Review: Sony Xperia E4

Granted, the camera quality doesn’t appear to be anywhere near close to what you’d get on Sony’s flagship models — hardly a surprise given the price differences — but at least when you fire a shot in a backlit environment, Sony’s software will fill in the gaps and fire off two shots combined to make an HDR image instead of giving you a poorly exposed photo like on other cameras.

That flash is also going to be useful for some, because while we tend to avoid flashes — they’re not great for every situation — the mark of a budget phone is usually a missing flash, so it’s nice to see Sony hasn’t skipped this feature.

A very glowing selfie.
A very glowing selfie.

The front-facing camera is also not a fantastic 2 megapixel module, either — did you know humans glow orange? — but we’ve seen much lower on budget cameras, and technically even the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use lower megapixels.

Don’t confuse megapixel numbers for quality, though, as we’d take the front FaceTime cameras on either of the new iPhones over the E4’s mediocre front-facing camera any time, but again, it’s a decent inclusion, especially when budget phones either have 640×480 VGA front-cameras or none at all.


Over to the battery, because that is one area that wins marks without problems, delivering two days of performance without trying.

Our regular test has us making phone calls, sending messages, doing the whole social networking schtick, emailing, web surfing, listening to music, and taking photos, and we had no problem with general use on this phone taking it to two days of life.

That’s two very, very comfortable days without one of Sony’s “stamina” modes switched on, giving us a hint that the Xperia E4 might well even survive longer if the phone was switched onto one of these battery saving modes.

This is an impressive battery run time, not just for Sony, but for any phone, as few phones these days pull past a day or even a day and a half, and the Xperia E4 has no problems hitting those targets.

But that extended battery life tends to come at the expense of a low-end processor, a mediocre supply of memory (RAM), with these two factors coming together for a performance that can really grind at you.


Slowdowns were there for pretty much anything. Open an app and it’ll take an extra half to full second or two to go in. Try to log in to Instagram and the keyboard takes its time appearing on the screen. Load up Google Play Music for some tunes or the web browser Chrome and they both just take their time getting into action, making themselves available for use.

Make no mistake, this can be a very slow phone — a… very…. slow… phone… — and while it offers a good looking 5 inch display, it also comes with the caveat that the screen will look good when the phone is taking its sweet time to do what you ask of it.

For some, that won’t pose much of a problem, especially if you’re after a phone with a big screen for a cheap price, and $129 even locked to a network certainly delivers that. We haven’t seen too many 5 inch phones go for under $200, and the Xperia E4 definitely provides that.

But it does so at the cost of system performance, and provided you don’t mind doing little bits at a time, and you’re fine with the phone taking a little bit of time to do those little bits, you’ll be right.

Coming from the flagship and top tier phones that we’re used to seeing, and even the middle range devices, the Xperia E4 is positively slow, reminding us less of a modern smartphone found in 2015 but more of something from a few years ago, with a performance that just doesn’t hit the marks.

Kids won’t like it and will get frustrated, but people who know how to wait, and don’t mind their devices not being top of the class will be fine.


That lack of performance also extends to the fact that this is only a 3G phone, meaning don’t expect super high speed downloads.

From a technical point of view, we’re not talking super-fast 3G, though, because while 3G can yield decent speeds, you won’t see them on this phone.

Our tests pushed out speeds ranging from 2 to 7Mbps, which is about average for 3G, but below the maximum 15Mbps a 3G phone with support for a 3.5G or NextG network can achieve.

We’re probably running out the clock for the 3G technology, and now that we’re beginning to see 4G creep into phones around the $99 to $199 mark, we’d say that Sony should definitely jump on the LTE bandwagon next year.

Again, if you’re not bothered by this and can wait for a YouTube stream to come down or your web page to load, it won’t be a huge problem, and the wait isn’t all that long, but this isn’t the fastest device to take with you, with the mobile and system performance being the weakest part of the E4 experience.



While the system performance leaves something to be desired, and sometimes might even have you sighing quite heavily, the battery life is the reason to check out this $129 phone, rounding two days without any real problems.

Hey, if you manage to use your phone less than us and switch on Sony’s stamina modes, you might even be able to score three days of life.

We’re happy at two days, even if the performance is a bit of a drag, because if you don’t need a super fast mobile and are quite happy to be patient, Sony’s 5 inch Xperia E4 is excellent value.

Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Surprisingly nice big screen; Sony’s overlay to Android is very PlayStation-like and easy to get used to; Excellent two day battery life; Rear camera includes a flash, something you don't normally see on budget phones; 
Edge of the phone feels weird against the hand; Slow downs are easily noticed from the mediocre processor; No 4G;