We review the Sony Xperia M2, a mid-range mobile that boasts the same premium looks and many of the same features of the Xperia Z2.

Sony’s Xperia M2 is an affordable 4G phone that mimics the more-than-twice-as-expensive Xperia Z2, with some strong specs and a sharp 4.8-inch HD screen. But what has Sony had to trim to cut the cost, and is it a worthy Xperia Z2 substitute for those who don’t have half a grand to spend?

Sony Xperia M2 design: Premium-alike

It may be plastic, but the Xperia M2 actually does a great job replicating the Xperia Z2’s style, to the point that it fooled some people who saw us fiddling with it. It sports the same rectangular ‘blocky’ design and the same smudgey, shiny front and back panels, this time made of a firm plastic instead of glass.

There’s only the tiniest bit of flex when you press hard on the surfaces, and our sample didn’t pick up any scratches during our week of play, despite lacking the same scratch-resistant coating of the Xperia Z2. The Xperia M2’s a weighty beast too, which gives it a premium feel.

Sony Xperia M2 review and full UK camera, screen specs

The only major difference in design is the Xperia M2’s lack of water resistance. The memory card and SIM card slots may be covered by a flap, but the USB charging port is uncovered, and a swift dunk in the brine will likely result in immediate demise. We didn’t fancy angering the Sony overlords though, so we didn’t put this to the test.

Sony Xperia M2 screen and media: He’s a bright lad, but not too sharp

The Xperia M2 is also a little dinkier than its premium brethren, rocking a 4.8-inch screen. Sadly we also lose the HD visuals of the more expensive Xperias, as the Xperia M2 makes do with a 540x960 resolution. At 229 pixels-per-inch, the display isn’t as sharp as the Motorola Moto G’s 720p panel, or even the £89 Moto E’s screen (which packs in 256 ppi) - although it does marginally beat the HTC Desire 500’s uninspiring screen.

Sony Xperia M2 review and full UK specs

That said, the Xperia M2 is more than up to the task of web browsing, staying productive and watching movies. The Xperia Z2 obviously enjoys deeper, richer colours with its Triluminos technology and X-Reality engine, but the Xperia M2 is still a bright and reasonably vibrant screen that enjoys excellent viewing angles, so a couple of people can watch a video in comfort, without crushing their heads together.

Of course, if you’re a film nut, you’ll appreciate the likes of Motorola’s Moto G more. HD movies look noticeably crisper on Motorola’s mini marvel, with images appearing a little grainy on the Xperia M2.

If you shun earphones, the Xperia M2’s speaker, housed at the mobile’s base, puts out a decent amount of power. Quality isn’t bad either, only wavering a little on maximum volume. And if you want to carry around tons of music and movies, the microSD memory card slot can be used to boost the phone’s 5GB of usable storage.

Sony Xperia M2 features: 4G fun time

Android 4.3 JellyBean is the OS of choice, a shame considering that cheaper phones such as the Motorola Moto G already sport full KitKat. Still, Android looks as sleek as ever under Sony’s overlay, albeit without the snazzy animated backgrounds you get on the premium Xperias. And of course, you get the usual array of Sony crapware, which is great news if you’ve signed up for the Unlimited services, and not so good if you haven’t.

Sony Xperia M2 review and full UK specs

Web fans will love the 4G support, which gives you speedy browsing and media streaming if you’re in a 4G LTE area. It’s good to see 4G appearing on cheaper phones these days, and if you’re truly skint you can even dive below the mid-range market, and spend less than £100 on EE’s Kestrel phone.

The Xperia M2 also crams in NFC support, good news if you’ve already embraced cashless payment here in the UK.

Sony Xperia M2 performance and battery life: Epic hero

A quad-core 1.2GHz SnapDragon 400 processor is packed away inside the Xperia M2, and as usual it proves itself a worthy budget chip, backed up by 1GB of RAM. We powered through new action games such as Elements: Epic Heroes with few, if any drops in frame rate. We also had no trouble running apps side-by-side.

Sony Xperia M2 review and full UK specs

We never quite got a full day of life from the 2,300mAh battery, even when we were relatively restrained with whipping it out and playing with it. But if you stream video non-stop you can expect just over five hours of life, not a bad result.

Sony Xperia M2 camera: Feature-packed

Of course, Sony hasn’t fitted the same ridiculously good 20.7-megapixel camera of the Xperia Z2 into this phone, but in its place you get a competent 8-megapixel snapper with Exmor RS sensor. Sony’s usual excellent Auto Mode is back, and helps you take sharp, clean photos in almost any condition - the only exception is dark environments, where you’ll need to turn on the flash to avoid a grainy, ugly mess.

Sony Xperia M2 review and full UK specs

Aside from really up-close photos, which the focus couldn’t quite cope with, our results turned out well in both Auto and Manual mode. Colours are realistically represented, and there’s enough detail packed in to make your photos look great when viewed on a high-res TV. You can also shoot 1080p video, with SteadyShot on hand to reduce your shaky hand motions.

Sony Xperia M2 review and full UK specs Sony Xperia M2 review and full UK specs

And we’re pleased to see Sony packing most of its usual camera features in there. You’ve got Social Live for streaming video direct to Facebook (warning: do not use when pissed), Timeshift Burst to take a stack of images in quick succession, AR Effect for adding killer dinosaurs to your snaps, and so on. Most mid-range cameras ditch the features, so this camera offers plenty of bang for your buck.

Sony Xperia M2 verdict

The Sony Xperia M2 does a fantastic job of bringing the Xperia Z2 style and some of its awesome features to the mid-range market. The screen may lack the clarity of some of its cheaper rivals, but the design is solid and attractive, the 8-megapixel camera is great for everyday shots and crams in lots of extras, and you get all the features you'd expect like 4G.