The "1-Minute" Review
- Weak battery
- So-so performance
- Only 2GB of RAM
Alcatel’s Idol series typically represents the best Alcatel offers. However, in the case of the Idol 5, they’re switching things up and targeting the mid-tier market. While it makes cuts from the popular Idol 5S in terms of materials and specs, it appears to offer a compelling value.
The aluminum unibody was a hit with reviewers—both in terms of comfortable use and overall quality. However, if you’ve never used an Idol phone, the button layout might take time to adjust to. Instead of placing the power button on the top or right like most phones, the power button sits to the left, opposite the volume rocker and the Idol’s “Now Button.”
This configurable button puts a range of phone features at your fingertips. For example, reviewers found it handy for launching the camera and engaging the shutter.
You’ll also find that the USB Type-C port on the bottom is offset to the side. A few reviewers found this caused problems while using the phone with accessories—such as car mounts—and charging the phone.
Around front, things return to a more normal arrangement. The 5.2-inch 1080p LCD panel features slim bezels to each side and a meatier top and bottom bezel. This helps to accommodate the dual front-facing stereo speakers. However, unlike many similarly priced models, you won’t find a fingerprint scanner.
Reviews on the screen are great for the price point. There’s plenty of brightness on tap for outdoor use, good viewing angles, and crisp detail. However, when used with the advertised VR headset, some reviewers felt the 1080p resolution fell short of expectations.
Powering the phone, you’ll find a 1.3Ghz octa-core MediaTek P20 processor. While it’s a budget-conscious choice, there were little mentions of slow down or stuttering while doing common tasks or casual gaming. However, with only 2GB of RAM, multitasking and high-end games suffer.
If you need more than 32GB of internal storage to keep everything you need on hand, microSD support for cards up to 128GB makes upgrading cheap and easy.
The phone ships with Android 7.0 with no promise of Android 8.0. So if having the most up-to-date software is important, the Idol 5 is a hard pass. On top of this, many reviewers complained about an abundance of uninstallable preloaded apps taking up resources.
The phone includes a 13MP rear camera and a front-facing 5MP lens. Reviews on the camera are positive considering the price range. The phone captures well balanced, though dim, images. Details were strong in well-lit shots but quickly fell as the light waned.
Some reviewers complained about the 2800mAh battery struggling to reach the end of the day on a single charge. However, the PumpExpress 2.0 rapid charging feature on the phone will give you a speedy top up, refilling 50% of your charge in only 30 minutes.
Overall, phones in this price range are all about balance. The verdicts from reviewers reflect that. Tom’s Guide says, “There are certainly worse budget phones than the Idol 5. Given the wealth of alternatives that deliver better value, though, there's no reason to settle.” Phone Scoop was more positive, saying, “Alcatel did a fine job with the Idol 5. The handset is attractive, made from quality materials, and delivers the right mix of value for the dollar.”
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