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BQ Aquaris X5 Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Sharp, attractive screen
  • Cyanogen OS
  • Long battery life

The Bad

  • Iffy performance
  • Inferior cameras
3.5

BQ Aquaris X5 Review: We review this O2-exclusive 5-inch smartphone, which boasts the smart and highly customisable Cyanogen OS and a 13-megapixel camera.

Here in the UK, O2 is exclusively offering the BQ Aquaris X5 for £19.50 a month on contract – but what is BQ and is the BQ Aquaris a worthy purchase? Well, BQ is a Spanish manufacturer of phones, tablets and other mobile tech and the Aquaris X5 is one of its latest mobiles, a 5-inch phone that runs a funked-up version of Android known as Cyanogen.

Check out our full BQ Aquaris X5 review to see if it’s a worthy purchase.

Design

The BQ Aquaris X5 looks and feels like your typical mid-range mobile. From the front it’s a standard slab of black, which gives way to grey alumium edges and a darker soft-touch rear on our review model. That two-tone design reminds us of HTC’s Desire phones, such as the Desire Eye, and while our dark model looks a little bland, you can also grab the Aquaris in lighter shades including an Apple-esque rose gold/pink effort.

At 148g the Aquaris has a decent heft to it, without feeling heavy. It’s solidly constructed so can withstand a fair bit of punishment, although there’s no water proofing so don’t go taking it into the bath.

Most 5-inch phones can just about be used one-handed, but the Aquaris X5 has thick bezels above and below the screen that make it difficult to reach the top of the display with your thumb. Still, you can use just one mitt in a pinch and the power and volume buttons are well positioned for easy access.

Screen and media

The Aquaris’ 5-inch screen matches rivals such as the Motorola Moto G, displaying sharp 720p HD images. Viewing angles are respectable and contrast levels aren’t bad, with realistic colour reproduction to boot. And while the maximum brightness levels might not exactly be eyeball-searing, the screen is easy enough to see when you’re outside with glare reflecting off the glass surface.

You’ll find the Aquaris’ single speaker housed on the bottom edge of the phone and it’s surprisingly powerful, pumping out audio at an impressive volume. Music doesn’t sound too tinny either, while the speaker definitely does the job for watching video on the fly. However, you’ll want to plug in earphones to truly enjoy your music.

A MicroSD memory card slot can be used to expand the 16GB of on-board storage, so you’ll have plenty of room to carry around your movies and music collection.

Features

As with many mid-range mobiles, the Aquaris doesn’t boast much in the way of special hardware features like fingerprint sensors and so on. However, it does run Cyanogen OS, which is a super-funky version of Android with better privacy control, greater personalisation and plenty of other extras that make it a serious draw.

Check out our in-depth Cyanogen review for more info.

Performance and battery life

The BQ Aquaris X5 packs a basic Snapdragon 412 processor, backed up by 2GB of RAM. It’s generally fine for everyday use, but I did see the occasional prolonged pause when loading an app. WiFi and mobile signal also occasionally dropped out and the easiest way to recover was performing a reboot.

Still, the Aquaris X5 can run the latest games without stuttering and dying, and casual titles play with a smooth frame rate.

One of our biggest complaints about the Wileyfox Swift and Wileyfox Storm, two other recent Cyanogen smartphones, was the rather pants battery life. With those phones you’d be lucky to make it through the day, whereas the BQ Aquaris X5 manages to comfortably last 24 hours on a single charge.

That’s providing you don’t absolutely cane the phone with gaming and movie streaming, of course. If you decide to stream YouTube videos non-stop, you should still enjoy over seven hours of entertainment before the Aquaris dies. That’s a better-than-average result for modern mobiles.

Cameras

On the back of the Aquaris X5 you’ll find a 13-megapixel camera and it’s perfectly serviceable, although there are much better camera phones available at this price range.

The camera lens sometimes takes a while to lock onto your subject and I had very mixed results from the final photos. Indoor shots under artificial lighting often look quite soft unless you constantly use the flash, while outdoor snaps taken against a bright sky lose a lot of detail, with buildings and people often appearing murky. Taking photos of cats and kids is also a hassle, as any kind of motion often results in blur.

That said, the flash does a solid job of bringing low-light shots to life and the 5-megapixel selfie snapper also boasts an LED flash, to capture those glamorous nightclub selfies.

Video footage is also a little soft, while the lens often ‘pops’ as it tries to focus, but you do at least get some digital image stabilisation to cut down on judder when wandering around.

Verdict

The BQ Aquaris X5 costs £19.50 a month from O2, where it’s exclusively stocked. For that price you get an attractive HD screen and solid battery life plus the feature-packed Cyanogen OS, although performance could be better and the 13-megapixel camera is bettered by rivals. For a little less each month you could grab the Samsung Galaxy A3 or Microsoft Lumia 640, which also boast strong battery life and gorgeous visuals.

Specification

Screen size5-inches
Screen resolution720p HD
Weight148g
OSCyanogen
Rear Camera13-megapixel
Front camera5-megapixel
ProcessorSnapdragon 412
Memory2GB
Storage16GB + microSD
4G LTEYes
Bonus featuresN/A

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