Alcatel Idol 4S in-depth review - Mirror mirror on the wall...

Alcatel have been known for their entry-level handsets that have been described to me as 'gold dust' by retailers because they sell out quickly and are very sought-after by holiday-makers as well as parents and older people... Clearly trying to get away from the label, is their new offering, the Idol 4S. But it still remains to be seen if their bargain basement sticker is taken away by this beauty...

 Alcatel Idol 4S Review - Mirror mirror on the wall...
4.5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,8/15/2016 12:24:06 PM

8

out of 10

Performance

9

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

9

out of 5

Features

9

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Premium looks | good battery | Bundled VR headset | under-£400 | 'mirrored' design

Cons:

Processor dampens its otherwise 5-star creds

 

- By Sunetra Chakravarti

 This was one of the best packaged phones this year... A tad flummoxed by the absence of the phone, I realised that the VR headset that the phone comes bundled with, doubles as the box for not just the phone but also the charging cable, the JBL in-ear headphones and the VR adjusting headbands.

And it is only when you take the Idol 4S out of it's box, you realise how utterly gorgeous it is...

Does the Idol 4S live upto its premium but budget ambitions?

I have just finished reviewing the doppleganger of the Idol 4S, the Vodafone Smart platinum 7... And apart from just a couple of cosmetic differences, there isn't much that sets them apart.

Out of the box, it is a 6.99mm thick glass and metal sandwich with speaker grills top and bottom with an all-in weight of an almost feather-light 149g. The metal on the side of the phone curves in, like it does on the Samsung Galaxy S7 making the 2.5D glass display seem like it is hovering above the body. 

 Of physical buttons, there are three. A power key on the top left side of the phone, volume rocker on the top right and a 'Boom key' in the centre of the right which looks suspiciously like the power button on Sony Xperia devices and had me fooled when I first tried to power the phone up.

The Boom Key is basically a shortcut that you can program to quickly launch an app, so click it to either launch the camera or when listening to audio, it helps you adjust bass or even quickly launch Chrome. A handy little number, it takes quite some time getting used to. 

Processor and Android Marshmallow

While the best of everything has been stuffed into the slim number that is the Idol 4S, processor-wise it isn't top-drawer, sadly.

It is a Snapdragon 652 that's found its way onto the Idol 4S and although not quite as blisteringly fast as Snapdragon's top 820 numbers, it will take care of all day-to-day tasks. So you are able to surf, play Pokemon and whatsapp/text without any issues. The 652 processor further brings with it 4K Ultra HD capture and playback, along with 2K display support which is exactly what you find on the Idol 4S and it also supports peak data download speeds of upto 300 Mbps and peak data upload speeds of upto 100 Mbps.

But delve a little deeper, play something a little more graphics intensive or use the VR headset and the phone doesn't perform as well. An AnTuTu benchmark score of a little over 82,000 placed it above the Apple iPhone 6 and a few paces behind the Huawei P9. However, if you are hoping to use the phone for day-to-day work then it does the job without breaking a sweat.

Android M comes with quite a bit of bloatware and Alcatel would do well to shave off some of this excess baggage on the successor to the Idol 4S now that they have hit upon the perfect formula for an almost perfect budget blower. 

And the camera?

A Sony 16-MP sensor adds to the perfection of the Idol 4S. Bright well-lit images in low-light conditions as well are very sharp photos in sunlight showed that this is one of the best budget cameraphones out there at the moment. 

And Alcatel haven't scrimped on the number of filters and features from panorama to HDR to a boomerang-like short video maker- you are guaranteed hours of fun for the most ardent Instagrammer. Selfies aren't too shabby either and the 8-MP camera does very well as well and is able to capture 1080p video... supr handy during those Google Duo calls...

Ultimate media streamer?

The display is absolutely spot-on, so much so that side-by-side with a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, it is hard to tell any difference between the two panels. And why not, the one on the Idol 4S is QHD with a pixel per inch density of 534. The 2k resolution is crystal, sharp and everything you would need to stream the Olympics off the BBC iPlayer and watch Usain Bolt make history with pin-sharp clarity.

And the Idol 4S further did very well during my little battery test... During 30 minutes of HD streaming off YouTube over 4G, battery went down from 80% to 70% with 100 percent brightness. I would class that as very good and the 3000 mAH lasted for a day and a bit, however, Pokemon GO did make it drain super-fast.

Audio-wise, this is possibly the loudest phone I have reviewed... It is loud enough to put under-£100 Bluetooth speakers to shame. I think the reason why the audio is this effective is two-pronged: the two sets of top and bottom speakers don't just face up, but also back so irrespective of which way the phone faces, you are guaranteed a tub-thumping music streaming experience.

And secondly, the two 3.6-watt JBL certified speakers feature Waves Audio technology, a fancy bit of tech that tries to match tunes with the best settings. Together they make the speakers here absolutely amazing. 

The Boom Key comes into its own while streaming too- when listening to ditties, you can to make sure you always have the best settings for listening to music or watching movies.

Alcatel VR goggles

The box that the phone arrives in, is the VR headset and it reminded me of the first Samsung Gear VR headset that I had seen at MWC in March 2015.

Unlock the phone, launch the 'VR Launcher' app and the on-screen tutorial helps you through. You get a few options on what you want to watch, pre-loaded 360 degree videos, media you might have recorded yourself or something off the internet- a great way to get consumers hooked onto 360 degree videos and photos that are currently being championed by the likes of Facebook.

However, my time with the VR headset was ultimately very disappointing. Rife with dropped frames and very shaky as well as out of focus, it still is more of a novelty item than something that can actually improve your media viewing experience...

Should I buy the Alcatel Idol 4S?

This is a fantastic product. From form-factor to display to camera and battery life, I cannot fault it. But for the processor- ever so slightly under-powered when you use it alongside the VR headset and while gaming.

It has all the chutzpah to take on the mighty OnePlus 3, the current king of the mid-price range and apart from the processor matches it blow for blow.

Would I recommend it? I definitely will. Especially because it presents such brilliant value for money and more! 

Alcatel Idol 4S specifications

Website: alcatel-mobile.com

Price: £TBA (currently priced at $399 state-side)

Operating System: Android 6.0.1

Dimensions:153.9mm x 75.4mm x 6.99mm

Weight: 149 g

Resolution: QHD 2K resolution (2560x1440) 534 ppi

Display: 5.5-inch AMOLED display

Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 652 processor octa-core; 3GB RAM

Camera: 16-MP camera with auto-focus Sony IMX 298 / Toshiba T4KC3-121 Sensor f/2.0 aperture 75º wide angle lens Dual-tone flash 4K video. 8-MP front camera with flash, 1080p video

Memory: 32GB + 3GB RAM Micro SD (up to 200GB)

Battery: 3000 mAh

Fingerprint sensor: No

Misc: Dual 3.6-watt speakers; Quick Charge; bundled-in VR Goggles & JBL Headphones