On paper, the Alcatel 3V doesn’t sound like an exciting phone. It’s a budget handset with underwhelming specifications and below average benchmark results. It’s neither at the extreme low-end of the price range, like the Alcatel Pixi 4, nor does it compete with top dogs like the Motorola Moto G6. It’s stuck somewhere in the middle and it’s a middling phone.
There are great features on the 3V, such as its impressive array of security settings (including face unlock) and its 6in, 2K 18:9 display but there are just as many problems as there are positives; the super short battery life and shoddy camera capabilities are hard to ignore. It’s a tough phone to review because it’s so imbalanced. Of course, the most important question is: should you buy it? Well, maybe.
READ NEXT: Best budget smartphone
Alcatel 3V review: What you need to know
The Alcatel 3V is yet another entry in a long line of budget handsets from the French mobile phone firm Alcatel. Most recently, we reviewed the Alcatel Pixi 4 and the Alcatel Pop 4, two hyper-cheap offerings that impressed us with their value for money.
The Alcatel 3V is a rung above, coming in at £90 (although as much £150 on sites like Amazon) it has a 6in screen with IPS display and a resolution of 2,160 x 1,080. It houses an ultra-budget Quad-core MediaTek MT8735A processor and has three cameras: one 5MP on the front and, on the rear, 2MP and 12MP cameras with LED flash.
Although it costs less than £100, the 3V includes features like face unlock and dual display modes that are usually only found in mid-range or flagship phones. As for its design, from a distance it could be mistaken for a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus, although the 18:9 display and glimmering rear casing looks less appealing once you actually pick it up and turn it on, as the materials are flimsy and the screen is hemmed in on all sides by thick bezels.
Alcatel 3V: Price and competition
At £90, the Alcatel 3V has a number of key competitors. There are two Vodafone smartphones at around that same price range: the Vodafone Smart N8 and its successor, the Smart N9. We didn’t rave about the £110 Smart N9 quite so much, mainly because it failed to improve on the 2017 model and it was more expensive. At £85, the Vodafone Smart N8 is still a decent buy in 2018. It’s fallen in price since launch too; we’ve seen it going SIM-free for as little as £60 on Amazon.
If you’re willing to invest that little bit extra in your next smartphone, you could get something a lot more powerful. Well, relatively speaking – these are budget smartphones, after all. The Honor 7A has all the best features of the Alcatel 3V, but with markedly improved technical specifications. The 7A launched at £140 and has already dropped to a bargain £120 on Amazon.
Push that little bit further, up to £150, and you could get hold of the Motorola Moto G6 Play, a speedy 5.7in handset with outstanding battery life a decent battery and an attractive design.
Alcatel 3V: Design
At 155g, the Alcatel 3V is of an average weight for its size. Measuring 76 x 8 x 162mm (WDH), it looks sleek, especially when the screen is off and the bezels are invisible. The lower bezel, by the way, has no clickable home button; there’s only the on-screen nav bar for that.
The sides of the phone are made from cheap-feeling plastic, while the glassy, slippery rear is overly reflective and extremely scratch-friendly. It also collects finger grease all too readily. You can pop on the bendy clear plastic case, which is included in the box, to prevent smudging, but the case feels really cheap, too, with rough edges that make it unpleasant to hold.
On the bottom edge of the Alcatel 3V, you’ll find a micro USB port (quickly becoming an endangered species on other phones) and five speaker holes drilled on either side – audio only comes from behind one set of these, though. The bundled earphones are a tacky plastic waste of space and an offence to the ears.
On the right edge are the textured power button and the SIM/microSD slot, while the volume buttons can be found on opposite side. Up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is always nice to see. Why any phone manufacturer would omit one is beyond me but it happens too often for my liking.
The dual cameras are stacked vertically on the back just above the fingerprint sensor. The Alcatel 3V comes in three “Spectrum” colours: Blue, Black, or Gold. Don’t get the Gold.
Alcatel 3V: Display
As mentioned earlier, the Alcatel 3V has a solid display for a phone in its price range. It has a resolution of 2,160 x 1080 coupled with the now ubiquitous 18:9 display ratio and it uses IPS technology.
There are two fixed display modes, for the Alcatel 3V, found under the label “Miravision” in the display settings. Standard looks fine, while Vivid adds a bit more pop to images, with brighter colours and greater contrast. A third setting, User Mode, can be adjusted to suit your personal preferences.
The Alcatel 3V’s measured colour profile was acceptable but not amazing. In both display modes, it covered around 93% of the sRGB colour spectrum, which isn’t bad at all. The same goes for the 1,220:1 contrast ratio measurement. It’s not bad at all for a phone this cheap. It has an acceptable max brightness of about 420 cd/m2, so you won’t have any problems reading texts or browsing the web when outside in the sun.
A bigger concern is the grippy, almost sticky feel the surface of the display has and the fact that it’s really hard to keep clean. Once this screen picks up fingerprints, it’s very hard to shift them and that affects the quality of the visuals.
Alcatel 3V: Performance and battery life
Performance is not the Alcatel 3V’s strong point, either. Still, any phone is going to struggle when bogged down with a mega-cheap quad-core processor like the MediaTek MT8735A. This “helped” the Alcatel 3V to a single-core CPU speed of 651 in the Geekbench 4 benchmark test, and a total quad-core score of 1,838. That beats the aforementioned Vodafone Smart N8 but, as you can see from the chart below, it’s no match for the Honor 7A or Moto G6 Play.
Graphically, the Alcatel 3V is about as weak as they come. In the GFXBench Manhattan and Car Chase tests, it achieved the same (very slow) fps rate as the Vodafone Smart N8 from 2017 and didn’t fare much better than the £59 Alcatel Pixi 4 either. You can’t be too harsh on the 3V here, though; with any sub-£100 phone, poor graphics are par for the course.
Alcatel says that, with the 3V, you can enjoy a “movie marathon on the go with a theater-quality display”. A movie 10K fun-run, maybe, but there won’t be any marathons taking place with the 3V; battery life is really, really bad.
In our video playback test it lasted only 7hrs 16mins, an hour less than the Alcatel Pixi 4, one and a half hours less than the similarly-priced Vodafone Smart N8, and a staggering 4hrs 20mins less than the Honor 7A. You’ll be recharging often with the 3V, especially if you watch a lot of videos or play games.
Alcatel 3V: Camera
On the front of the phone is a 5MP camera, which delivers sub-par selfies, while the rear houses a 2-megapixel and 12-megapixel dual-camera setup and an LED flash. The 2-megapixel camera isn’t for taking photos, instead it’s used to create a depth map for blurred-background portrait photographs. Even then, though, the 3V’s portrait mode isn’t particularly good.
General image quality is poor, too. Noise in low light conditions is severe and wide-angle outdoor shots in standard camera mode were dark around the edges. This was exacerbated by the overcast conditions at the time I captured the outdoor shot below.
If that wasn’t bad enough, when shooting in HDR mode you have to hold the phone steady for several seconds, which is a pain. If you don’t manage this, the results are horrific: blurred and muddy with a huge amount of ghosting afflicting the image. Half the time it won’t show you a preview of the shot you’ve just taken, forcing you to exit the camera app and go back in to see what you’ve shot.
Video on the Alcatel 3V has numerous problems, too. It shoots at a maximum resolution of 1080p at 30fps but in low light, the phone slows the shutter speed too much, which results in smeary, blurry footage. The camera struggles to remain focused, even when you hold it stock still and train it on an inanimate object. And, when you move from high to low light scenes there’s noticeable and distracting stepping in auto-exposure compensation.
Alcatel 3V: Software
The Alcatel 3V runs on Android 8.0 Oreo rather than the latest 8.1 release with a few minor manufacturer tweaks. The most notable of these is the enjoy.now app, which comes preinstalled and which Alcatel seems super keen to promote, encouraging you at several stages during setup to sign up.
This seems to be purely a marketing ploy, offering “exclusive rewards and discounts”, the “latest news” from Alcatel, and generic “tips to improve your experience”. I recommend you ignore and uninstall at your earliest convenience. I’m not a big fan of some of the app symbols either, the bright purple camera app icon being the worst offender.
On the plus side, there are three ways to unlock the phone: pattern or PIN, face recognition, and fingerprint via the circular reader at the rear of the phone. The 3V takes an age to register your fingerprints at first but, once done, the unlocking process works well. Face unlock (Alcatel calls this Face Key) is quicker, taking less than a second to clock your mug and bring you to the home screen.
Alcatel 3V: Verdict
There are as many reasons to buy the Alcatel 3V as there are reasons to avoid it. It has some great features, in particular, its fingerprint and Face Key unlock capabilities and the 6in display is of an unusually high quality given the price. It’s reasonably colour accurate, which you don’t see too often with a budget handset. And, to top it off, it has dual cameras for depth of field, fiddly as the software may be. At £90, that all seems like a bargain.
And yet, there are so many problems. Sub-par performance, poor battery life and that sticky screen are the biggest culprits but the cheap materials make it look and feel like a Samsung Galaxy imitation you’d find at a dodgy high street market.
Ultimately, I can’t tell you what to buy but I suggest you consider the Vodafone N8 (if you can still find one) or preferably invest another £50 and go for the Honor 7A or the Motorola Moto G6 Play – neither cost that much more in the overall scheme of things, and you’ll enjoy yourself a whole lot more.