BQ Aquaris X5 review

A great budget phone, if you don't need a great camera

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Our Verdict

You may not know the name, but this is one of the best affordable mid-range phones around, largely thanks to its very nice design and great battery life. A very accomplished effort.

For

  • Excellent battery life
  • Nice build
  • Good value
  • Solid performance
  • Highly customisable CyanogenMod software

Against

  • Sub-par camera software/processing
  • Screen a little oversaturated
  • Entry-level CPU
  • So-so speaker
  • Non-Gorilla Glass screen protection

The world of budget phones is changing. It's not companies like Sony and Samsung that are taking up the gauntlet thrown down by the Moto G budget trooper – it's the networks.

Vodafone offers alarmingly good-value phones in the shape of the Smart Prime 6 and Smart Ultra 6, and EE had a decent crack with its Harrier phones. But O2 is taking a different track with the BQ Aquaris X5.

The handset isn't O2-branded – BQ is a relatively small Spanish producer of phones and other devices – but you get very solid mid-range specs and great stamina for just £9.99 on a £19.50-a-month contract.

And right now you won't find it anywhere else, in the UK at least. SIM-free buyers should still check out the Moto G, but the better battery life of the Aquaris makes it a cracking budget pick.

Design

Most budget phones are made of plastic, and so are most mid-range ones. The BQ Aquaris X5 is one of the few outliers that isn't – not entirely, anyway.

The back of the phone is plastic, but the sides are a nice-looking anodised aluminium. It has a very iPhone-like finish too: not too shiny.

Of course, your fingers end up caressing the soft-touch rear plastic more than the metal, but the BQ Aquaris X5 is a nice-feeling phone among mid-range mobiles. I used it alongside the Vodafone Smart 6 Ultra for a while, and it makes that phone feel cheap, and look a bit naff.

BQ Aquaris X5 review

A big plus here is that the BQ Aquaris X5's back plastic doesn't flex, even though this plate is, as usual, a thin film of plastic. Everything seems to be crammed in there nice and tight.

There are no obvious hardware compromises either. You get a microSD card slot, and from the phone's form you'd never guess it packs a pretty impressive 2900mAh battery. It's a lot thinner than the Moto G, for example, at 7.9mm.

Given that the BQ Aquaris X5 comes from a brand most people have never heard of, I find its design pretty impressive.

BQ Aquaris X5 review

For the detail-obsessed among you, the BQ Aquaris X5 has metal trays for the memory card and nano SIM slots, neat little hardware soft keys and a white front LED notification light.

It comes across a bit like a slightly chunkier, less flashy OnePlus X. That's meant as a compliment, by the way. The buttons are nicely placed too, with the power button sitting where your thumb naturally rests.

With 16GB storage and touches like LED flashes for both the front and back cameras, the BQ Aquaris X5 is among the most feature-packed phones at this price point. However, you don't get some of the flashier stuff seen in top-end phones.

BQ Aquaris X5 review

There's no fingerprint scanner, for example. There's no USB-C or IR blaster either, although the latter is becoming rare in all phones, regardless of price.

Having used the BQ Aquaris X5 for a while now, it's pretty clear why O2 has taken a punt on it. It's a nice phone whose feel is among the very best at the price.

One slightly disappointing thing is that the screen covering is not Gorilla Glass, but something a little more prone to flexing under finger pressure, Dragontrail. I can cause a bit of display distortion without trying too hard.

Motorola manages to fit Gorilla Glass into the Moto G, but it ain't here. The screen is still fairly scratch-resistant though.

  • Thanks to O2 for providing the review unit.