The Android Emotions team brings to you a review on a new device. Sure, this is not the most recent device out there in the market, even though it was one of the firsts Sony released in the market at the beginning of the year.
This is a non-expensive device of small size and specifications. It comes with a 5-inch screen, a 1.3GHz MediaTek, a 1GB RAM memory, 8GB internal memory, and 4G connectivity.
Besides the nice price, the Xperia E4 has other strengths. But are they good enough to compensate for its weaknesses? When we decide to buy a cheaper, base-line standard device we have to be ready to make some concessions. Follow me through this review, and I’ll analyze Sony’s Xperia E4.
Compared to others devices from the E series, Xperia E4 is much more ergonomic and has an elegant design. You probably remember the Xperia E1: it had a straight, unpleasant to the eye design, with pointy corners.
Sony made the Xperia E4 design simpler, with round corners, making it easy to hold it and be placed comfortably inside the pocket.
Since this is a base-line standard device, Xperia E4 is not released with the Corning Gorilla Glass, as it is the Xperia X3. The cover is made of a black, matt paint plastic, which is good news for users who don’t fancy having fingerprints all over their smartphones. Besides that, the material provides a good grip so the device doesn’t slide through your hand, avoiding this way damaging accidents.
However, the device’s design is not a work of art. The cell cover falls into the “pros category”. However, it doesn’t cover nor protect the screen corners. My first reaction when I held the device in my hands was to make sure the cover was secured.
Probably to some this aspect creates a very aesthetically pleasant to the eye detail. Nonetheless, in my opinion it’s not very agreeable to the eye and I feel like I should pay more attention to its safety, since, as mentioned before, it doesn’t have the Corning Gorilla Glass protection. The screen has a plastic protection, but this is not all a trust-inspiring material, and for those with slippery hands this can be a problem.
It’s not easy to remove the back cover. But this will present itself as problem only for those who switch very often their memory cards or microSD cards, since, when the cover is removed, we have access only to cards slots abovementioned (the battery is not removable).
The design gives it a slim look. But don’t fool yourself. Despite being smaller than other Sony’s versions (137×74,6), it is actually 10,5mm thick, and it’s not a particularly light device: it weights 144g.
One thing that calls everyone attention is the lack of a straightforward access button to the camera, as in other Sony devices. If you want to take a picture, you have to unlock the cell phone, and then go to the camera. When you have the camera ready, it’s possible that you’ve lost the perfect shot by a few seconds; and this problem is made even worse by the equipment delay. (We will discuss it soon.)
As the speaker is located on the back, the sound becomes muffled when we hold the E4 in our hands, and it doesn’t matter in which position. However, the company got the earphones output just right, positioning it on the top, making it perfect to those who like to walk around with the cell in the shirt pocket while listening to music.
On the right side of the device is located the unlock button, which looks like a small screw; and below it you’ll find the volume buttons. On the left side you have the microUSB slot to recharge the Xperia E4 or connect it to a computer.
Sony Xperia X4 is equipped with a 5-inch screen which doesn’t live up to the expectations concerning resolution. It only has 540×960 px (220 ppi.). And being a Sony device, we would expect more of it.
However, it is not the resolution which damages the images preview. The colors are not that pretty; but since the screen plastic jacket doesn’t protect against light reflection (which leads up to distorted colors), user experience is harmed. Moreover, the images always look like they are blurred, especially on photos.
But not everything is bad. The touch response and the visualization from different angles are good; and screen light levels are not too much thanks to the light sensor which does the job properly.
Interface and Functionality
The Xperia E4 comes with the KitKat 4.4.2 Android version, disguised by the Sony launcher. This launcher gives the equipment a very similar look to the real Android, adding a few changes, such as a few different icons and new features. This launcher runs very smoothly, and we can say it is one of the best interfaces made by a cell company so far. Sony’s skin gives the Android a very elegant appearance, with fast animations and very pleasant dynamics.
Xperia E4 is equipped with some very interesting apps that deserve to be explored. We’ll talk about them soon. In order to make it easier to use, Sony includes on the device interface a very important resource. When you have the apps ribbon opened, if you slide your finger from the left to the right, it’ll appear a bar where you can research the apps you are looking for, among other things. If you are one of those individual who can’t stand an untidy cell phone, because on this interface you can organize the apps by alphabetic order or even uninstall the ones you haven’t been using without entering the device settings.
Sony includes a new functionality on the Xperia E4, so you can screenshot using a much simpler process. All you have to do is to press the on/off button for a few seconds, and you will see the screenshot capture and recording options. This is very useful for whom does not possess the motor skills to press the button combinations to have access to this feature: on/off button and low volume button.
By definition, there are five screens, and you can choose one of them as you main screen. You can have up to seven, but you can’t change their order.
Concerning wallpapers, you can choose between the many options available as well as add widgets, shortcuts, or change the UI themes. You can also change the status bar, choosing the icons you intend to keep visible. To sum up, be creative and personalize your E4 the way you like it.
On the notification bar, the E4 has two tabs: one is responsible for the notifications, the other for quick settings. While you have to slide one finger from top to bottom to have access to the notification tab, to have access to the quick settings you have to slide two fingers from top to bottom. On the quick settings tab you can customize the icons, choosing from 20 different icons and have twelve of them visible on the tab. If you press the icons, you’ll to access the menu.
As other Sony devices, Xperia E4 is equipped with an android task manager, which allows you to switch from windows to apps, or even close an app with the side-swipe feature.
Beyond these functionalities, Xperia E4 now comes standard with many apps pre-installed which cannot be uninstalled if you use traditional methods. The majority of it just takes up space, such as the demo games. However, there are other pre-installed apps with great potential, such as the music app.
With only 8GB RAM, from which 4,8GB is for user use, the remaining space is quickly taken up, therefore necessity to use a microSD card to expand the memory.
These pre-installed apps offer a great variety of choice which is of some use for the everyday life. One of them is the news feed, which is possible to be customized. If you like to keep any eye on the news at all times, then you should try Sony’s news apps Socialife, as an option to the Google Play Quiosque.
You can add news feed to the app and set up to get notifications at the hour it pleases you.
Other app you can find on the Xperia E4 is the What’s New. It lists the apps offered by Sony. If any of them pleases you, you can click on it and you will be redirected to the Play Store or to Chrome, and then you can proceed the download. But Sony does not limit itself to recommend apps to smartphone; the company also recommends the best games for Playstation 4 or Playstation 3.
Regarding smartphone apps, Whats new does not offer anything new or helps in any way, since it’s not an online store; all one can do is to check app lists, then he’ll be redirected to the playstore to download the app for download.
Sony took into consideration the user’s artistic creativity and added to the Xperia E4 a drawing pre-installed app. The user can draw on this app or edit a photograph the way he/she likes the most.
Besides the abovementioned apps, we can also find: Sony Select, Smart Connect, Xperia Care, TrackID, Kobo, Navigation by Garmin, Xperia Lounge, Party Share, RA Effect, and PlayStation. The user still has at his disposal contact and message apps.
This category is an old friend of ours. These days smartphones are so all-inclusive that it’s very easy to forget that we have in our hands a device which makes phone calls and send messages, just like their old cousins.
Let’s talk about phone call performance: Xperia E4 provides a good signal reception. Obviously, the cellphone service network quality also has an impact on the signal reception, but considering we are talking about a non-expensive smartphone, the E4 managed to take me by surprise. With respect to sound quality, it wasn’t so startling. It doesn’t get to the point of making it impossible to get the other person’s words, but if the call volume is low, even if you’re in a silent environment, what it’s said on the other side of the line becomes a bit unintelligible. To cope with this problem, we tend to raise the volume, and when we finally understand what is said, the person sitting next to us will be able to understand our conversation. The speakerphone mode is disappointing. The sound is not very clear, and, for the most part, the best thing to do it is to forget it and to hold the Xperia E4 against your ears to continue the conversation. This happens because of the speakers are, as abovementioned, placed in such a way that tends to muffle the sound, especially if the device is on a flat surface. Concerning noise reduction, the Xperia E4 presents a good performance (taking into consideration the feedback given to me by the person I talked to on the phone).
As it is a small smartphone, writing messages with just one hand won’t a problem to anybody. But you shouldn’t worry if the cell’s size for some reason still stops you from writing with one hand, because there’s the option to activate the one-hand keyboard. Moreover, you can choose three skins for the keyboard, you can add or remove the dot or comma buttons from the keyboard, the smiley or voice control buttons, and have bilingual suggestions if you have more than one language activated.
As it’s common on modern smartphones, Xperia E4 has a very similar Swype functionality. This feature is called gesture typing, and all you have to do is to slide the finger on the letters to get the words formed. It’s faster, since it also suggests words. So, this is a good option if you (as myself) don’t like to lose time with the writing process.
Battery and Performance
Xperia E4 comes with a MediaTed processor MT 6583, with four colors, Cortex-A7 running at 1.3GHz, a GPU Mali-400MP2, and 1GB RAM. This processor has already been in the market for a while, and its performance is already noticeable.
To explore Xperia E4 a bit further, we performed a few benchmark tests. You can consult the result of it, and the conditions they were performed inan article about Sony Xperia E4 Benchmarking
Being release in 2015, it was expected that it would come with Lollipop Android version, but that’s not the case. Xperia E4 is offered withe the KitKat version. Will it be upgraded in a near future? Now, with the most recent Android version M, which will be release soon, we hope Sony doesn’t forget to upgrade their more modest devices. Improving this aspect would give a better performance to Xperia E4, which doesn’t live up to the expectations. After a few days using it, the equipment performance tended to slow down, to the point that the moving from screen to screen or even a simple writing of a message became a pain in the neck. The reason is that there’s a gap of few seconds between our commands and the equipment response.
Thanks to 2.300mAh, the Xperia E4’s battery is really one of its strongest points. According to Sony, the E4’s battery lasts up to 2 days, without being necessary a new recharge.
However, these numbers vary a bit. It all depends on the way each customer uses his/her device. For example, if you play games for too long on the Xperia E4, probably the battery won’t last two days, and, in the end of the day, you will have to recharge your smartphone. But if you use it in normal conditions, then the battery may last two days without being recharged, as we could confirm from our tests.
The battery lasts that long because the Xperia E4 doesn’t have a HD screen, and because of the software and hardware settings. A very useful tool is the STAMINA mode. This mode runs without background apps when the smartphone is locked. We have access only to the basic functions on this mode, such as calling and SMS messages functionalities. When we have this mode on, even if the cell phone is down to 15% of charge, it will still hold for around 5 to 6 hours.
The camera got the strongest blow in order to Sony manufacture a smartphone which could fit the most restrained budget. So, if you a big photograph fan, this is not the right smartphone for you.
The 5MP back camera and autofocus reminds the frontal cameras of many smartphones on the market. With a maximum resolution of 2560×1920 pixels, this camera falls short, even though it has autofocus. In dark environments, even though it’s equipped with a LED flash, the quality is below the expected.
If the user likes to take selfies (and don’t have much expectation about picture quality), then he/she can use the 2MP camera. It’s not a good idea to use the camera to have Hangouts or Skype video conferences. At least if you want the other person to be able to recognize you.
The Xperia E4 camera app is not a novelty to Sony users. There are many new features in this app, such as the “scenes mode” and the “AR effect”—which is responsible for adding effects of augmented reality to the pictures.
The camera also allows you to record videos with a 1080p/30fps resolution, while the frontal camera shoots films with HD resolution. The Xperia E4 videos are not a reason for celebration and awe; but they are still better than the photographs.
If you wish to see these pictures in their normal size, click here.
Sony’s Xperia E4 is non-expensive smartphone, and for this reason many of its downsides are necessary to make an affordable cell phone.
For the lovers of small smartphones that are not too system demanding, Xperia E4 is the perfect device; but if the images shown on the screen are important to you, do not buy it, otherwise you will be disappointed.
Sony has decided to invest in the non-expensive cellphone market. All features together, and considering it’s a non-expensive cellphone, the Xperia E4 fulfills its purpose relatively well. However, in my opinion, the company could have invested a bit more on the cell’s design and on better hardware features. The Xperia E4 price varies from country to country, but on average it costs 130€. Costing almost the same you will find other phones with better features which are a better fit to your needs, like the Motorola Moto E (2015), for instance. It’s true that the Moto E screen is smaller than the Xperia’s, but it is also true that its quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor has shown better results than the MediaTek MT6582, let alone the LTE connectivity—which is a feature that the Xperia E4 doesn’t have.
Xperia E4 is an affordable smartphone, but its features are not surprising. The screen low resolution and the cameras low performance don’t help to promote the cell phone.
Note: Review made by Paula Marques in android-emotions.pt and translated by Anderson Antunes