Hands On: Alcatel Series 5, 3, 1 Phones, 1T Tablets, Linkzone Hotspots
BARCELONA—The show floor hasn’t opened yet, but Alcatel might officially win the award for most new devices announced at Mobile World Congress. Five phones, two tablets, and two new hotspots should set the Chinese manufacturer up for 2018 quite nicely. We got a chance to check out all the new gadgets at the show, so let’s run down the list from high end to low end, from phones and hotspots to tablets.
An 18:9 aspect ratio means the Alcatel 5 has a tall, narrow body, similar to the Honor 7X in some ways, but in a much smaller form factor. At 6.0 by 2.8 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and 5.1 ounces, it’s a bit narrower and lighter than the 7X (6.1 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches, 5.8 ounces), with a 77 percent screen-to-body ratio.
The design looks and feels premium, with a plastic, metallic-like coating in black or gold. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C charging port, a rear fingerprint sensor, and a microSD card slot that can take an additional 32GB of storage.
The 5.7-inch, 1,440-by-720 display dominates the front of the device, curving slightly to meet the sides. It’s a standard IPS LCD, so viewing angles and color reproduction are generally good, but the resolution is a bit low for the size. We had an opportunity to use it outside and in direct sunlight, and found that the screen washes out easily, even at maximum brightness.
The phone is powered by a MediaTek MT6750 processor clocked at 1.5GHz. There are two configurations, one with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, and one with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. It will ship with the older Android 7.0 Nougat, which is a bit disappointing. Fortunately, we didn’t notice any software issues. There’s a little bit of latency when opening apps or switching between them, but the phone doesn’t feel sluggish in general. There are some visual changes due to Alcatel’s skin running on top, but for the most part things remain unchanged.
There’s a 3,000mAh battery under the hood, which Alcatel says can last for 18 hours of 3G talk time. Connectivity protocols includes Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n. The phone supports Cat 4, 4G LTE, allowing 150Mbps down and 50Mbps up.
The most compelling feature is the dual 12MP/5MP front-facing camera. The two sensors allows for a 120-degree wide angle lens that can capture more of your surroundings in selfies. It will automatically expand to the wider angle once it detects multiple faces in the shot, which is cool.
Face Key is essentially face unlock, but don’t expect the same accuracy as the iPhone X. There are no advanced sensors here to map your every contour, the camera is just using points on your face to identify you. It can potentially be fooled by a picture.
The rear sensor is a 12MP shooter that took reasonably good and clear shots in the sunny hands on area, but we don’t expect that to carry through for lower-light shooting. There’s no optical image stabilization, but you do get electronic image stabilization, HDR, and other standard camera modes, including a new Social Mode that has built-in editing tools and sharing to put your images on social media as quickly as possible.
Nothing concrete has been announced for North America, but an Alcatel representative I spoke with expects much of the new lineup to make its way to the US. Pricing for the Alcatel 5 is estimated around $300.
Alcatel 3 Series
Alcatel’s 3 series comprises three new phones. Starting from the bottom, we have the Alcatel 3, which is the most affordable of the bunch at less than $200.
It has a 18:9 aspect ratio with a 5.5-inch, 1,440-by-720 display. The back is covered in a glossy, metallic finish. It’s plastic, like all the phones in Alcatel’s lineup, but it feels good in the hand, despite picking up some fingerprints. A fingerprint sensor is embedded in the middle, and color options include black, blue, and gold.
Hardware is pretty standardized across the family. For the Alcatel 3 you have a MT6739 processor clocked at 1.28GHz, 16GB of storage, and 2GB of RAM. A microSD card slot allows expansion up to 128GB. The phone comes running Android 8.0 Oreo, with Alcatel’s UI layer on top. There’s a 3,000mAh battery under the hood.
The rear camera is a single 13MP rear sensor. Alcatel uses some software trickery to upscale to 16MP, but the hardware is 13MP. There’s a 5MP selfie camera that similarly upscales to 8MP. Both are pretty average shooters, taking clear pictures in good lighting. The camera app is a little sluggish, and we don’t expect quality to hold up in lower light, but that’s to be expected for the price range.
Connectivity protocols include Cat 4 LTE, Bluetooth 4.2, and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. The surprise here is NFC, which is available for certain regional models, allowing for mobile payments.
Moving up a notch you have the Alcatel 3X for a little over $200.
It too has a 18:9, tall and narrow form factor but with a larger 5.7-inch, 720p display. Hardware is the same as the base model in terms of processor. Configurations include 16GB storage/2GB RAM and 32GB storage/3GB RAM. A microSD card slot allows for expansion up to 128GB. A 3,000mAh battery is under the hood and charges through micro USB.
Left to right: Alcatel 3V, 3X
Performance is similar to the base model Alcatel 3, but strangely, the 3X runs Android 7.0 Nougat rather than Oreo or Android Go.
Dual camera sensors (13MP and 5MP) allow for wider-angle shots. The angle isn’t too dramatic, so I didn’t notice as much barrel distortion as you sometimes get with wide angle lenses. The 5MP camera on the front is your standard fare.
The Alcatel 3V is the mostly costly of the 3 series at about $240.
The differences between the 3V and 3 are apparent just from the look. The 3V is a much taller phone, boasting a 6-inch screen in the 18:9 aspect ratio. The back is curved, with a sleek metallic finish that’s easy to grip and picks up less fingerprints. Color options include black, blue, and gold.
The screen is where the 3V really stands out. You get a 6-inch, 2,160-by-1080 TCL IPS display. Alcatel calls this 2K, but really it’s more 1080p. Still, it’s a higher resolution than the rest of the lineup, including the Alcatel 5. The higher resolution is noticeable placed next to the other devices, and pays off with more clearly defined text and sharper graphics.
Hardware is beefed up with the MT8735A processor clocked at 1.45GHz. There’s a 16GB storage/2GB RAM configuration with microSD card slot expansion for an additional 128GB. There’s also a 32GB storage/3GB RAM option. Both come with a 3,000mAh battery.
Cameras include a 12MP and 2MP rear sensor, letting you shoot in bokeh mode to focus on an object and blur out the background. It worked fairly well in my demo, though the blur effect seems a little forced. The front 5MP sensor is standard, but it does support the Face Key facial unlock.
Connectivity protocols are a bit more advanced with 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi. There’s Bluetooth 4.2, but no NFC this time.
Availability for the Alcatel 3, 3X, and 3V will be announced in the coming month, though it’s still unclear if any or all of them will hit the US market.
The Alcatel 1X is the least expensive phone in the new lineup, at around $120. By all appearances it’s nothing special, but turning on the screen and taking a look at the software, you’ll see that it’s running Android Go, a special lightweight and optimized version of Android Oreo.
The hardware and design are pretty basic. You have a soft-touch plastic body available in black, gold, or rose gold. There’s a 5.3-inch, 960-by-480, which is a bit on the grainy side.
Using the 1X, I found it to be a bit swifter than the other entry-level phones, including Alcatel’s own A30. It’s powered by a MT6739 MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28GHz. Configurations include 16GB of storage and 1GB or 2GB of RAM. A microSD card allows for expansion up to 32GB. There’s an 8MP or 13MP rear camera, a 5MP front camera, a 2,460mAh battery, and Cat 4 LTE with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC in some markets.
Although the specs and performance are nothing to write home about, the Alcatel 1X looks like a good phone not just for developing markets, but potentially for anyone looking for an affordable, simple smartphone in general.
Alcatel’s Linkzone hotspot is seeing an upgrade with two new models. The Linkzone Cat 12 is a glossy plastic puck with a capacious 4,3000mAh battery that lets it double as a portable power bank. The Cat 7 Linkzone is a smaller, more grippy matte puck with a 2,150mAh cell.
We weren’t able to test data speeds in the demo area, but obviously the Cat 12 model will be faster, with a potential download speed of 600Mbps and uploads of 100Mbps. Cat 7 maxes out at 300Mbps downloads and 100Mbps uploads. Both hotspots support 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual-band Wi-Fi, and share the same LTE bands 1/37/8/20/32 with carrier aggregation.
For pricing, the Linkzone Cat 7 will start at roughly $120, while the Cat 12 will run about $220. Carrier availability for the US isn’t known yet, but T-Mobile may get one or both of the hotspots to replace the existing Linkzone it currently offers.
Alcatel 1T Series
Last but not least are the 7-inch Alcatel 1T7 and 10-inch 1T10 tablets.
Both slates feel tough and durable, though they aren’t officially ruggedized. You’re getting a 1,024-by-600 display for the 7-inch model and 1,280-by-800 on the 10-inch. Both are IPS panels, so viewing angles are reasonable, but they aren’t that crisp and have a generally filmy, look like they’re covered in a layer of plastic (they aren’t).
Screen sizes aside, both tablets use a MediaTek MT8321 processor clocked at 1.3GHz with slightly different configurations of 8GB storage/1GB RAM for the 7-inch model, and 16GB storage/1GB RAM for the 10-inch. Both have a microSD card slot that allows expansion up to 128GB. A 2,580mAh battery is in the Alcatel 1T 7, and a 4,000mAh cell is in the 1T 10. Both have front and rear cameras, but test photos looked soft. Connectivity protocols include Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.2.
In terms of performance, there’s not much difference between the two. They can handle running one or two apps at a time, but you’re not getting any serious multitasking done. The nice part is that both run the latest Android 8.1 Oreo with Alcatel’s skin on top.
The 10-inch 1T can be purchased with certain accessories like a keyboard case, which could give it a leg up over Amazon’s Fire tablets, which don’t really excel at productivity.
The Alcatel 1T 7 will cost around $85, while the 1T will go for around $125. We’ll take a deeper dive with each of the new devices if and when they come to the US, so check back for full reviews.