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Alcatel 5 review: Alcatel’s affordable flagship is no Moto G6 killer

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
229
inc VAT

A decent camera isn’t enough for Alcatel’s odd-looking budget smartphone to join the ranks of flagship-killing alternatives

Pros 
Wallet-friendly price
Decent camera
Cons 
Ugly design
Middling performance
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Despite Samsung and Apple’s brainwashing tactics, you don’t need to spend in excess of four figures on your biennial smartphone upgrade. Budget phones rule the roost in 2018 and your rainy day fund can remain untouched if you decide to ignore the usual smartphone big-hitters.

READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones

Alcatel’s ever-expanding list of wallet-friendly alternatives are perfect examples and you’ll regularly find an Alcatel phone or two making themselves comfortable in our best budget phones roundup. Hoping to continue the French manufacturer’s award-winning trend is the Alcatel 5 but can this “affordable flagship” join its siblings?

Alcatel 5 review: What you need to know

This is the most expensive Alcatel phone to date. Its “affordable flagship” moniker, while seemingly contradictory, is actually rather well-justified – this is Alcatel’s top-end smartphone, it’s just that it costs a heck of a lot less than the rest of 2018’s fleet of flagships.

And at first glance, the odd-looking Alcatel 5 actually seems rather swish. It has a big 5.7in screen and, while it doesn’t have quite the same level of specifications as flagships costing hundreds of pounds more, it delivers astonishing value for money. Its rear 12-megapixel camera is rather good too – more on that later.

Alcatel 5 review: Price and competition

What’s best about the Alcatel 5 is that it costs very little. Priced at a reasonable £229 – although it’s £180 on Amazon at the moment – you get a lot for such a small amount of cash.

The Alcatel 5 isn’t lacking key rivals at this price. The strongest competition, as with all budget phones, comes from the Motorola Moto G6, which costs a mere £220 and is our current affordable favourite.

There’s also the excellent £280 Honor Play, and the Nuu Mobile G3 and Honor 9 Lite are tremendous alternatives, too at £200 a piece. There’s plenty of choice at this end of the smartphone spectrum, in other words.

Alcatel 5 review: Design

The Alcatel 5 finally arrives on your doorstep, you sprint down the stairs with naive anticipation, prise open the box and what do you find? Well, a rather strange-looking phone staring back up at you. That’s what.

Yes, this is a face only a mother could love. The Alcatel 5 may be fitted with one of these new-fangled 18:9 displays, but with slim bezels bordering the left, right and bottom edges of the screen – which is actually rather nice – there’s quite a lot of space above.

And I don’t think this is a nice look. This strange shifted-down screen design might be a Marmite-like feature, I can accept that, but my colleagues and I are in agreement – this is an ugly phone.

The horror story continues on the back, with a textured plastic that feels rather cheap. It’s lightweight at a mere 144g, which isn’t usually a negative but in this case, it feels like picking up a display phone in Carphone Warehouse.

Still, the Alcatel 5 is fitted with all the essential practicalities. There’s a USB-C charging port on the bottom of the phone, flanked by a pair of speaker grilles, while power and volume rocker buttons sit side-by-side on the right edge.

A 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top, with a combination microSD and nano-SIM tray on the left side. A circular fingerprint reader for secure unlocking is placed underneath the camera module on the back of the phone.

Alcatel 5 review: Display

On to the Alcatel 5’s 5.7in display, which is actually rather nice. Its specifications aren’t impressive, with a 1,440 x 720 resolution IPS panel, but it’s bright and vibrant with graphics, photos and video all looking decent on first impressions.

Place a colour calibrator on the screen, however, and you begin to notice this isn’t the best display around. Colour accuracy is the main issue and sRGB coverage in the phone’s default Standard screen mode is a disappointing 87.8%. What’s more, with an average Delta E of 7.3, colours are way off. In particular, dark blue and purple tones are heavily oversaturated.

Still, the phone’s contrast ratio of 1,509:1 is actually rather good and images and text look pin-sharp, despite the iffy colours. It’s also capable of reaching a maximum brightness of 468cd/m2, which is handy when you’re trying to navigate the great outdoors and staring at Google Maps.

Alcatel 5 review: Performance and battery life

Inside the Alcatel 5 is a MediaTek MT6750 – an octa-core processor running at 1.5GHz – with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, which can be expanded up to 128GB via microSD.

As you can see, the Alcatel 5’s performance is the weakest of the bunch. Running the Geekbench 4 single- and multi-core CPU tests, the phone is almost 67% slower than the Honor Play.

In practicality, the Alcatel 5 does the job, but it just doesn’t do that job spectacularly well. I had no issues navigating the home screen for instance, or loading Google Maps and juggling multiple applications.

The Mali-T860MP2 graphics chip is equally competent. You won’t be playing graphically-intensive games such as PUBG: Mobile on high settings, but most Play Store games are perfectly playable, albeit with occasional frame drops.

Battery life is also middling. The phone’s 3,000mAh battery lasted for 11hrs 2 mins during our continuous video playback test before needing to recharge. That’s ever-so-slightly better than the Moto G6, but is a far cry from the long-lasting lifespan of the Honor Play.

Alcatel 5 review: Camera

As for the quality of the images the Alcatel 5’s camera is capable of capturing, they’re actually not too bad. There’s a single 12-megapixel camera doing all the work on the back, with a relatively wide aperture of f/2.2. It can’t shoot 4K video – only 1080p footage at 30fps – and there’s no fancy phase-detect autofocus or image stabilisation, either.

Despite these specifications, the rear camera is a surprisingly capable photographer’s companion. The quality of the photographs are rather good – our test shots of London’s skyline were bustling with detail and colour reproduction was nice and accurate, too.

But because the sensor struggles to let enough light in you do begin to spot issues as the light dims. Signs of compression artifacting and visual noise are commonplace, and there isn’t a whole lot of detail to images. Likewise, the camera produces a warm washed-out look with pictures taken in dark environments.

Alcatel 5 review: Verdict

Sadly, as decent as the camera is, this simply isn’t enough for the Alcatel 5 to stand out from the crowd. You might argue that because it’s cheap most of these problems can be ignored, but Alcatel’s affordable flagship struggles to provide anything particularly noteworthy.

The Alcatel 5 is the smartphone equivalent of ready salted crisps. Dependable, yes, but your money is much better spent on fancier flavours. Instead, go for the Moto G6, which is the Kettle's Sea Salt with Black Peppercorns of budget handsets: theoretically the same, but try bringing the former to a party and see where it gets you.

Hardware
ProcessorOcta-core 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6750
RAM3GB
Screen size5.7in
Screen resolution1,440 x 720
Screen typeIPS
Front camera13-megapixel, 5-megapixel
Rear camera12-megapixel
FlashDual-LED
GPSYes
CompassYes
Storage (free)32GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wi-Fi802.11ac
Bluetooth4.2
NFCYes
Wireless data4G
Dimensions152 x 71 x 8mm
Weight144g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 7
Battery size3,000mAh

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