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Alcatel 5V Review: Close, But No Cigar

by John Nieves and Duey Guison  March 6, 2019

We review the Alcatel 5V!

It has been a while since we heard from Alcatel here in the Philippines. They recently underwent a major reorganization, along with a revamped strategy to win back their customers. The Alcatel 5V is one of the many phones Alcatel brought to our shores to help them regain lost ground. While it’s touted as their “flagship” phone in the Philippines, it’s still a pretty affordable device that’s marketed to the masses.

While Alcatel did launch three new phones at MWC 2019, the Alcatel 5V remains to be the brand’s most premium model. With a sub-Php 10k price tag, is the Alcatel 5V worth considering?

Familiar, attractive design

Like what we mentioned in our quick review, the Alcatel 5V adopts many of the design cues of smartphones from 2017, including a glossy polycarbonate back, curved sides and vertically-arranged dual rear cameras. If not for the branding below the fingerprint scanner, you’d probably mistake it for the Honor 8X since both phones sport individual camera bumps.

While the glossy, piano black finish of the Alcatel 5V’s back looks attractive, it’s a fingerprint magnet and is prone to scratches. Don’t ever run it without the supplied case since you’ll be scratching it up in no time.

As for its overall size, the Alcatel 5V has roughly the same dimensions as most phones being sold in the market today. One-handed usability is OK, though people with smaller mitts might have difficulties in using the phone.

The notch could have been smaller

With brands finding ways to make the notch smaller (or eliminating it entirely), it is disappointing to see the Alcatel 5V use a rather large notch. To be fair, Alcatel does give you an option to turn it “off” by putting black bars on their UI gives you an option to turn off the notch by masking it with a black bar.

The Alcatel 5V’s 6.2-inch display has decent viewing angles and bright colors, enough that you’d probably mistake it for an AMOLED display at first glance (it’s only an IPS panel). While the HD+ resolution is underwhelming for its size, we barely noticed any signs of pixelation when watching videos.

Decent internals, bad software optimization

Powering the Alcatel 5V is an Helio P22 processor paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. The insides aren’t bad since this is what you’d expect on a late 2018/early 2019 budget mid-range phone.

Our biggest gripe with the Alcatel 5V, however, is that the phone feels poorly optimized. We noticed delays in switching apps and general web browsing, things that shouldn’t be such a big deal considering the hardware.

Poor optimization also marred installing games like Need for Speed: No Limits. Other games, like Asphalt 9: Legends, won’t work since it doesn’t have support for Helio P22 processors as of this writing.

The two games that we did use to test the Alcatel 5V—namely Marvel: Future Fight and PUBG Mobile—worked well enough, considering the hardware.

Getting decent frame rates with Future Fight is feasible, though expect a few slowdowns in scenes where you have to deal with multiple enemies.

With PUBG Mobile, the Alcatel 5V performed well at low graphics settings. Overall gameplay is stable, making it possible to finish a match.

JoyUI is the phone’s Waterloo

The biggest letdown of the Alcatel 5V is its JoyUI skin. Aside from the lack of any updates (our review unit is stuck with Android 8.1 Oreo and comes with a dated August 2018 security patch), the implementation by itself is poor.

Notifications are grouped as one, so you cannot identify from the notification bar which notification you got until you slide down the quick control panel. Both the fingerprint scanner and face unlock have noticeable delays in unlocking the phone—which is strange since other similarly-priced phones we have reviewed in the past had snappy fingerprint and face unlock methods. Default apps like Gallery, Contacts, and Messages are a strange mix of Google’s stock implementation and Alcatel’s own UI, which can be confusing especially with managing photos.

While we like the fact that Alcatel didn’t bombard the Alcatel 5V with bloatware, we really wish that Alcatel just ditch its JoyUI skin and stick to stock Android instead. That would be much better, especially if it translates to speedier software updates. Having a clean, stock Android build means that brands will have to worry less about proprietary features that can be an obstacle towards stable updates.

Capable cameras for its price

One of the Alcatel 5V’s key strengths is its cameras. Its AI scene detection is one of the better ones we have tested for its price range. On daylight and mixed light, photos taken using the Alcatel 5V’s cameras have good dynamic range and decent color reproduction.

Being a budget mid-range phone, the Alcatel 5V has its limitations, especially when capturing low light photos. While it does well in getting a good exposure, most photos shot in low light came out soft and muddy.

Check out some of the shots we took:

 

Long battery life

Another key selling point of the Alcatel 5V is its 4000mAh battery, which is bigger than average for its price segment. Paired with a power-efficient Helio P22 processor, the Alcatel 5V scored almost 12 hours at PCMark’s battery test—even if the software was not fully optimized.

As our daily driver, the Alcatel 5V was able to coast through the day with roughly 35% left, making it usable for up to one and 1/2 days of moderate use before you will need to charge it up. The drawback with the Alcatel 5V is that it does not come with fast charging, so it will take a while to juice up that 4000mAh cell using the supplied 10W charger.

 

Almost a good comeback for Alcatel

While the Alcatel 5V has the specs and features of a potentially great budget mid-range phone for 2019, the phone is plagued with software optimization issues and a half-baked, hard to use UI.

And that’s not a good thing, considering that the 5V is priced at Php 9,990, the same price point as the similarly-specc’d but aluminum-bodied Nokia 3.1 Plus. It might have a smaller battery, but a recent upgrade to Android Pie makes it a more compelling purchase at Php 8,990.

For Php 2k more, Samsung’s recently-launched Galaxy M20 is a better deal VS the Alcatel 5V as it comes with a better processor, USB-C connectivity, a Full HD+ display, a super wide-angle secondary lens, and a bigger 5000mAh battery with 15w quick charging.

Alcatel 5V specs

  • MediaTek Helio P22 octa-core processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 6.2-inch HD+ IPS display
  • 32GB of internal storage, expandable via microSD
  • 12-megapixel f/2.0 and 2-megapixel f/2.4 rear cameras with PDAF, AI Scene Detection, LED flash
  • 8-megapixel f/2.0 front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth
  • GPS, A-GPS
  • NFC, Fingerprint Scanner, face unlock
  • 4000mAh battery
  • Android 8.1 Oreo

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