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- One of the phone's biggest let-downs
- Gaming sucks up battery life
It's a shame that with the device's reasonable 3,000mAh battery, low-powered components and lower-res screen, the battery life was disappointing.
During our time with the Alcatel 5, we usually ended the day with less than 10% of the battery life remaining, and that's only with a smattering of heavy use (video, gaming, GPS). If you really rely on your phone a lot during the day, you're going to be reaching for the charger way before the evening.
Standby mode doesn't seem too bad, but as soon as you put the phone to intensive use the juice seems to flow very quickly out of it.
Considering smartphone users probably prize battery life way above most other features, it seems strange that Alcatel would neglect this – although in its defense, budget phones can vary in their battery performance.
Running the usual TechRadar 90-minute video test drained the battery from 100% to 78%, which actually holds up well against its direct competitors and beats many of them – perhaps as long as you're not actually fiddling with the phone, it can avoid draining the battery too quickly.
Outside of that test though, we weren't overly impressed with what the battery had to offer. An all-day workhorse this isn't.
- Decent camera performance for the price
- Special smart selfie mode
The single-lens 12MP snapper on the back of the Alcatel 5 is perfectly fine. It focuses and captures quickly, picking out colors and detail with pleasing accuracy. We found it worked best in still, landscape shots in bright sunlight, as you would expect.
It starts to stumble (though doesn't fall down completely) in shots with contrasting light and darkness, tending to get thrown by the mix of brightness and color.
The rear-facing camera does have a HDR mode, though we found it a bit hit and miss – it's decent for wider shots with more in the frame.
We found the phone actually coped pretty well with moving scenes, though you're obviously not going to get anything to match the results of a DSLR sat on a tripod.
If you're just sharing a picture on WhatsApp or Facebook, photos with movement are still good enough to get by, without too much blurring or fuzz.
As is the norm – especially down at the budget end of the market – it's low light where you run the risk of not getting usable shots at all. Photos of your pals in the pub of an evening are going to come out fuzzy and muddy at the lower light levels, and once you get outside in the dark you may as well give up.
We took a few comparison shots with the Pixel 2 and you can really see the difference as the available light starts to dip – but then again the Google phone is three times the price, so it really depends what you want to spend your money on.
The thinking behind the dual-lens camera on the front is that it automatically adjusts to a 120-degree wide-angle when a lot of faces are detected in the frame – perfect for those group selfies.
We found this to work pretty well in fact, though with a few milliseconds' pause that seems to accompany a lot of actions that happen on the Alcatel 5. If you are a fan of selfies, that's another plus in the positives column.
It's a strange approach to put your most advanced camera tech on the front of the device but perhaps that's what the kids are into these days.
No matter how many selfies you take, surely you're still going to use the back camera when you want a decent picture to save for posterity?
- Dim lighting can cause problems
- Nowhere near the top phones of 2018
We took the Alcatel 5 out for some photography during an unusually sunny day in Manchester to see what it could do. Most of the time in bright light the results were fine, which is true of almost all phones at this level and price.
Taking moving objects and close up shots worked well. The camera focuses quickly, and snaps a photo quickly, most of the time – there were a few occasions when the sensor seemed to get confused.
As is often the case, it's when the light starts going that problems start happening. Look at the three shots below of the same place on a canal: one as the sunlight is fading, then one by moonlight, at which point the Alcatel 5 can hardly see anything. The final shot is from a Pixel 2, which still struggles.
You have to bear in mind that the Pixel 2 does cost significantly more money. We took another shot inside a pub: the Alcatel 5 does well enough, and can get shots in dim lighting, but when you zoom in you can see the difference to a camera at the top-end of the market in 2018.
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Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.
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