Alcatel Onetouch Idol X+ Review
Alcatel wants to give you premium design and features, but for low-end smartphone prices. Does the Idol X+ deliver?
The last Alcatel smartphone we reviewed was the Onetouch Idol S, which impressed us with its great screen, reasonable performance and 4G capabilities – all for an attractively low price. See also: The best smartphones of 2015
The Idol X+ is designed to deliver the same experience as its predecessor, but with a larger 5in display and more up-to-date internals. It’s aiming to offer customers a more enticing, upmarket device than the Motorola Moto G2, but without a huge price hike.
Idol X+ review: Design
On looks alone, it certainly succeeds. From a distance the Idol X+ appears sleek, exuding minimalist charm. There’s a hint of sophistication thanks to brushed-metal edges and an attractive “spun thread” rear.
Once it’s in your hands, however, the device feels a little different. That seductive back reveals itself as plastic, its glossy sheen a magnet for fingerprints and hairline scratches. The elegant brushed metal feels cheap, too, thanks to a plasticky coating on its surface.
Those aren’t the only problems. The metal surround isn’t completely flush with the rest of the body, sometimes snagging on hair during a call, and the phone’s many gaps and crevices pick up pocket fluff at an alarming rate, too.
Its screen stretches from edge to edge, and we approve Alcatel’s decision to go with off-screen navigation controls. It means you get more screen real estate to play with.
The phone’s UI is easy on the eye as well. The Idol X+ runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, re-skinned with its own Onetouch interface. Practically, though, it isn’t a patch on pure Android. Even once you download the OTA upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat, Onetouch isn’t much better.
Onetouch’s clunkiness is largely down to its layout. For one, you can have only four columns on your menu or homescreen, meaning everything just fills the screen that little bit more. You can’t move the menu button from the bottom-right corner on the homepage, and Onetouch’s square logos seem chunky and outdated next to the flat Material Design of more recent Android devices.
Of course, these are just UI quirks that anyone can become accustomed to with a bit of perseverance, and Android’s heavily customisable nature means there’s little cause for concern. It’s just a shame that everything feels so cumbersome and dated, and that Onetouch comes bloated with apps and games you didn’t even ask for.
Alcatel Idol X+ review: specifications
Powering the phone is an octa-core MediaTek MT6592 processor running at a nominal frequency of 2GHz, and with 2GB RAM to back that up, the Idol X+ is no slouch. It may not be as fast as the top-end flagships, but for £260 you’d be hard-pressed to find a better specification.
In general use, the Idol X+ feels responsive. However, in benchmarks it doesn’t quite live up to expectations, scoring 522 and 2,802 in Geekbench 3, and a lowly 12fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD (onscreen) test. This is far from the sort of performance we’d expect from an octa-core processor, although it’s noticeably quicker than the Motorola Moto G2, which boasts a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC and half the RAM.
Peculiarly, Alcatel has opted to offer a second SIM port over expandable storage. While this is great news for those who travel frequently or have friends and family in far-flung places, it seems odd to omit a microSD port when storage is so restricted. Alcatel is positioning this phone as great for photos and music, so to provide 16GB of internal storage, only 13GB of which is actually usable, is perplexing.
Still, at least the display holds up its side of the bargain: a extremely sharp and vibrant Full HD IPS display, with a maximum brightness of 514.4 cd/m2 and contrast ratio of 924:1, it’s right up there with the best flagship devices. It fared less well in our colour-accuracy tests, but for a phone at this price the display is more than acceptable.
Alcatel hasn’t skimped in the audio department, either. The pair of speakers on the Idol X+’s bottom edge don’t blow you away in the same way as the HTC’s BoomSound speakers, but they deliver clear and crisp audio, and are able to reach volumes to make speakerphone conversations a comfortable listen in most environments.
In the camera department, the Idol X+ features the same 13-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera of its predecessor, the Idol X. Both work well enough for taking photos, recording video and snapping selfies in good light, but due to the crispness of the screen they can be a little misleading. What may look bright, vivid and clear on the Idol X+ can look a little washed out, slightly blurry, or overly dark when viewed on another device.
To make matters worse, images captured in low light are noisy and grainy, and in low light, video is simply apalling, wracked with low frame rates, smeary motion and automatic exposure adjustment that steps in a horribly jerky fashion when you move the camera from a light to a dark scene.
Neither does the Idol X+ have the largest battery around. It’s a 2,500mAh unit, and a good deal smaller than, say, an HTC One M8. Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to affect its stamina too badly. While using the phone as our daily driver, we’ve regularly found it lasts well into a second day with moderate use before needing to be recharged.
Idol X+ review: verdict
The Alcatel Idol X+ wants to be a premium phone but at a price that everyone can afford. And while some aspects hit the mark - the screen is okay, performance not bad and the battery life acceptable - elsewhere it fails to convince, with cheap-feeling design and software, a sub-par camera and no microSD expansion. While the price is tempting, if you’re after a good-quality budget Android smartphone, we’d advise you save your cash and opt for a Moto G2 instead.