Alcatel Idol 5 Review

All eyes might be on its BlackBerry division, but TCL's other smartphone brand, Alcatel, continues to chug along featuring competitively priced mobile phones. The Alcatel Idol 5 is the latest smartphone launched by the company, which comes a few months after the release of its sibling in the Idol 5s earlier this year. Typically, the "S" version of a handset comes second, but it's the opposite with Alcatel's strategy this time around. Given the fierce battle that's constantly being waged in the sub-$200 range, the Alcatel Idol 5 needs to be more than "good enough" to stand a chance against its peers.

Design


Alcatel Idol 5 Review

With last year's phones, the Alcatel Idol 4 and 4s, and their premium designs, the company really stepped up its game. The same can be said here with the Idol 5, which is flaunting a solid build quality thanks to its metal body and high-polished aluminum edges. There's also a sense of symmetry too that we like about the design, evident in its antenna lines and dual front-firing speakers. And speaking of those speakers, they're incredibly clear and robust – delivering powerful tones that's sure to raise attention. For the price and all for the handset, it's especially comforting to know that it retains a level of premium without the premium cost.

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Front view | Side view
Alcatel IDOL 5
Alcatel IDOL 5
5.83 x 2.83 x 0.3 inches
148.1 x 71.9 x 7.6 mm
5.19 oz (147 g)

Alcatel IDOL 5

Motorola Moto G5
Motorola Moto G5
5.68 x 2.87 x 0.37 inches
144.3 x 73. x 9.5 mm
5.13 oz (146 g)

Motorola Moto G5

Nokia 3
Nokia 3
5.65 x 2.81 x 0.33 inches
143.4 x 71.4 x 8.48 mm
oz (0 g)

Nokia 3

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017)
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017)
5.76 x 2.81 x 0.31 inches
146.3 x 71.3 x 7.9 mm
5.64 oz (160 g)

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017)




UNI360 VR Goggles


Alcatel Idol 5 Review

Available separately at $49.99, the UNI360 VR Goggles provides users a taste of that VR experience. Improvement have been made to their year's headset, which features a 120-degree field of view, a focus adjustment knob, and now universal compatibility with most devices. While experiencing VR on-the-go using the Idol 5 is there for the convenience, it still pales in comparison to the more immersive experiences you get with either the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View headsets.

Display


Alcatel Idol 5 Review
Without question a mid-ranger competitor, the Idol 5 packs a 5.2-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The specs are what you'd expect for a device in its class, so we're pleased with its accompanying good qualities. Details are sufficient, colors tend to skew a natural tone, and clarity is retained at varying viewing angles. Seriously, we have few complaints about the display here, which too, does nicely for the VR experience.

Alcatel Idol 5 Review

All eyes might be on its BlackBerry division, but TCL's other smartphone brand, Alcatel, continues to chug along featuring competitively priced mobile phones. The Alcatel Idol 5 is the latest smartphone launched by the company, which comes a few months after the release of its sibling in the Idol 5s earlier this year. Typically, the "S" version of a handset comes second, but it's the opposite with Alcatel's strategy this time around. Given the fierce battle that's constantly being waged in the sub-$200 range, the Alcatel Idol 5 needs to be more than "good enough" to stand a chance against its peers.

Design


Alcatel Idol 5 Review

With last year's phones, the Alcatel Idol 4 and 4s, and their premium designs, the company really stepped up its game. The same can be said here with the Idol 5, which is flaunting a solid build quality thanks to its metal body and high-polished aluminum edges. There's also a sense of symmetry too that we like about the design, evident in its antenna lines and dual front-firing speakers. And speaking of those speakers, they're incredibly clear and robust – delivering powerful tones that's sure to raise attention. For the price and all for the handset, it's especially comforting to know that it retains a level of premium without the premium cost.

Front view | Side view
Alcatel IDOL 5
Alcatel IDOL 5
5.83 x 2.83 x 0.3 inches
148.1 x 71.9 x 7.6 mm
5.19 oz (147 g)

Alcatel IDOL 5

Motorola Moto G5
Motorola Moto G5
5.68 x 2.87 x 0.37 inches
144.3 x 73. x 9.5 mm
5.13 oz (146 g)

Motorola Moto G5

Nokia 3
Nokia 3
5.65 x 2.81 x 0.33 inches
143.4 x 71.4 x 8.48 mm
oz (0 g)

Nokia 3

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017)
Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017)
5.76 x 2.81 x 0.31 inches
146.3 x 71.3 x 7.9 mm
5.64 oz (160 g)

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2017)




UNI360 VR Goggles


Alcatel Idol 5 Review

Available separately at $49.99, the UNI360 VR Goggles provides users a taste of that VR experience. Improvement have been made to their year's headset, which features a 120-degree field of view, a focus adjustment knob, and now universal compatibility with most devices. While experiencing VR on-the-go using the Idol 5 is there for the convenience, it still pales in comparison to the more immersive experiences you get with either the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View headsets.

Display


Alcatel Idol 5 Review
Without question a mid-ranger competitor, the Idol 5 packs a 5.2-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The specs are what you'd expect for a device in its class, so we're pleased with its accompanying good qualities. Details are sufficient, colors tend to skew a natural tone, and clarity is retained at varying viewing angles. Seriously, we have few complaints about the display here, which too, does nicely for the VR experience.

Interface and functionality


The Alcatel Idol 5 runs Android 7.0 Nougat, supplemented by a few marquee customizations we've seen frequently from Alcatel – like the reversible UI feature, as well as a few gesture controls. In addition to them, the physical "Now" key positioned on the right edge of the phone offers us a customizable floating icon for quick access to certain apps or functions.

Beyond that, the rest of the experience here follows the same principles we've seen in the Android ecosystem. There might be a few "bloatware" preloaded with the phone, like games such as Panda Pop and Pet Rescue Saga, but at least we have the option of removing them entirely. Even though it follows a path well-treaded, Alcatel's customizations add a bit of depth to the standard experience.

Processor and performance


Armed with a 2.35 GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio P20 processor coupled with 2 GB of RAM, the _phone_ performs equally to its Snapdragon 620-powered sibling in the Idol 5s. Taking a peek at some of its benchmark scores reveals it rivals and sometimes exceeds its sibling, which is comforting to know it's not inferior in any way! Of course, it handles all the trivial stuff with ease, but it can still show some stutter with heavier processes.

Boasting 32 GB of internal storage with room for expansion courtesy of its available microSD card slot, it's a tally that we feel is more than generous.

Camera


Alcatel Idol 5 Review

Mid-rangers aren't particularly respected for their camera performance, so when we look at the 12MP rear camera, it's very difficult to have high expectations. Thankfully, though, the camera interface has been tweaked over previous iterations. It's been broadened to include useful modes like cinemagraph, light tracing, instant collage, and even a manual mode.

When it comes to the performance, however, it doesn't do anything to elevate itself from the pack. In fact, we're a little bit disappointed by the quality, even when lighting is ample, due to its lack of sharpness and detail. Colors are nice and punchy, but that can't deflect the glaring deficiencies in its quality. That's heightened under low-light conditions, as photos become murkier in appearance.

Knowing all of that, we're not surprised at all by how it flounders in the video recording department as well, which tops out at 1080p resolution. It's tolerable for videos recorded in ideal conditions, but it's still lacking the flare and sharpness to capture our attention.

While it's not entirely unusable, since it's probably more than adequate for the occasional social media post, photos taken by it will appear quaint and dull in comparison to others.







Battery life


Alcatel Idol 5 Review

Battery life is as average as it comes with the Alcatel Idol 5, which houses a 2850 mAh battery cell. We've been able to get a solid one-day of normal usage from a full charge, which is the tally we'd expect at the very least from most phones nowadays.

On the flip side, the fast-charging technology employed it manages to recharge the phone in a speedy amount of time. It's not lightning quick, but fast enough to deliver juice during short bursts when you're in a rut trying to get a charge.

Call Quality


Alcatel Idol 5 Review

One surprising area where the Alcatel Idol 5 manages to shine is call quality. Besides the artificial tone of voices through the earpiece, everything else is just plain wonderful with the experience. For starters, the earpiece and speakerphone are powerful enough to discern voices in noisy environments. And moreover, its signal strength doesn't fluctuate intermittently during usage.

Conclusion


Alcatel Idol 5 Review

Those eyeing the Alcatel Idol 5 here in the US will have to settle for Cricket Wireless, who is the exclusive carrier of the phone. Accompanied with a sticker price of $199.99, in addition to the $49.99 cost of the UNI360 VR Goggles, it doesn't seem like a bad deal for something that's VR-ready at under $250. Then again, it's competing in a crowded field where phones of this caliber come with fingerprint sensors and lower price points – take the Moto E4 Plus for example, which is a hair under at $180 full price.

Honestly, it's a tossup because the Idol 5 is indeed VR ready from the get-go, offers an atypical premium design for its category, and customizations to the software that help to make it even more useful than stock. Still, it's not without its faults, as the camera really fails to make an impression. If that's not high on your priority list, then that shouldn't be an issue. But then again, this seems more like another middle-of-the-road option for those on a budget. There's nothing fanciful about it that we haven't seen before.