market most people who want an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Sony Xperia Z smartphone have already purchased one. They may upgrade every year, but they won’t contribute to overall smartphone market growth.

That’s why phone makers are continually pushing down the prices of decent quality smartphones, using components that get cheaper as years go buy. So it is that Motorola’s Moto Gand the Windows-toting Nokia Lumia 520 can be totally respectable, full-featured smartphones that offer solid performance and cost around £100. And that’s the market in which the Sony Xperia M must compete.

It’s a tough market. Is the Xperia M worth the money?

Sony Xperia M review: Interface and screen

The display is arguably the most important component of a smartphone – it’s the bit you look at and use as your interface. And it’s also the difference between cheap and budget – with a good display you can feel that you have a proper smartphone, with a poor one a toy. With early inexpensive Androids in particular a low-resoution, low-quality display makes the whole handset feel like more of a toy than a sophisticated tool.

sony xperia m back Can Sony Xperia M  this cheap smartphone compete with the best at the bottom of Android market?

In the case of the Sony Xperia M there is bad- as well as some good news. On the one hand the 4in 480×854 TFT capacitive touchscreen is by no means a ‘bad’ display. But it’s not great. For one thing four inches just doesn’t feel like enough (stop sniggering).

These days 5in is standard for a high-end smartphone, and arguably 4.3in is the acceptable minimum for an Android handset. We just couldn’t get along with the Xperia M’s display. It may be the wide bezel into which it is set but it just feels unnaturally small – even when used next to the relatively small iPhone 5.

It’s possible that the problem is the touchscreen. Using the Xperia M it feels as though the elements you ‘touch’ through the screen are a long way away. It feels deep. It’s like trying to grab something through water, and it makes the screen real estate feel unaccountably far away. Not great.

On the plus side? Well that 480×854-pixel resolution is by no means outstanding, but it does mean that the Xperia M offers a pixel density of 245ppi. This is unable to compete with the Moto G (326ppi) but for photos and video it is perfectly acceptable. And colours are the usual Sony mix of accuracy without the eye-bleeding power of Samsung’s OLED displays. Just don’t expect to enjoy reading text on the Xperia M – when you focus in it is bluey and pixelated.

Our problem with the Xperia M’s display could also relate to the interface. This is Sony’s take on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Sony’s version of Jelly Bean is sufficiently recent to be decent, but it is no KitKat. And that combined with the small screen underneath what feels like a yard of toughened glass it is not a great experience. This makes typing a nightmarish trial. Shame.

xperia m thumb Can Sony Xperia M  this cheap smartphone compete with the best at the bottom of Android market?

Sony Xperia M review: Specification and performance

But hey. It’s not all bad. The Xperia M is not badly tricked out in terms of performance. It pairs a dual-core Krait Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8227 CPU with 1GB RAM, the chip running at 1GHz and paired with an Adreno 305 GPU. And even with the older Android it feels perfectly zippy in use. Synthetic benchmarks are not to be relied upon, but they do give a good broad strokes view of performance.

In the case of the Xperia M that means a Geekbench 3 average of 630, nothing like the Moto G’s 1,100+ scores, but in the same ballpark as the Samsung Galaxy Ace. That makes sense: the Moto G is the outstanding budget phone of this or any era, and the Xperia M is marginally better than the Galaxy Ace – an older, cheap smartphone.

Graphics performance is similar. We ran the GLBenchmark 2.7 T-Rex test onscreen and got an average score of 12fps. This puts it at the top of the bottom rank of smartphones and chimes with our experience of the Xperia M: it will handle gaming, but is no-one’s idea of a gaming smartphone.

The SunSpider Javascript benchmark completes the picture. Here the Xperia M did okay – its score of 1867ms is broadly similar to that of the Lumia 520 with 1646ms (lower is better here). Again, the outstanding budget phones beat the Xperia M, but it does okay when next to other less well regarded cheap handsets.

Overall then there is nothing to get angry about in terms of the Xperia M’s performance. Nor is there anything to get excited about, however. It’s a budget phone with budget performance. Fit for purpose in our experience, but that is about it. 

Sony Xperia M review: Storage

Onboard storage is a miserly 4GB, or which only 1.5GB was available for use on our virgin test unit. Not nearly enough if you like to use your phone for, well, just about anything beyond the occasional phone call.
Fortunately you can add in a 32GB SD card, which is a good – if by now expected – feature.Sony Xperia M review: Design and build

The Xperia M is distinctly Sony. A blocky oblong box of a phone, with curved edges that somehow look square. The model we tested is mostly white, with a silver Sony logo at the top above the display, and with the camera aperture cleverly incorporated into an approximation of the Walkman motif alongside. The bezel is thick at the top and the bottom but relatively narrow along the sides. Glass is laid in to the plastic to cover most of the front panel.

Around the back is a smooth white expanse broken only by another silver Sony logo and the speaker grille. The sides have silver panelling designed to make the Xperia M look thinner than it is. An attempt that is largely successful. The righthand side hosts hardware volume, power and camera buttons. And here the small screen is a virtue, as you can operate the Xperia M one handed – even when using it as a camera.

The Xperia M measures 124x62x9.3mm and weighs in at 115g. It is certainly not a thin phone, although it fits comfortably in the hand and feels plenty light enough. It also feels like it could stand up well to the rough and tumble of modern smartphone life: one of the benefits of being constructed principally of plastic.

Overall the Xperia M feels well put together, and subjectively at least we quite like the distinctive design. It’s not premium – obviously so – but the Xperia M at least looks a little different to the me-too black Androids that proliferate.

xperia m build Can Sony Xperia M  this cheap smartphone compete with the best at the bottom of Android market?

Sony Xperia M review: Main camera

The Xperia M sports a 5Mp camera with an LED flash. Default images are captured at 3Mp / 16:9. To take 5Mp pics you have to change the settings, and accept a 4:3 aspect ratio. HDR mode is present, although you’ll want to avoid using it indoors. There’s a decent list of software features including manual settings for white balance and ISO, as well as a range of filters. Other features include Ggeo-tagging, touch focus, image stabilization and panorama.

We’ve included some test shots below (click to view full size), but suffice to say that the Xperia M is no better than you’d expect for a cheap smartphone camera. But no worse either.

xperia m test Can Sony Xperia M  this cheap smartphone compete with the best at the bottom of Android market?

xperia m test shot Can Sony Xperia M  this cheap smartphone compete with the best at the bottom of Android market?

Sony Xperia M review: Video

As you might expect at this price there is no full HD video capture, but video does go up to 720p. We found video capture suffered with recording movement, but it was adequate for what you’d expect. Here’s a test clip:

Sony Xperia M review: Battery life

One of the benefits of a cheap phone is that low specs tend to mean good battery life. In the case of the Xperia M: very good battery life. This is not unusual for handsets with relatively low-res displays. But that doesn’t mean we don’t approve – we really do.

The Xperia M sports 1,750mAh cell, and in our usage we could get a couple of days out of it without really having to moderate our general smartphone use. A great performance.

In addition, the Xperia M charges really quickly. In our tests taking no more than a few minutes to suck up enough juice to keep going for hours.

Sony Xperia M review: Connectivity

You get 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and it is dual-band. There’s also Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and USB. The Xperia M takes a Micro SIM and is 2G and 3G enabled.

From: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews/mobile-phone/3514740/sony-xperia-m-review/

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We compare the Samsung Galaxy S5 with the iPhone 5S: which is the best premium smartphone of 2014? Read our Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S smartphone comparison review to find out.

Samsung Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S Big, Brash Android vs Slight, Beautiful iPhone   Which one are you?

The Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5S are likely to be two of the biggest premium smartphones of 2014. And they are the ying and yang of the superstar smartphone world. One a big and brash Android, built to be robust and to make a statement when you slap it on the table in the pub. The other a beautiful if somewhat delicate handset, designed for ergonomic ease of use, to be a perfectly curated – if locked-down – experience.

You will no-doubt have a favourite. Here we compare the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5S to help those of you who haven’t yet made up your minds to make a choice. But also so that fans of both or either can have their say in the comments at the bottom of the story. To be clear: we are currently basing our assessment of the Galaxy S5 on our initial hands-on review and the product spec. We’ve spent a lot more time with the iPhone 5S. We’ll update this article as we run more tests on the Galaxy S5.

So eyes down for the biggest smartphone comparison of the year: it’s Team Android vs Team iPhone, and here’s our Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S smartphone comparison review. For more on the Galaxy S5, see our story Samsung Galaxy S5: Release date, price and specs.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: UK price and availability

We had been expecting Samsung to make the Galaxy S5 available in March, but it looks like we’ll have to wait until 11 April to get our hands on the new smartphone. Samsung says it’ll be launching the Galaxy S5 on 11 April in more than 100 countries.

At present, there’s no price for the Samsung Galaxy S5, but we’ll update this article as soon as we find out more.

Speculation suggests that you’ll have to shell out around £600 for a SIM-free Galaxy S5. That’s the same price as the Galaxy S4, which is exactly what Samsung would want.

It also keeps it in the same ball park as the iPhone 5S. The iPhone 5S is readily available right now with prices starting at £549 if you buy one off-contract from Apple. There are £629 and £709 models, depending on what level of storage you require.

(See also: iPhone 5S vs Nexus 5 comparison review.)

Galaxy S5 Colours Big, Brash Android vs Slight, Beautiful iPhone   Which one are you?

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: Processor and performance

The Galaxy S5 will, like the iPhone 5S, be fast. Super fast. Certainly fast enough to handle multiple processes at the same time, without feeling laggy. So let’s compare to the spec of the Galaxy S5 with our experience of the iPhone 5S. Remember, we’ve only briefly tested the Galaxy S5.

Inside the Galaxy S5 is the kind of high-end specs you’d want to find in a flagship. A 2.5GHz quad-core processor (Qualcomm Krait) is accompanied by 2GB of RAM. During our hands-on time with the device, performance is extremely smooth and nippy.

The iPhone 5S, on the other hand, has a 64-bit A7 processor running at 1.2- to 1.3GHz. It’s a dual-core Cyclone processor paired with 1GB of DDR3 RAM. We’ve never found the iPhone to have any major performance issues, and Apple says it’s twice as fast as the previous model in both CPU and graphics performance. But that hardware is no match for that of the Galaxy S5. Does it matter in real-world terms? Remember that the feel of performance is as much software- as hardware related.

On the iPhone 5S the A7 makes iOS 7 buttery smooth. There’s nary a judder or stutter when swiping between home screens, or exiting an app and watching your icons fly into place. Apps launch and web pages load faster than ever: the iPhone 5S is simply a joy to use.

Our benchmarks show just how much quicker the new A7 chip makes the 5S. In SunSpider 1.0, the 5S completed the test in just 417ms. The iPhone 5 (running iOS 7), meanwhile, took 721ms, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 922ms.

Similar gains were found in Geekbench 3, with the iPhone 5 scoring 721 points. Running GLBenchmark 2.7 (Egypt HD), the iPhone 5S managed 53fps, compared to the iPhone 5′s 41fps. However, a bigger difference can be seen using the T-Rex HD test, where the 5S scored 37fps. Again: number crunching is all well and good but the real-world performance of the phone is more important. And our early experience of the Galaxy S5 is just as good as you would expect from such a well-specced phone.

Without further testing we’ll say only this: if you want a fast, high-end phone, S5 or 5S is all gravy.

iPhone 5s flat Big, Brash Android vs Slight, Beautiful iPhone   Which one are you?
iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: Design and build

The Galaxy S5 retains that recognisable Samsung look. This means not much has changed compared to previous generations and other Galaxy devices. The S5 looks a lot like the Galaxy Note 3 which is a shame because it really requires its own style as a flagship device. Unfortunately it’s bigger, squarer and more boring than the Galaxy S5.

It also doesn’t feel like a premium smartphone in the hand. A perforated rear cover supposedly makes it feel more natural but we just don’t see the benefit here, perhaps we need to live with the device for longer.

iphone5s gold Big, Brash Android vs Slight, Beautiful iPhone   Which one are you?
A huge design change is that Samsung has added dust and water resistant credentials. That’s something which Sony has been offering for a while now in its Xperia range. The Galaxy S5 has an IP67 rating which means it will happily get wet without frazzling inside. However, you’ll need to make doubly sure that the port covers is on and the rear cover is perfectly clipped into place. I’m sure a number of users will get an unwanted surprise when the gaps aren’t completely covered.

The Galaxy S5 comes in four colours at launch – black, white (as you might expect) plus blue and something called ‘copper gold’. The latter has a kind of peach tone to it in our opinion.

The S5 measures 142 by 72.5 by 8.1mm, and weighs 145g. Going on the evidence of all previous Samsung Galaxy phones, the Galaxy S5 will be robust – you won’t need a cover.

We cannot say the same for the iPhone 5S. Here construction is the same as the iPhone 5, a rather delicate and all-too scratchable aluminium body with aluminosilicate glass front, and glass inset top-and-bottom cheeks behind. At 112g and 7.6mm thick, it’s as ridiculously light and thin as before. And that is lighter, and smaller than the Galaxy S5. If you need small and light, the iPhone should be your choice.

It’s not just the iPhone 5c that now demands you choose your colour. For the iPhone 5S Apple introduced a new gilt-free option it’s calling Gold – gold-effect back and edges with white glass trim. There’s the Silver option resembling last year’s white/silver iPhone 5. And the most sober of three, and the only one approaching decent availability at launch, is the black and grey model, dubbed Space Grey. It’s like the original black iPhone 5, only with a lighter shade of graphite to its back and edges.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Big, Brash Android vs Slight, Beautiful iPhone   Which one are you?
Instead of the Black & Slate and White & Silver options that the iPhone 5 was available in, the iPhone 5S has three colour options: Silver, Gold and “Space Grey”.

Big, bold and plastic, or slight, classy and metal. Built for the slings and arrows of life on the road, or a beautiful object you’ll want to protect. The choice is yours.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: Cameras

The Galaxy S5 camera has reached a decent 16Mp and has a few new features which catch the eye. Super-fast auto focus means you can take a photo in 0.3 seconds, according to Samsung. We couldn’t exactly time this but it does seem to be very nippy. A selective focus mode allows you to choose from three different focal points after you’ve taken a photo – near, far and pan. This didn’t work amazingly well in our hands-on but the conditions weren’t exactly ideal so we’ll test this out, and the other features when we get our review unit. Video shoots in 4k resolution like the Galaxy Note 3 which is impressive.

Below the camera is a flash but also a heartrate monitor, making the Galaxy S5 the first smartphone to come with the feature. Place your finger on the sensor and it can read your heartrate in a matter of seconds. This is built into the S Health app and a cool feature for those into fitness. (It didn’t work first time for me but I think I was pressing too hard.)

The iPhone 5S has an 8Mp rear-facing camera that offers a ‘True Tone’ flash and backside illumination (BSI) sensor. It shoots video at 1080p and the iPhone 5S also has a Slo-mo mode. Around the front is the iPhone 5S’ 1.2Mp camera which is limited to 720p video.

The iPhone 5S iSight camera has what Apple describes as a ‘better 8Mp sensor’, than either the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 5C. It lists the sensor as 8 megapixels with 1.5µ pixels. It has ƒ/2.2 aperture and a True Tone flash which has two LEDs, one of which is amber. The FaceTime Camera takes 1.2Mp photos at a resolution of 1280×960, and offers 720p HD video recording.

Importantly, the 5S no longer uses an upscaled 4Mp mode in very low light as the iPhone 5 does, and photos taken in dark conditions have much less noise. In good light, you won’t see a huge difference between images from the two iPhones, but at night, the 5S does a better job.

Without properly testing it is difficult to be too definitive here, but it is fair to say that both of these handsets have very good smartphone cameras. Neither will replace your DSLR or even bridging camera.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: Software

Android vs iOS is a big debate and with iOS 7 comes a major overaul of Apple’s mobile operating system.

On the plus side, iOS 7 now comes with a much needed quick settings feature called Control Center. There are also other tweaks and improvements such as better multi-tasking and lock screen access to the notification centre.

Apple has the strong App Store store on its side but iOS has a distinct lack of customisability which is Android’s major strong point.

Android smartphone manufacturers tend to go one of two ways with their Android interfaces; vanilla as Google intended or all-out customisation with their own skin or overlay.

The Galaxy S5 comes with Samsung’s take on Android 4.4 KitKat. This is Google’s most mature and easy-to-use mobile OS, albeit overlaid with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. If you’ve used a Samsung phone before you’ll know what to expect.

Both phones will offer a stable and easy-to-use interface, with multiple places from which to purchase music and other media. The choice will be a subjective and personal one. If you forced us to make a decision we would say that iOS is better for those new to smartphones, worried about security, or keen to have the latest apps and games first. Android offers greater choice in where to purchase music and movies, and more opportunity for customisation.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: Storage

The Galaxy S5 comes in either 16- or 32GB capacities. A microSD card supporting up to 64GB is almost a given nowadays.

The iPhone 5S is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities but doesn’t have a microSD card slot for expansion.

You’d have to call that a draw.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: Display

Despite numerous rumours of a 5.25in screen, the Galaxy S5′s display is only marginally larger than the Galaxy S4′s. It’s 5.1in and if you were hoping for a new crazy high resolution then you might be disappointed to find out that the Galaxy S5 has a now very standard Full HD display. Of course, it’s still Super AMOLED as you would expect from Samsung. The screen looks good but we were expected the next generation of technology so we can’t help but feel disappointed.

Samsung does say that the screen automatically adjust elements like colour gamut, white tone and contrast but we’ll have to wait for our review unit to test this out properly.

Apple’s iPhone 5S still has a 4in display, in a 10:9 aspect ration. You get a resolution of 640 x 1136 pixels, which makes for a pixel density of 326 ppi. It is a more-than decent screen – one that until 18 months ago would have beaten out all comers. However, compared to the larger, Full HD displays of the iPhone 5S’s rivals, the screen is starting to feel cramped.

You do pay for that extra screen size in extra bulk, but we’re going to chalk this one up to the Galaxy S5.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: Connectivity

Wireless connectivity is all up-to-date on the Galaxy S5 with 11ac Wi-Fi (MIMO), NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, an infrared transmitter, and the latest 4G technology. Samsung has fitted the Galaxy S5 with Cat 4 LTE supporting eight bands and a download booster which uses your Wi-Fi connection to give you a theoretical max download speed of 400Mbps. And there’s a fingerprint reader for added security.

The iPhone 5S offers 802.11n WiFi and full 4G coverage. Apple also added a fingerprint scanner – known as Touch ID – to the iPhone 5S when it launched in September 2013.

That’s two well-connected and pretty well-matched handsets. We can’t split them for connectivity.

iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S5: which should you buy?

The Galaxy S5 is fast, well built, full featured. It will have a big bright and bold screen, and good cameras, and it will offer good storage and connectivity options. And you could say all of the above about the iPhone 5S. The Galaxy S5 may offer a better, bigger display. It may even be slightly faster although we have no way of quantifying that and – frankly – it is irrelevent. By contrast the iPhone is smaller, more delicate but much easier to operate with one hand and lighter to carry. Both phones offer a fingerprint scanner. Both have good but not great smartphone cameras. Connectivity is well taken care of. Android is good for some things, iOS for others. Both are great. Storage options are different but while there is no 64GB Galaxy S5, you can add in an SD card (which you can’t with the iPhone).

Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S is a good battle because the handsets are so different. But that means your decision is likely to be subjective. You can’t honestly say that one is better than the other, just that one is better for you. If you don’t have strong feelings then availability and pricing may determine this battle. But it really is a personal choice.

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