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Interface and reliability
- A few problems but nothing disastrous
- You will have to live with bloatware
Alcatel's take on Android is halfway between stock and the worst of the Android skins we've seen – there is some bloatware here, and some annoying quirks, but no real dealbreaker. Android still looks good enough, and works fast enough.
The Gallery, Messaging and Weather apps supplied by Alcatel aren't anything to write home about, but you can replace them easily enough.
Apps like the Super Cleaner and the oddly named 'enjoy.now' (which seems to be nothing but promoted Alcatel ads) can't be uninstalled, so you'll just have to ignore them.
Android 7 Nougat is on board, perhaps not the most encouraging sign considering Android P is just around the corner. We wouldn't hold our breath for many updates to arrive for this phone, but Nougat is solid enough.
Flicking through the menus and screens of Android is mostly a breeze, and there are some nice customization touches – like the option to hide the navigation bar.
We did notice some slowdown in launching certain screens, including the Google voice search. The phone only paused a beat though, so it doesn't make the phone unusable: it's just very clear that you're dealing with some lower-end specs here.
In fact, one of the apps that showed the most sluggishness was Google Maps – perhaps a combination of needing Wi-Fi, GPS and processing power all at once.
To be fair, Google Maps isn't particularly nippy on the best Android phones at the moment.
Crashes did happen, but were few and far between. While we have a sneaky suspicion the Alcatel 5's software won't age well, it certainly held up during our testing.
Like just about everything else to do with this phone, it's better than you might expect for the price.
Movies, music and gaming
- A perfectly capable media device
- You might want to keep a charger handy
We fired up Netflix and Google Play Movies on the Alcatel 5 and can confirm movie-watching is perfectly fine – the picture quality is better than the audio quality, but as far as watching on a phone goes, it's par for the course.
One annoying tick seems to be that the phone has to reboot some apps when switching to full screen mode – perhaps because of that 18:9 aspect ratio.
Given the phone's under-powered specs we were pleasantly surprised by its gaming prowess. Simple, colorful puzzler Dots ran smoothly, as did – more surprisingly – high-octane, visually intensive racer Asphalt 8: Airborne. We didn't notice any lag or crashes in our laps around the Nevada desert.
We did notice a rather disappointing battery drop though – some 8% every 10 minutes. That's not conducive to an extended gaming session unless your phone is constantly plugged into a power source.
Streaming movies lowered the battery level almost as fast too.
Music or podcast playback through the internal speaker is just about okay, but no more than that. You're really only going to want to use it as a last resort.
Performance and benchmarks
- Relatively poor performance in synthetic benchmarks
- Real-world performance was satisfactory
We put the Alcatel 5 and its octa-core MediaTek MT6750 chipset (with four cores clocked at 1.5GHz and four running at 1GHz) through the usual Geekbench 4 tests and it came out with a multi-core result of 2,497.
So in terms of this performance metric at least, the phone is around half as powerful as a Samsung Galaxy S7.
It also means it was comfortably outpaced by its direct competitors in this bracket: the Moto G6 (3,807), the Nokia 6 (2018) (4,177), and the Honor 9 Lite (3,696). If the phone impresses in terms of design and finish, it's here where it starts to struggle.
Benchmarks aren't the be-all and end-all though, and we found the Alcatel 5 to be perfectly usable in day-to-day use.
You're going to struggle when switching between a lot of demanding apps, but for jobs like checking email, posting to social media and watching videos it has got all the power you need.
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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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