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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Alcatel Idol 5S review:

Slick budget phone with a crummy battery

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The Good The Idol 5S has a premium build, amazing speakers, a fingerprint reader and it runs Android Nougat -- all while being affordable.

The Bad It has the shortest battery life of any phone we’ve tested in the past two years.

The Bottom Line The Alcatel Idol 5s is an otherwise great budget phone, but the battery is its Achilles’ heel.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 5.0

Just when you think the world of budget phones has settled, Alcatel comes along with the Idol 5S. At first, this looked to be the best phone you can buy under $300: It has a top-notch look and build, runs Android Nougat 7.1 and has similar hardware to one of our favorite budget phones the Moto G5 Plus (not to mention price). But the battery on the Idol 5S doesn't last long at all. And that's a big bummer.

alcatel-idol-5s-2789-004

The Alcatel Idol 5S looks slick and premium with its glass front and back.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Idol 5S sells for $280 which converts to £215 and AU$355. In the US, an Amazon Prime version with lock screen ads pushes that price down to $200.

With its glass front and back, the Idol 5S looks downright fancy. In my hand, it feels like a slick and svelte iPhone 4. The top and bottom of the phone house the Idol's dual speakers which are better than most budget and mid-tier phones. They're excellent for listening to music and videos.

The Idol 5S includes Google Assistant for fast Google queries, finding photos and dictating messages. The 5S has a 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor and handles everyday tasks just fine: messaging, social media and playing games like "Super Mario Run", "Modern Combat 5" and "Incredible Monster Hero."

There's a fingerprint reader on the back to unlock the phone, and it has a couple tricks. When the phone is unlocked, you can touch and hold the reader to go to the home screen, slide your finger vertically to view notifications or slide your finger horizontally to flip through photos.

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