Alcatel 5 Series hands-on review

Alcatel brings a premium touch to the budget market with the 5 Series smartphone

The Alcatel 5 Series is a good-looking budget device with some nifty features, but it may be style over substance.
The Alcatel 5 Series is a good-looking budget device with some nifty features, but it may be style over substance.
The Alcatel 5 Series is a good-looking budget device with some nifty features, but it may be style over substance.

Highs

  • Dual-lens selfie camera
  • 5.7-inch, 18:9 display
  • Facial recognition
  • Low price

Lows

  • Android 7 Nougat
  • MediaTek Processor
  • Plastic body

Alcatel is a brand that’s synonymous with affordability, but with its latest range of Android smartphones, there’s a clear attempt to bring some premium design features to the budget end of the market. We went hands-on with the top-of-the-line Alcatel 5 Series and found that it has some pleasant surprises in store.

The first thing that strikes you about the Alcatel 5 Series is the modern design language. This is a phone with slim bezels around the sides and bottom of the display. It’s quite square, with sharp corners, but it feels light and easy to handle. There is still quite a big bezel at the top, but it houses one of the phone’s headline features – the dual-lens front-facing camera.

The first thing you notice about the Alcatel 5 Series is the modern design language.

Combining a 13-megapixel lens with a 5-megapixel, 120-degree lens allows you to capture good-quality individual and group selfies. The camera app has face recognition built-in and when it detects more than two faces, it automatically switches to the wide-angle lens. We found that it worked quite well in testing and it’s a nice feature for selfie addicts.

Alcatel is also talking up its Face Key technology, which is facial-recognition security for unlocking your device. Apparently, it breaks down facial scans into more than a hundred data points to unlock your phone in under a second. We weren’t able to test it during our short time with the phone, but it’s a surprising feature to find in a phone this cheap.

The textured power key and volume rocker sit on the right spine of the Alcatel 5 Series, which has a metallic paint exterior, though it’s actually made of plastic. The back has an attractive brushed metal finish in gold or black, with a single camera lens ringed in silver, which is echoed in the fingerprint sensor directly beneath it. We like the look; it’s clearly inspired by flagship trends, but in the budget crowd, this kind of design is enough the make the Alcatel 5 Series really stand out.

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

We found the display in the Alcatel 5 Series to be bright and clear, though it only sports a resolution of 1,440 x 720 pixels, so it’s not the sharpest. It was LG that ushered in the 18:9 aspect ratio for smartphone displays, but it has fast become a standard – one that Alcatel has embraced. It’s not just the 5.7-inch Alcatel 5 Series display that’s 18:9, Alcatel’s entire lineup, including the 3 Series and even the 1 series, have adopted the same ratio.

The main camera is rated at 12-megapixels and seems to work reasonably well, though it’s not the fastest to load and snap a shot. That may be partly due to the octa-core MediaTek 6750 processor, which is backed by 3GB of RAM.

The 5 Series is not the fastest phone around in terms of performance, but Alcatel obviously had to compromise somewhere to keep the price down. Switching from a flagship more than twice its price, there’s definitely a sluggish feel, but if you’re upgrading from an older budget phone, this will feel plenty fast enough.

Speaking of compromise, there’s only 32GB of storage onboard, but thankfully there is support for a MicroSD card, so you can add up to 128GB more.

Alcatel Series 5 hands-on review |
Simon Hill/Digital Trends
Simon Hill/Digital Trends

The battery is a respectable size at 3,000mAh, but there’s no support for fast charging. You also won’t find wireless charging or water resistance for that matter. But we were pleased to find a USB-C port on the bottom and a standard 3.5mm audio jack up top.

To be fair, the Alcatel 5 Series is being offered for 230 euros (around $280) in Europe. It’s available now. Although it does have some stiff competition from the Honor 7X and Moto G5S Plus, it’s a decent device that’s sure to draw some admirers. If you prize style over performance and love those selfies, then it could be a good choice for you. It will be coming to the U.S. soon.