Alcatel X1 review: A premium design smartphone for moderate price tag

Alcatel’s Onetouch X1 is the latest mid-range smartphone to offer a solid all-round performance for less than Dh1,000, going head-to-head against the likes of the Huawei Honor 5X, the OnePlus X and the Samsung Galaxy A5.

So how does it compare against such established models?

The X1’s stand-out feature is its design, bearing no little resemblance to Apple’s iPhone 4. The 6.7mm thick body sports a smooth Gorilla glass back (which incorporates a large “X” which Alcatel describes as a 3D spin effect – you need to see it to fully comprehend), with a smooth metal trim around the edges.

While understandably not in the same league as the Galaxy S7 Edges of this world, the X1 is yet again proof that a premium design doesn’t have to come with a premium price tag.

The X1 features what is now an unusually small 5-inch display. Utilising the same Amoled technology as the OnePlus X, the blacks and reds of the Deadpool trailer have a deep, vivid quality compared with the Honor 5X.

Where the handset feels a little undercooked, however, is in the general performance department. While videos look great colour-wise on the X1, both the OnePlus X and Honor 5X offer a smoother video and all-round navigation experience.

The X1 comes with a 13MP rear-facing camera and 5MP selfie snapper, in line with both the Honor 5X and Galaxy A5 (the OnePlus X has a slightly beefier 8MP selfie camera). Image quality is largely consistent with its peers, with sharp near focus images and passable performance in low light conditions. While the X1 doesn’t offer as many manual controls as the Honor 5X, it’s hard to see anyone really put off, especially at this price point.

What they might mind, however, is the absence of the fingerprint reader that makes the Honor such a desirable mid-range proposition.

At Dh899, the X1 is up against some tough competition in a crowded marketplace. It wins points for design and a colourful display, but its sluggish performance counts against it.

Alcatel has produced a solid performing device, but one that is ultimately unlikely to significantly trouble its rivals too much.

q&a: device shrouded in mystery

John Everington expands on what Alcatel’s latest mid-range smartphone has to offer:

Let’s start off with a philosophical question: does the Alcatel Onetouch X1 actually exist?

Yes, then no, then kind of. The specs for the X1 started leaking late last year, only for Alcatel to abruptly call off the launch in December, without giving any reason for doing so. Then, lo and behold last month we got a press release announcing its launch, followed by an actual physical device for our consideration. So its existence seems secure enough. But the device still doesn’t appear on Alcatel’s website, so maybe it doesn’t exist after all. But then again, what does existence really mean anyway? If a tree falls in the woods and if no one …

What’s next from Alcatel? More solid mid-range devices?

Actually, no. The company last month announced the launch of the Idol 4 and 4S at the Mobile World Congress, both of which found favour with retailers we interviewed. While the Idol 4 is expected to set you back around €280 (Dh1,143), the Idol 4S will retail for an (comparatively) eye-watering €450.

What’s in the box that makes the Idol 4S so expensive?

It’s not just what’s in the box that counts, it’s also the box itself. As well as being by all accounts a pretty decent device, the 4S comes in a box that doubles up as a rather nifty virtual reality headset. Early reviews from Barcelona suggest it won’t challenge Samsung’s Gear VR headset any time soon, but that it offers a decent basic VR experience.

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