Alcatel 5 Review - A Budget Smartphone With Premium Specs

Budget smartphones are a tricky market to get into - you’re never guaranteed a good phone, which could resort in the metaphorical equivalent of you throwing your money out the window.

And there isn’t a middle ground at all! Beyond the £200 mark, you’re looking at nearly a grand for a premium phone. There is no middle ground whatsoever.

So, what is the answer to this conundrum? Alcatel think they know, confidently writing on their pub quiz sheet as friends look on shocked that they can seem so nonchalant at the bonus question.

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The Alcatel 5 looks pretty by-the-books for an upper tier smartphone - 5.7” IPS display, Octa-core CPU, finger print reader on the back, 12MP rear camera and dual front camera, 3GB RAM - the usual suspects (plus dual SIM for a nice little extra added convenience). And the design feels premium too, with full glass on the front and a tasty matte texture to the back.

But here’s the secret weapon of the Alcatel 5… Three digits and a pound sign - £179. Premium specs for a budget price. Is it too good to be true? Take a trip with me, dear reader, to find out.

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Pop the box open and you’ll find exactly what to expect from a smartphone - a monolithic slab. I’m a fan of the design language, personally, but I can see how others may view it as “safe” or “boring.” The IPS display up front is surprisingly impressive given the price of the phone - the colours pop and they don’t drain out when viewed at an angle. At 720 x 1440 (282 pixels per inch), it’s certainly a lower resolution, which if it really bugs you, then do avoid. But It didn’t adversely affect me, as the tasty colour reproduction made up for it.

This is paired with a speaker that is loud enough - not the best audio reproduction (it crackles at the highest volume), but as you’ll spend most of your time with earphones plugged in, this doesn’t really matter.

Powering this all is a 3000 mAh battery, charged up with USB-C. That’s been good for a solid day of casual use in all my test. Anything more hardcore (regular filming, or Pokemon GO), and you better have a portable battery with you.

Let’s switch it on. Touch responsiveness is good, with limited slowdown. The RAM keeps everything nice and zippy (be sure to maintain clean RAM though, as you don’t want it to get bogged down and slow).

But then, you begin to realise that this OS looks a bit…old? Well, that will be because it’s running on the 2+year old Android Nougat - albeit with an Alcatel-created skin on it. And with a budget phone, you probably won’t see any updates unless you strip things down to stock and grab an APK.

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It doesn’t break the experience - an older version of Android will have all the issues ironed out with firmware upgrades. But you don’t get the latest things, the latest innovations that you read about and fall in love with. And you can’t say for sure how long apps will continue to support these older versions of Android. That’s a big question you’ll have to ask yourself before buying. If it doesn’t bother you, Nougat is more than fine. If it does, maybe look elsewhere.

And now, we come onto what is quickly becoming the most important part of any smartphone… The camera. Good pictures & video? It’s a very mixed bag.

With a 13MP rear camera and 5MP wide angle front-facing lens (both capture video at 1080p 30 FPS), it sounds good on paper. But the results beg to differ. 

In daylight, absolutely fine. Like any camera, it has a well-lit scene and is able to capture the subject effectively - give or take a little blurry when zoomed in. By night, however, the cameras just can’t handle it and your photos come out looking pretty pants. 

Again, much like some of the other issues above, I was expecting this at the price point. It’s a little disappointing, but taking that under £200 RRP into account, it’s more than good enough.

So what are we left with? Simple - a more than ideal choice of budget phone. You’re getting a nice little workhorse that can, warts and all, can capably do everything needed from a smartphone in 2019.

Spending a grand on a phone is silly, so why not take a walk on the cheap side?

7/10