Sony's latest phablet arrives at a market well saturated with large-screen midrange devices. Fighting for the front flash niche the company tried to explore with the Xperia C3, the C4 brings more powerful hardware and a better display to make this a much better rounded package.
What's best about the Xperia C4 and, coincidentally, what's its major drawback, can both be found on page 3 of this review. It's hard to find fault with the 5.5-inch 1080p display - the panel boasts high brightness and contrast, and has great viewing angles. Scroll down to battery life and you'll see the Xperia C4 fail miserably and die after 5 and a half hours of video playback.
The front camera produces rather disappointing images for its high-res sensor, but the front flash is there to save the day - many a club shots will turn out better with this one than with most flagships on the market. The primary camera does a good job, so long as you steer clear from the unreliable Superior Auto mode.
The rest is pretty much all in its favor, though. Performance is towards the top for the class, the interface is Sony's familiar lightly modded XperiaUI, the proprietary apps nicely enhance the experience.
Now, it should be clear from the get-go that if the front flash is a must-have feature for you, the options are severely limited. It's not like the front camera/flash combo is such a stellar performer as to base your buying decision solely on that, but still, we acknowledge that it may be a priority to some, so we'll try to sift through the possibilities.
There's obviously the HTC Desire Eye (guess where the name comes from), but it's either more expensive or a lot more expensive than the Xperia C4, depending on where you live. What you get for the premium is a 13MP front camera with dual-LED flash, flagship-grade Snapdragon 801 chipset and IPx7 certification. Its screen is smaller at 5.2 inches, but it's the price tag difference that puts those two in different leagues.
Then we have the Oppo N1 and N3, which don't really come with a front flash per se (or actual front camera for that matter), but thanks to the swiveling main shooter (motorized on the N3), you get the full 13MP/16MP primary camera to shoot your selfies. The tradeoff is that they are significantly larger than the C4 and while the N3 is running on the S801, the N1 is powered by the dated Snapdragon 600 SoC. Oh, and the N3 costs double the C4, while the N1 (if you can still find one) is about as much as the Desire Eye above, so again no real competition here.
Now if selfies aren't everything you want, you can get some more sensible alternatives. The Samsung Galaxy A7 is a premium-built 5.5-inch midranger, which runs for a little more than the Xperia C4, comes with a Snapdragon 615 for comparable performance, but lacks the all-important front flash. So does the Galaxy E7, and its 5.5-inch display is only 720p, while the Snapdragon 410 is decidedly inferior. It does give you a bright large-diagonal display for less than what the C4 costs, though.
The 5.5-inch version of the Alcatel Idol 3 is another viable option, and one that will set you back less than the Xperia C4. The Idol is powered by the ubiquitous Snapdragon 615, has an 8MP front camera and dual speakers, which also provide its signature reversible design.
The LG G3 has gotten dirt cheap in some markets over the past months - for what it offers, of course. Pioneering into the QHD territory LG's last year flagship has a great main camera with 2160p video recording, though the front one is only 2.1MP. It's also more powerful thanks to the S801 chipset and you can opt for the 32GB storage / 3GB RAM version for even better performance.
Now that we're in past flagships territory, Sony's own Xperia Z2 is a competent rival to the C4. Snapdragon 801 and 3GB inside, it has a 20.7MP primary camera with 2160p video, IP58 certification and better battery endurance.
A proficient large-screen midranger, the Sony Xperia C4 is a good overall package. Its headline flash-equipped front camera is not the be-all and end-all of selfies, but it does give it a unique twist - something increasingly hard to find in the overcrowded segment. And that might be what turns one of the better 5.5-inch phablets into a hot seller.