I’ve worked with Alcatel Mobile for a while now, so when I saw them at MWC this year, and they asked if I wanted to check out some of their phones, I had to say yes. I will admit to not being all that enthused about the 3V when I saw it at IFA, but I was wrong. Here’s why in my full Alcatel 3V review.
- Stellar Screen for Price
- Lovely Design
- Insane design and screen for Price
- Barely acceptable Performance
- Dual camera is pure crap
- No NFC and no USB-C
- Updates are pretty much never happening
Disclaimer: Alcatel sent this 3V out to me (Dom) to review, this is actually my second 3V unit, as the first was almost unusable due to an unknown error, so I requested a second unit to spend some more time with, but overall, this is after about 6 weeks with 2 devices. Alcatel did provide this device, but they have no bearing over the outcome of this review. The 3V was used on the Three UK network in the southeast of the UK. No software updates happened during the testing period.
Speeds and Feeds (Specifications)
6.0” 2160×1080 IPS Display
MediaTek MT8735A SoC
4x Cortex A53 @1.45Ghz
Mali T720MP2 GPU
2GB of LPDDR3 RAM
16/32GB of eMMC storage
Dual Rear Camera
12mp main sensor, f2.2, 1.25micron Pixels
2mp depth sensor. F2.4
5mp Front facing camera
3000mAh Lithium-Polymer Battery
For a more complete list of the specifications of the Alcatel 3V, head on over to GSMArena here
The Alcatel 3V is a bit of a weird phone, hardware wise. Externally, just looking at it you’d think it was a lot more expensive of a phone than £90, the beautiful shimmery glass back, the tall 6” 18:9 LCD with rounded off corners and the dual camera make this seem a lot more expensive than it is at first glance, but then you pick it up, and the illusion is quickly broken.
Aesthetically, I have to commend Alcatel here, this is a pretty phone, and it’s clear this is where they spent the bulk of the money on this phone. If we look at it from the front, we have the 6” 18:9 2160×1080 IPS LCD. That’s a lot of numbers and letters to say that this is a pretty good screen. Alcatel parent company TCL has rung in a few favours from the TV side of the company and all the screens on the new phones (the 1,3 and 5 series) are all actually made by TCL, instead of sourcing them from someone like JDI, Samsung or LG. The screen quality is actually really great, and I just have a single moan, and that is that I’d like it to be a little brighter. At peak brightness, the 3V is still a little too hard to read outside. Above and below the 3Vs gorgeous screen is very little, actually nothing below. Up top is the earpiece, the 5mp front-facing selfie camera and the usual assortment of ambient light and proximity sensors. One thing you don’t often see though, is the front facing LED flash. This is for low light selfies and can actually have an adjustable intensity to act as a fill light, neat!
The left-hand side of the device has the Volume buttons and the Right-hand side has the SIM tray and the Power button. The Power button is nicely textured and has a nice tactility to it, but it does feel a smidge too low on the chassis, it’s not unusable, but it’s not where my hand usually rests. Popping out the SIM tray, and this is where it starts to get a little unusual. Most Dual SIM phones tend to have a tray where you can have a Single SIM and a MicroSD card, or Dual NanoSIMs and no MicroSD, but the tray on the 3V allows for 2 NanoSIMs and the MicroSD card. It makes the tray a fair bit longer, but if that’s something you value, hey, knock yourself out.
On the top the 3V houses its 3.5mm audio jack and it’s secondary noise-cancelling microphone, whereas the bottom has the MicroUSB port (boo) and the 10 grilles, 5 either side of the USB port, only one of these is a speaker, the other is hiding the main microphone, but it is aesthetically pleasing, which seems to be a running theme with the 3V.
Lastly, let’s look at the back. On my second unit, I have this lovely metallic blue. It’s gorgeous, it’s deep, it reminds me a bunch of the Honor 8, and I love it. My first unit was a mirrored Gold chrome, and whilst not my favourite colour in the world, both of these once again imbue the device with a much more expensive look than It feels it should have, Alcatel really has nailed the aesthetics of this coloured rear. The rear camera setup is a dual sensor setup where the main 12mp camera is for all the actual camera stuff, but the secondary 2mp sensor is for depth information. I’m going to have to call BS on this. The secondary camera is useless, and the “depth effect” portrait/bokeh mode is utter trash. I’d have preferred Alcatel just cut the crap, put a single better camera in here and called it a day. Next to this oblong shaped camera housing is the single LED flash that is almost shaped to make it look like a dual-toned flash, but alas, it is a single flash. Below that camera setup is a rather disappointing fingerprint scanner. It is accurate enough and it’s in the best place (that is until under screen scanners become more prevalent) but man, this thing is slooooooooooow. To make matters worse, the sensor tries to scan it as soon as it senses some capacitance, meaning that it’ll try to read your finger when it is still moving on to the scanner, causing it to fail.
Probably the most egregious issue is the face this gorgeous rear panel is actually plastic, and it scratches super easily and just grabs every.single.smudge ever. At least Alcatel gives you a clear case in the box?.
This is another not great part of the 3V. Starting with the Good, the 3V ships with Oreo, Android 8.0 out of the box, so pretty up to date, except that it’s May 5th security patch, so a few months out of date there as well. Alcatel’s skin on top of Android is pretty lightweight, it is mostly an Icon pack with a few apps thrown in here and there, but that doesn’t stop it being unoptimised, and with the anaemic chipset in this already, performance isn’t a strong point for the 3V.
Alcatel Also doesn’t have the best track record for updating their phones. Whether it be the Idol 3, the Idol 4S, the Idol 5 or any of their other flagship-esque devices, they very rarely get system OTAs and even more rarely get security updates. This is bad enough as is, and It’s gotten to the point where I don’t recommend Alcatel phones to people who need a secure and up to date device. This is also made worse by the absolute lack of optimisation done to this chipset.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that the 3V ships with a recent version of Android, but Alcatel really do not have a good track record. I gave them the benefit of the doubt with the Idol 3, I really hoped they’d be better with the Idol 4S, but at this point, I don’t have much hope that Alcatel actually cares about updating their phones. I’m happy to be proved wrong, I want to be proved wrong, but I am not hopeful.
This… This is a hard part to write. This is my second 3V, the reason it’s my second 3V is that the first one was so poor that I felt bad about reviewing it. So I spoke to Alcatel, and they said that it shouldn’t be that bad, and sent me another one, Thankfully they were right.
The second 3V I have is much, much better, but it still is far from a speed demon. The Quad-Core 1.45Ghz MediaTek chip is anaemic. It’s a Cortex A53 setup that’s actually very similar to the chip in the Honor 7s I reviewed a little while back, but the biggest change is the GPU, moving from a PowerVR chip to a dual-core Mali T720, still not great, but far better than the PowerVR in the Honor.
The MT8735A is the chip inside this, It’s saving grace is that it supports LTE, but I can’t really say much better. The Cortex A53 is not new, the 28nm process node this is made on is positively ancient, the T720 GPU is basically depreciated at this point, my only guess is that Alcatel must have basically gotten this for free, otherwise I see absolutely no reason as to why this was chosen over a 400 series Snapdragon chip.
This is a usable experience, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t an enjoyable experience for the most part. It’s not as bad as my previous 3V, which couldn’t even play YouTube at native resolution without dropping frames. Dropping the notification shade was a stuttery mess as well, and gaming was a non-starter. This new one is much better though, it can play 1080p YouTube, and basic UI interaction is a smooth enough experience, but anything even remotely intensive still bogs this down to a crawl.
If you really want to see some benchmarks, here they are, but they really aren’t great.
I spoke a little about this in the hardware section, but the dual camera setup of the 3V is… mostly for show. The 12mp and 2mp combo are definitely jumping on the bandwagon for dual cameras as the second one is utterly useless. What makes it worse is that the main camera is actually pretty good, but man is it slow.
The anaemic SoC inside the 3V also limits the camera experience. All SoCs have an ISP, an image signal processor, but the 8735A in this is just weak. The weak ISP is made worse by the fact that stuff it can’t handle quick enough gets offloaded on to the GPU and CPU, both of which are also incredibly weak, meaning that the camera is technically capable of taking decent/acceptable images, but the process you, as a user need to go through to get those images, is not worth the end result.
I would spend some more time talking about the portrait mode and the second camera, but all I’ll do is post a few samples from this, and you can understand why I really don’t want to waste any more time on this.
How about some selfies? Well if you really want to. The 5mp sensor is actually pretty decent, especially compared to the rear setup. What’s funny is that LED Flash, I expected it to e a total joke and a waste of R&D money for this, when actually, it’s done more than I expected it to, more to the point, it works as a fill light surprisingly well, not as a flash. Anyway, here are some selfies.
I also usually post a video sample with my phone reviews, but you really don’t want to see the video that comes off of this one. It tops out at 1080p, and there is EIS (Electronic Image stabilisation, but it really, really, really isn’t good.
This is actually one of the better parts of the 3V. The 3000mAh lithium-Polymer battery of the 3V actually posts some pretty decent endurance, even if the standby time isn’t that impressive.
I was worried about the battery for the 3V, as my first unit, as well as everything else wrong with it, would barely last 24 hours on standby, this new one is much, much better. Charging times also are pretty respectable given that this is a 3000mAh battery and chargings at a max of 5v2a through a standard USB2.0 MicroUSB charging port.
Standby time still isn’t all that impressive, but honestly, I’m attributing this to the SoC. the Cortex A53 core isn’t the most efficient (that’d be the A35, something we’ve, sadly, barely seen) and the 28nm Process node this is on is cheap, but isn’t well known for its power efficiency. Once again, I can only suspect that Alcatel got these chips dirt cheap, as there isn’t a performance reason to use these.
I’ll post a benchmark screenshot of both the Geekbench Battery bench, but also the battery benchmark from PCMark.
The 3V is pretty run of the mill here, aside from one thing. The WiFi is only specced at 802.11 b/g/n 2.4Ghz, yet I’m able to successfully connect to my 5Ghz network at my house, which is a much better experience than the absolutely choc full 2.4Ghz mess that is my WiFi.
Other radios are pretty normal, Cat.4 LTE, so as low as you can get, but at least it is here. Bluetooth 4.2 is supported, which is nice, but the antennas are noticeably weaker than my other devices, especially Huawei/Honor ones, even the lower end Honor 7s, which is in a similar price range to this (actually cheaper) has a better Bluetooth stack and radios, I wouldn’t use the 3V with a set of truly wireless earbuds unless you really have to… which you don’t, because it has a headphone jack.
No NFC here, which means no Google Pay, no instant pairing with peripherals like headphones etc, which sucks, I’ve actually started writing my own NFC tags, so when I place my phone in the car mount it opens up Android Auto, when I tap it on the one on my bedside table it puts the phone into DND mode, these are all things that I have to manually do on the 3V, and it doesn’t sound like much of a pain, but I miss the ease of just tapping already.
So, how to end this. The 3V is a really beautiful phone, but one that is let down by its performance, but one thing I’ve not really spoken about, is the price. The 3V retails for £90 here in the UK, that is really cheap, that is approaching disposable phone cheap. My Mother summed it up perfectly and said it’s a teenager first phone, it’s pretty, so they feel like they have something expensive, it has a big screen for watching video, but it is not expensive when they eventually break it.
Would I buy the Alcatel 3V for me? Of course not, but for my brother, who is 16, who is notorious for breaking and losing phones, this is something I could see having as a backup device for temporary use or emergencies. When someone sends their main phone in for a warranty repair and needs a loaner for a few days, the 3V feels to me like it’d be a killer phone for that, but also for those first timer teenagers, who get to have the pretty looking phone, with the big screen for watching YouTube, or Instagram Stories, that is where the 3V can thrive.