What is Alcatel 5?
Alcatel 5 is the most apt smartphone range of the French brand in early 2018, although it is not your typical flagship phone.
At just £ 230, it sits firmly on the lower end of the market, with some interesting features that set it apart from the £ 220 Moto G6. With a long screen without bezel and a dual selfie camera configuration, it's an intriguing option for those who want a little more of the essentials.
If that is enough to compensate for the shortcomings in the user's basic experience is something that? I need to spend a little time arguing.
Related: The best Android phones
Alcatel 5 – Design
Alcatel has chosen something a little different with the Alcatel 5 design, which deserves some credit. Here there are none of the usual Apple and Samsung breeding sites, that's for sure.
What does not mean that the distinctive design of the Alcatel 5 is totally successful. The brand has rebelled valiantly against the current obsession with metal to produce a totally plastic phone, although it relies too much on imitation metal finishes.
There is a brushing effect on the back and sides, although it is subtle enough to be harmless. This is slightly reflected by a slightly retro horizontal line pattern below the cover glass (incorrectly labeled 2.5D by Alcatel) immediately above and below the screen.
It's a bit unfortunate that Alcatel has opted for a shiny faux metal effect for the plastic ends. These contain the 3.5mm and USB-C ports, as well as the speakerphone, but they look a little ordinary.
The main feature here is a supposedly "Design without Bezel" (exact words from Alcatel), but it's really nothing of that kind. With a large front, visible chin and small but clearly present side edges, the front of the phone is not without bezel.
Meanwhile, the disparity in size between the forehead and the chin of the Alcatel 5 leaves it a little uneven. Leaving aside Franken's forehead, the other three edges of the screen are undoubtedly smaller than the average economic phone.
In fact, it's a pretty nice phone to hold thanks to a slim body of 71.1 mm with a modest thickness of 8.45 mm. Combined with a weight of 144g and smooth, rounded edges, it fits perfectly in your hand.
Thanks to that narrowness, those with long fingers will need to wring their index finger more than normal to reach the fingerprint of the Alcatel 5 sensor. It is in the Android position just below the camera module.
This is not the best example I've found, even at the lower end of the smartphone market. It works most of the time, but it can be slow, and there were enough bad readings to cross that barrier of doubt hard to find.
Perhaps fortunately then, Alcatel has included its own facial unlocking system called Face Key. This is not the advanced 3D facial mapping system of the iPhone X, but then no one outside Apple is using such an advanced component at this time.
Face Key uses the front camera of the Alcatel 5 to provide a simple scan of your face. I discovered that it worked quite well with moderate to decent lighting, as long as your face is positioned in the dead center and has no obstructions. However, it does not work in low light and you should keep in mind that it is less secure than fingerprint authentication.
Alcatel 5 – Screen
The Alcatel 5 IPS 5.7-inch 18: 9 LCD screen is an outstanding component.
It's not completely unheard of to find a "FullView" screen so stretched on a £ 200 phone – the Honor 9 Lite did a similar trick recently, but it's still quite rare.
However, where the Honor 9 Lite boasted an adequate FHD + resolution of 2160 x 1080, the Alcatel 5 screen presents a slight disappointment of 1440 x 720. This is not a disaster at all, but undoubtedly there is some lack of Clarity in small text and thumbnails when browsing the Web.
It seems a strange decision to provide a widescreen aspect ratio of 18: 9, but not to provide the ability to watch Full HD content.
Leaving aside the resolution, the screen of the Alcatel 5 is very well balanced. It is an LCD screen, so the colors do not appear exactly, but they are quite accurate and natural in appearance compared to the striking skin tones and luminous reds of the more economical AMOLED panels.
By default, the screen displays a faint blue icy tone. but this can be adjusted in the extensive MiraVision adjustment options (if they are not well distributed) within the configuration menu.
The Alcatel 5 screen can be quite bright, at least for indoor use, if you turn off the adaptive brightness function too aggressively. It is considerably less readable when used outdoors during the day, although this is a common feature among cheaper phones.
Alcatel 5 – Performance
The Alcatel 5 is powered by a MediaTek MT6750 CPU, which is a slightly crunchy low-end CPU.
Since the phone costs more than £ 200 (even if it's only), it's a pity that it was not equipped with something a little more powerful. I'm thinking about the Snapdragon 625 used by the Moto G5S Plus, or even the MediaTek Helio P25 found in the Doogee Mix 2.
Both phones are priced similar to the Alcatel 5, but they work much better. A Geekbench 4 multi-core score of 2474 compares unfavorably with both the Moto G5S Plus (4460) and the Doogee Mix 2 (4032). The Honor 9 Lite, with its more pixelated appearance on the Edge-to-Edge screen and its monotonous Kirin 659 CPU, scored 3644.
The mediocre Alcatel 5 processor is, at least, backed by a comfortable 3GB RAM. , which guarantees that the Android operating system works without too many problems.
Although overall performance is not a disaster, it is not easy either. Unlocking the phone biometrically, either with the fingerprint sensor or Face Key, comes with a long pause. Jumping in and between applications also makes the phone ring a little.
When it comes to games, Alcatel 5 runs Guns of Boom quite well, although there are some stuttering when loading for the first time at an accelerated pace level. FPS online. In the most demanding of PUBG Mobile, where the graphics were low, I found that the experience could be reproduced, although a little detained.
These days, we expect quite a 32 GB of storage for a phone at this price, as is the provision of a microSD slot for up to 128 GB of expansion.
Alcatel 5 – Software
Alcatel 5 works with Android 7.1 Nougat, which dates from December 2016. It is far from the latest version of Google's mobile operating system.
It's not that you immediately recognize the Android version by looking at it. Yes, Alcatel is another smart phone brand that believes it knows better than the largest software company in the world when it comes to user interface design.
Fortunately, it's not the most stringent custom Android user interface I've used. The icons and backgrounds are different, as are the configuration menus and the menu of the drag-and-drop virtual command key, but the drop-down notification menu is not modified.
There is no Google Now option to the left of the home screen. On the contrary, it seems to be buried in the bottom of the Google widget. On the other hand, the Google Assistant is available with a voice prompt, which works reliably.
Also familiar is the presence of an application tray button at the bottom of the home screen, which is not as common as it used to be. Alcatel allows you to choose how you want this list of installed applications ordered: alphabetically, by frequency of use or by date.
You also get a familiar set of pre-installed applications (a compass, a sound recorder, useless Alcatel rewards and tutorial application) and games, which you will adopt in your daily use or, more likely, will replace with superior third-party alternatives.
Perhaps the most obvious and even intrusive software addition is the Joy Touch overlay. This semitransparent shortcut button appears in a strikingly discreet manner on the home screen and even applications.
In practice, he looks a bit like the person who offers to help him move from home, but ends up being an obstacle. Joy Touch seems useful because it gives you access to a wide range of functions, such as the calculator, timer and flashlight from almost anywhere. But it's a perpetual visual distraction, and most of my direct interaction with her was to press and hold to drag her out of the way.
Fortunately, you can disable Joy Touch in the configuration menu. I suspect that many Alcatel 5 owners will use this lever.
Alcatel 5 – Camera
Alcatel has gone with the trend of a dual camera configuration for Alcatel 5, but not in the way you would expect.
It's the front camera that gets the benefit of two lenses here, instead of the back one. It gets a dual SmartSelfie DUO system of 13 megapixels and 5 megapixels, which automatically switches to a 120-degree wide-angle view when it detects more than two people in the box.
I can see the rationale for this change in care, since the types of people who will buy or use an affordable smartphone (predominantly young people) will often take many more pictures with the front camera than with the back.
Congratulations to Alcatel for also assigning the fingerprint sensor to close the control when in selfie mode.
Also, the 12 megapixel main camera of the Alcatel 5 is really pretty decent. During my time with the phone, I found it quite agile, with a reliable auto focus and an intuitive user interface.
Also, the shots I got were of a reasonable quality. The colors were balanced and natural looking, the shots on the streets were not blurry, and my subject was generally focused without requiring my interference.
As always with affordable cameras, this comes with the caveat that it takes a lot of light to get decent results. Beyond a certain point, the low-light shots became predictably blurry and ugly.
At the other end of the scale, Alcatel 5 handled dramatic skies reasonably well, unlike most affordable phones.
Normally when reviewing a cheap phone, I'll end by taking two images of identical landscapes, one with the HDR mode activated and the other without it, to see how it handles the extremes of light and shadow ("terribly" is the typical answer) . However, that did not seem relevant to the Alcatel 5, as it comes with an automatic HDR mode by default.
This HDR mode is not perfect in any way: a good selection of panoramic shots on the beach with a bright color, but – The cloudy day gave a somewhat murky foreground. However, it proved to be effective in minimizing the effect of the bleached sky, all without creating the strange Instagram filter aspect of many entry-level HDR modes.
Alcatel 5 – Battery life
The Alcatel 5 does not start any tree in the useful life of the battery, but you will see it comfortably during a day of normal use.
The 3000mAh capacity is not particularly noticeable for a modern smartphone with a 5.7-inch screen, but the phone's low-power processor and 720p resolution make it seem a bit more generous.
You can certainly deal with advanced tasks without putting too much of a dent in your day. Watching a downloaded 50-minute TV program with the brightness of the screen directly undermined only 6% of the battery life of the Alcatel 5, which is significantly better than the Honor 9 Lite (14%) and its 1080p screen.
Interestingly, it decreased the same 6% after playing 15 minutes of Guns of Boom at half the brightness of the screen, which is an identical result to the Honor 9 Lite. If this is an indication of a less efficient GPU or some other factor, I'm not sure. Either way, it is not a bad result in any way.
It's good to see the Alcatel 5 using the reversible USB-C standard to charge, since it still does not happen at this end of the market. .
Why buy the Alcatel 5?
The Alcatel 5 asks you to pay a little more than the accepted price for entry smartphones for a couple of new features, although its real value is questionable.
Stretched The 18: 9 screen from edge to edge is certainly not common at this price, but the Honor 9 Lite did it before and better. On the contrary, the decent performance of the camera and an interesting wide-angle selfie function make Alcatel 5 guarantee a closer look if photography is an absolute priority.
However, a divisive design, mediocre performance and disappointing software mean that it probably is not. It is not worth considering when the Moto G5S Plus offers a better central experience for the same money.
The Alcatel 5 offers a dominant 18: 9 screen and reasonable camera performance for around £ 230. However, a bit strange design, disappointing performance and mediocre software make it difficult to recommend in a strong field. The Moto G5S Plus of similar price makes much more basic and with much more style.