Alcatel 5V review — a worthy comeback?
+ Looks great with contrasting sides and back
+ Battery life is excellent!
+ A nice device to hold
+ UI is pretty well thought out
+ Passable images produced from rear cameras
- No support for LTE Band 5
- Glossy plastic body forces you to keep using a case
- Sluggish performance in day-to-day usage
- Slow charging speed
- Too pricey for what it offers
Alcatel is probably a name which you probably have not heard of recently. They were in Malaysia some time back, then sort of went under the radar without any new announcements here in Malaysia. Well, they are now back, and the latest crop of smartphones from Alcatel are pretty affordable, targeting a budget-conscious demographic. Premium-looking designs that don’t cost a bomb are always in, and perhaps that’s what Alcatel is gunning for with the Alcatel 5V. Let’s take a closer look.
The packaging of the Alcatel 5V is pretty standard, with a nice image of it on the front, some highlight features on the side and basic specifications on the back.
It surely comes with a nice set of accessories! It even comes with a screen protector and a hard case. When was the last time you saw a device come with a hard case and a screen protector? There is also a pretty standard microUSB cable and 10W charger, as well as some earphones. Documentation is aplenty with the Alcatel 5V, for some reason.
The front of the device is pretty nondescript, without any logos or marking that differentiates it from the masses. Not surprising to be honest, as that’s what every brand has been doing.
On the back, we are treated to a glossy back that unfortunately featured some weird patterns when examined under strong light. It’s plastic, so you would do well to use a case if you have any intention of keeping it nice and shiny.
On the right side is where you will find all the buttons. The power button is textured, which is a nice touch. The sides feature a matte finishing which is in contrast to the glossy back, giving the impression of a “frame” despite the fact that it features a plastic unibody.
The antiquated microUSB port still finds a home on the Alcatel 5V, flanked by two arrays of perforations which hide the speaker and primary microphone. Over on the top you will find the secondary microphone and the 3.5mm jack.
The design of the Alcatel 5V is pretty attractive for an entry level device, but the use of glossy plastic is definitely something we can’t agree to. We do like the contrasting finishes between the sides and back though, as it makes it slightly more comfortable to hold, aside from making the device look better in general.
|CPU/Chipset:||MediaTek Helio P22 (4 x Cortex-A53 @ 2.0 GHz + 4 x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5 GHz), 12nm FinFET|
|GPU:||PowerVR GE8320 @ 650 MHz|
|Display:||6.2″, 19:9 HD+ (720p) IPS display, 88% screen-to-body ratio|
|Storage:||32GB (expandable via microSD up to 128GB)|
Primary: 12MP f/2.2 (1.25μm pixels) + 2MP f/2.4
Dual tone LED flash, portrait mode, AI scene recognition, AI Beauty, filter, social mode
8MP f/2.8 (1.12μm pixels)
Beautification, filters, Social mode
|OS:||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Connectivity:||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 GHz)
LTE-FDD: Band 1/3/7/8/20/28
|SIM:||Hybrid dual nanoSIM (second SIM slot shared with microSD)|
|Battery:||Li-ion 4000 mAh (non-removable)|
|Dimensions:||153.7 x 74.55 x 8.5 mm|
The Alcatel 5V actually has a pretty decent specifications across the board, except for the screen and RAM. unifi Mobile users would be disappointed though to find that the Alcatel 5V lacks support for LTE Band 5. However those who are on Digi’s network would be nicely surprised to find VoLTE support out of the box. I haven’t seen support for VoLTE other than on my old tweaked Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 and also HUAWEI’s devices, so to find it in an entry-level smartphone was indeed a nice find for me.
Antutu sees the Alcatel 5V come up just ahead of the Redmi 6 which shares a similar chipset.
GPU performance of the Alcatel 5V actually surpasses the Redmi 6’s, but for some reason it didn’t manage to as well in Sling Shot Extreme (ES 3.1), clocking just one point less.
PCMark is where we see the Alcatel 5V score pretty well, matching up with the Snapdragon 630-powered ZenFone 4.
The Alcatel 5V makes a good showing here as well, trouncing the Redmi 6 by a huge margin with more than 3 hours longer battery life. The chipset appears to be quite inefficient, as it doesn’t impress despite the huge battery.
I clocked an excellent 2 days away from the charger, with 5 hours of total SOT. I wasn’t really using it as my main smartphone though. Charging speed is quite slow, with only 25% regained in 30 minutes of charging. The performance in day-to-day usage is acceptable, but stutters and delays are to be expected from a device of this caliber.
The Alcatel 5V actually feels great in hand with the smooth curves and contrasting texture on the sides offering more grip. The hard case also has wide cutouts from the top, bottom and sides of the devices. The screen is pretty decent despite the HD+ resolution which may seem like a major turnoff in 2018. And of course there is the notch up top.
Fortunately, despite a notch that’s actually pretty wide, Alcatel still decided to slot in a notification ticker so that you know how many notifications icon you have hidden because you decided to pick a notchy phone. The overall user interface is pretty mature looking and definitely doesn’t put important settings where they shouldn’t be. There is even gesture navigation, as long as you think swiping up from the bottom is a good idea for back.
Moving on, the camera hardware is pretty interesting. It’s actually what flagships would tout a few years back. Seeing 1.25μm pixels trickle down to the entry level is a nice touch. And of course given how important portrait mode is, the Alcatel 5V doesn’t miss out on the trend with a secondary 2MP camera.
The camera UI wise is surprisingly cartoonish, with the AI scene detection mode icons looking like a kid designed them. There is no manual mode here, but you do get a few fun options to play with, like the Social mode, which allows you to create a collage of four images with a 3-second gap in between each, or manually, or just shoot with a 1:1 aspect ratio. You can even apply different filters to each of the images if you opt to take them manually. You then get the option to share them immediately with the lower half of the screen offering a preview of what it will look like in your Instagram feed.
Image quality is actually pretty decent in good lighting. It’s actually on par with some mid-range devices. The bokeh effects are passable, but not amazingly precise. Low light performance isn’t all that good, but at least images didn’t turn to mush when the noise reduction was applied. It does exhibit difficulty in focusing in poor lighting though. The shot-to-shot interval could stand to be faster, but then again this sort of leisurely pace isn’t too uncommon in the entry-level segment.
Now we kept mentioning that it is an entry-level device. It is one. Which leads to the one major problem with the Alcatel 5V. The pricing. Priced at RM898, it is more ambitious than we would like. It is priced too near the lower mid-range while only offering entry-level hardware, and that is a major problem to us. Tack on the fact that it offers no support for Band 5 LTE, and its practicality as a second device to me drops further. That’s probably just me though because I use a unifi Mobile SIM. The Alcatel 5V delivers a compelling plastic package, and even looks good enough to pass as a mid-range device, but it’s what inside that counts, and that’s where you will find the Alcatel 5V just a bit lacking.