The E4 from Sony is capable of offering up to 2 days battery life even with a large 5” touchscreen display.
Retailing for £99 inclusive of VAT when purchased SIM free, the E4 is at the budget end of the smartphone scale.
The good news is that today technology has moved on so much that budget need not mean cheap, nasty and poor performing products, in fact the Xperia E4 is far from it.
- Google Android 4.4 operating system with Lollipop update expected
- 1.3GHz quad core processor and 1GB RAM for a fast software experience
- 5” touchscreen display allowing you to consume more on the go
- 3G connectivity
- WiFi for fast wireless internet connectivity
- 5 megapixel camera complete with autofocus and LED flash
- 2,300mAh battery that can last up to 2 days
Many handsets that fall under the £100 price point suffer with lower grade build quality and tend to have a smaller screen.
Face on the E4 is dominated by the large 5” display.
There is a bezel that runs all around it and there is actually a pronounced lip between the front of the phone and the sides and rear of the handset.
Just above the screen is the Sony logo, earpiece and 2 megapixel front facing camera. The camera sits to the left side and has a thin silver bezel around it
On the lower edge there is a recess that gives the impression of a front facing speaker as it is directly in line with the earpiece at the top of the phone, but sadly it is not, the speaker is on the rear. It is actually the microphone that sits here.
There are no physical buttons on the front, these are built into the software.
The upper edge of the handset has a 3.5mm audio jack to the right side.
On the right side is where you will find the power and volume keys. The power key sits just above centre with the volume up and down keys below it.
There are no ports or controls on the base.
The left side is home to the microUSB connection toward the top of the handset.
Flip the unit over and you are presented with the plastic back cover which has a grippy texture and a sweeping curve to the edges so that it sits more comfortably in hand.
The Xperia E4 is available in black or white but aside from the colour nothing else changes.
In the centre of the removable back panel is the Sony logo with the camera and flash above this and the Xperia branding and loudspeaker below.
With the cover removed you gain access to the MicroSIM card slot and microSD slot both on the right side of the phone when face down.
There is no removable battery.
A fairly standard setup the device weighs in at 144g and feels solid in hand, but not quite as premium to the touch as Motorola Moto E.
With a 5” screen, for under £100 from a brand such as Sony, the resolution of the screen where slight sacrifices have been made.
A qHD IPS with a resolution of 960 x 540 means whilst perfectly usable for the vast majority of tasks, watching back a Hollywood blockbuster is not going to give you that cinema experience.
The screen automatically adapts the backlight brightness or you can just manually if you choose.
It is plenty large enough to view back videos, images and web content with and really you do not need HD resolution for an email or text messages.
At the size the screen is it is more likely to come into contact with things that would often be harmful to a display. When in a bag, pocket or laid on a tabletop things like coins, keys and other surfaces can be abrasive on the screen. As such Sony have given the Xperia E4 a scratch resistant glass to reduce the chances of scratches becoming evident.
Sony do inevitably add some customisation to the software, so it is not pure Android.
Additions include amongst others, an Album, Movies, Walkman and Xperia Lounge.
The key value added features for me are AVG Protection, Garmin Navigation and Kobo an e-book reader. You can even record a video of your screen, no special apps needed.
Standard apps such as a calculator, FM radio, chrome web browser, calendar are all present.
There is too Smart Connect that is an app that can help automate some events for you such as loading the Walkman app when you connect headphones as well as the Xperia Care app which will help you should you run into problems.
The version of Android is 4.4, but an upgrade to the new and much publicised Lollipop is due.
There is everything to get you going and to make the device feel personal. Change the wallpapers, the number or home screens, the ringtones and add shortcuts and widgets to give you quick access to what you want.
Pre-installed Google services such as Gmail, YouTube and Drive are all present and if you have an existing Google account you can be setup and synchronised within a matter of minutes.
You can add Facebook, Twitter and corporate exchange accounts too.
With a Google account you can access the Google Play Store and download the apps of your choice whether they be free or paid for.
If the E4 is set to be your first smartphone or you find the whole on screen experience a bit daunting, Sony offer ‘Simple Home’ which makes icons considerably larger and makes the interface bolder and arguably easier to interact with if smartphones and modern technology are not so natural to you.
Slide the finger down from the top of the screen to get access to notifications and quick settings. Easily see the messages you have received and calls you may have missed as well as simply tapping icons to turn on and off certain features.
The large 5 inch display can be used in portrait or landscape orientation thanks to a built in sensor but you can turn this rotation off if you choose.
If you are worried about your data usage then there is a data monitor too, so set it up correctly and you need not worry about going over your data allowance, because you can be alerted.
Android and Sony’s customisation offers so much, you have to see it and use it to understand the features it brings.
During our testing we found performance to be generally good, a little laggy at times. If you want to play demanding games or be doing lots of things at once then the E4 might not be right for you.
Take a look at some of the screenshots below to see what you can expect with the E4.
Charge the Xperia E4 with the provided mains charger and microUSB cable combination that is provided in the box.
This same cable can be used to connect the phone to a computer to transfer data as well as charge it. Just plug it in and it acts like a mass storage device.
Aside from this physical cable connection the E4 offer wireless connectivity in the form of Bluetooth, WiFi, and 2G & 3G connectivity.
Of course being a phone you can make phone calls over the network of your choice. Just pop in a micro SIM card and the phone will detect the relevant settings required.
If the SIM card and plan allows you can connect to the internet through the phone network via 3G.
The E4 does not have 4G connectivity. If you require this, then check out the Xperia E4g which is essentially the E4 with 4G.
WiFi is common in most homes, offices, restaurants, cafes and town centres now so if you do not have a mobile data plan or want to benefit from faster speeds use the WiFi connection to get online. Do be aware it does not have 5GHz WiFi support.
On board the E4 is 8GB of internal memory, of which about 5 is usable out of the box. There is a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB.
When looking at a screen it often makes sense that the speakers are directed at you as the screen is, but it can be difficult to fit these in around the screen and keep the phone a nice size and shape. It is possible but it often costs more to produce such a handset; but it is becoming more common.
Regretfully with the Xperia E4 the single speaker is located on the back of the phone and towards the bottom. Thus when looking at a video on screen any sound is actually pushed away from you.
It is not all bad though, whilst not the loudest or the best quality, it was loud enough for most and clear enough for what you are likely to need to listen to on your phone.
If you are an audiophile this is not the phone for you.
However many of us still like listening to music on the go, so you can use a set of 3.5mm headphones and connect to the E4.
Sony do also bring in some of their experience from the audio space and have included software additions that include Clear Audio, XLoud and 3D Surround Sound technology to give a better experience. Make sure this is turned on within the settings to enjoy the best audio experience you can.
Of course this is a phone too, so what is the call quality like? Perfectly acceptable.
The E4 has two cameras.
On the front is a 2 megapixel camera which can record video at 720p HD resolution. This is ideal for video calls or if you need to capture a picture of yourself and those around you.
With the front camera you have a self timer and a smile shutter (for both photos and video) which as the name implies you can trigger with a smile. I can tell you it works, quite clever really, a box comes up and tracks your face and activates the shutter when you smile. You can even set how big a smile you need to trigger it.
You can enable burst with a long press of the on screen shutter button and whilst the E4 does not have a dedicated shutter button you can set the volume keys to be one.
On the back is a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and a single LED flash.
With 4x digital zoom, auto-scene recognition, image stabaliser, HDR and 1080p HD video recording it has most of what you would need from a camera on a phone.
The smile shutter and self timer are present here too as is burst mode and face recognition.
You can choose to store the photos on the phones internal memory or on a microSD card.
It is also worth noting when recording video you can pause the recording and commence the same clip later and you can capture a still whilst recording video.
There are lots of camera apps that allow you to do lots of different things.
Those included as standard (more available to download) are:
- Auto Scene Recognition – Take photos or videos with automatic detection of the scene and the best settings
- Manual – Manually adjust your camera settings to take photos and videos
- Sound Photo – Take Photos with background sound
- AR Fun – Play with virtual object and enrich photos and video
- Live On YouTube – Broadcast live video to YouTube
- AR Effect – Take Photos with virtual scenes and characters
- Creative Effect – Select effects for artistic photos and videos
- Timeshift Burst – Find the best photo from burst images taken before and after your shot
- Social Live – Share your experience with your friends on Facebook
- Sweep Panorama – Take a panoramic photo by sweeping your camera
- Portrait Retouch – Select a real-time style to apply to a portrait
- Vine – Create beautiful, looping, six second videos to share
So what are the image results like?
Not bad but not spectacular but certainly better than I had expected. They are perfectly adequate for capturing the moment and telling a story, but if you have got a big family event coming up and you want pictures that will paint 1000 words, investing in a dedicated camera could be the answer, it is personal preference.
Whilst most images were ok the camera struggled in situations where there was varying light.
The focus was a little slow as was the capture, so you need to give the camera time to capture the shot.
The good news is that whites were not overly blown out which is common and colours are not overly saturated.
Here are some samples that I captured.
The fixed internal battery is 2,300mAh in capacity which may not seem much when there are phones like the NGM Endurance that has 5,000mAh, but many phones have batteries in the 2000mAh arena.
I can speak first hand as a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact owner at how it is possible to get 2 days from that. I have found the same during testing of the E4. Whilst the screen is larger, the lower resolution and other features ensure that battery is not drained unnecessarily.
There are too a host of settings options so you can perfect battery consumption to suit you.
STAMINA mode extends the normal battery life by switching off background connections when the phone screen is off, so it is not constantly connecting.
Ultra STAMINA mode restricts your handset to a few basic functions, literally calls and text messages but you can get a couple of weeks standby time from it. Ideal if you are a very light user. Keep this mode on and jump out of it when you need more of the smartphone features.
There are other options too such as low-battery mode and location based WiFi that can be turned on or off to affect battery life.
With all the battery saving modes the implications of each are explained in the settings.
Of course you need not sacrifice your user experience, if you want all connections on, feel free and use it on a long day away, you will last a day with it, even if you are a more powerful user.
However for lighter users you have peace of mind you do not need to charge it every night.
At just under the £100 mark including VAT this is coming the right side of that barrier for many looking a smartphone.
The Honor 3C is a few pounds more and offers a little more to you as a user, most specifically dual SIM functionality and the Moto E is a little cheaper but has a smaller screen.
For a Sony branded product this is arguably one of the best value handsets they have produced.
The Xperia E4 offers what is expected of a smartphone in this category. Amongst tough competition it is neither inferior nor does it have that stand out feature that makes it a champion amongst its peers.
It is a solid, reliable and all round performer for those who want or need a smartphone with a large screen but do not need high end features and functions.
Society may push us to buy the best, but sometimes the best technically is not always the best for the user when other factors are considered.
I cannot fault the Xperia E4 from Sony. There is a lot to like, and ultimately it will be for you to decide how the E4 stacks up in specifications and price against its competitors namely the Motorola Moto E and E 2nd Generation, the Honor 3C and Sony’s very own E4g.
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