With a sizeable battery, strong processor, pleasant design, quality screen and surprisingly good audio, the Aquaris M5 makes a great impression. But with some bugs and quirks, an average camera and oddly variable pricing, it has some annoying niggles.
Full HD screen
Some bugs and instability
Can be difficult to buy
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The smartphone boom has been the cause of many success stories across the world. In the USA, China, Korea, Japan and elsewhere the thirst for phones has led to exponential growth for keen manufacturers.
In Europe though, oddly, the picture is somewhat different. With the closure of Nokia's devices division in 2014, the largest handset manufacturer on the continent was laid to rest. And with seemingly no domestic offering to take its place, competitors from outside have moved in.
Some small manufacturers have sprung up, and are beginning to make meaningful strides towards success however. Kazam and Wileyfox in the UK are two such examples, while BQ has been gaining particular traction in Spain, expanding significantly.
This firm has now landed on UK shores, a modern and markedly more low-key Spanish conquest, with a suite of budget to mid-range devices aimed at a variety of different tastes and budgets. Of these, the Aquaris M5 is the flagship, but with a starting price of £210 and against the likes of the Moto G4, OnePlus X and others can it really compete?
Modern smartphone design has clearly started to lean towards certain trends. Straight edges and hard lines, clean examples of industrial design, have given way to curves and bends. Plastics have become metals, even at ever lower price points, and the public has become used to a certain shape.
With this in mind, the Aquaris M5 is positively retro. Long straight lines abound, and the design is very much industrial. The device is also coated in a pleasant matte soft touch plastic, which is very comfortable to hold.
At 8.4mm thick, and weighing in at 144g, the Aquaris M5 is neither the most svelte or the lightest handset out there, but it is acceptable nonetheless. The trade-off in weight and dimensions has been for a little extra battery, which is almost always a welcome compromise.
The top of the device houses the 3.5mm headphone jack while on the right side you'll find – in descending order - the microSD tray, the volume rocker and the power key.
As for the left side, it is flush, sporting two microSIM trays and at the bottom you'll find the micro USB port and downward-firing speakers.
On the rear there's a subtle silver BQ logo, along with a square cut out for the 13MP rear camera and a dual-LED flash.
Lastly, the front is home to the 5-inch Full HD display, a 5MP wide-angle front-facing selfie camera, a single LED flash, the call speaker, an ambient brightness sensor, three capacitive buttons (the usual triangle, circle and square) and the call microphone
Especially in white, this is a phone that looks the part, being elegant, minimal and clean. It brings to mind the kind of plastic construction that defined the Lumia range, feeling sturdy as well as premium, especially for the £210 price tag (which can already be dropped to roughly £150 if you shop around). BQ is clearly on to something here.
Sean is a Scottish technology journalist who's written for the likes of T3, Trusted Reviews, TechAdvisor and Expert Reviews.