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Alcatel 3L (2020) review

The Alcatel 3L (2020) is one of the best budget phones around

Alcatel 3L (2020)
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

With the Alcatel 3L (2020), the price is key and everything else is secondary. If you want to spend as little as possible on a phone, then this handset isn't going to let you down in any way, though you should make sure you know what to expect before making a purchase.

For

  • Very affordable phone
  • Good battery life
  • Capable rear camera

Against

  • Average performance
  • Mediocre screen
  • Ordinary design

Two-minute review

The Alcatel 3L (2020) is right down at the cheapest of the cheap phones level, and really that colors everything else we're going to say about the phone – many of us will be perfectly happy to make some compromises on performance, photo quality and battery life if it means spending less.

In 2020 it's perhaps more important to weigh a phone up against its price rather than any of its competitors. The Alcatel 3L (2020) is of course a long way behind the Galaxy Note 20 and even the OnePlus Nord in terms of build and screen quality, camera capabilities, raw speed, and everything else, but at the same time it costs a whole lot less.

It's the low price that's really the main selling point of the phone, and the reason you're going to buy it. With that in mind, all you then need to know is whether or not the phone is usable and able to cope with day-to-day tasks, and the handset passes with flying colors.

Almost every part of the Alcatel 3L (2020) is better than you might expect given its price: the screen, the camera quality, the battery life... they're all pretty average in the grand scheme of smartphones in 2020, but actually fairly impressive for a phone that costs so little.

It's the screen quality and the internal components (and subsequent performance) where the cost-cutting is perhaps most noticeable, but even here the phone holds up well. As long as you can do without extras like 5G, wireless charging and waterproofing, the Alcatel 3L (2020) may well give you everything you're looking for in a handset.

If we were to make a case against the phone it's that the mid-range market is so strong at the moment, with the likes of Google, Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Nokia, and Motorola all jostling for room. Just about every phone manufacturer has a very decent mid-range phone on the market now, which means if you can spend a bit more then you should do.

However, if you want to spend as little as possible then the Alcatel 3L (2020) is going to give you a whole lot of bang for your buck in just about every department.

Alcatel 3L (2020)

(Image credit: Alcatel)

Alcatel 3L (2020) release date and price

  • Available in the UK and Australia for £129.99 / AU$199
  • One of the cheapest phones around
  • Not currently available in the US

The good news for potential Alcatel 3L (2020) buyers is that the phone is available now for not much money at all – we're seeing it SIM-free in the UK for £129.99 at Carphone Warehouse at the time of writing. We've also seen it pop up at other retailers, so check the widgets on this page for the latest prices and deals.

In Australia, the handset is available through Vodafone for a remarkably low price of just AU$199.

As yet the phone isn't available in the US (though other Alcatel models are), but a rough currency conversion puts the price of the handset at $165. In short, what you're looking at here is a very affordable phone.

Design

  • Respectable design
  • Dedicated Google Assistant button
  • Three color options

There's no danger of the Alcatel 3L (2020) blowing you away in terms of its design and aesthetics, but it has a perfectly respectable look for a budget phone. It's a little on the chunky side at 8.45mm, but the edges and corners are nicely rounded, and it's comfortable and light to hold.

Around the front you've got the 6.22-inch LCD display with a teardrop notch, and although the chin at the bottom is bigger than the bezels round the rest of the screen, it doesn't look too bad. Power and volume controls are on the right as you look at the handset, with the (dual) SIM slot and a dedicated Google Assistant button on the left.

On the back we have the fingerprint sensor – a very sensible place for it – and the triple-lens rear camera. We like the rear cameras on our smartphones to be up in the corner, as this one is, rather than dominating the middle of the casing, but of course your mileage may vary (and it's hardly a deal-breaker either way).

Alcatel 3L (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

The casing itself is distinctly plastic and it feels like a cheaper phone, but it doesn't in any way feel badly built or fragile. In fact this feels like the sort of phone you don't have to be too careful with, though that's only our impression rather than anything we've been told officially: the phone isn't rated as waterproof or dustproof.

There's a single loudspeaker at the bottom of the Alcatel 3L (2020) and there is also a 3.5mm headphone jack up at the top, so you can carry on using your wired headphones if you want to with this handset.

We've got no major complaints about the design or the build quality of the Alcatel 3L (2020), and like everything else about the phone, you have to weigh up its looks against the price you're paying to get it.

We had the Dark Chrome (also known as gray) version of the phone, but the Chameleon Blue and Agate Green models look even funkier – it might be worth checking them out if you want a bolder look.

Display

  • 6.22-inch, 720 x 1520 panel
  • Works fine for most tasks
  • No HDR support

You'll often find the screen is where some costs have been saved on cheaper handsets, and that's the case with the Alcatel 3L (2020). Its 6.22-inch, 720 x 1520, 19:9 aspect ratio IPS LCD display is noticeably duller and less sharp than the very best flagship phones or even the best mid-rangers in the business.

That's not to say it's a terrible display at all – but it's one of the areas where you're going to have to accept a compromise if you're buying a phone at this low, low price. It's fine for everyday tasks, especially if you ramp the brightness up a bit (adaptive brightness is another feature you'll need to do without on this handset).

The 270 pixels-per-inch pixel density is going to take some getting used to if you're dropping down from a pricier handset, but in our time testing the phone – browsing the web, sending messages, watching videos – we found that the screen held up to close examination well enough.

Alcatel 3L (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

We even put a few games on the Alcatel 3L (2020) and again there were no major problems. You'll be able to tell this is a cheaper display panel, but at the same time you're not going to be disappointed if you buy this handset, considering the price you're paying – and the price is all-important when it comes to a budget phone like this.

We noticed a minimal amount of ghosting during our testing, but it's worth noting that HDR (High Dynamic Range) – which brings out the details in the darkest and lightest parts of a frame – isn't available here.

Movies and shows are still watchable, but certain parts of a picture can get washed out or lost in the darkness, so it's another compromise to bear in mind when you're shopping at this end of the market.

Camera

  • 48MP + 5MP + 2MP rear camera
  • Satisfactory photos
  • Does okay in low light as well

Camera quality is still one of the key factors that most of us look at when deciding which phone to buy, but even the cheapest phones – like, say, the Alcatel 3L (2020) – are now able to get results that aren't going to have you screwing up your face in disgust. As with many of its other features, the phone's photo-taking capabilities are fine.

Of course you can tell the difference between a photo taken with this phone and a picture snapped by a Galaxy S20 Ultra or an iPhone 11 Pro, but is the gap big enough for you to care about? Or perhaps more importantly, for your Instagram and Facebook friends to care about? You could have a very good vacation with the savings you get by buying the Alcatel 3L (2020) rather than a top-end flagship.

In terms of the key specs, we've got a 48MP f/1.8 wide, a 5MP f/2.4 ultra-wide, and a 2MP macro lens making up the rear camera, so that's just about every base covered except for telephoto zoom – any zooming you do on this phone has to be digital, with the resulting drop in quality (it's just like zooming in with your image editing software). Around the front there's a fairly standard 8MP f/2.0 wide lens.

Alcatel 3L (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Phone cameras aren't all about the megapixels, but a 48MP lens is impressive at this price, and on the whole you'll be satisfied with the snaps that the Alcatel 3L (2020) produces. Shutter speed is decent and the camera menu isn't weighed down with a host of modes that you're never going to use (we prefer just sticking to auto – you might not).

In good light and with a steady hand you'll get decent results here, albeit maybe a bit on the dull side at times. On closer inspection, the Alcatel 3L (2020)'s rear camera can't capture the detail or keep out the noise as well as phones higher up on the pricing ladder (think the iPhone SE 2020 or the Google Pixel 4a).

Low light photography is actually surprisingly good, although the phone is really just boosting the brightness on the software side rather than capturing any extra detail. Close-up photos and wide-angle photos come out okay as well, though the colors can get a bit strange in the latter case – you'd only really use it if you absolutely have to cram as much as possible into a scene.

In short, the camera performance on the Alcatel 3L (2020) is surprisingly good for a phone at this price. The pictures don't really stand up to close scrutiny, and more expensive phones take significantly better photos – all as you would expect – but this phone won't let you down, and can handle just about every lighting and shooting scenario.

Camera samples

Image 1 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

The Alcatel 3L (2020) has a triple-lens camera that can take perfectly fine pictures. (Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

Only digital zoom is available, but it'll do if you really need it. (Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

In good lighting, most photos come out sharp and clear. (Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

The macro lens helps makes close-ups look impressive. (Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

The wide-angle lens fits more into a frame, but the colors can shift. (Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

The HDR processing isn't the best we've seen, but it's okay. (Image credit: Future)
Image 7 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

The phone can get usable photos at night, but there's a lot of noise. (Image credit: Future)
Image 8 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

The Pixel 4 XL by comparison: brighter and sharper. (Image credit: Future)
Image 9 of 9

Alcatel 3L (2020) camera sample

The Alcatel 3L (2020) does a decent job when light is at a premium, but don't expect too much. (Image credit: Future)

Specs and performance

  • Budget-level performance
  • Expandable storage
  • Android 10 on board

The Alcatel 3L (2020) wouldn't claim to be at the cutting edge of phone performance – in fact it's a long, long way from the edge, and that's evident in the specs you get inside the handset.

The MediaTek MT6762 Helio P22 chipset and 4GB of RAM is just about the minimum you would want for a smartphone these days, which matches the minimum price that you're paying to get the phone.

64GB of internal storage isn't great but it's enough for most people to get by with so much of our digital media libraries stored in the cloud these days. The SIM slot doubles up as a microSD card reader, so it's reassuring to know you can add up to 128GB of extra storage if you find that you need it. A lot of phones don't offer expandable storage these days, but we always like to see it.

These are specs that put the Alcatel 3L (2020) on the bottom rung of the smartphone ladder, performance-wise, and that shows up in the phone's Geekbench 5 scores too: 149 for single core and 847 for multi core (the OpenCL benchmarks wouldn't fully run, which is perhaps telling).

That's down at the very bottom end of the Geekbench league table, but again it's to be expected when you're dealing with one of the most affordable phones on the market.

Alcatel 3L (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

In day-to-day usage, the phone holds up fine. As components improve and software gets increasingly well optimized, cheap handsets are no longer the buggy, constantly crashing disasters that they once were, and the Alcatel 3L (2020) will run just about everything you need it to – just more slowly than a more expensive phone (and with less appetite for having a lot of files or browser tabs open at once).

Switching between screens and menus, opening up apps, applying settings – this all takes a few milliseconds longer than it would on a more powerful handset, but then that's to be expected. Power users for whom that extra delay is going to be annoying are unlikely to be shopping for a phone at this price point anyway.

With the very top-end games you will notice a bit of stuttering and the occasional dropped frame – but it doesn't make them unplayable, and most casual games are going to run just fine on this phone, even if you do have to wait a few minutes for them to load up. You won't get the hanging and crashing of budget phones of yesteryear.

Rounding out the specs of the phone, there's no 5G, no wireless charging, and no IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, which is to be expected. It's also worth mentioning that the phone uses the older micro USB connector rather than USB-C for charging and data transfer, though there's a charger in the box to save you digging one out of your box of old, outdated cables.

Software-wise, we've got Android 10 on board here. The software is reasonably clean, though there were a couple of pre-installed bloatware apps we weren't that pleased to see, including Facebook and Booking.com.

Alcatel 3L (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life

  • 4,000mAh battery inside
  • Reasonably long-lasting battery life
  • 10W charging speed

Battery life is always an important consideration for anyone buying a phone, and one of the benefits of going with a cheaper handset is that the lower-res screens and less powerful components will typically use up less battery life during the day. That's the case with the Alcatel 3L (2020), which impressed us with its longevity.

A two-hour video streaming test at maximum brightness saw the battery drop from 100 percent to 84 percent, which isn't outstanding but is above average – you're looking at 12 hours or so of video watching between charges, it would seem, and probably significantly more if you dial down the brightness a bit.

In our days with the Alcatel 3L (2020) we always had plenty of juice left from the 4,000mAh battery – sometimes as much as 40-50%, though it's fair to say that our test phones don't always get the vigorous workout of the handsets we own and use more frequently.

Even under heavy use, this phone will make it to the end of the day and then some, and if you don't use it much at all you might even make it through a second day – the phone seems to be particularly good at holding its charge while you aren't doing anything with it.

There's no fast charging support here – another cost-cutting move – so this might not suit people who are bouncing between different places all day every day, and we can't speak to how the battery is going to hold up months or years down the line, but we don't think you've got anything to worry about when it comes to the battery on the Alcatel 3L (2020).

Should I buy the Alcatel 3L (2020)?

Alcatel 3L (2020)

(Image credit: Alcatel)

Buy it if...

You don't want to spend much money
If you're in the market for a cheap phone then they don't come much cheaper than the Alcatel 3L (2020), and you get plenty of value for money with this Android handset.

You need long-lasting battery life
The battery life is one of the most impressive aspects of the Alcatel 3L (2020), as this phone will see you comfortably through the day (and then some) most of the time.

You want good photos on a budget
While the handset doesn't take photos as good as those you'll get from many a mid-ranger, it does take decent photos for the price – which is going to be enough for most people.

Don't buy it if...

You're after high-end performance
The Alcatel 3L (2020) sticks to the basics when it comes to internal components, and it shows – it's not too slow to be usable, but there is the occasional lag or stutter.

You have a bigger budget
There are some superb mid-range phones on the market at the moment, so if you do have a bit of extra cash lying around we'd say it's worth the upgrade from this budget phone.

You love the best screens
One of the most noticeably budget aspects of the Alcatel 3L (2020) is the LCD display. It's by no means terrible, but it's a step down from the flagship and mid-range smartphones.

First reviewed: October 2020