Back in the day of feature phones, where physical buttons on phones were the only kind of phones you could find on the market, Alcatel used to be a common name heard. These days, not so much. They’ve gone from going into a joint venture with TCL Corporation of Hong Kong into selling it off completely in 2005 to TCL.What this means today, is that the phone that you’re about to read a review for, will be in name, Alcatel, but have no real connections to the actual company apart from the name, and that the phone, is by all means, the exact same as TCL’s own offering under the same name, the TCL Idol X.
The Alcatel OneTouch Idol X is TCL’s flagship device of 2013, now replaced with the Idol X+, but seeing as the Idol X+ has just been launched and has not yet shown its face to many markets, the former still remains true, as the OneTouch Idol X remains to be TCL’s strongest offering in many regions.
Question at hand is this though; as a flagship, does the Idol X have what it takes to pit itself head to head with its competitors’ offerings? As usual, there’s only one way to find out, and that is to take it down, release it on the track, push it to its limits, and see just what it’s capable of.
The Alcatel OneTouch Idol X comes in a long, white rectangular box with a large print of the phone up front, together with the branding up the top, and the words “smart move” constantly shown around the top and sides of the box, almost as if it’s trying to convince you of it. Down the back, there’s additional details about the device, be it software or hardware. Propping the box open you’ll find:
Alcatel OneTouch Idol X Smartphone
1x Alcatel OneTouch Branded Screen Protector
1x Clear Hard Case
Quick Start Guide
Alcatel Branded USB Wall Charger – 2 Pin Euro style @ 5V, 1A
Alcatel Branded In-Ear-Monitor Earphones with Microphone
USB to Micro USB Cable
Opening up the box, first up is the Idol X, packed in a plastic sleeve, with the info plastic sheet on it. Under that, is a small boxed container that houses the included screen protector, the hard case and both the manuals. Underneath that, you’ll find the Wall Charger, the USB Cable and the IEM earphones.
Overall, things are packed quite alright, and relatively secure as things don’t quite go flying around in the box when handled. I like that Alcatel (TCL) included their own screen protector with their own branding for end users, and have a clear case ready for them as well. I also quite like how the bundled AC USB wall charger is small and simple, and rated at a good 1A. Connecting to this wall charger is also decently sturdy, though moving the connector up and down a little when plugged in has the cable end wobbling up and down a little. The cable itself however I quite like as it feels really high quality, and of good build and construction. Long story short, it looks great, and doesn’t feel cheap.
Testing the bundled IEMs out, and I found that while its construction was really good, i.e. of good build quality and looks great, their sound quality left just a little bit more to be desired for me. They’re not bad by any means, but the trebles seem just a bit strong where the mids and the bass are really under average. I’m picky with my listening, so while other people may not have issues with it, I do.
To sum it up, I like the packaging of the device. It seems clean and simple enough, though I’m a bit iffy about the whole “smart move” tagline plastered all over the box, but I am willing to be forgiving of it. Its contents, while not the best, are nice enough, and they certainly do add a bit of extra value to the phone itself.
Camera:13.1MP Rear Camera w/LED Flash, 2.1MP Front Camera
Display:5” IPS LCD Display @ 1920×1080 (441 ppi)
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n dual band
Dimensions:140.4mm x 67.5mm x 6.9mm
Walk around the device
Up the front of the device, you’ll find the 5” IPS LCD Display pushing a pretty 1920×1080. This all sounds great on paper, though in physicality, I found that the screen isn’t all that particularly vibrant despite being IPS, with the display having a slight bluish tint to it, making photos look just a little bit cold. Good news however, is that the viewing angles are quite good, but then again that’s kind of to be expected of an IPS LCD Panel.
You’ll also find the earpiece for calls as well as the front facing 2.1MP camera, along with the standard array of sensors up the front, and shifting focus down to the bottom of the device, you’ll find three capacitive buttons in the following arrangement from left to right: Back, Home, and Menu. They light up quite nicely and evenly with the device as well, and have no issues with backlighting as far as I can see.
The side bezels on the device, while not exactly non-existent, aren’t particularly thick either, making the device quite comfortable to look at. The top bezel and bottom bezel however, is rather thick, making the device rather long in the hands.
Around the device, the plastic trim that rides along the side of the phone looks metallic, and has a nice black matte finish as well, further giving the device quite a premium look.
In the unit that I’m reviewing the entire back of the Alcatel Idol X has a red matte finish, which in my opinion looks absolutely gorgeous. On top of the rear back finish, you’ll find the onetouch logo in a metallic reflective finish which looks really classy and nice, the alcatel logo that is visible enough to be red, yet doesn’t stand out enough to make it look tacky.
It’s also home to the 13 MP rear camera, that protrudes out of the body a little, with a chrome trim around the lens, together with the LED flash and the microphone for the rear and beside the camera, some informational badging about the camera being a ‘FHD 13.1MP camera’.Looking all the way down the bottom of the back is where you’ll find the speaker grill as well, clearly visible with the perforated holes on the rear of the phone. Alcatel has added two small humps at the side of the speaker grill to make sure that when the phone is placed flat on a surface, the speaker grill isn’t covered, making it easier to hear when you have any incoming calls or notifications.The back cover of the phone is non removable, so any option of replacing the battery is out of the question.
The left of the device holds nothing except for the 1st sim tray slot. The sim tray works sort of like a flap, where you have to press down on a small notch on the cover, and the whole cover flips open, allowing you to put the sim card in, which is in the micro sim form factor, via a push click and push eject mechanism. This all sounds good, but in practice, I found that getting the sim tray to open and stay open was a hit and miss, as the cover is magnetic, and popping it open is tedious as it is small and most of the times I find the tray closing again as soon as it’s opened
On the right of the device, you’ll find the volume rocker, and the sim slot for the second sim card.The volume rocker sits quite flush with the device, but has some really nice tactile feedback to them, so they feel good to press.
Up top you’ll find the power button, as well as the 3.5mm headphone jack. Just like the volume rocker, the power button sits quite flush with the device, making it a little bit difficult to locate and press, but pressing it down you get a nice tactile feedback to it. Not my most preferred location for a power button, given that the phone is already so long because of the top and bottom bezels.The 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the device is nice and solid, with nice audible clicks when you plug your headphones into the phone. Connection seems nice and sturdy, and this is always a plus point as in some phones, this can be one of the parts that loosen the first from wear and tear.
Down the bottom, there’s the microphone for making calls, as well as the Micro USB port. The port seems nice and sturdy enough, with no real discernable wobbles when I tried to jig the cable around.Overall, ergonomics of the phone are pretty good. The edges moving towards the back of the device taper off well and smoothly, where the front has a little bit of a lip, but it doesn’t really bother me when using it, especially since it’s not a particularly huge device in that it starts digging into your palms. Build quality feels great and sturdy, and I’ll give Alcatel many plus points for making such a solid looking and feeling phone with great design cues that stand out and just look so wonderful.
Hands On and Benchmarks
Starting up the OneTouch Idol X, the first screen you see is that of the branding, Alcatel OneTouch Idol X, then you’re greeted with a simple boot animation that looks quite simple and nice, that comes with a bit of a non-intrusive boot sound. The phone took 30 seconds to boot from cold, down to the lockscreen.Interface on the Alcatel One Touch Idol X akin to that of stock Android, except with a heavy dose of skinning on top of it. Icons on the screen have a squarish pastel look to them that actually looks quite nice. The launcher on the phone is clean and simple, and easy enough to use, with the app drawer button easily located on the bottom right. Inside the app drawer, you can find two tabs above, one with all the applications in the phone, and another with just the downloaded apps.
Dragging down the notifications bar shows you the list of notifications without any other additional toggle buttons. To access your toggle buttons, you would have to tap the top right button after pulling down the notification bar, where it brings you to a list of toggles you can turn on or off. Long pressing on the toggles brings you to their respective settings page in the notifications menu
The lockscreen of the Idol X allows you to quickly unlock into either the home screen the dialer, the messaging app or the camera, and has a bit of an animation that follows the gyroscope of your phone.
Performance wise just using the phone is a bit of a disappointment however. Navigating around the interface is just laggy and chuggy, one thing that I immediately noticed when the phone booted into the lock screen. Even navigating around the home screen and the app drawer shows quite a bit of lag, and there’s quite a bit of lag dragging down the notifications menu and transitioning into the toggles page as well as scrolling through the settings page. As good as the interface might look on the surface, I find that the performance issues just detracts from the whole entire experience, making it hard to ignore the performance issues with the stock rom on this phone.
The OneTouch Idol X comes with 16GB of internal memory, though only 13gb of it seems to be user accessible, with the remaining available space that comes with the phone coming in at about 11gb to play with. It’s not bad by most means, but I do feel that more space could have been given to the user, on the count that the phone came preinstalled with quite a bit of unnecessary applications, most of them being games. It also comes preinstalled with quite a few unnecessary apps, so I feel that it’s a very unnecessary move on Alcatel’s part, and that the device should be left quite light with maybe the default Alcatel applications installed, instead of trying to shove so many applications into the phone, given that it’s performance is already not overly stellar perhaps because of the default software that just leaves so much more to be desired.
Above is the spec printout of the phone based on the Antutu Device info section. The only things that I find a bit odd is how the Brand is stated as TCT, as I’m guessing that it should have been TCL, and also the camera is rated at 13.4 MP when the official specs clearly state 13.1MP. Still, not anything too major.
In Antutu, the OneTouch Idol X scored a decent 15503, putting it above the Lenovo S920, but below the Moto G with the Snapdragon 400.
3dMark scores are rather average at this point, with nothing particularly spectacular to tout about. Majority of the times frame rates in 3dMark weren’t particularly high, and the scores reflect that, perhaps showing the Achilles heel of the MT6589 chip, it’s GPU.
Epic Citadel is tested on two settings, ‘High Quality’ and ‘Ultra High Quality’. Under High Quality settings, the OneTouch Idol X scored an average of 15.9 FPS, and 8.4 FPS at Ultra High Quality. Not scores to write home about, and if you do, probably for all the wrong reasons. Again, we’re seeing the Achilles heel of this particular MediaTek processor.
The OneTouch Idol X is capable of registering up to 10 touches at any given time without any issues.
Sound, Speakers and Media Playback
Call and voice is great on the Idol X. Conversations can be heard loud and clear on both ends, and generally there weren’t any difficulties in hearing the other party or being heard.The speaker volume is decently loud. Not the loudest that I’ve heard coming from a smartphone, but certainly not soft either. Speaker quality again, sounds a little bit muffled, with trebles missing that clarity that it needs, and bass just not having enough strength.
Testing the audio quality, I hooked in my Koss KSC-75’s, and the results were just a bit lacklustre. Using the default media player on the phone, and playing back Armin van Buuren’s Intense album, I found that music sounded quite muffled in general. Trebles and Mids felt a bit muted, where bass response was not as tight as I would have liked it, and a bit on the softer side of things as well. Loading up Zedd’s Legend of Zelda, the issue becomes a lot more pronounced as I found that the 8-bit tones in the track just sounded muffled altogether. Needless to say, I was more than a bit disappointed with the quality.Plugging in the Phone via USB, you’re able to choose 3 different options for connection, MTP, PTP or Charge Only. Transfer speeds are about 14-15mbps for a 1.4gb movie, which is pretty much standard USB speeds.
The vibration strength of the phone is generally good as well, as you can most definitely hear it vibrating if left on the table, and the speaker volume is actually quite loud, making phone calls quite hard to miss. The good thing is that not only is the speaker loud, but it sounds quite good as well, though music playback lacks a bit of bass, resulting in a rather sharp playback.Surprisingly, where most other default video players have not fared very well in this test, the Idol X does perfectly in. Using the default video player in the phone to playback The Thing 2011 that was encoded in H264 and with AAC audio, the phone handled it perfectly, without any notable playback issues whatsoever. Scrubbing through the movie didn’t come out with any problems either, so that was quite a pleasant surprise.
Camera, Photo Quality & Video Recordings
Photo taking is a rather simple affair. The UI is simple and uncomplicated, though conversely said, it doesn’t particularly have that many features going for it. Hitting up the settings button allows you to choose 4 more different shooting modes, HDR, Panorama, Night and Sports. Aside from that, you have toggles for Full Screen and shutter sounds.Pressing on the Advanced button gives you more information to mess with, but again, the settings are rather basic. There’s a toggle for GPS Location Info, the ability to choose between Large, Medium or Small Photos, Timer options, ISO options, and just sliders for ISO options and Exposure increase or decrease options. Honestly said, I would have loved to see more info for image sizes, instead of just Large, Medium or Small, as I find them to be rather arbitrary values. It would have been nice to see sizes in terms of megapixels.Looking at the quality of photos taken by the camera, photos tend to look very cold in general, and when I mean cold I mean heavily bluish tinting. Detail doesn’t seem to be all that great in the photos, as even when focused, photos don’t look particularly sharp at all, but the good news is that the noise levels are decently controlled. Taking photos with the flash enabled, the throw range of the flash isn’t particularly far, and not very bright either. I honestly walked away more than a little bit disappointed with the camera on this phone as I felt that there were so many other phones out there with less capable cameras taking much nicer photos. This again further solidifies that it’s not all about the megapixels.
Taking videos is a matter of tapping the slider on the top right to change the mode into video mode, and again, hitting the settings button brings up a rather pitiful menu that allows you to choose between Super Fine, Fine, and Normal. Very vague settings that honestly don’t give you any indication of the video quality settings at which you’re recording at. Recorded videos also come out in a format I haven’t seen in a while, that is 3gp.Video recording quality is good, despite the colours again looking a bit cold. Frame rates are at about 30 frames, with the bit rate topping out at 20mbps, and audio is taken at 124kbps stereo. Noise control seems to be handled well again, and overall I’m quite pleased with the quality, though the microphone does seem a little bit muffled at times.
WiFi signals were good, though not particularly the strongest after moving slightly further away from the access point.
GPS Lock was attained after 11 Seconds, and after an additional 2 more, it went down to a very good 4 meter accuracy.
I ran some applications, collected their battery usage, and based on that, extrapolated the results to bring you these estimates on battery life:- 5 1/2 hours of video playback
8 Days 22 hours of pure standby (GSM, WiFi)
1 Day 18 hours of normal usage
Battery life during video playback wasn’t impressive, coming in the lowest in the group, though the phone lasted very well during pure standby, pulling in at 8 days and 22 hours, slightly short of 9 days. When left alone, the battery can last for quite some time, but once you pick it up and start using it, the battery seems to drain at rather ungodly speeds.
If I were to judge the Alcatel OneTouch Idol X based on specs on paper, and the photos circulating around the net, I would have told you that it was a brilliant looking device, with the internals to back up that beauty. If I held the phone and examined it without turning it on, I would tell you that it’s a very solidly built device, with very nice design aesthetics. As it is, the biggest let down probably of the Alcatel OneTouch Idol X is it’s software, and as I speak, I have tried using different custom ROMs on the device, and the user experience on the devices has improved by leaps and bounds. ROMs like LewaOS and MIUI compliment the device a lot better than the stock ROM, and I think that’s just this review boils down to then, good hardware and design that is bottlenecked by horrendous software and optimisation that just gives you sluggish usage, with minimal features, and not to mention bloatware coming preinstalled with the device. It’s potential that is truly unmet, though if you’re willing to root the device and flash on a custom ROM, you will really find the device truly shine then.
Solidly built phone
Matte Red back looks beautiful and feels great
Excellent standby battery life
Plenty of accessories in the phone bundle
5” 1080p display leads to very clear and sharp visuals