• Our Alcatel Idol X review


    For the past couple of years, we’ve been spoiled when it comes to phones. Each generation has brought huge, tangible improvements over the last. However, as screen size, resolutions, the number of cores, the amount of RAM, battery capacity, camera capabilities and network support continue to increase, we’re starting to reach a point where further increases only net a marginal improvement.

    Take for example screen sizes and resolution. Companies could release phones with bigger screens but people may not be ready to handle the increased size. As for resolution, you could raise it but aside from marketing (which is a very important reason), most people won’t notice any change in quality.

    We’re rapidly reaching a point where most phones will offer a similar level of capabilities and companies will have to rely on incremental features which have little practical use except to sell more phones. In a way, PC’s reached this point a while ago. They all kind of contain similar ingredients. It’s like you’re all buying the same wine only it comes in different bottles.

    This means 2 things; company’s margins are becoming squeezed and we’re going to start seeing more handsets from less well known companies.

    Take for example the Alcatel Idol X. Just like the Samsung Galaxy S4/HTC One/LG G2/Sony Xperia Z1 it has a 1080P, 5” class display, quad-core processor, 2GB RAM and a 2000mAh+ battery. No doubt, it’s in a class filled with heavy hitters.

    However, unlike the other phones, the Idol X only costs $250. Yup, you could buy 2 Idol X’s and still have money for left over for service for what any of these other phones costs.

    So how does it compare?
    Google Nexus 5:



    Now I’m not going to compare the Idol X with the GS4/One/G2/Z1 due to the large difference in price.

    To me, the $250 Idol X’s closest competitor is the Google Nexus 5. The Nexus costs $50 more (on contract) to $125 more (if you buy it unlocked from Google) to $250 more (if you buy it off contract from Bell).



    Assuming you buy it from Google, for your extra $125 you get: LTE, more HSPA bands, an image-stabilized camera albeit with a lower resolution camera, 8GB more storage, a more recent version of Android along with quick updates from Google and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. On the downside, the Nexus 5 lacks a memory card slot which is a bit disappointing if you store a lot of content on your phone.

    It’s hard to put a price on LTE support but I’ll explain its benefits. Yeah, LTE can support speeds of 75 - 150Mbps but that’s not really it’s main advantage. After all, the Idol X with it’s HSPA supports speeds of up to 42Mbps which isn’t too shabby.



    While you’ll rarely get the theoretical limit on LTE, from my experience, you usually get better download speeds on LTE. LTE also tends to have better latency. When I’m using mapping software, I find that LTE makes the phone feel snappier. However, to me, LTE’s biggest advantage is that its latencies are much lower (better) when there is weak network signal. Even when a phone is about to lose signal, I find LTE still has excellent latency. Note that LTE has no effect on voice calls at this time.

    According to Bell’s webpage, the Nexus 5 supports many more HSPA bands than the Idol X. I won’t bore you listing them all but the most important one is AWS; so you can’t use the Idol X on Wind/Mobilicity/T-Mobile. Note, I haven’t tried Wind/Mobilicity/T-Mobile SIM in the Idol X so I can’t confirm if this is true. The inferior HSPA band support also means the Idol X won’t be as useful when you’re roaming though it does support 2100Mhz which is probably the most important band for roaming abroad.

    The Idol X camera has 13 megapixels compared to the Nexus 5’s. However, I’d pick the Nexus 5’s camera because it’s more versatile. While I don’t find the Nexus 5’s camera to be class leading (especially the camera software which is garbage), I do find it to be adequate about 60% of the time. I can’t say the same about the Idol X camera. It’s not horrible but a lot of the time I wish the pictures turned out better.

    8GB more storage is nice because certain programs won’t install on memory cards so the Nexus 5 has the advantage here. The Nexus is also available with 32GB of built-in storage but it costs more and at that point, is much more expensive than the Idol X. Then again, the Idol X takes MicroSD cards so if you have a lot of media this is a big advantage.

    As far as the latest version of Android goes, (currently 4.4 on the Nexus) vs 4.2 on the Idol X, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the 2 versions. That said, it’s anyone’s guess if the Idol X will receive any more Android updates beyond what it ships with whereas Nexus phones usually get updates for at least another 18 months.

    Under the hood there’s a big difference between the Nexus 5 and the Idol X. The Idol X is powered by a 1.5Ghz quad-core MediaTek MT6589 SoC while the Nexus 5 has a 2.3Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 running the show.

    If you’re just running browser benchmarks, the difference between these two SoC’s isn’t all that great. Where the Qualcomm really sets itself apart is when it comes to graphics performance.

    1920x1080 is a lot pixels to push. While the Qualcomm is definitely up to this task, the MediaTek comes up really short. Actually, you don’t even need benchmarks to notice this. Pretty much everything on the Idol X feels less smooth than the Nexus. While it’s able to run older casual games like Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies, it really struggles on newer ones like Plants vs Zombies 2.

    Unfortunately, the Idol X’s Soc, particularly the GPU is completely overwhelmed by it’s 1920x1080 screen. Sometimes more is not more; having too much has its consequences. You can think of the Idol X as a cheese burger. It has all the things you expect like a hamburger patty, slice of cheese, ketchup, lettuce tomatoes but instead of a bun it comes with 2 small crackers. The Idol X definitely brings a knife to a gunfight in this regard.

    Of these issues, I’d say the camera and the graphics performance are the real differences. So, if you’re paying full price for the Nexus 5 ($125 more from Google or $249 more from Bell) you have to ask yourself if these differences are worth the price difference. If you’re paying $125 more I’d say it’s a hard decision, at $249 it’s a no brainer, pick the Idol X.

    However, if you’re willing to sign a contract though the Nexus 5 is $49 and the Idol X is $0. In the case of a contract I’d dish out the extra 50 bucks and skip the Idol X.

    Motorola Moto G:

    The Moto G is $50 cheaper than the Idol X. First off, keep in mind that the Moto G is a TELUS/Koodo exclusive while the Idol X is Bell only. Then again, remember that Bell and TELUS share HSPA and LTE networks so from a coverage standpoint, you’re pretty much getting the same thing.

    With that out of the way, the Idol X beats the Moto G on paper. It has a bigger higher res screen, more RAM, expandable storage, more megapixels a slightly bigger battery, etc.

    Indeed, you’re getting less with the Moto G, however, the Moto G’s lower resolution screen and SoC are a better pairing and provide a more smooth experience. It’s this fact which makes what should be a easy decision a little harder.

    Still, graphics aside, if you can swing the extra $50 you should definitely take a look at the Idol X.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Our Alcatel Idol X review started by howard View original post
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. dragon2knight's Avatar
      dragon2knight -
      Wow, it looks like the lower end is looking up...if not all at once. I think the low end is expecting a bit too much from a good,but not great, chipset. Mediatek is an up and comer for sure, but they are more concerned with power savings over sheer grunt. This chipset, the MT6589, is used all over the place in China phones, and Alcatel is currently using a 1.2ghz version in their One Touch Fierce, but it's only pushing a 960x540 screen, so performance doesn't really suffer. Gaming is much smoother and all functions on the Fierce work buttery smooth.

      The X is pushing this chipset to it's limits, and it's obviously showing. A better suited chipset would have beeen the MediaTek MT6595, but thats not out just yet(second quarter 2014) and Mediatek is making a more powerful mid range chipset, the MT6732 , but it looks like it wont be out for a bit more still(end of 2014), so we are stuck with the MT6589 for awhile longer, it just needs to be in a phone more suited to it.

      Have a little patience, soon enough the lower end will have a chipset to call it's own that will be able to take on the "big guns", I for one look forward to it
    1. ijcy's Avatar
      ijcy -
      I went from the Nexus 5 to the LG G2 and once that broke it i decided to try out the Idol x. I find it more then adequate for the price and even if i do not consider the price i am really enjoying this phone. Let me say right away i do not play games on my phone, and this might be why i do not notice what you are speaking of. BTW the Idol X is also available on Virgin. And if you were to compare it to the GS4,HTC One,Lg G2 with prices being almost triple what would you sauggest then??
    1. fredsone's Avatar
      fredsone -
      I agree the rapid development of smart devices appears to be leveling out and I think your comparison with computer development is apt. However I would also add that a lot of smart devices are comparable with late 80s to early 90s Windows, they are great when they work but are often a bit much of a problem.
      Simply, once we get past a new devices release specification WOW, GOSH, COOL factor, we usually find issues.

      Does this sound familiar?
      “Can you do “that” with your COOL WOW new Smartphone”?
      “Oh yes it is easy, we were playing with that yesterday, actually its rather cool really”.
      “All you need to do is open the app… now where is it… AAAHHH here it is”.
      “Right, we just open it, see here on the screen…Then we just tap this and we can go to…”
      “Hhhmm, nnooooo… Aaaahh ok, hang on, I should have done this first, ah…”
      “What’s this, hmmmm hang on, um (mumble mumble). Hang on a minute… whats happened… that should have... mumble mumble”.
      “Damn I have lost the connection… well you get the idea; it is actually a really great function… I am not sure whats wrong… hmmmmm, I was just using this the other day…” etc etc


      I think emerging market technology will continue to improve and will increasingly get noticed in the "established/main" markets. If this occurs then a result must be increased downward pressure on the mid to high smart device price points.
      I also think the things that will become important are device function stability/reliability and connectivity, i.e. connection stability, both between devices/brands and within/between networks.
    1. ijcy's Avatar
      ijcy -
      Quote Originally Posted by fredsone View Post

      Does this sound familiar?
      “Can you do “that” with your COOL WOW new Smartphone”?
      “Oh yes it is easy, we were playing with that yesterday, actually its rather cool really”.
      “All you need to do is open the app… now where is it… AAAHHH here it is”.
      “Right, we just open it, see here on the screen…Then we just tap this and we can go to…”
      “Hhhmm, nnooooo… Aaaahh ok, hang on, I should have done this first, ah…”
      “What’s this, hmmmm hang on, um (mumble mumble). Hang on a minute… whats happened… that should have... mumble mumble”.
      “Damn I have lost the connection… well you get the idea; it is actually a really great function… I am not sure whats wrong… hmmmmm, I was just using this the other day…” etc etc
      No it does not.