Sony has announced the Xperia M2 smartphone, which it is claiming has the "world's best smartphone technology in its class". It steals the design from the Xperia Z family, but ditches the waterproofing feature, so be careful not to confuse this device with the flagship Xperia Z2 or Xperia Z1 Compact handsets, as the M2 is strictly mid-range.
We had the chance to have a play with the new handset ahead of its Mobile World Congress 2014 unveiling.
Stealing the Xperia Z design
The design is the first thing you'll notice about the Xperia M2, because it is virtually identical to the new Xperia Z2. In fact, you could almost mistake the two if you didn't know any better, or look a little closer.
It features the same chamfered edges and flat back as the Xperia Z devices, but the M2 is certainly lighter and smaller than the new Xperia Z2. It feels light, but we wouldn't go as far as to say it felt cheap.
The signature power button is located on the right-hand side of the device but there's no premium aluminium frame making up the edge. Sony has used a rubber material for the trim, which makes it feel quite secure to hold. It doesn't feel as if it will slip out of your hand, but at the same time, when you hold it up against the Xperia Z2, you can tell which is the premium device.
The Xperia M2 measures 8.6mm thick and we found it was a good-size when we played with it. Not too big, not too small, and certainly a good-looking handset, much enhanced over the previous Xperia M.
The most important point about the Xperia M2's design is the lack of waterproofing. Sony has removed the feature, presumably in a bid to keep the cost down, and while you wouldn't know from simply looking at the handset, you will soon find out if you drop the Xperia M2 in a puddle.
We like the waterproofing feature of the Xperia Z handsets so we think it's a shame that the Xperia M2 doesn't include it. That said, if we're paying a lot less for the Xperia M2 - and we think it will be around €220 - we can live without it given the design is so similar. The lack of waterproofing does have one other advantage too - it means the Micro-USB port is open, which is welcomed, as it makes for easy charging.
The Xperia M2 features the speaker grill at the bottom of the handset stretching from each side of the device to cover the entire bottom. We didn't get a chance to test the sound output from the device, but the design is subtle and looks good.
Like the Xperia Z2, the Xperia M2 comes in a choice of black, white and purple, all of which look great. Purple was our favourite: it's very eye-catching.
The Xperia M2 comes with a 4.8-inch display with a 960 x 540 pixel resolution, which offers a pixel density of 229ppi. In terms of numbers, it isn't the best display in this particular end of the market but we weren't disappointed with it. We'd probably take the Moto G's 4.5-inch higher-resolution display over that of the M2, but the performance is still good.
We found the colours were very vibrant and the viewing angles good but the display wasn't as sharp as the Z2, although you wouldn't expect it to be.
It is difficult to make a final decision on the display with so little time with the handset, but when we bring it in for full review, we will take a closer look at how it performs.
If you were hoping for the 20.7-megapixel camera found on the Xperia Z1 Compact and Xperia Z2, you will be disappointed. The Xperia M2 comes with an 8-megapixel camera on the rear.
We had a quick play with the camera comparing it to the Xperia Z2 as well as the Moto G, but it is virtually impossible to draw a conclusion from our short time with it, so this is something we will look into further in the future.
You won't get the ability to record 4K like you do on the Xperia Z2, but we'd expect reasonable performance from it.
Software and specs
The Xperia M2 launches on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean rather than the latest Android 4.4 KitKat. Sony told us that the idea is to update the handset to the latest software, although it couldn't tell us when that would be. Sony has remained fairly tight lipped over scheduling for KitKat updates across its devices so far and that doesn't look to be changing.
That means for now you will have to settle with the older version of the software but everything runs smoothly on the Xperia M2, and with a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapgradon 400 processor under the hood, it should be capable of performing the everyday tasks you throw at it.
In terms of other specs, there is 1GB of RAM, along with 8GB of internal storage with supprt for microSD card expansion. The Xperia M2 comes with NFC and there is a 2330mAh battery on board, although we will have to let you know how that fares in everyday use when we get it in for a full review.
We like the design of the Xperia M2 as you get a device that looks like the more premium models in the family, but you won't pay as much for the privilege. The display was good and the device feels nice and solid in the hand.
It would have been great to see this device launch with Android 4.4 KitKat and incorporating the waterproofing capability of its more premium brothers, but for a mid-range device, we like what we have seen so far. This is a category with strong competition however, with the very affordable and well-specced Motorola Moto G looking like a solid rival.
READ: Motorola Moto G review
Photos by Chris Hall.