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Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Clean design
  • Attractive screen
  • Great value for money

The Bad

  • Inconsistant performance
  • Poor video
  • No microSD slot
3.5

The Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ has been out for some time now, but it’s still got a lot to offer and at an even more reasonable price tag than when it first launched.

Design: Between two worlds

Whilst it’s more old school Samsung than HTC when it comes to the liberal use of shiny plastics, its proportions and detailing give the Idol X+ one of the nicest designs Alcatel has ever instilled in a phone.

You get a brushed metal surround and a non-removable back panel that features some nice concentric circle detailing, reflecting the light similarly to Asus’ Zenbooks. The slick finish isn’t great for fingerprints or grip, but the phone’s straight sides are thick enough (without being too chunky) to give you enough purchase during general operation.

Idol X+ front Idol X+ back

Aside from capacitive keys below the display, hardware controls fall to a plastic power button on top and a volume rocker on the right side. They’re convenient for one-handed use on a phone this size, but don’t offer the most satisfying feel or feedback. The base also features what appear to be dual speaker grilles, but as with many devices, only one actually pushes out any sound, whilst the other houses the microphone.

For what can comfortably be considered an affordable flagship, the overall aesthetic of the Idol X+ is nice. Its material choice are questionable, but the dimensions, detailing and weight (125 grams) all work well together. The ‘0’ bezels as Alcatel has called them are appreciated too, giving the phone a skinny overall appearance, with the display almost touching the phone’s sides.

Screen: Idol eyes

Idol X+ screen

As with its predecessor, the X+ also boasts a 5-inch Full HD IPS LCD. It’s a winning formula in terms of image fidelity and whilst colour accuracy and brightness aren’t particularly mind blowing, it’ll work well in most scenarios and dress content in an appealing finish.

OS: An interesting refresh

Since its launch the Idol X+ has been upgrade to offer Android 4.4 KitKat out-the-box, although promise of an upgrade to Lollipop doesn’t seem particularly likely. Alcatel OneTouch has dressed the experience in what you could argue is an unnecessarily heavy skin, but it does bring some nice enhancements to the table.

It’s own lock screen design hides a camera quick-launch with a swipe to the left and the notifications panel’s secondary pane gives greater control over aspects of the phone like audio sharing, power saving mode and EQ settings during headphone use.

There are also a handful of smart gestures in the Idol X+’s repertoire, like flip to mute and shake to shuffle when playing music as well as the option to schedule powering the phone on and off from within the full settings menu.

Where things fall apart is with the number of pre-loaded apps. As well as doubling up on things like a separate web browser, which is 2015 seems like a wholly fruitless endeavour; there are apps for fitness trackers, messaging services and out-dated games that simply take up space. Not to mention a secondary app store curated by Alcatel OneTouch, which adds to the clutter with no real additional benefit.

Performance: More space for SIMs

At launch Alcatel OneTouch made a big song and dance about the fact that the Idol X+ is one of the company’s first true octa-core-powered smartphones, and it’s still part of a fairly exclusive group in this regard.

The 2GHz MediaTek chipset and 2GB of RAM will dole out relatively consistent performance, with everything from simple interface navigation to full 3D gaming (we tested it with Asphalt 8). Where it does fray is with fluidity – games such as Asphalt certainly didn’t lag, but weren’t running at a buttery 60fps like we see on beefier phones and the same can be said for simple UI animations, such as pulling down the notifications drawer. The Idol X+ is responsive, but not smooth. Gaming also quickly caused noticeably heat build-up, at least at a rate faster than similarly specced devices.

Part of the low price tag also means no 4G and in the move from the Idol X to the X+, Alcatel OneTouch has done away with the expandable memory, upped the internal storage from 8GB to 16GB (12GB of which is user accessible) or 32GB and in place of a microSD slot, given the phone an additional SIM slot. Battery life is hit an miss with the 2500mAh cell delivering a comfortable day of general use, but dropping like a stone when processor-heavy experiences take place. Feel free to game on the go, but keep it short and sweet between plug points.

Camera: Stick to stills

You operate the Idol X+’s 13-megapixel rear snapper through a nice, clean interface that leaves most of the space to framing your shot. You can toggle quickly between stills and video or dip into a dedicated settings menu to tailor aspects like shooting modes, ISO, exposure and even activate a QR code scanner.

In auto, the camera produces fairly decent shots. The sensor and software find it hard to deal with more intense or extreme lighting conditions, sometime over or underexposing when a happy medium wasn’t all that far away. On close inspection, it retains detail well and pushes out nice accurate colours too.

On the video side of things you can capture Full HD footage, although the end result is far less impressive than the stills it produces. Content lacks detail, image stability is non-existent beyond a firm grip and auto recording is downright awful. Stick to snapping with the Idol X+ and you won’t run into too many problems though.

Verdict: Right phone for the right person

As a refresh over the classic X, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol X+ makes some interesting choices. We enjoyed the design, the screen tech, the majority of the UI and the sub £250 price point makes a lot of sense too.

Idol X+ handheld

On the other side of the coin there are smarter options out there with better camera experiences, slicker user interfaces and more current internal hardware. We’d recommend the Idol X+, provided the buyer was after something with its specific strengths and could overlook its weaknesses.

Specification

Screen size5-inches
Screen resolutionFull HD (1920x1080)
Weight125 grams
OSAndroid 4.4 KitKat
Rear Camera13.1-megapixel w/ single LED flash
Front camera2-megapixel
Processor2GHz octa-core Mediatek MT6592
Memory2GB RAM
Storage16GB (12GB user accessible) or 32GB. Non-expandable
4G LTENo
Bonus featuresJBL headphones, Super Panorama, TV Link screencasting

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