Hands on: Alcatel A5 review

A party in your pants everyone can attend

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

The Alcatel A5 is an affordable smartphone that makes the pass grade, but doesn't do much to go beyond it.

For

  • Fun Light Show
  • Low price
  • HD display

Against

  • Heavy Android UI is unnecessary
  • Average performance
  • Poor camera

The Alcatrel A5 puts a party in your pants that everyone can attend. The Light Show rear cover uses LEDs that can dance along with your music, alert you to notifications and color match to your games and photos. 

With the budget market increasingly competitive manufacturers are having to find new ways to stand out and Alcatel’s A5 is certainly doing something different – but does it work? 

The Alcatel A5 features a 5.2-inch HD display, octa-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 8MP rear camera, 5MP front camera with selfie flash and Android 6.  

Alcatel A5 price and release date

The Alcatel A5 price has been confirmed as €199 (around $210, £170, AU$275) which makes it a rather attractive proposition. 

If that’s piqued your interest the Alcatel A5 release date for the UK and Europe is from May onwards, and we’ve also been told the phone will be coming to the US at some point in the future.

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Alcatel A5 design and display

The Alcatel A5 doesn’t shy away from its budget credentials when it comes to design. It’s big, chunky and plastic, and picking it up it certainly doesn’t scream premium. 

That’s okay though, as at this price we can accept a solid plastic build. The A5 has a sturdy construction and the volume and power/lock keys on the right are easy enough to hit. 

There’s a headphone jack up top, while a microUSB port joins the internal speaker on the base. 

Considering one of the main selling points of the A5 is the ability for its LED cover to flash along to music we were disappointed by the low quality of the audio output from the speaker. 

Thanks to the added depth of the Light Show rear though, the A5 doesn’t sit as neatly in the palm as rival phones with a similar sized display and we found ourselves employing both hands when it came to testing out the keyboard. 

It’s the rear cover that’s the big talking point though, packed with LEDs which illuminate in five different colors in time to music, which notifications are received and during gaming sessions. 

It can also color match the key hues of your photos – we’re not overly sure why you’d want this particular feature, but it’s here anyway. 

This is all controlled by an app pre-installed on the phone, allowing you to toggle various features on and off. 

The lights are a nice touch, and are fun to watch for a bit, but we not sure whether the novelty will wear thin quite quickly, and what sort of hit the battery takes to light it up. 

The Alcatel A5 comes with a metallic black LED back-cover in the box along with a non-LED packed additional black or silver back-cover. 

The 5.2-inch HD display is clear and makes viewing images and text comfortable, but even at full brightness it failed to really pop, making things a little dull on screen.

Alcatel A5 interface, performance and camera

The Alcatel A5 runs Android 6 Marshmallow, which isn’t the latest version of Google’s operating system. The hope is it will be updated to Android 7 later this year, but there’s no information on this currently. 

It’s not pure Android though, with Alcatel covering it in its rather heavy interface. It looks childish and doesn’t provide any real benefit to the user over the stock offering. 

While there’s an octa-core processor and 2GB of RAM under the hood, the A5 isn’t overly snappy when it comes to performance. Navigation around the phone is okay, but it lacks the zip of rival smartphones such as the new Nokia 5 and Moto G5

The 8MP rear camera is also a little disappointing, with low image quality and a sluggish shutter meaning this isn’t a feature you’ll want to use all that often.

There is good news for selfie fans though, as the front-facing 5MP snapper is accompanied by its own LED flash, allowing you to take better lit pouts. 

Early verdict

The Alcatel A5 is an affordable smartphone that makes the grade, but doesn't do much to go beyond it.

Its Light Show cover is a nice point of differentiation, but it's bolted onto an average Android smartphone and there are better options for your money at this price point.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phones, Tablets and Wearables UK Editor

John (Twitter, Google+) got his first phone aged 12 and since then he's been fixated on all things mobile, churning his way through a multitude of handsets, tablets and wearables. Signalling his arrival at TechRadar by becoming a Guinness World Record holder in his first week, John hasn't looked back since.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.