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Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: How good can a £59 smartphone be?

Christopher Minasians
8 Jan 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
59
inc VAT

A 4G-enabled £59 smartphone that also offers expandable storage; what’s not to like?

Pros 
Price
Expandable storage
Android 6 Marshmallow
Cons 
Sluggish performance
Camera
Display
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Update: It has been near two years since I reviewed the Alcatel Pixi 4 (5), and since its competitors have dropped in price, while the Pixi has become increasingly hard to source. My original review continues below, with updated pricing details.

The Alcatel Pixi 4 5045X is a 5in quad-core smartphone that comes with 4G connectivity, Android 6 Marshmallow and a microSD card expansion slot. That much isn’t unusual; it’s the price that sets the eyebrows rising, because this is usable smartphone that can be bought for a mere £59. That’s £100 cheaper than one of our old favourites, the Moto G4.

The Pixi 4 comes in different sizes and specifications, but Alcatel hasn’t made it easy to distinguish between the different models. There’s the Alcatel Pixi 4 (4), the Pixi (5) and the Pixi (6), all of which have different screen sizes and internals. To make it even more confusing there are also 4G and 3G models of the Pixi 4 (5). Here, I’m reviewing the Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) 5045X 4G-enabled model.

READ NEXT: Best budget phones to buy in 2018.

Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: Price and competition

Since writing my review, the Pixi 4 (5) 4G is now a lot harder to source. The best place to find a brand-new variant of the device is on eBay for under £50.

Its main competitor is the excellent Vodafone Smart Prime 7, a now £50 smartphone, though, it's locked to Vodafone's network.

Buy now from eBay

READ NEXT: Vodafone Smart Prime 7 review - a real bargain

Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: Build quality

The Pixi (5) has a 5in display, which to me, is about the right size for media browsing, videos and one-handed operation. However it is a tad heavy, weighing 148g, and a touch thick at 9.5mm from front to back, so it isn’t the most comfortable thing to hold.

The front bezels are acceptably thin, with three touch capacitive buttons found below the screen. You’ll find a microUSB charging and data port at the bottom, volume rocker and power button on the right, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone.

The rear cover of the phone is made entirely out of plastic, and can be popped off where you’ll find a removable 2,000mAh lithium-ion battery, micro-SIM and microSD storage slots.

I should also mention that the phone’s sound quality is acceptable, with its single front-facing speaker delivering acceptable levels of volume.

Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: Display

With a 5in display, I’d expect the phone to have a 720p (720 x 1,280) screen, but unfortunately with the Pixi 4 you’re left with a rather disappointing 480 x 854 resolution, resulting in a low pixel density of 196ppi.

In comparison, the Vodafone Smart Prime 7 has a 5in 720p screen with a pixel density of 293ppi. This means you won’t be watching those YouTube videos in HD, and you’ll be able to see pixelated text when reading the news (or this review).

With a 356cd/m2 brightness, the Pixi 4 (5) is bright enough to be used outdoors, but it isn’t bright enough to read in blazing sunlight. If you’re looking to watch movies on the device, you’ll find its screen size acceptable, but the low resolution and 70.6% sRGB coverage, mean images look grainy and and a touch dull.

At maximum brightness, it has an underwhelming 0.40cd/m2 black level, too, and the 868:1 contrast ratio isn’t wonderful. Given the price, I’d expect something a little below par, but it’s quite a bit worse than the Vodafone Smart Prime 7. Also worth noting is that colours do shift when you view the screen from different angles.

Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: Software

The good news is that the phone comes with Android 6 Marshmallow on board. While this isn’t the very latest version of Google’s mobile OS, it’s still pretty good. Android 6 is easy to use and has a slick interface that’s responsive even on the Pixi 4’s lowly hardware.

Better still, you’re not hit with a lot of bloatware from Alcatel or an over-weaning Android skin. However, it does come pre-installed with Alcatel’s OneTouch Launcher, but this can easily be changed. Other than a handful of forced-system apps, the Pixi 4 (5) provides a pure Android experience, which is always refreshing to see. As with any stock Android device, however, you the entire suite of Google apps, including Maps, Gmail, YouTube and Google Drive (among others) is pre-installed.

Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: Performance

The Pixi 4 is a budget phones, and it didn’t surprise me to see it perform like one. Housing a quad-core, 1GHz MTK6735M Mediatek processor and a mere 1GB of RAM, it only managed a score of 416 in our Geekbench 4 single-core tests and 1,173 in the multi-core tests.

Putting this into perspective, the Samsung Galaxy J5 managed 555 and 1948 respectively, while the mid-range OnePlus 3T manages an impressive 1,903 and 4,274 in these tests. This means if you plan on opening many apps and running Chrome with multiple tabs, you’ll find yourself frustrated.

Gaming results were rather poor, too, with GFXBench recording a score of 5.4fps at native resolution. Again, however, that’s nothing out of the ordinary at this price; in comparison, the Vodafone Smart Prime 7 achieved 4fps in this test, primarily due to the higher resolution screen placing more strain on its weak graphics chip.

Finally, to battery life, which is the Pixi 4’s weakest suite. Unlike the Vodafone Smart Prime 7, which was reasonably impressive, the Pixi 4 (5) managed only 8h 17m. If you’re a heavy smartphone owner, you may want to look elsewhere.

Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: Camera

I was also less than impressed with rear-facing 5-megapixel and front-facing 2-megapixel cameras. With or without flash the Pixi 4 struggled taking acceptable photos, with noise spoiling every shot.

When testing its colour accuracy, I found the Pixi 4 (5) had slightly washed out colours, while it was also unable to cope with background shadows, unless your object is well lit.
To add more concerns about its camera, I was unable to touch-to-focus, meaning it had a continuous auto focus that can be a problematic when trying to record fast moving objects.

Enabling HDR mode improved things a little, but no matter what the conditions, the Pixi 4’s photos looked grainy and murky, and to make matters worse, you can’t touch-to-focus, meaning you have to rely on the camera software to pick the right spot to focus on. This, I found, was hit and miss.

^ Image taken without HDR.

^Same image taken with HDR - brickwork can be seen, colours are more vibrant and there’s less image noise. But it’s still not great

^Colours aren’t vibrant, shadows aren’t properly depicted and there’s a lot of image noise in low-light shots.

Most critically, perhaps, the Pixi 4’s camera is significantly worse than the Vodafone Smart Prime 7’s. If you’re looking to take a lot of pictures and even selfies, I’d suggest investing a little bit more for the Prime 7’s superior camera.

Alcatel Pixi 4 (5) review: Verdict

Despite its shortcomings, the Pixi 4 (5) isn’t awful and for under £60 it’s ludicrously cheap for a 5in 4G-enabled smartphone. Performance is respectable for basic tasks, and the screen is fine, too.

Buy now from eBay

If you’re looking to watch a lot of content on your smartphone and enjoy taking photographs, however, I’d suggest investing in the Vodafone Smart Prime 7, instead. That phone offers all these features, has nicer build quality and significantly better battery life and a nicer camera. It used to cost £10-15 more, but since has dropped to around the same price as the Alcatel, making it a significantly better buy.

Hardware
ProcessorQuad-core 1 GHz MTK6735M
RAM1GB
Screen size5in
Screen resolution480 x 854
Screen typeTFT-TN
Front camera2 megapixels
Rear camera5 megapixels
FlashLED
GPSYes
CompassN/A
Storage (free)8GB (1.2GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD (32GB)
Wi-Fi802.11 b/g/n
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0
NFCN/A
Wireless data3G, 4G
Dimensions140.7 x 72.7 x 9.5mm
Weight169g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 6.0
Battery size2,000mAh

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